Technology- and app-based transport network vehicle service (TNVS) is cool. It is transparent between the passengers and service providers. Passengers know the fare even before they book and confirm a ride. And after they confirmed the ride, they will know the plate number, driver’s name, etc. of the vehicle that will pick them up. On the part of the drivers, they know the names of their passengers, their cell phone numbers, where they are waiting and their destination, cool.
Today I made an experiment to compare prices and estimated pick-up time or travel time. Which means I have installed all the apps of the various TNVS players in my cell phone, but I did not really book a ride with any of them.
Pick-up area was a shop in Bagtikan St., Makati City, destination was SM Makati, Hotel Drive. I conducted this experiment on Feb. 4, 2020, from 8:43 to 8:46 a.m. and here is what I found. (See Table.)
So who’s the “winner” that passengers like me would choose?
I would say all. It depends on passengers’ needs. If they want comfort in an air-con ride because they are wearing formal or corporate dress, or do not want to be exposed to heat and dust, or are carrying heavy bags, they will get a regular taxi, or a GrabTaxi or GrabCar and pay more. If passengers are not picky and just want the cheapest and fastest way to reach their destination, then any of the three motorcycle taxis will do. Note that innovator Angkas has a higher fare because it has brand awareness already whereas the two new players, JoyRide and Move It, have yet to make a brand name familiar to passengers so they must attract them with lower fares.
There should be more TNVS deregulation, give more options and choices to passengers, and there are three possible ways to achieve this.
One, expand the number of players, both cars and motorcycles TNVS, so long as existing rules and Constitutional provisions are followed. It was reported that Uber wants to come back to the Philippines — good. And there should be a fourth or fifth player among motorcycle taxis. Let there be fierce competition among them to attract passengers’ loyalty.
Two, remove the cap or maximum number of cars and motorcycles for all players, expand the supply of vehicles. If this happens, many people will leave their cars and motorcycles at home and stop worrying about traffic congestion and where to park and not risk being clamped or towed by the MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) or LGUs. Finding safe pay-parking fast is among the big headaches for many motorists now. Sometimes travel time is shorter than finding a parking slot, especially in BGC Taguig area.
Three, if government cannot remove the cap, then it should optimize the utilization of that cap. In TNVS cars for instance, the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) has put a cap of 65,000 vehicles but it is not optimized this as only 55,000 slots have been opened while 10,000 slots have yet to be awarded. And of these 55,000 cars, some have become inactive and their slots are not quickly filled by new aspiring drivers with their own cars.
Price and fare competition will be assured by the three measures above. Passengers then have to be assured of good safe service — that they will not be involved in accidents, sexual harassment, or driver bullying. In the same way, drivers should also be protected from bullying or criminal passengers.
Companies and TNVS players should announce to the public the kind of training they give to their partner drivers. Like requiring them to undergo and complete exercises in training center/s — learning how to drive in potholed, muddy and pebbled roads, wet and slippery roads, navigating roads when there are accidental oil spill, etc. Passengers will be more at ease with drivers who are better trained.
Government regulators like the LTFRB should recognize established brands who want to join and expand competition. Normally these established brands are the ones more careful not to be involved in accidents and shenanigans because they have been there for many years. A few accidents or sexual scandals involving their vehicles and drivers can erase the goodwill they have earned over many years.
Government should allow and expand competition among players, be competition-friendly. But when frequent accidents or trouble occur among certain player/s, government should come down hard to penalize violators or less-responsible players. Government then should be accidents unfriendly.
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers.