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09:05 PM February 16th, 2017

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By: Stephen D. Capillas, February 16th, 2017 09:05 PM
CAPILLAS

CAPILLAS

If the passenger jeepney groups had their way, an P8 to P9 fare will soon be charged to the riding public within the year, and that’s certainly not good news in the wake of the reinstatement of the P40 flag-down rate for taxis.

A Cebu Daily News story that appeared last Saturday (“Cebu jeepney groups petition for fare surge”) reported that the Cebu Integrated Transport Service Multipurpose Cooperative (Citrasco) asked for a price surge on their P1.50 fare rate hike petition for time covered and distance traveled during heavy traffic.

Reinforcing their petition for an additional P1.50 fare rate was their request that they adopt the price surge scheme being implemented by motorists contracted under transport network services operators like Uber and Grab Car/Taxi.

Citrasco’s chairman Benjamin Yu said their proposal would be for an additional P1.50 during peak traffic hours — that’s 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. — or P8 and P6.50 during non-peak traffic hours.

As a commuter who had sometimes used Grab Taxi if personal funds allowed it, it was obvious to me and others who had contracted these transport network services that the jeepney operators are merely adopting the price surge scheme to justify their fare rate petition, conveniently using the traffic congestion as basis for their demand.

Obviously unlike the private motorists contracted under Grab or Uber, jeepneys aren’t airconditioned and don’t pick up commuters from their office, school or other points of origin.

Instead due to heavy traffic, commuters have to compete for space in passenger jeepneys which load and unload passengers even in non-designated areas which are usually choke points for traffic in Metro Cebu.

I’m sure the operators and drivers of passenger jeepneys will blame the commuters for forcing them to stop and load in these areas, but when commuters are stranded for hours due to traffic or the rains, don’t expect them to stand idly by and stare forlornly at every passing vehicle.

No, the second they spot a passenger jeepney or a taxi if they can afford it, they will rush towards it and elbow anyone who stands in their way to secure a seat or ride.

That’s a pretty common sight in most areas of Cebu City like in Barangay Mabolo especially from 9 to 10 p.m. when the rush hour traffic is expected to slow down and make room for those running late at night which easily number in the hundreds.

I should know, I am among those who jostle for a seat in passenger jeepneys at night and I hate the experience. I hate having to wait for hours on end with a crowd of commuters for a jeepney or taxi ride especially during a late night downpour after a long day in the office. And that’s just in Cebu City.

If it sounds like I’m whining, well then I think it’s better than going medieval on any jeepney or taxi driver who refuses to pick me up as a passenger.

Besides last time I checked, we are living in a democracy even if that democracy is being pushed to its limits by a foul-mouthed president.

Last I heard, commuters in Lapu-Lapu City have it worse and I don’t mean just the traffic congestion; jeepney operators under the the Basak Lapu-Lapu City Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (Balacjoda) are asking for a P1.50 fare rate increase and an additional P1.50 fare rate surge or an additional P3 to the current P6.50 fare rate.

Of course there would be the usual wrangling and haggling for fare rates between the transport groups, the consumers (if any) who bother to show up during the public hearing at the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB); but in the end, an P8 or P9 fare rate increase is not a remote possibility.

In every scenario, even when the government lowered the flag-down taxi rate to P30 but failed to enforce it on taxi operators and drivers who still got away with charging the P40 fare rate, the hapless commuter always loses in the end.

* * *

In pushing for a fare rate increase, the jeepney operators cited the usual litany of reasons like the rising fuel costs, prices of spare parts and rising costs of living.

Now they have the traffic congestion as another reason to justify their fare rate hike petition, but what’s to stop jeepney drivers and their dispatchers from charging P8 or an extra P1.50 to their passengers even during non-traffic peak hours?

Either way, they gain something which they would say isn’t much and they would end their argument with their usual catchphrase “magsinabtanay na lang ta (let’s come to an understanding).”

The problem with this is that these operators and drivers want the riding public and the government, which also shares the onus if not the greater part of the blame for the heavy traffic congestion, to understand the issue on their own terms.

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