Faced with the lack of adequate public transportation during the general community quarantine (GCQ), a mobility and urban development expert proposed that the government enter into service contract agreements with transport operators to solve the lack of adequate public transportation.
During the “A Better Normal” Facebook live webinar hosted by PumaPodcast founder Roby Alampay, urban development expert Benjie Dela Peña suggested that the government overhaul the current public transport system by engaging into service contracts with public utility vehicle (PUV) operators.
Dela Peña, former chief of the Seattle Department of Transportation Strategy and Innovation division, recommended that the current boundary system – a set up where the driver pays the PUV owner/operator a fixed rent for a day’s trip – must end. The alternative is to have the government guarantee the operator’s revenue through a contract.
In return, government can dictate the number of trips, route length, schedules, number of passengers and mandate the strict implementation of traffic protocols. It would be free to the public only during the transition period and later, can be operated as a paying service regulated by government. Early estimates place the cost of such system from P355 million per day to around P32 billion per month during a period of 60 to 90 days in Metro Manila alone.
“In cities like Seoul, London and Bogota, what they moved into was service contracting. The government contract specifies the terms of service and becomes the customer, not the passenger. The primary job of operators, aside from picking up passengers, is to follow service requirements dictated by government like cleanliness, safety and – especially in the time of COVID-19 – the number of passengers you are allowed to take,” Dela Peña says.
Once the government can guarantee operator revenue and drivers are put on fixed salary, the main concern of every operator would now be centered around providing a better service for commuters, in accordance with provisions of the service contract.
“We finally realized that the boundary system was determining driver behavior. We can opt to place them in salary basis, but the problem there is the financial risk for the operator. If you do a service contract, the government can then dictate the wages of drivers and ailure to comply can mean the suspension of contract payments,” Dela Peña explains.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) NCR director Atty. Zona Tamayo also shared her thoughts on the proposal. “Under the present law, service contracts fall under procurement and we have to apply the Procurement Law. But if we are going to do this on a bigger scale covering all routes, support from our lawmakers would be needed to facilitate the implementation,” she furthers.
Meanwhile, Finance assistant secretary Tony Lambino cautioned about the cost that the government may shoulder, should the state decide to sponsor public transportation. “Looking at the cost benefit ratio of this type of intervention would be very helpful. But will we be seeing less traffic because of this intervention or do we need to do this in combination with other things that will cost a lot of resources? We really have to look at the totality of this proposal,” Lambino states.
“Our problem has been we are trying to solve traffic for five decades. What we need, is to solve transportation. We have to stop thinking how many vehicles we can push through a road, and start thinking on how many people can get where they want to be. Our ability to make it work will improve the welfare of our families, our countrymen, and the competitiveness of our cities. This is an opportunity to show passengers that things can work differently. Public transportation can be efficient if we remove the boundary system,” Dela Peña concludes.
The public can watch to the entire Q&A video on the PumaPodcast Facebook page (facebook.com/PumaPodcastPH/videos/620674925462952/) and the original A Better Normal podcast episode on Spotify (bit.ly/betternormal-1).