As much as we complain about the traffic, WE are the traffic If you drive onto an on-ramp and encounter a wall of cars on EDSA in Manila, you will probably complain about traffic in the Philippines. But the funny thing is: So, too, will the single mom commuting on the jeepney complain about the […] The post Taxis, traffic, tech, and how “cruising” shapes mobility in the Philippines appeared first on e27.
22 May, 2018E27.CO
If you drive onto an on-ramp and encounter a wall of cars on EDSA in Manila, you will probably complain about traffic in the Philippines. But the funny thing is: So, too, will the single mom commuting on the jeepney complain about the traffic. So, too, will the delivery man idling on a motorbike. So, too, will the fresh graduate riding the FX.
In other words, for as much as we complain about the traffic, we – and I’m including everyone here, including myself – are the traffic. This concept has been mentioned a few times in our public discourse on traffic and mobility, but it deserves repeating here because so few of us have actually embraced it: If we want to do something about the traffic, we’re going to have to take action to change the way we ourselves get around the city.
There are obvious solutions that have been repeated ad nauseum. A sedan with the driver as the only occupant takes as much space as a sedan with a driver and four passengers, so the logic goes: You should do your part by carpooling to your destination. (One can imagine a patriotic illustration of Jose Rizal or another national hero pointing at the would-be single-driver car to follow this creed.)
Or to be even more traffic-conscious you could elect not to ride a private car at all and opt for a form of public transportation, of which we have many choices, including buses, jeepneys, FXs, the MRT, the LRT, or even the Pasig River Ferry.
There’s also a unconventional choice that I would like to present to you at length here, and that’s the Metro Manila taxi. It’s unconventional because when you think of forms of public transportation in the capital, taxis would not be the first to come to mind, if you were to even include them in your makeshift grouping at all.
That the taxi seems to defy classification as public transport owes as much to its personal branding (can you recall if you have ever been encouraged to take a cab to do your part to reduce our city’s congestion?) as to its user experience (riding a cab feels more akin to driving a car than riding the bus or the MRT, since you have the vehicle entirely to yourself).
Yet the taxi is a form of public transport, and adopting them more eagerly over private cars can contribute to traffic decongestion as much as committing to take the LRT everyday can.
Let me explain why: Most people assume that traffic is caused only by people travelling from point A (their origin) to point B (their destination). In an ideal, highly efficient world, this might be the case, but as it shakes out — and as any private car driver can attest — there are many more vehicles on the road than their are available parking spaces. As a result, cars cruise, or circle around, in, and across their destination, searching for an available and satisfactory parking spot.
In a study of eleven cities from around the world, dating as far back as 1927 all the way up to 2001, University of California, Los Angeles researcher Donald Shoup found that an average of 30 percent of all urban traffic was caused by cruising in his seminal work, Cruising for Parking. While none of the cities in the analysis were from Asia (the closest city in the Pacific was Sydney, Australia), one could reasonably surmise that the effect of cruising on traffic would hold steady, if not worse in Manila, which has more in common than not with the other megacities (London, New York, San Francisco, Jerusalem) in the studies.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that Manila matches New York in having the lowest share of traffic caused by cruising at 8 percent. That’s still an incredible volume of traffic that can be addressed by simply switching from a private car to a taxi cab.
How can such a switch affect cruising-related traffic? Apart from having a set number of taxis always on the road, as they are driven and managed by professional drivers and operators, cabs — in contrast to private cars — do drive from point A to point B.
They do not need to cruise for an available parking spot because they just drop off the passenger at their destination and continue on their way to their next passenger.
Additionally, I would argue that having more Filipinos adopt taxis over private cars — even occasionally — is of critical important if we wish to avoid Carmageddon. In 2016 alone, the Land Transportation Office issued 77,000 new registrations in the National Capital Region, and this number is only poised to rise through 2018 nation-wide (Cebu already has more than half a million private cars on its roads).
If more Filipinos take up to the existing taxis already on the road rather than add to the swarms of private vehicles already on our highways, we can make a tangible impact on traffic.
One could surmise that the reduction in cruising-based traffic through the use of taxis is offset by cabs searching for their next passenger, which may involve just as much circling. I actually share the same concern, and that’s part of the reason I built taxi-hailing app, Micab, way back in 2013.
I want to make it as efficient as possible for taxis to find their next passenger, and vice versa. While I’m proud of what we have achieved as a company — we are now active in Metro Manila, Baguio, Iloilo, and Bacolod after expanding from our home base in Cebu — I share my experience as a kind of call: Reducing traffic begins by looking inward and examining how we might contribute to the solution, even for something as seemingly innocuous as cruising.
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