[OPINION] Getting envious of other countries' mass transport systems

 

Just before 2019 ended, I got a chance to travel to Kuala Lumpur and Istanbul. I spent 10 days outside of the country, saw many beautiful sights, and brought back lots of delicacies for pasalubong. It was a great trip overall.

One of the things I noticed during my trip was how efficient their mass transportation system was – they were able to make it cost-efficient enough to the point that they could offer discounted fares or even free bus rides, in addition to having transit systems that work 24/7! Their ride-hailing systems were also efficient and convenient for consumers; in these countries, people didn't have to worry about going back home extremely late.

To be honest, I admire – no, I envy – their mass transport systems. Despite the fact that they also have rush hours and their load of day-to-day traffic, millions of locals and tourists from all over the world are still able to move from one place to another without having to worry about whether the train line will buck, or worse, burst into flames. 

While it’s also true that both countries have their share of skeletons in their closets, I’m pretty sure that they excel way better than the Philippines when it comes to transportation. We Filipinos have to endure colorum buses, outdated light rail systems, the sluggishness of our politicians to create and innovate – there are a lot of things that need to be fixed. (READ: FAST FACTS: State of Metro Manila's transportation system

So when I saw the question “How will the end of the motorcycle taxi pilot run affect you as a commuter?” on Rappler’s social media accounts, the issue also felt close to my heart. After all, between all these problems, motorcycles taxis are among the few things that have worked as far as the atrocious conditions of Metro Manila are concerned.

I live 2.5 kilometres away from where I work, at the very far end of Annapolis Street in San Juan. Most of the time, when I’m able to wake up early, I have the option to walk for 10 minutes and then ride a jeepney at Club Filipino to EDSA. I know I’m way luckier than those of us who have to endure 3, even 4 hours of exhaustion and frustration commuting to work.

However, there are times when my body feels like it just went on a 10-month long pilgrimage, so I prefer using Angkas motorcycle taxis to keep from being late for work. It’s relatively easy to book, it’s cheap, and it can negotiate the notorious traffic that Metro Manila is known for while being impeccably safe and well-equipped.

When the LTFRB’s Technical Working Group issued a crackdown on Angkas, it came as no surprise that there was a lot of public outrage regarding the matter. If the LTFRB claims in its mandate to “regulate land-based public transportation, and to safeguard the welfare and interests of the commuting public,” then why can’t it use its discretion to further allow these ride-hailing solutions? More importantly, the Technical Working Group acted on the matter secretly – they did not publicize the results of the trial period and they excluded major players such as the MMDA and Congress from the said group. 

When one goes deep into the heart of the matter, one fact remains clear: even if the regulatory board actually wanted to allow these motorcycle taxi companies and cooperatives to operate continuously (and legally), our outdated transportation laws simply don’t allow for it to happen.

As such, the main solution for this burgeoning transportation issue is for Congress to amend the law and legally allow new forms of transportation to operate in the country, which includes motorcycle taxi services such as Angkas, among others.

On top of that, the government should intensify its ongoing efforts to open new LRT lines and improve the quality and serviceability of existing platforms. There has been some progress earlier this year, such as the acquisition of new air-conditioning units for trains, as well as whole new train units; and the intensive maintenance and repair work for existing tracks. These are good places to start. 

Finally, the relevant agencies should develop means to encourage commuters to use alternative modes of transportation, such as the newly-opened and refurbished river ferries, as well as the inter-city ferries that have started to operate from Cavite to CCP and Lawton back in 2019.

No one has to suffer from a lack of transportation options at the start of the new decade. We Filipinos deserve better than to be envious of other countries' transportation systems. – Rappler.com

Earl Carlo Guevarra is a teacher of English at an international school in San Juan City. When he’s not teaching writing or grammar, he likes to drink fruit shakes and dabble in poetry.