‘My Bus’ redux

By: Jobers R. Bersales November 12,2015 - 03:14 AM

I signed an online petition a few days ago requesting government officials to approve the franchise and operation of the High Quality Public Transport System (HQPTS) My Bus in Metro Cebu.  The petition is one of many citizens’ initiatives on the online platform change.org, but one that is closest to my advocacy. If we want to move Cebu forward to ever greater heights, we must let go of the things that tie us down, and one of them is the absence of an efficient mass transit system.

Coming from someone in the heritage advocacy community, one might find it rather awkward that I  signed something that may  spell the beginning of the end of the Filipino-innovated jeepney. Without doubt, the jeepney, in the many forms it has taken since the first ones appeared right after the United States Armed Forces sold all their remaining military ‘Jeep’ surplus after World War II ended, is an icon of Filipino ingenuity, even  of the country, symbolic of its desire to rise from the ashes of war.

But the jeepney of old no longer exists. Most of those that ply our streets are no longer made out of US military surplus jeeps. Our modern equivalents even carry second-hand Japanese vehicle engines.

The crux of the matter is that the jeepney, whether we like it or not, has outlived its usefulness as Cebu’s population has grown many times over, and the sheer number of commuters plying ever crowded highways requires a more efficient system of moving people from one place to the other. And much like the carromata of old, those rickety two-wheeled carts pulled by carabaos or the caruajes pulled by horses, the jeepney has become a moribund mode of commuting.

Worse, as the petition has clearly enunciated, most jeepney drivers are discourteous, rarely follow traffic rules, and do not care where they pick up their passengers, causing even more traffic jams. For far too long, the kind of misdemeanor that jeepney drivers have wreaked on our streets has also translated into equally uncouth commuters who do not care if they wait for their ride right in the middle of a busy street. In other words, the moribund system of using second-hand vehicles that can only seat a maximum of 20 passengers has also created a whole gamut of commuter behavior that only adds to more problems on our streets.

I am without doubt convinced that the time to relegate jeepneys to the museum is upon us, whether we like it or not, in the way of the caruaje and the carromata. The only difference now is whether the government wants to prolong the agony and delay the inevitable or plunge forward and secure a better future for Cebu. The only problem is whether the government has prepared any fallback for those jeepney drivers who will go hungry.
Just around the corner is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will eventually debut in Cebu. That will pose an even greater and weightier challenge to the thousands of jeepney drivers, many of whom are too old to learn new ways of making a living.

The entry of My Bus therefore should be approved if only to see it as a testing ground of  how to address the needs of thousands of jeepney drivers who will eventually lose their livelihood if we want a better, more efficient mass transportation system. It is also a  good way to gauge whether  the Cebuano commuter can adapt to change, going to bus stops and not just waving their hands anywhere and anytime they want to get a ride on a public utility vehicle.

It is just too bad the My Bus is debuting during an election season. But, hey, this is also the most opportune time for politicians to show political will, that “Tuwid na Daan” (Straight Path ) cannot zigzag on account of a potential loss of votes from angry jeepney drivers.

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TAGS: BRT, Cebu, LTFRB, mass transportation system, MyBus, transportation

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