THE start this week of the fielding of modern public utility vehicles (PUVs) in Cebu City was welcomed by commuters as a service long overdue.
Cebuanos tired of traffic and the hours wasted in their commute see the fielding of at least 22 modern PUVs this week as relief from waiting or running after nearly full jeepneys or paying for the expensive alternative of taking cabs or the ride-hailing Grab where they add P30 to the meter per trip.
The new PUVs in Cebu City will be part of the public utility vehicle modernization program of government. But it is only one part of the entire program because, while these modern PUVs would improve the ride, it does not resolve road congestion and the lack of public transport.
The new service has the necessary permits from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board 7 but it lacks the travel line to be approved by the Cebu City Government through its city transportation office. The plan is for these modern PUVs, mini-buses in type, airconditioned, equipped with a 72-hour functional dash camera, speed limiter device, global positioning system, and free internet access to passengers, to be fielded to routes described as missionary or unmet by existing service.
Missionary routes were formerly known to apply to airlines for points not covered adequately or at all due to “geographic limitation or absence of market viability.” The term is now applied to jeepney routes, as well, because of the growing number of commuters on the ground.
Initial routes identified were primarily for those working in business process outsourcing companies. Commuters will use reloadable fare cards that they would tap on a console to pay for the trip. Minimum fare will be P8.50 instead of the jeepney minimum fare of P6.50.
As soon as news of the new PUVs was announced, commuters asked online when the service will start and if the areas covered would be expanded to outside of Cebu City. Others said jeepneys would have to be removed from the streets so the new mini-buses would not end up worsening road congestion.
These mini-buses have to be given priority on the roads to level the playing field or to give advantage to those who take public transport over those with their own vehicles. The point is to show how public commuting can be better than buying your own small car through low down-payment schemes of banks that, in the end, add to road congestion.
The fielding of these modern PUVs will not be the end-all to our commuting woes as these vehicles will not be enough to solve traffic problems. The public utility vehicle modernization program is not simply about having new, modernized vehicles; it’s about a comprehensive system reform that includes removing some vehicles from the roads and requiring improved standards on new players.
Improving the system does not entail a one-shot deal but a comprehensive approach to upgrading commuting within Metro Cebu and reducing road congestion.