MY TWO CENTS’: The clamor for better public transport and more skilled workers

My Two Cents by John Tria
My Two Cents by John Tria

As our cities grow and develop on the back of higher growth numbers and vehicular traffic increases, the need for better and more reliable public transportation grows stronger.

With this, the Davao city government should be commended for launching the Peak Hours Augmentation Bus System (PHABS) that has allowed many  commuters to partake of more reliable and comfortable public transport.  These buses are expected to perform better than the jeepneys especially when streets are flooded, a fact that deters jeepneys from plying their routes, leaving thousands stranded on rainy nights. 

Because of this  the city government and other agencies can fast-track the implementation of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) for all major routes. We do not have enough jeepneys to fill this need. Higher volume transport will be needed. 

This is why mass transport systems like light rail proposals are being entertained. 

As expected a stumbling block to improving our public transport system may come from transport groups. To its credit, however, the Department of Transportation has effectively communicated the need for modern transport systems, from improving light rail systems in congested Metro Manila to the modernization of PUVs in many cities all over the country. 

The current growth in the economy and the boosted infrastructure in both the public and private sectors has created a situation where a lack of skilled laborers has become an opportunity for former jeepney drivers. Skills training programs are already underway  creating an opportunity for workers to gain new skills and partake of other opportunities.  More, however, will be needed, to enable many unskilled Filipinos to  partake of the growth as employed individuals. The low unemployment rates are a good start but more opportunities will be needed.

That said, the following must be stressed:

One, public transport franchises given to certain entrepreneurs and operators are a privilege, not a right. Just because you have one it does not mean that you can sell, transfer or trade the same similar to what was done in the past, where such were treated as entitlements that could be bought and sold like pigs or land titles. Stories from within the LTFRB in the past tell of a rampant trading of these franchises, with approvals for transfer subject to SOPs to ensure timely release of the documents in time for the registration of the vehicle at the LTO. 

With the implementation of more modern, government managed transport systems, the need for jeepney franchises may lessen, along with opportunities to participate in an ilicit trade. 

Secondly,  from a policy standpoint, the benefit to the riding public, that comprise the majority of the population, far outweighs the profits of jeepney operators and drivers. These includes our young and the elderly who are exposed to the elements. We must never let anyone convince us otherwise. The numbers do not lie.

Moving forward,  efficient, affordable and safe public transport systems are part of achieving a comfortable life for all citizens. Getting these systems operational also encourages more people to prefer to use public transport over private vehicles, which, in turn, will ensure less traffic on our streets.

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