Caught (up) in traffic

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Cauayan Airport arrival

I have so far never failed to take photos of the airports I have gone through in my travels here or abroad. The following photos are of Cauayan Airport in Cauayan City, Province of Isabela in the Cagayan Valley Region (Region 2) to the north-northeast of Metro Manila.

Taxiing towards the apron and the terminal. One can also see the control tower to the right.

Passengers walk to the terminal with each given an umbrella to shield themselves (partially) from the punishing heat of the sun. Isabela is one of those provinces where the heat indices reach well above 45 degrees C.

A look back to the aircraft and passengers deplaning to head to the terminal.

The baggage claim area had a single conveyor belt

Passengers gathering around the belt to claim their checked-in luggage.

Another view of the conveyor

Luggage start to come out as most passengers are gathered around the conveyor.

A look back at the arrival exit of the Cauayan airport terminal

A quick look and photo of the airport entrance for departing passengers.

There are no taxis in Cauayan so its either you book a van or take the local ‘taxi’ in the form of tricycles. Most of these are motorcycles with sidecars but there are also many new tuktuk types, which are more spacious and comfortable to ride.

Tricycles, motorcycles and private vehicles parked at the airport. That’s the control tower in the background.

More photos of Cauayan Airport as well as aerial shots soon!

How many TNVS vehicles are enough?

There’s this old article I chanced upon on social media:

Badger, E. (2018) “What’s the right number of taxis (or Uber or Lyft cars) in a city?”, The Upshot, The New York Times, [Last access: 3/26/2019]

This article is still very much relevant since the government is still apparently unable to determine the number of TNVS vehicles needed to serve the demand in cities. The latter refers to those cities that TNCs have identified for operations and where they are already operating. Obviously, the question applies to taxis as well. But then taxis and TNVS have practically the same operational characteristics. I am not referring to business models but to the way these modes operate as parts of a cities transport system. What is really the demand for driven for-hire vehicles? Will this demand be significantly reduced once mass transit lines like MRT-7 and the MM subway are operational?

This also extends to motorcycle taxis as well. While there is already a proliferation of informal motorcycles taxis around the country including major cities and the capital, the formal services represented by Angkas shows just how many riders want in on this service. And it’s basically attractive due to the potential income they can derive from this. And so this begs the question: How many habal-habal units are enough?

Increasing the number of TNVS units? Not so fast!

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is planning to increase the number of TNVS units (i.e., rideshare vehicles) in Metro Manila to meet what is perceived as the demand for them based on the numbers provided by TNCs like Grab. The problem with this number they want to eventually achieve, 65,000 units supposedly, is that this is based on current transport conditions in the metropolis. Also, this is based on data that is biased for the interests of TNCs, which obviously want to increase their driver and vehicle base in order to maximise profits. Here is a nice article that should provide some context from abroad where rideshare vehicles are actually generating more car traffic and taking people away from public transport.

Fried, B. (2018) “Uber and Lyft Are Overwhelming Urban Streets, and Cities Need to Act Fast,” Streetsblog, [Last accessed: 7/26/2018]

Currently under construction are the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension projects and soon there will also be the Line 1 Extension. Also, in the pipeline are the proposed subway and rehabilitation of PNR that is supposed to revitalise its commuter line. These are examples of projects that will likely be game changers in terms of commuting with the objective of drawing people away from car use. In the bigger scheme of things, perhaps there is a need to rethink numbers for TNVS and instead focus on improving taxi services in Metro Manila. The same can be said for other cities as well where there is already a need for better public transport services to avert a transport future similar to what Metro Manila is already experiencing now.

On the Grab – Uber merger

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from Uber confirming what was in the news for some time then, and what was rumoured a longer while back. Uber Philippines was closing shop after merging with main competitor Grab, while the mother company also acquiring a stake in Grab. Later, I also received a message from Grab (I use either depending on availability and cost.) welcoming Uber users to Grab.

The result so far has been frustrating if not disappointing to many who have relied on Uber for commuting and the typical trips that you usually associate with taking a taxi.

Recent news revealed that Grab is using an even more punitive pricing scheme compared to Uber’s surge pricing. While the LTFRB moved to scrap this, Grab has been apprehensive, stating that this was an incentive for their drivers. There is actually another side to the concept of surge pricing that LTFRB does not or seems to refuse to understand. That is, that dynamic and more expensive fares related to congestion (or road conditions) is something that’s actually related to the concept of congestion pricing. This actually penalises the use of vehicles like private cars or taxis in favour of higher capacity transport like buses or, if available, trains.

Even more recent is the news that Grab is suspending about 500 of its drivers for excessive cancellation and/or rejection of trips. Unlike Uber before, Grab drivers have the “luxury” of knowing where a potential passenger is heading. That gives the driver the option to accept or reject a proposed fare. Uber drivers didn’t know where the potential passenger was heading and to my knowledge, was stricter with penalising their drivers. The only caveat I know is that passengers can also be penalised if the driver requests for a cancellation and the passenger obliges out of good faith (e.g., An Uber driver in Cebu requested me to cancel the request as he claimed he was caught in traffic and would be penalised if he canceled. I ended up protesting Uber penalising me 100 pesos for my cancellation. Uber did not act on it in my favour.).

The issues surrounding the Grab/Uber merger though should not be there in the first place if we had good taxi services. When I say good I am referring to the quality of service provided by taxis in Singapore and Japan. Of course, they also have good public transportation there so there’s also a case for what most people will likely be taking instead of cars and taxis (which operate similarly as cars). One wonders how and why LTFRB seems to be so strict vs TNCs while being lax with taxis. Meanwhile, DOTr is scrambling on the desperate catch-up work it has to do about mass transit lines and public transport rationalisation. Good luck to us commuters!

On the negative social impacts of ridesharing/ridesourcing

I have shared a few articles before about the impacts of ridesharing/ridesourcing to taxi drivers. In the Philippines, taxis where ridesharing/ridesourcing services are available are plenty are supposed to have experienced a significant drop in their business. Yet, there has been little improvement in taxi services in Metro Manila. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have not put pressure on taxis to improve so operators and drivers are pretty much the same in terms of practices and service quality. Here is a recent article that appeared on Wired about New York taxi drivers:

Katz, M. (2018) “Why are New York taxi drivers killing themselves?”,, (Last accessed 3/30/2018).

Admittedly, the set-up for New York taxis is quite different from those in the Philippines. The medallions referred to in the article are limited and carries with it prestige and perhaps honour, considering the commitment and pride attached to them. Franchises in the Philippines are quite different and drivers will usually work for multiple operators/employers. Those who own their taxis are not so many and can be flexible in the way they conduct their business. Perhaps a significant number of drivers have even left the taxi business and now drive for TNCs like Grab and Uber.

With Uber’s sale of their business in Southeast Asia to main rival Grab, it seems now that there is suddenly and practically a monopoly of the ridesharing/ridesourcing business. Upstarts have not had a significant share of the market and by all indications will not get a bigger share in the near future. I still think that there should be pressure for taxi services to be improved and a good chance for people to shift back to taxis. But this requires effort on both sides (regulator and operator). I still mention examples of taxi operators in Cebu and Iloilo who appear to be unscathed by the entry of ridesharing/ridesourcing in those cities. Good quality taxi services will promote itself and will be patronised by commuters.

Origins of ridesharing/ride-hailing?

Here is a very interesting article on the beginning of Uber:

Campbell, G. (2017) The Beginning of Uber,” Medium, August 23, 2017, (Last accessed 11/10/2017).

The article contains the company’s first pitch and should be of interest to researchers (that includes my students) who may want to know about and from the Uber’s origins. It might be useful to taxi operators and drivers as well since the slides show their characterization and what (good) features distinguished Uber from the conventional taxis at the time.

Melbourne taxi rides

I took taxis between the airport and the serviced apartment where I stayed at in Melbourne. Both rides were uneventful ones and I enjoyed the good service provided. Uber is also available but Melbourne taxis appear to be providing an obviously higher quality of service compared to what you can get in Metro Manila.

The following photo shows a couple of stickers that inform the passenger(s) about standard fares and the applicable tolls should the taxis use tollways and therefore incur additional costs.

One can pay cash or opt to use a debit or credit card to pay for taxi fares. And you can get a receipt that you can use to account for your transport expenses. That is, the receipt is useful for reimbursements.

For both my rides, I didn’t encounter any unruly taxi drivers. One was a bit chatty but I enjoyed the conversations about life in general. I learned that he was originally from Somalia and had a son studying in university. He said he was very happy with his life in Australia and was thankful of his job that enabled him to support his family including being able to afford to send his children to schools. I guess he is one of the lucky immigrants there and his hard work paid off in this country where the environment generally rewards hardworking people with much opportunities to improve their lot.

Taxi operators and drivers in Metro Manila should learn about what good service is all about from taxis abroad. Perhaps they can pick up a good thing or two for how they can improve services and thereby reducing if nor eliminating  the bad impressions people generally have about them that have led to ridesharing services to become quite popular. A significant improvement in taxi services can be rewarding in terms of ridership or patronage.