The hailing apps: Fake news or not?
The hailing apps: Fake news or not?
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - February 20, 2018 - 12:00am

(Last of Two Parts)

In Part 1 of this write-up last week, the main question we asked was "do ride-hailing apps address the issue of traffic congestion?" We enumerated a few of the major benefits of these apps; 1.) More efficient utilization of idle car assets, 2.) Convenience of digital transactions (emphasis on the plural!), 3.) Less cruising empty cars, and 4.) A suggested decrease in car ownership (still unconfirmed).

Do these really decrease traffic congestion? At the end of the day, we go to the perceived problem of this century -traffic jams, bumper-to-bumper traffic, gridlock, whatever-you-call-it. It is "perceived" because, really, congestion is just a symptom of the real problem, just like a fever is to an infection. You can alleviate the fever, but if you don't cure the infection, the fever persists. And so, will traffic congestion -it persists if we don't do anything about the "transport and mobility of people."

The latter "real problem" -transport and mobility of people -requires that we focus on the issue of moving as many people as possible, as fast as possible, rather than the vehicles they are riding. Which dictates that we measure the carrying capacity of vehicle modes over a unit of time, as a measure of efficiency, and thus, success, vis-à-vis, the existing transport infrastructure we have. It is general uncontradicted knowledge that the private car is the most inefficient mode, while public mass transport is the most efficient. Thus, the goal of transport planning is to shift to better or more efficient modes, other than the car.

With all their benefits and convenience, ride-hailing apps uses private cars and thus this results in inefficiency (except when carpooled!). In fact, their benefits otherwise have accrued to more car rides, more trips, and more kilometers! Sure, there are a few people who shift to Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) rides from private car rides, but the majority of "shifters," at least in the Philippines, formerly rode taxis, jeepneys, and the MRT/LRT in Manila. And the ease and convenience have generated more "new" otherwise, unnecessary trips. All these ADD to the congestion problem, a.k.a. traffic jams!

The only cases where hailing apps really contributed to the solution are when carpooling is used. But what percentage of all their trips are really carpooled and not single-passenger trips? Very little, and it's not even offered in Cebu. Ride-sharing alleviates congestion; simply using ride-hailing apps for individual passengers does not! In fact, the latter ADDS to traffic congestion. We need a holistic approach on ride-sharing, one which is not based on inducing single-passenger car trips, but that which promotes true ride-sharing, carpooling, or multi-passenger trips, while reducing unnecessary trips. Carpooling services should be offered in Cebu by these TNVS companies.

TNVS apps make better rides. But they must be part and parcel of an overall solution of urban mobility. They can't be just studied in a vacuum, which is seemingly what the national government is doing.

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