Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm a frequent victim of Manila's heavy traffic. On a daily basis in fact. The problem, in my estimation lies with vehicle volume and inadequate roadways. But these alone cannot explain the high-blood inducing phenomenon.

If you're familiar with the streets of Manila and other Philippine cities, the cause of much traffic jams are public utility jeeps and buses (PUJ and PUB). The transport industry is very loose and informal in the country. Regulation begins and ends with getting the vehicle and its operator registered and licensed. When the PUJ and PUB is on the road, anything goes basically.

Transport operators and their drivers or bus crews don't have the usual employer-employee relationship. The latter "rent" their vehicles from the former, paying him (the operator) a pre-agreed, guaranteed daily rate called "boundary".

With this system, the driver or bus crew is left to decide how to raise revenue for the boundary and for their own income. Of course, the drivers try their best to be good businessmen and "collect" all passengers they can find in their route and to do this, in many cases, they intentionally drive very slowly or frequently stalling in their routes to call passengers. You will find, for example, jeepneys "collecting"in one intersection in order wait for passengers. From the drivers' point of view, this is understandable in terms of economic and efficiency. But from the POV of their fellow road users and their passengers as well, these jeepneys and buses are the main causes of traffic and their tardiness.

I can't say that the government has been negligent. There have been many attempts to reduce traffic: Number coding, alternate U-turn slots, unified bus management systems, etc, etc. But still, traffic remains as bad as before.

Well I had these things in my head this morning and it occured to me. The main reason drivers frequently stop and drive slowly is because of their constant hunt for passengers. If you eliminate that, then you could reduce traffic significantly. I have several suggestions:

The first is giving the power to choose to the riding public. Many people need to go to some place and get there on time. In many occasions, public transportation is working against this intent as indicated above. But passengers can't be choosy or find choosing the best jeepney impossible.

So how do we do it? I'm thinking of developing a device which will alert passengers if a particular jeepney driver employs the usual tactics of driving slowly, frequently stalling or just plainly being a pain in the ass. The device will be placed on the roof the jeepney and will indicate a rating for the jeepney in terms of speed, frequency of stops, safety, etc. Passengers will definitely hail the jeepney that has a good rating, i.e., the one that will get them to their destination on time and will not cause so much traffic. Slow drivers will soon find that their tactics will be obsolete and will be therefore forced to be quicker on the road while being safe.

The second could be a set of Good Manners and Ethics in buses and jeeps. A campaign could be launched to teach kids, drivers and the general public regarding these. Hopefully, this give passengers a more acceptable means of demanding better service from drivers. Filipinos are by nature very restrained in public and very quiet about their true feelings. This usually gives the impression that they are very patient when in fact the Pinoy is already enraged deep inside. The new set of acceptable gestures and motions within and without vehicles will allow them to express their dissatisfaction. For example, passengers could stomp their feet on the floor to demand the driver to quit stalling and move on. Such a time happened to me. I was seated directly behind the driver but I still had to shout at him to demand him to quit stalling. Included also should be proper ways of waiting and hailing a jeepney, bus or taxi.

The last one would be make it an acceptable practice for the passenger to demand from the driver or bus crew their fare if they find the service inferior, that is, if the bus or jeep is too slow and thus caused them to be late for work or school. This could also be legislated. This will hopefully be a proper deterrent against very abusive drivers. They won't earn if they keep irritating their passengers with their stalling tactics.

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