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A lot have been said and written about the issues concerning ridesharing and taxis in Metro Manila. There are the personal posts you read and are being shared around social media. There are the obviously sponsored posts and articles going around. These are usually by trolls but may also include some personalities who are more than willing to lend their names to a cause they think is worth taking on. Unfortunately, the supposed victim here is also an oppressor if one tries to delve into their operations and practices. The real victims here, aside from the commuters who patronize ridesharing, are drivers and operators.
I stated Metro Manila because there seems to be no serious issues on ridesharing or taxis in other Philippine cities. Why is that? Is it because taxis provide better services in other cities like say, Cebu, Davao or Iloilo? Is it because public transport in other cities are better compared to Metro Manila? Or is it because ridesharing companies cannot compete with local, taxi-like transport like tricycles? Let me put it like this: Metro Manila public transport has deteriorated in the past decades. This deterioration comes in many forms including the very slow development of mass transit systems and the continued dominance of road-based modes.
Private vehicle mode shares have increased significantly over the last four decades. In the 1970s, the estimated split between public and private transport was about 75/25. In the 1980s, it was close to 70/30 but with public transport enjoying just about 70% shares. In the 1990s, the 70% had already been breached with public transport share estimated to be about 68%. The 2000s saw public transport shares to have been eroded further, with closer to 65% of trips using public transport. The last decade likely saw the further rise of private transport shares with the rapid increase in motorcycle ownership and use and the emergence of ridesharing such as Uber and Grab. This, despite the increase in population for the metropolis and also the increase in road public transport vehicles particularly UV Express.
These road-based modes are generally low capacity and require so many vehicles to transport so many people. And yet people choose them (e.g., purchase and ride a motorcycle, patronize Uber or Grab, etc.) because their options for their commutes are generally worse off. Motorcycles are not for everyone and not everyone can afford to or want to own a car. And yet, there seems to be a sizable population wanting (not necessarily needing) to be driven to and from their homes, workplaces, schools or other places of interest but not via conventional taxis; as evidenced from the popularity of ridesharing services.
Perhaps the only way to resolve the issue lies not only in the drastic improvement of conventional taxi services. Operators and drivers have had a lot of chances to do this but there seems to be little positive change here. Maybe, and ultimately, the solution is in the expedited development of mass transit systems like rail transit lines and bus rapid transit (BRT). And so the initiatives of the current administration along such infrastructure projects are most welcome and may stave off the decline of public transport mode shares (revival?). Better public transport should help make commutes more bearable. Commutes should be safer, faster and relatively inexpensive compared to owning and operating a car. And may I add that using conventional public transport should be more attractive than ridesharing.
I found a couple articles on Uber. These are by the same author and are interesting because of some changes in perspectives considering the more than 1 year separating the two.
In Praise of Uber [by Jean-Louis Gassee in mondaynote.com, Medium, May 9, 2016]
Uber’s Complicit Board [by Jean-Louis Gassee in mondaynote.com, Medium, June 26, 2017]
I’m posting these here as additional references on ridesharing/ridesourcing. Such perspectives are also invaluable for us doing research on these topics. I am not so much interested in the personalities but on the operations and the experiences and preferences of passengers.
Following are a couple of articles on innovation as applied to transport. Uber is often seen merely as a transport option much like the taxi but there’s more than meets the eye in terms of its operations never mind its surge pricing schemes. It has succeeded in much part because it is an innovative company with innovative people. They were not afraid to take on the challenges against what the establishment had regarded as an upstart in a sector that was seen as having fewer opportunities for thinking out of the box.
Today is my first day at Uber [by Chris Messina in Medium, January 5, 2016]
Today is my last day at Uber [by Chris Messina in Medium, January 7, 2017]
Uber was in a crises of sorts after several leading to its controversial head stepping down a few days ago. Several articles came out including one from Wired that provided some details to some of the significant stumbling blocks or obstacles Uber had to go through the past years (even recent months). There’s an even better article by one of Uber’s co-founders, which I found and regard as “even better” because it appears to be a self assessment, a reflection of how the company should move forward.
Following are the two articles, one from Wired and another from Uber (via Medium):
- A Short History of the Many, Many Ways Uber Screwed Up [by Davey Alba in Wired, June 21, 2017]
- Uber’s path forward [by Garrett Camp in Medium, June 21, 2017]
These are important to us who are doing studies on ridesharing/ridesourcing. I believe Uber and its kind including Grab has revolutionized transport and contributed in significantly improving mobility among a lot of people who have been marginalized by what we have termed as conventional transport. Senior citizens and persons with disabilities, for example, who have had difficulties getting rides can (if they can afford it) get Uber or Grab vehicles to take them where they need to be. There are indeed issues but as the article by Camp states, these can be resolved or addressed to improve the services provided by ridesharing/ridesourcing companies.