‘LET THEM ROLL’: Transport advocates urge DOTr to let PUVs operate under Level 1

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

A coalition of advocates for better transportation on Tuesday called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and its attached agency, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), to allow all public utility vehicles (PUVs) to ply the roads as Metro Manila moved into Alert Level 1.

The Move As One Coalition (MAOC) said that based on DOTr issuances, there are still 9,809 units of buses, jeepneys, and UV expresses, or roughly 15 percent of the total 66,736 registered units, that have yet to return to operation amid greater commuter demand.

They also called on the transport agencies to ensure a smooth flow of public transport, given that public transportation will now be allowed at full (100 percent) capacity.

MAOC cited observations shared to them by commuters that trains along the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 along EDSA have been operating at standing room capacity, and that buses and jeepneys have ferried more than what the DOTr and the LTFRB had allowed.

For trains, they hope that the DOTr has mechanisms to make sure that the trains run steadily with short headways, while they continue to advocate for a service-contracting model to effectively implement regulations on jeepneys and buses.

The service-contracting model has been implemented by the DOTr in many phases amid the current pandemic, but has been marred with controversy as to the delays in payment as well as the selection of participating PUVs.

They also pointed out that these mechanisms will ensure that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will be kept at bay in public transport, citing evidence that the disease is airborne and may be transmissible within poorly ventilated spaces.

“The DOTr must ensure that all the trains on the MRT, LRT 1 and 2, and the PNR are in excellent running condition to ensure short headways and a steady supply of trips. The agency should monitor the number of train passengers to determine if the trains’ operating hours should be extended,” MAOC said in its statement.

“The DOTr must also fully implement service contracting on buses and jeeps in order for the government to effectively prescribe limits to ridership with the appropriate monitoring of minimum public health standards. With service contracting, the drivers will comply with the limits because their income will depend on the number of kilometers that they travel, not the number of passengers that they transport,” they added.

MAOC is a coalition of 140 organizations with 77,000 members, advocating for a safer, more humane, and more inclusive public transportation system in the Philippines.