WILL the country’s transport managers please get serious with car or van pooling? It’s the best way to help reduce the stress of rush-hour commuting that perennially plagues private and public sector workers.
Consider this scene every morning in Bacoor,
This scene is repeated in other bedroom communities all around Metro Manila each day. Yet the government’s transport planners and local government units behave as if these things never happen. Worse, they seem to believe that this harsh commuting life for workers, mostly lower-middle-class cubbyhole dwellers, is just another fact of Philippine life that the unlucky ones have to put up with each day. It’s time the government, particularly the Department of Transportation and Communications, looks at this problem carefully.
The last decade saw the proliferation of “bedroom communities” at the fringes of Metro Manila as well as the towns bordering the National Capital Region (e.g. Antipolo in Rizal and Bacoor, Dasmarinas, and Imus in
Imagine commuting for four hours each day from home to work? Yes, that’s the average time many of them spend each day—two hours in the morning from home to office and two hours back home—because of traffic congestion, inefficiency of the transport system, bad roads, and poor traffic management. It’s a horrible and backbreaking labor, especially for those who don’t have aircon private vehicles—not to mention the health hazard, as proven by abundant anecdotal evidence of commuters getting kidney-related ailments from having to control their bladders for hours on end. And they comprise the vast majority of these harassed commuters.
In the Philippines’ megacities, particularly in the NCR, home-office commuters are largely poor minimum wage earners who have no other choice except to get a crowded box of a GSIS-financed house in some backwaters of Cavite and Laguna. The rich ones here also have the best of both worlds: huge houses and condominums in posh enclaves of Bel-Air, Valleverde, Loyola, and San Miguel so they don’t have to share the crowded highways with the riffraffs on weekdays, while maintaining palatial homes in Tagaytay where they hie off to escape the pressure of urban life during weekends and holidays. The point here is that this oppressive commuting is largely victimizing the poor and the powerless, something that the government should address immediately as a matter of social justice.
Necessarily, the woes of commuting are transport congestion problems that are better solved through a combination of measures like traffic demand and supply management (e.g., “number-coding,” maximization of vehicular flow through land use restrictions, improving road networks, among others). But there are practical, doable things that the government can do that does not require public expenditure. One of them is the institutionalization of car or van pools within mega-Manila, comprising the NCR and adjacent provinces like Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and
The solution to this, of course, is giving more franchises to more FX and AUVs, but the DOTC has been deliberately limiting the number of franchises supposedly to prevent traffic congestion. In reality, the DOTC wouldn’t really know the optimal number of franchises for lack of data and planning. Yet this discriminatory policy has been victimizing hundreds of thousands of commuters each day. If DOTC indeed can’t grant more franchises, therefore, it had better institutionalize van or car pooling to address this perennial problem of transport shortages during rush hours in bedroom communities. It’s only a matter of changing its mindset— from that of a cop eager to command and control the transport system to a service- and people-oriented institution that is willing to serve people’s real needs. Once this change in mindset is achieved, the implementation aspects are minor details that could be solved through common sense and experimentation.