Public display of affliction
My friend LC, a middle-aged working woman, has a grievance: She now waits more than 30 minutes to get an Uber or Grab ride, when she only used to wait for about 10 minutes.
That may sum up the effect on the riding public of one bold unflinching decision of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
Recently, LTFRB imposed a maximum limit on the number of Uber and Grab cars, impossibly called TNVS (transport network vehicle service), to 45,000 at most plying Metro Manila, home to more than 13 million people.
Just exactly how LTFRB churned up the number, nobody knew for sure. The fact remains that both Uber and Grab reported to LTFRB that their requests for rides ran by the millions every month.
Anyway, LTFRB chair Martin Delgra III said the magic number was the result of studies, careful to point out that it was … well, “not arbitrary.”
Well and good! It’s just that he forgot to release those studies to the public.
While the guys down here in my barangay could believe LTFRB about the studies, the public would never know whether or not those studies were wrong.
Some four years ago in 2014, ride-sharing became an alternative to driving ourselves to work or taking a cab.
We would get a chauffeur-driven car at the push of a button on the cellphone, and we would get the service right at the doorstep exactly when we needed it.
Based on a paper done by Uber, about 1.5 million people in Metro Manila actively use Uber at present, including tourists from some 79 countries.
Uber claimed that, in a month, it only registered about 30,000 active units, and only about 16,000 of them took at least one trip every day. In short, there was a shortage of units.
Statistics gathered by Uber showed that in July last year, it was able to fulfill 80 percent of requests for rides, which went down to a pathetic 40 percent last month, or less than half of the requests.
Stop right there. In fact, in the last Christmas season, the figure even dropped miserably to just 20 percent!
No wonder, in the real world, people like my friend LC could feel the lack of rides that LTFRB perhaps forgot to study.
The Uber data also showed the public has started to use the ride-pooling option (meaning, more than one passenger per trip), which now accounts for about 40 percent of the trips.
In actual figures, some 670,000 individuals who use Uber were willing to share their rides with others.
Thus, ride-sharing could be one way of easing the public affliction called traffic.
Consider for a minute that, based on data compiled by the Metro Manila Development Authority, more than 80 percent of the cars plying the streets of Metro Manila only had one passenger—the driver.
People would rather buy their own cars, drive themselves to work and bear the high cost of parking, if they could find a vacant slot, precisely because of our inefficient public transportation system.
Another survey also showed that some 88 percent of Filipinos would be willing to forego buying a car, if they could have a reliable ride-sharing transport.
Anyway, despite the claims of the chief of LTFRB about having studied the situation, his need to control the number of Uber and Grab vehicles still had some huge holes.
For example, LTFRB forgot to say just exactly how the different TNVS would share the 45,000 units.
Nobody, but nobody had any idea who would get what number.
Moreover, the entire TNVS sector reportedly already had more than 100,000 units among themselves.
Question: Which one among them would LTFRB remove?
And nobody, but nobody still had any idea what the criteria could be.
Controlling the supply of anything, just like price control, would always have bad effects (although the limit set by LTFRB would benefit taxi operators).
What is LTFRB so worried about? So what if the metropolis would have too many Uber or Grab cars?
It would actually be good for the riding public—which, by the way, according to Sen. Grace Poe, LTFRB did not consult before it arrived at its decision.
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