Briones: Safer commute

·2 min read

The disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic may have temporarily derailed the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, which the Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched in June 2017, but it’s safe to say that it’s back on track.

Just look around.

Air-conditioned buses ply routes within the metro, albeit they can only be found on main thoroughfares. They’re too big to navigate the narrow roads of barangays, which are served by the now ubiquitous modern jeepneys or beeps.

Beeps are traditional jeepneys on steroids. They may be more comfortable, they make even look nicer inside, but the riding experience has not changed. It has even gotten wilder in some cases.

Why is that? Well, the drivers’ mentality remains the same. They continue to believe they are the “king of the road.”

Those who have been nearly thrown off their seat from a sudden swerve know what I mean. Better yet, talk to those who have narrowly missed getting sideswiped by one of these barreling tins on wheels.

Passengers and pedestrians are still at the drivers’ mercy.

Oh, and don’t you love how they suddenly become law-abiding citizens when someone one wants to disembark, ignoring the pleas, explaining they can only drop off at designed stops, but never hesitating to pick up a straggler in the middle of the road during a go-signal, stalling traffic in the process?

Anyway, when the government introduced the modernization program, I thought it would mean an overhaul of the whole system and not just the hardware.

As a flagship program of the Duterte administration, the DOTr envisioned “a restructured, modern, well-managed and environmentally sustainable transport sector where drivers and operators have stable, sufficient and dignified livelihoods while commuters get to their destinations quickly, safely and comfortably,” the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board posts on its website.

It looks good on paper. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t even question the sincerity of the intent. Not at all. I truly believe the government wants to improve the lives of stakeholders in the transport sector, especially commuters. But, and it’s a big BUT, it’s a far cry from the intended outcomes of the program, the implementation of which is far from over.

The initial target was to phase out and replace all PUVs 15 years or older with beeps or buses by 2020. It’s 2022. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.

In the meantime, operators and drivers can perhaps take advantage of various trainings and social supports programs that are being offered “to enable them to be competent, self-sufficient and well-equipped with the necessary technical knowledge and skills,” while the DOTr and its partner agencies iron out the kinks.

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