Editorial: Respond to transport needs of the public

Editorial: Respond to transport needs of the public
Editorial Cartoon by John Motencillo

The heat in many forms exacerbates to new levels of intolerability the daily challenge of mass transport.

For many commuters, the mirage that tantalizes is riding in airconditioned comfort.

This indulgence is fleeting since many can ill afford purchasing and maintaining a private vehicle, even in gated communities where space to park one’s personal vehicle has to be bought or rented.

The daily reality then is to commute through a public utility vehicle (PUV) that meets the basic criteria of efficiency, safety, affordability, and sustainability.

Cebu commuters face other challenges. Last March, the Cebu Provincial Board passed two resolutions calling for proponents to halt the construction of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) for violating heritage laws that protect the Cebu Capitol Building, a National Historical Landmark.

While the CBRT’s future lies in political limbo until the Cebu city and Cebu provincial governments resolve differences, stakeholders must navigate the reality of mass transit, made complicated by extremes in the daily heat index.

As reported by Earl Kim H. Padronia in SunStar Cebu last April 6, a heat index that ranges from 42 degrees Celsius to 51 degrees Celsius puts people at risk of heat cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Commuters complain that many modern public utility jeepneys (MPUJs) or bus-jeepneys have air-conditioning systems that are either not maintained efficiently or fail to cope with the overcrowding of commuters at peak traffic periods.

The practice of overloading MPUJs is prohibited but, as monitored by SunStar Cebu, frequently violated.

In an effort to facilitate the loading and unloading of passengers, many MPUJ drivers and dispatchers also keep the door open, which dissipates the artificially cooled air and taxes the air-conditioning unit of the Beep.

Frequently heard comments from the commuting public are complaints about heat inside the MPUJs, exacerbated by the heat index, congestion of bodies, and inadequacy of the air-conditioning.

Commuters invariably compare MPUJs to traditional jeepneys, designed with wide and open spaces for ventilation, resulting in less discomfort to passengers.

Under the the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) introduced by the Department of Transportation, traditional jeepneys with internal combustion engines pose hazards to the public health, safety and ecological sustainability, necessitating their phase-out and replacement with the modern jeepneys, equipped with engines meeting government-mandated emission requirements, along with other improvements such as air-conditioning.

The implementation of the PUVMP has been fraught with challenges, particularly because the costs of modernization affect stakeholders from commuters to traditional jeepney drivers, dispatchers, and their families.

The P2.8-million cost of modern Beeps, pegged then in 2023, is driven up by the cost of imported parts and accessories assembled locally.

With the experiences of the commuting public since the full relaxation of lockdown-imposed policies on physical mobility, will the authorities heed the public’s needs for an efficient, safe, comfortable and sustainable mass transit system?

In the Zoom roundtable discussion organized by the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies on Monday, April 8, 2024, stakeholders will address a crucial concern of PUJ operators, drivers and commuters: “Should/can Filipino manufacturers take the lead in modernizing the jeepney?”

At the very least, the government should be sensitive to the shared need of commuters: sustainable solutions, not controversies, are needed for public transport that truly serves the people.


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