Much has been discussed about the ongoing Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) and the need to balance between our need for more modern transportation modes and the current plight of our drivers.
For myself, I agree that while there IS a need to upgrade our jeepneys, the changes being pushed by the government is too radical for our drivers and operators to comply with.
Yes, the modern PUVs, I admit, are a game-changer for our commuters as they’re safer and more comfortable than the traditional jeepneys.
But the pace in which our government has aggressively pushed for modernization, at the expense of our drivers who are struggling to recover from high inflation rates and the effect of the travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, does not make sense to me.
Jeepneys have been part of our culture and society for far too long and any attempt to remove them from the roads will require much more than simply replacing them.
And as with all changes that will affect our culture and society, removing our jeepneys from our roads in just a year will never sit well.
Speaking of changing our transport modes, may I also suggest that we, as commuters, change our habits on the road?
One particular aspect of our transportation system that has irked me for years is the total absence of systemized transportation stops (like, for example, what’s being implemented nowadays at the EDSA Carousel).
Commuters can get on and off anywhere they like. And, sometimes, passengers would ask to be dropped off just two buildings away from the last point where another passenger dropped off!
At the San Pedro City proper, I’ve also noticed, commuters blatantly ignore traffic enforcers and “No Loading and Unloading” signs and hail jeepneys anywhere they want. Never mind that they could cause heavy traffic in an area that has already becoming a “chokepoint” in past years.
I recall this attempt by the city government of Manila to organize its bus system in 2013 by putting up selected bus stops at its main thoroughfares and strictly implementing a “closed-door” policy on buses, especially at Taft Avenue and España Boulevard.
Bus drivers and conductors plying through Manila were thrown into a bind if they stopped outside the designated bus stops, traffic enforcers will flag them down and penalize them up to P2,000. But if they do stop at the designated bus stops, angry passengers would chew them out for missing their intended destination.
I could still clearly remember what a Green Star Express (that’s how South City Express was known then) conductor told a passenger,
“O sige po, ibababa namin kayo sa bawal, pero kayo ang magbayad ng P2,000 na multa kapag nahuli kami ng traffic enforcer.”
If we truly want to “upgrade” our transport system, I daresay that we also must implement a change in our culture, not just the infrastructure or transport modes.