Let us go beyond #WeWantUberGrab
Here's an unpopular opinion: I don’t exactly rally behind the #WeWantUberGrab campaign.
What I support is a more comprehensive campaign calling for better public transportation that benefits everyone – commuters and drivers alike.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has halted the apprehension of undocumented drivers until Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Responding to this, Grab and Uber drivers united and launched an online campaign calling on the LTFRB to grant permits to additional Uber and Grab drivers.
I, however, think that saving Grab and Uber alone will not really solve our traffic woes in Metro Manila.
Let me start by sharing my experience with a taxi driver – whose name unfortunately escaped my memory – almost two years ago.
Unfair boundary system
He told me that taxi drivers like him work 24 hours a day just so they could reach their boundary and earn enough to support his family for two days.
“Paano 'nyo nakakaya (How do you do it)?” I asked.
“'Ayun Ma’am, lumalaklak ako ng Cobra at kape. Minsan sinasamahan ko pa ng Red bull. Ganoon talaga eh,” he answered with a smile.
(Ma'am, I drink Cobra and coffee. Sometimes, I would also take strong energy drinks like Red Bull. That's just how it is.)
He said he would spend the following day in bed, gathering his strength for the next cycle on the road. The next day, he would start work at 5 am, weathering the traffic, unforgivable flooding and rain, and fatigue, and clock out exactly 24 hours later.
He said this as a matter fact, without the slightest hint of complaint or regret. That is how he is able to put food on the table. How could he complain about it?
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to ask every taxi driver I get to meet if this is how they lived. Majority of the taxi drivers – from the youngest to the 72-year-old driver I met – affirmed this.
The only ones who control their time and sleeping habit are those who are rich enough to own a cab. And that’s just a speck of the total taxi driver population in the Philippines.
The plight of bus drivers and conductors who would cram their vehicles with standing passengers during rush hour is no different. They are also limited by the boundary system that defines our public transportation system.
This is the reality of many taxi and bus drivers in the country: the public transportation system is plainly inhumane to them.
How does this relate to the "We want Uber and Grab" campaign?
The current narrative surrounding the campaign creates a false dichotomy between the ride-sharing apps and traditional public utility vehicles. It is as if to favor one thing, you should be against the other.
But that misses the whole point.
It is true that Grab and Uber have served as an answered prayer for many commuters in Metro Manila,
However, Grab and Uber alone cannot solve traffic. In fact, they only add more franchises and cars on the road, benefitting only a certain portion of the commuter population that could afford its pricing rate on a daily basis.
And how they leave more carbon footprint is a totally different matter.
What the country needs is better public transportation which essentially means fewer and more efficient modes of transportation – emphasis on train systems and buses – that have the capacity to transport more commuters.
Because of the false dichotomy, we forget that there are good and bad drivers regardless if they drive a cab or a Grab or Uber car. We’ve read it on social media, in news reports.
Because of the false dichotomy, we also miss the fact the LTFRB is not only being inconsistent with its regulation of franchises. It has also failed to fix the boundary system in taxis and buses, and has fallen short in delivering its mandate to provide a decent means of livelihood for regular public utility vehicle drivers.
What is clear and sure is that it is wrong for the government to cut the lifeline of a temporary and functional solution such as Grab and Uber without providing a long-term solution to traffic for the public.
What should the government do then?
As early as now, we should be asking ourselves: In this age of technological disruptions, how do we make sure everybody gains from them?
Right now, with the discussion on public transportation in the Philippines, the onus largely weighs on the government to make sure this gets addressed.
This is why I agree with Grab when it said that “we must level it up by improving the quality of service of other modes of public transport, and bring them at par with TNVS not by back-pedaling on the standards in place we have today.”
In fact, the government might just be able to hit two birds with one stone. By learning how to adapt these advancements to benefit our taxi drivers, the government might be able to finally solve the problem surrounding the outdated taxi and bus boundary system that benefits no one but the franchise holders.
While doing so, the government should definitely expedite its plan on improving, building, and expanding our train and bus systems.
Let us step back and go beyond Uber and Grab. Let us pressure the government to provide an efficient public transportation that we deserve.
Because, honestly, with an efficient train system and better public transportation in general, discussions like these would be irrelevant and everyone would be happy. – Rappler.com
Raisa Serafica is a community manager and social media producer for MovePH, Rappler's civic-engagement arm