Mass transport reforms

Mass transport reforms

Never let a good crisis go to waste. The origin of this quote is still in dispute, but it underpins proposals for reform opportunities as the country continues to reel from the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Among the hardest hit are mass transport drivers and operators. With the gradual reopening of the economy particularly in crowded Metro Manila, many of those who are glad to be able to return to work are dismayed that they can’t get to their workplace for lack of mass transport.

A coalition of commuter welfare advocates, economists and barangay personnel, called Move As One, believes that amid the woes of workers in the mass transport sector, the pandemic offers an opportunity for implementing long overdue reforms.

The main objective is to improve mass transport facilities sufficiently to persuade people to commute rather than use private vehicles. This entails making public transport services efficient, comfortable and – a key concern in this pandemic – hygienic and safe.

Private car owners are shunning public transport services due to concerns about coronavirus infection, and physical distancing requirements will cut earnings in public transport units. There is greater urgency for reforms in mass transport.

Efficient deployment of buses and jeepneys can help operators survive. Intermodal transport hubs need a stronger and more efficient push. It’s time to fully implement fixed wages for drivers of public utility vehicles. This measure aims to end the system wherein a driver’s daily earnings depend on the number of passengers. Operators, however, found a loophole and gave drivers a bonus based on the number of passengers picked up.

Amid the pandemic, people are discovering the usefulness of bicycles. Cycling advocates are hoping that this will pave the way for the creation of dedicated bicycle lanes and installation of infrastructure such as cycling stations where bikes can be parked safely even in private establishments. Greater use of bicycles can contribute to better air quality and boost health through exercise.

This can be complemented by the development of wider sidewalks for pedestrian welfare as well as green areas in urban centers. The pandemic has opened up opportunities for reforms. For the public transport sector, this could boil down to just two choices: reform or perish.