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Modern public transport for PH requires overhaul of current systems, says expert

/ 04:19 PM June 02, 2020

The government is being urged to make a dramatic shift in modernizing public transportation to include overhauling the decades-old system of how operators make money, which could result in better service to commuters.

Urban development expert Benjie dela Peña said on Tuesday (June 2) that this can start with migrating franchise holders, like operators of buses and jeepneys, to service contracts.

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Under service contracting, the government collects fare from riders and pays the public utility vehicle (PUV) operator a fixed amount, which will be subject to key performance standards like number of trips and safety.

“The customer is the government and not the passengers,” Dela Pena said.

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He said the driver’s main task would be to pick up passengers “but more importantly my second job is to fulfil the performance requirements.”

Dela Pena is former chief of strategy and innovation at the Seattle Department of Transportation in the United States.

Dela Peña, who spoke at an online briefing (https://open.spotify.com/embed-podcast/episode/2k1spbGGLvOQsocGWATZnw) organized by PumaPodcast and Asia Society, said drivers’ attitudes and mindsets could also change from packing their PUVs with as many passengers as possible to meeting better performance standards.

Drivers of PUVs in the Philippine mostly earn from shares in their operators’ incomes which push many of them to pack their vehicles for more commuters.

Dela Pena said in a time of COVID-19, the government “can say just accept 50 percent of passengers” to heed social distancing rules.

Dela Peña, who is part of the Move as One Coalition, said the plan will involve shifting around 55,000 jeepneys and 8,000 buses to service contracting.

The test period can run for three months, which will cost the government some P355 million per day or close to P32 billion in total.

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It is similar to a proposal earlier made by Move Metro Manila calling for the government to contract buses and other PUVs for six months to provide essential public transportation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has taken small steps toward service contracting its bus augmentation system in Metro Manila to offset reduced capacity as the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and Light Rail Transit Line 1 and LRT Line 2 were put off line by the pandemic.

Zona Tamayo, director at the LTFRB, said reforms were underway but that dramatic changes might not happen anytime soon.

“Introducing something new in terms of how they [PUV operators] are going to earn is really challenging,” she said.

For now, the LTFRB started with the bus augmentation system that was rolled out after Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine.

Tamayo said aside from managing buses, “it’s going to be a challenge because we are talking here of different modes of transport.”

Edited by TSB

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