The current public transportation dilemma

STREETLIFE - Nigel Villarete - The Freeman

While following a sort of a “modernized jeepney” one day, I tried computing its passenger-carrying capacity. It seems no matter how I calculate it, it came out not so much different from the original regular capacity of the old jeepneys. The problem now is that they have varied sizes and appearances --some look like small mini-buses already. But not quite. If there are no longer any standard public transportation “denominations”, we may have difficulty addressing future demand.

Oftentimes, we think of PT (public transport/transportation) capacities in terms of the number of passengers it can carry at full load (not overloaded). But real capacity is measured by the total number of people it can carry over a period of time. A vehicle carrying 15 passengers every 15 minutes has a different capacity than one carrying 20 pax in 15 min. The two are also different from another carrying 15 passengers every 20 min. Capacity is almost always counted in “PPHPD” (Passengers Per Hour Per Direction) the last description to ensure everybody understands it's for one direction only.

The modernized jeepney is relatively larger than the regular traditional jeepney for the many enhancements, of course, foremost of which is the more comfortable seating as compared to the lengthwise lateral arrangement with pax facing each other. Forward-facing, “individualized” seats are more comfortable of course, but which may also require more space per passenger. All for the better, of course, for the riding public, but how does this improve overall mobility of a route or of the city? That’s another analysis transport managers have to assess.

As I have elsewhere said, lane-carrying capacity should be seriously studied. One can always choose how to measure lane capacity, almost always with one’s personal consideration as a guiding factor, but for urban mobility assessment, they have to be inter-comparable regardless of the mode. That’s why you see a lot of graphs or diagrams which compare “PPHPD”, even though the term is relatively strange to most. PPHPD, in black and white, measures and compares the carrying-capacity of almost all public transport denominations, which can be directly and automatically translated to economic benefits.

So, when we migrated from the traditional jeepneys to the “modernized” ones, what were the changes in carrying capacities? It would be difficult to estimate this without hard data, but the government agencies directly involved, and those affiliated ones would know the numbers. Have we increased PT capacities? Or have we degraded them. Again, this does not just depend on vehicle capacities but more so with route and lane capacities. And this has to be taken with the reality that ALL transport modes generally increase in demand over time. The move towards modernized PUJ’s were made mainly in the pursuit of environmental climate-related goals but these have to consider basic supply and demand too, which, on another aspect, have to face the reality of the need for higher capacity PTs.

At the end of the day, exclusive lanes would have to be resorted to. Whether we like it or not, modernized jeepneys are transitory to higher modes like the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which is making its debut here. The sooner transport managers realize this, the better.

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