Public transport woes still plague the country, but for the taxi-riding public, technology has created a solution. Whereas before, people needing to ride a cab needed to physically hail a taxi or call a taxi operator to have one sent – a problem, particularly during rush hour, or if one is at a location where traffic rarely passes. With the introduction of GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi, anyone with a smartphone can just click open an app, indicate the pick-up point and destination and wait for the driver to arrive for just a minimal fee on top of the fare.
Still, it did not solve the existing problem of supply versus demand. There were still more passengers than vehicles. Enter UBER and GrabCar, services that allowed what was called ride-sharing with private vehicles, effectively increasing the number of vehicles.
For the riding public, UBER and GrabCaroffered another advantage– the option to not look like part of the taxi-riding public– a plus for the image-conscious citizens of the metro. Both services use unmarked, private vehicles, and in the case of UBER Black and GrabCar Premium, luxury vehicles such as Hummers and different brands of SUVs are also an option.
Application-based systems such as UBER and Grab have made drastic changes to an old system that hasn’t changed for decades– except perhaps for the rising problems that have worsened in the last few years. Cases of price-gouging drivers, unavailability of vehicles often during rush hour, safety issues (both for the riding public and drivers) have steadily been increasing despite attempts to control them by the agencies tasked to regulate transportation.
Resistance and acceptance
While GrabTaxi and its earliest competitor, EasyTaxi, encountered little to no resistance as they used existing units already registered by the LTFRB and was just an app that connected drivers and their vehicles with passengers, the private-car using services (UBER and GrabCar) did. These services (and the vehicles they used) had problems with accreditation, said to be prompted by the taxi operators putting pressure on Congress and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
But as the saying goes, there is no stopping change. In May last year, the LTFRB made the first step in recognizing the fact that Uber and GrabCar were here to stay. This began with drafting regulations, legally identifying an app-based transportservice as a Transport Network Company (TNC). The regulations also allowed and required a vehicle used by a TNC was to apply legally for a franchise as a Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS).
Still, resistance has not stopped. In December 2015, an association of taxi drivers and operators known as AngatTsuperSamahanngmgaTsuper at Operator ngPilipinas Genuine Organization Transport Coalition, represented by PascualMagno managed to get the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the operation of the private transport services for 20 days. The TRO cancelled the earlier memoranda issued by the LTFRB covering the accreditation of transportation network companies and issuance of franchises to TNVS.
According to the resolution, the Court found that “claim by the petitioner that they suffer less or low incomes and earnings due to the sudden and uncontrolled increase in the number of TNCs (Transport Network Vehicle Services) utility vehicles running in the streets of Metro Manila” was persuasive.
It also said the petitioner showed that the rights of franchisees of public utility vehicles have been affected by the operations of Uber and GrabCar, and that “here is a material and substantial invasion of the rights of the officers and members of the Association as holders of Certificates of Public Convenience necessary for the operation of their utility vehicles.”
In another development, however, the LTFRB dismissed all motions filed by a transport group against the operations of vehicles under the ridesharing apps Uber and Grab in a consolidated order on February 23, 2016, denying for lack of merit the petitions filed by 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-Utak) against the operations of the Transport Network Companies (TNCs) and issuance of franchise to their partner Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS).
According to LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez, “PUV operators and transport groups should welcome the challenge and competition for better public transport service, which would serve the best interest of the public safety and convenience.”
Still, the resistance continues. Another transport group, Stop and Go, has a pending petition in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against the DO for TNCs and TNVS.
A case for TNCs
For the customers, it is hard to believe that an obvious solution to a big problem would meet such resistance. After all the TNCs and the TNVs allow convenience, safety and security, for a fee.
Cars and Drivers. How it works is simple–once a driver is assigned, a passenger is able to track the drivers’ position and route, and communicate with the driver if necessary. A driver learns the passenger’s destination prior to bidding taking care of the problem of being refused access to a taxi when traveling to undesirable parts of town. Unprofessional drivers are weeded out because passengers get to rate the driver’s performance, and a consistently low rating will force a driver out of the TNC.
TNCs regulate their vehicles that register with them, which means that most cars are clean and well-maintained, late- model cars that are chauffeured by drivers who are, for the most part, celan, well-dressed and courteous. Review and feedback systems employed by the TNCs allow passengers to complain and receive immediate resolutions in case of the occasional ‘black sheep.”
Fares, Pricing and Payment. While normal taxis are cheaper offhand compared to TNCs that have fees on top of metered fares as well as surge/rush hour rates. However, in Metro Manila, there is no assurance that a taxi will cost less. The inevitable add-on a taxi driver will ask during rush hour and/or suburban destination, bad meters, per minute charges in traffic and the like can drive up the fare considerably. Add to that the frustration and stress encountering such taxis can bring.
In the case of Uber and recently, Grab, credit card payments also ensure safety for both the passengers and the drivers. Email receipts are also sent, allowing those with expense accounts an easier time of tracking.
Safety. Perhaps the biggest benefit for both passengers and drivers, is the safety promised by the system .Geotracking employed by the app allows for added security. Passengers even have the option to post their trips on social media, allowing their friends and family to know where they are.
For Uber and Grab, the credit card option keeps the transaction is cash-less, so drivers needs not worry about unpaid fares carrying any cash that might entice robbers.
Is there a downside?
There are few, if any, any downsides for customers. “Surge pricing” for UBER, or “rush hour rates” – a method of pricing based on supply and demand– can be a source of annoyance, however.
For the industry, however, the competition can be a problem for traditional operators and drivers. Another issue raised by the transport groups also bears thinking about: the introduction of more vehicles on roads that are already unable to handle the current volume of vehicles. With many private car owners enticed to go into business with UBER or Grab by buying new vehicles and registering them with the TNCs, the supply and demand issues are solved, but the traffic problem worsens. Many would argue, however, that traffic is an issue of bigger and more roads, and better mass transport systems.
For many, however, these TNCs and their TNVs solve a major problem. Many hope that they are here to stay.