Editorial: Public transport is not a payong-payong loaded with 10 passengers

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A FEW weeks back, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte mentioned about the Japan International Cooperation Agency recommending an underground railway for public transport in the city.

This might sound so distant for us who have become so used to jeepneys and taxis, but this is a reality we have to face and fast.

True, we can still reach our destinations within an hour anywhere in the built-up areas of Davao. But remember, that used to be just 15 minutes. Whether it be in far Sasa to downtown or farther Toril to downtown. Now, you can only wish that you will reach downtown in 15 minutes and not be caught by a traffic policeman or getting stuck in slow-moving traffic.


Vehicle traffic is increasing, population is skyrocketing, this is not helped by the proliferation of multicabs that can only fit in so many. What Davao now needs is a real mass transport system, and not just a hastily-put together public transport system that has barely evolved from the long-ago AC jeeps (auto calesa).

It has been almost 70 years since World War II ended, where the American military Jeeps came from that were turned into ACs, much like the jeepneys we now have except that one unit can only carry as many as eight passengers. Six at the back riding three persons each side, and two in front, plus the driver.

Since then, public transport has worsened as tiny multicabs, much smaller than ACs, are made to fit in as many 15 passengers plus a driver, while payong-payong and trisiboats are made to fit in upto 10 or 12. There is absolutely no concern for passenger convenience, much less safety; and we call our city highly-urbanized.

There are big decisions to be made, however, to put the foot down against the common arguments that putting in a system that will ensure convenience, speed, and safety to commuters will ease out the jeepney, tricycle, trisiboat, trisikad drivers. But should we forever deny the thousands of commuters the convenience of a fast and efficient mass transport just because of these?

Sure, we can just increase the number of franchises and franchise routes so that there will be thousands serving the commuter needs of the public, but what will that do to our mobility when we all get stuck in horrible traffic clogged to the farthest edges by non-moving jeepneys?

There will be economic displacement, that's for sure. But we all know that displacement is a necessary evil of growth, and sooner than not, adjustments and mitigating actions will take over. It's like a businessman refusing to upgrade equipment just because his workers have already spent years using the old equipment. Upgrade is the word, and in this post-modern time, upgrading comes almost every season. That is how we should also look at livelihood opportunities as we should all ride with the fast-changing times.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 26, 2014.


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