The answer to the Uber disaster
What was life before Uber? As an advocate of sustainable cities, I will admit to being a hypocrite by saying that I enjoy having the choice of convenience and better service quality provided by Uber. Before they came along, I was sweating it out with the rest of the commuting public. Hailing and riding cabs, jeeps, and buses was a daily pain in the behind, and by the time I got to my destination, I was often stressed out and splenetic.
Entrepreneurial model gone awry
In a May 11, 2015 Wired.com article, Davey Alba wrote, “The Philippines just made Uber legal everywhere... The new rules are a triumph for Uber, which is still facing regulatory resistance all over the world... But Uber still faces challenges unique to the Philippines. For one, Uber’s routing algorithm doesn’t work as well in Manila, which has some of the world’s worst traffic... Many locals do say that the service is often cheaper and more convenient than local cab services. But Uber drivers, regulators and the company itself still have work to do to find the right fit if Uber expects to keep growing in the Philippines—and the rest of the world.”
Correct me if I am wrong, but without having to delve into the statistics and specifics of urban land transportation, it is obvious that there was an absence of a proper feasibility study for this ride sharing service, which would have pointed out the insufficiency of Metro Manila’s current road infrastructure. There are way too many cars on the streets, whether moving or illegally parked. Granted that Uber is providing a source of livelihood to our countrymen, they are still contributing to the already crowded thoroughfares.
In mid-July when the news of the LTFRB-Uber issue broke out, popular automotive journalist James Deakin posted a survey asking the Facebook public to vote for or against the continuance of ride sharing in the city. I immediately commented on his post: “Though I do prefer Ubers over taxis because of convenience and quality, regular prices are quite steep, which are only compensated for with occasional promos. Transportation demand management is a lot about giving us commuters right of way on the road, through proper infrastructure and strict implementation of policy. I wish for lots more green spaces which provide accessibility and protection to the millions who walk and take mass and para transit every day. I also hope for an increase in use of non-motorized transport such as biking and pedicabs. My voting for Uber will only increase the number of cars, which is the real cause of congestion. Give the streets back to the community. #sustainabletransport #sustainablecities”
I respect Mr. Deakin and his work as he is an expert in his field, but at the end of the day, I guess we are all entitled to our opinions of which the lowest hanging fruit is, in the case of this highly complex and multi-layered problem our society faces. In my non-motorized transport studies, one of my mentors pointed out that the answer to these issues was in a document called transportation demand management (TDM).
If you want to know more about it, just search for TDM on the internet. You will come across a multitude of sources, one of which is the TDM Training Document by Andrea Broaddus and company. According to the 2009 study,”Transportation Demand Management (TDM), also called Travel Demand Management, aims to maximize the efficiency of the urban transport system by discouraging unnecessary private vehicle use and promoting more effective, healthy and environment-friendly modes of transport, in general being public transport and non-motorized transport... A three-pronged approach, utilizing 1) Improve Mobility Options, 2) Economic Measures, and 3) Smart Growth and Land Use Management is the most effective way to manage demand and create a resilient and efficient transport system.” And then of course the 100-plus page document goes on to detail how some developing countries have managed to successfully implement TDM strategies in their own congested cities. It is not an impossible feat if we are all willing to alter our behavior for the greater good.
Red, yellow or green?
If I were to segment the commuting public, I can categorize using the signals of a traffic light. Some of us are adamantly still in the red zone and will not hear of the regulation of Uber. Others are in the middle ground, such as Mr. Deakin, who recently appeared before the Senate Committee Hearing on Public Services. Some of what he said was resonant with TDM. He mentioned society’s car addiction, and how enthusiasts such as himself might be willing to compromise by giving up two thirds of his automobiles. Then there are those who are green extremists such as myself, who will continue to campaign for a truly sustainable city wherein all citizens enjoy the benefits of a sustainable and inclusive transportation system.
When someone replied to one of my pro-TDM comments: “I don’t know you, Nibs—but I’m guessing you don’t commute very far and if you do, it’s not by bike.” I then responded, ”I walk everyday as I live near my places of work, and yes, I do bike when I can. I have also scheduled my days so that I don’t get caught in the madness outside. I have chosen to do my part. I give fellow pedestrians who do not follow rules evil stares. I give disrespectful motorists a piece of my mind on the street when I can... behavioral change one neighborhood at a time, one commuter at a time is a start.”
Paz Esperanza Tesoro-Poblador is a faculty member of the Marketing Management Department of De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. She has a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management, and is currently taking her Doctorate in Business Administration. Her fields of interest are sustainable development, poverty alleviation, culture and heritage, and entrepreneurship. Her dissertation topic is on non-motorized transport and sustainable cities.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.