Nuances of Public Transport Services
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - April 23, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 3 - Direct or connected trips)

In Part 1, we talked about speed versus distance --the faster the vehicle, the farther away two succeeding stops are from each other, and the longer you may walk to get a ride. In Part 2, we shifted to capacity versus frequency --for the same demand, bigger capacities will mean less frequencies, smaller vehicles will mean the next vehicle will more likely arrive sooner where you’re waiting. If we add these two comparisons, we will arrive at the comparison between direct versus connected trips.

At the outset, we need to let sink in the reality that the best transport system you can think of may not be the best transport system you really need. It’s the same thing as asking for a shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) so that you can travel from Capitol to City Hall. Sure, everybody will be happy to ride a shinkansen, especially if you’re travelling from Tokyo to Osaka (and it’s more expensive than flying, actually!). But not if you’re going to SM North from Basak to get a haircut. For the best service, you need ALL modes.

From the two previous articles, we conclude that larger/faster public mass transport systems can serve bigger areas and have longer trips. But they are very costly, require much land space, bigger infrastructure, and are usually placed in a transport “corridor” where there is a huge demand (like Talisay-Cebu-Mandaue-Lapu-Lapu cities). They won’t work on short routes, and thus require smaller, shorter-route systems to fill in the gaps, currently served by our jeepney system. In the absence of these public mass transport systems like the BRT and LRT, even these longer routes are served by the jeepneys.

But there is something good about the smaller systems, too --more often than not, they offer direct services, meaning you can get to your destination through one ride. Just wait till we get a rail service from Cebu to Mactan, and people will start taking two rides --they will wish for the good old days when they take just one ride with a jeepney. In a more mature city like Singapore, their MRTs and subways are serving only a fraction of the city areas directly --you need to transfer to a bus to reach most destinations. Or walk a lot. Or you can have the option of just using buses. That’s why on a particular day, there are more bus trips (4 million) than train trips (3 million) in SG.

Going back to our assertion in Part 2, ultimately, it’s the people’s choice whether they want direct or connected services (requiring transfers). I believe most people would prefer direct. I have lived in more advanced cities long enough to learn that when you’re commuting every day of your life, you get tired of those fast, sleek, and sophisticated systems, but which require transfers and long walking, and will prefer the reliability and convenience of smaller, more direct services, which brings you to a stop very near your home. Of course, the best situation is if you have a choice. (To be continued)

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