Anatomy of a work-trip
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - March 5, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 1)

In the previous four articles on treating transportation as a service rather than infrastructure, we have emphasized on the importance of the experiential part of transportation itself, especially on each “traveler” as a person. Commuting is not something we long for; in fact, for many, it’s something we “endure” or wish to do away with altogether. That’s why we want faster trips! And that’s the reason why many were extremely delighted when the president signed the Telecommuting (or “work from home”) Act.

Let’s run through a typical morning trip of an ordinary Cebuano who doesn’t own a car (that’s about four out of five of us). In most cases, people don’t live in areas or streets where jeepneys pass. If he/she needs one jeepney ride to go to work, we can break down the trip as follows: 1.) Go to the jeepney stop to get the ride by walking or taking a tricycle or trisikad; 2.) Wait for an “available” jeepney; 3.) Travel the distance to the jeepney stop nearest his/her place of work and disembark; then 4.) Go to his/her workplace by walking, tricycle or trisikad. In the afternoon, the same process happens, in reverse order.

That’s just typical. Some live along jeepney routes, thus eliminating Step 1. You may also work along the jeepney route and won’t have to do Step 4. But for majority of commuters, they take these four steps, minimum. Others need to take 2 jeepney trips, thus adding (repeating) Step 2, for the second trip, or even adding another walk/tricycle/trisikad (Step 1) if the two jeepney routes are not connected. And a few may even have a three-ride home-to-work trip one way, or six rides in all a day. Most have one-ride or two-rides one way, or two to four, daily.

When you break the entire trip to work like this, it is not difficult to see that the hardships that an ordinary commuter faces, on a daily basis, have less to do with the jeepney itself or with the roads where they pass, congested or not, but more on the availability of the service itself, its timeliness and quality. The biggest daily trip demands occur in the morning when people go to work (or students to school) and in the afternoon, returning home. And that’s when the available jeepney units cannot readily provide the services all at once. So, people wait. If you ask people, the most disagreeable portion of the entire trip occurs in Step 2, when passengers wait for the ride. No, not just wait, but more like compete, scramble, or jostle against each other!

Unfortunately, when people do this, they intrude into the very lanes which are supposed to be used by the transport vehicles themselves. At the worst moments, one lane in each direction is virtually closed, reducing the capacity of any four-lane road by half. There’s a scientific explanation why people do, or behave like, this --part of a design problem of the transport service itself. It’s Step 2 which is elephant in the room, and which much be addressed if we are to make our urban mobility better. (To be continued)

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