#CommuterWatch: 'Choosy' taxi drivers and other transport woes

Netizens weigh in on the MRT problem and the controversy regarding regular taxis and 'Transport Network Vehicle Services'

Rappler.com

12:3:14pm August 15, 2015

12:9:39pm August 15, 2015

LONG LINES. Commuters at the Roosevelt station line up to buy single journey tickets. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

LONG LINES. Commuters at the Roosevelt station line up to buy single journey tickets. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - Frustrated commuters took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about  never-ending transportation woes in Metro Manila.

In an online conversation started by Rappler's civic engagement arm Move.PH using the hashtag #CommuterWatch, netizens have been sharing their daily road odeal in the capital. 

The discussion was sparked by the exchange between Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Winston Ginez and automotive journalist James Deakin, who alleged that LTFRB and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) are being "so unreasonably hard" on ride-sharing service providers like Uber. Ginez asserted that the agencies are just enforcing the law. (READ: LTFRB to Uber: No one is above the law)

Operators of Uber and competitor GrabCar will be apprehended starting Friday, August 21, if they are unable to secure the necessary franchise or provisional authority from the LTFRB.

But many netizens felt that LTFRB has misplaced its priorities by introducing the new Premium Taxi scheme, echoing Deakin's reply to LTFRB (READ: Letter to DOTC, LTFRB: We're the ones braving the harsh streets of Manila)

A lack of responsiveness from transportation agencies have been a chief complaint among commuters. For them, Metro Manila's transportation shortcomings should first be addressed.

Facebook users also weighed in on the issue.

Myles Delfin, a designer and entrepreneur, wrote:

Every single day, the problem of the commuting public is that taxis, jeepneys, and buses are so badly regulated that commuters are left at the mercy of whoever is behind the wheel, and now the LTFRB is going after the only reliable form of transportation available to the Filipino? I think, the people who lead this agency should try standing in line at any of the taxi stands in a shopping mall on a payday Friday - and every day thereafter, just to let them feel what it's like to be on the receiving end of nonsense. They're forgetting that it's not only about the law, their job, if they decide to take it seriously, is to make sure that the Filipino gets the service they deserve.

The reality of the situation is that it is time for public transportation to evolve because it doesn't work and the government agency tasked to make it work has consistently failed. Independent innovators like Uber and GrabTaxi wouldn't have any business if public transport actually worked, and the LTFRB has had decades to find a solution and make it work, and now they want us to entrust our safety, peace of mind, and time to an idea that is basically a knock-off of the service they're trying to pin down. For what reason? The law? Regular taxi drivers mock the law every minute of the day whenever they disregard the regulations that are in place to make sure the riding public aren't abused or taken advantage of, everybody knows this from experience, and where is the official concern there? Taxi drivers at the airport virtually try to rob people blind whenever they step out of the arrival terminal, isn't that about the law too? Jeepneys cause traffic whenever they pick up and unload passengers at all the wrong places, why isn't that a priority?

Others shared some of their experiences on the road.

Judy Marie Santiago, a communications officer, said:

One time, I can't find a cab on Grabtaxi and got desperate. Buses are jampacked, MRT queues are hopeless. I had to give a tip of 100 just to get one. 

Hep Benitez, an author and teacher, commented:

I always have to pay an additional 50 pesos or 100 pesos on top of the metered bill just to get a taxi.

Edna Ledesma-Javier complained about the flagdown rate:

Isn't it that the flag down was already reduced to Php30? The first week it was announced all the taxis had this placard in front that says flag down is less than 10 pesos. Now, they do not have it. And when you ask for it they feigned innocence.

Jordan Zamoranos shared his picture of a taxi driver who allegedly refused to take him from Ortigas to Glorietta.

NO GO. Picture of a taxi and driver who allegedly refused to convey a passenger to his destination. Image courtesy of Jordan Zamoranos.

NO GO. Picture of a taxi and driver who allegedly refused to convey a passenger to his destination. Image courtesy of Jordan Zamoranos.

Kaizel Sarabia said:

Everytime we went to the Malate area and ride a cab from there to my house, we always encounter cab drivers like that. Mostly, they demand 100 percent increase in fare.

James Habitan shared his experience: 

The taxi driver asked for a deposit for 100 pesos so he could get me to ATC faster. Immediately, I know I was going to get ripped off so I threatened to leave the taxi to find myself a new one unless he charges me by the meter.

Sure enough, as soon as I opened the door, the driver gave in to my conditions and turned his meter on. We got to ATC right away and I was only charged just under Php70.00.

Dheejhae Flores urged LTFRB to be responsive on social media:

Sana may Facebook Page din ang LTFRB na sumasagot gaya ng MMDA. May Twitter nga sila, never naman sumasagot."

Redi Briones reported many times to the LTO hotline after a UV express driver shouted at him for not having the exact fare. He wonders what happened to those cases with special codes. Briones also suggested that public utility vehicle drivers should undergo customer relations training, and that holding a professional driver's license should not be the sole requirement for the job.

"We always prefer alternatives over real solutions"

A few netizens offered their own recommendations.

Jan Jacob Jansalin wrote that "...a different dept and a reliable intra-city cctv to prove and follow-up these allegations and penalize violators" was needed.

In a Facebook comments, Eric Oandasan in Singapore suggested:

Perhaps this can be a solution for the Philippine market: work with the taxi fleet operators and get their platform on those cabs. I'd say it's a win-win. Taxis get the bookings, plus they get to pick the passengers they want (since they do this anyway). 

Albert Paul Navarro made this proposal:

There should be an incentive in place to encourage carpools coming from LTO because it only does not lessen the cars on the road but it lessens carbon emissions as well. Taxis are threatened by Grab and Uber because of the quality of service those brands provide so it's high time taxis should also reinvent the wheel. Why would the commuting public go for Uber and Grab if their services are as good as these brands? Quality of the vehicle is also in question. Uber and Grab utilize private cars that are well maintained and taken care of by the owners while Taxis are the exact opposite," observed 

Raymond Lam Ko, on the other hand, suggested:

Fix the transportation system so people wouldn't rely on taxis and uber like app services. Fix and expand the train system, fix or update the bus system, fix the taxi drivers and units, update jeepneys to non smoke belching if not to phase them out, tricycles can be maintained for small streets only or in subdivisions. But IMHO, if trains are fixed, traffic will lessen because more people will take the train rather than taxi.

This was echoed by Gene Angelo Ferrer, National Coordinator of Aksyon Klima.

On the Premium cab/taxi/whatever, I'm wondering why action on this was so swift and decisive, hindi ba pwedeng Premium Train muna? 

Living wage for drivers

Netizens tackled another interesting suggestion after Twitter user Michael Brown asked: 

Some netizens who were part of the #CommuterWatch conversation agreed with him.

James Habitan wrote:

The true reason I believe why these kind of drivers do what they do to commuters is because they get so little commission, probably less compensation from the taxi firms that hire them for the job. Still no excuse regardless to rob us.

Twitter user @kristinamisajon observed:

Using the hashtag #CommuterWatch, continue discussing the different problems experienced by commuters in Metro Manila and other parts of the country until they are addressed by the government. - With a report from Lou Gepuela/Rappler.com