The woes of commuters continue to pile up as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has started cracking down on unregistered Grab and Uber drivers, while at the same time fining Grab and Uber Php 5 million each for letting drivers operate without permits. Because of the crackdown, it is estimated that it will be close to impossible to book a Grab or Uber by July 25. Commuters will have not much choice then.
The LTFRB suspended accreditation of new Grab and Uber drivers last year because it wants to come up with regulations for Transport Network Vehicle Service or TNVS. A year later, it has yet to come up with new rules, but instead of allowing Grab and Uber to continue operations, it decided to enforce its stupid rules. And who gets punished in the end? Commuters. The same people who LTFRB is supposed to serve and protect.
By making a douche bag move, the LTFRB continues in its quest to protect the transport mafia that is the current public transport operators. We all have public transport horror stories. A Facebook user even came up with graphics detailing every possible idiotic remarks made by most taxi drivers. And these horror stories will continue because there’s a lack of innovative thinking at LTFRB and it is basically a captive regulator.
What the LTFRB should be doing
Basically it should innovate. It must identify what the problems are and come up with out-of-the-box solutions that will address these problems.
The first problem is that the LTFRB has no idea what the problems are. It is a myopic, insulated organization that only reacts when fatal accidents happen. It is myopic because it has never come up with something new. In fact, it has never issued any new franchise because it thinks the public transport system is already oversaturated.
It is insulated because most of its officers do not commute, so it has no idea what problems commuters face everyday. It has no idea that not all routes are oversaturated, that on certain times of the day (read: rush hour) taking public transport means risking one’s life.
Members of the board should be required to take public transportation when they report to work. That way, they can observe first hand and experience what commuters face every day. They should descend from their ivory tower and see for themselves the mess that they have abetted and created.
LTFRB should commission a study of public transport routes and capacity. The study should be able to identify what routes are overloaded and what routes are underserved; pinpoint times and areas when and where commuters converge; determine the most efficient mode of transportation to address chokepoints and bottlenecks; and come up with innovative solutions. LTFRB should commit to the findings and recommendations of the said study.
The appointing authority should appoint as members of the board people who have experience in logistics and transport management. The LTFRB should not be treated as patronage posts, as largess to be distributed to campaign donors and supporters. Staff the organization with professionals, with people who knows statistics and technology. Luddites in the LTFRB should be compelled to train on mathematics and computers. Most of all, appoint officials who knows how to listen to feedback from commuters.
LTFRB should compel its franchisees to end the boundary system. Drivers should be hired as regular employees, paid regular salaries, and reward them with incentives when they meet their quota.
LTFRB should set a better standard when it comes to PUVs. Vehicles used for public conveyance should be comfortable and safe; enough with rolling coffins. PUVs should be given a short lifespan of about 5 years.
LTFRB should encourage consolidation in the transport sector. PUVs should not be owned by one person; encourage cooperatives for small PUVs. Bus and taxi companies should be capitalized enough to be able to replace units every 5 years or so.
LTFRB should adopt a technology-based policy when it comes to monitoring compliance and enforcing rules. The reason why Grab and Uber work is that drivers can only remain on the service if they maintain a good rating from commuters. Use available technology to streamline the complaints process and cut the red tape.
The current leadership at the LTFRB are not only incompetent, they are also callous, insensitive, and beholden to the entrenched franchisees that it is supposed to regulate. They have failed to come up with innovative and timely policies, instead they contribute to the already broken land transportation sector. They are arrogant and behave like they are princes, when they are and should be public servants. They will serve this country better if they resign and let others more capable and more humble to fix the mess that they have created. This country deserves better – better leaders, better public transportation.
Image credit: Screencap of Uber’s Tweet