MANILA, Philippines – Those waiting for cleaner, more efficient public transport vehicles to ply the roads of Metro Manila can now mark their calendars. (READ: Welcome E-shuttle, bye-bye PH jeepney)
The first fleet of 30 City Optimized Managed Electric Transport (COMET) e-shuttles (or simply COMETs) will start operating around late March or early April, said Ana Santos, media relations head of Global Electric Transport Ltd (GET), the US-based company that makes the e-shuttle.
Originally planned for January, the start of operations was moved because of a change in route and some technical upgrades to the vehicle.
The COMET is a fully electric-powered shuttle that uses state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries. This 21-seater vehicle can travel 80 to 100 kilometers after full charge and can travel up to 60 kilometers/hour. No need to gas up.
The first fleet was supposed to travel from SM North EDSA in Quezon City to SM Megamall in Mandaluyong and back with stops in University of the Philippine Diliman campus, Katipunan Avenue, Eastwood Libis and Ortigas – a route currently not plied by jeeps.
But Pasang Masda, the local jeepney operator GET has partnered with to deploy the first fleet, requested to change the route to a route their traditional jeeps are already using.
This route is from SM North EDSA to Monumento in Caloocan City via Eton Centris along Quezon Avenue and back.
The SM North EDSA to Monumento route is 5.2 kilometers long and will take 20 minutes. The Monumento to SM North EDSA route is 10.9 km long and will take 36 minutes.
They decided to stick to an existing route first to make the transition easier, said Santos. After the first fleet is launched, GET will explore more routes. The much awaited SM North EDSA to SM Megamall route will most likely be used for the next fleet. As of posting, no date has been finalized for the release of the second fleet.
In their scheme, the SM North EDSA-SM Megamall route will take 1 hour and 15 minutes. The SM Megamall-SM North EDSA route is a little faster – 1 hour and 9 minutes.
The company also decided to incorporate upgrades before the release of the first fleet. This includes the use of lithium ion batteries instead of the original lithium ion phosphate batteries. The new type of battery, sourced from US supplier Boston Power, promises greater lifespan and durability.
Within 2014 alone, GET expects to deploy 3,000 to 4,000 units. Pasang Masda has already committed to buy 10,000 units which will be deployed in batches every 3 years.
Among the 30 COMETs to be released into Metro Manila streets this April, 15 were purchased by Pasang Masda. The remaining 15 are from private investors who will relinquish operation of their e-shuttle to GET but who will get a share in the revenues from passenger fares.
The COMET is being marketed as the beginning of the end for the traditional Philippine jeepney which has been dominating Philippine roads since World War II.
It improves on the jeepney in many ways. First, it has zero emissions because it runs on electricity instead of fuel, thus lessening air pollution in the metro.
Secondly, the COMET employs a cashless payment scheme in which passengers tap a card in a built-in scanning device to pay for their fare. All shuttles are equipped with a GPS system and are linked to a command center which knows where each shuttle is. Unlike most traditional jeepneys which stop wherever they want to get passengers, the COMETs have set terminal stations.
These features come at no additional cost to the passenger. E-shuttle patrons will pay P8, the same as the fare for traditional jeepneys.
The COMET system also promises to improve the lives of its drivers. The biggest way is freeing them from the high costs of fuel. If a driver spends P1,200 to gas up his jeep for one day, a COMET driver will spend only a third of that – P400 to P500 – to fully charge the vehicle.
Drivers also get monthly pay from the total revenue of each route divided equally among all of them. unlike in the old jeepney system where drivers fight each other for passengers. Aside from that, drivers have PhilHealth, PagIBIG and Social Security System benefits. – Rappler.com