Stops and starts on bumpy course

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When Grab deactivated 5,000 of its partners in early June due to incomplete application requirements submitted to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), 78 percent of transport network vehicle service (TNVS) passengers claimed experiencing difficulty in booking a ride.

This was according to Grab’s online survey conducted from 14 to 15 June, four days after the ride-hailing company removed on its platform the unaccredited TNVS partners.

Last Monday, 8 July, the dreaded TNVS holiday pushed through, but fortunately without the expected scope and level of inconvenience on commuters.

The 12-hour strike was a form of protest against the LTFRB’s application process for new TNVS units, “which various groups claim to be slow, complicated and inconsistent,” as described in an article published recently in a motoring publication.

The government body has also been criticized for its “inconsistent and problematic” policies, according to other sources.

Much has been said about the Filipino commuter’s travails, and for now it has been an agony of waiting for all the different solutions to take effect.

While the much-needed transport infrastructure programs strive to meet the 2020 deadline — and the concerned traffic management and enforcement bodies struggle to maintain a smooth flow, albeit slow, on the streets of Metro Manila — the TNVS operators are there to address the need for transportation of thousands of commuters daily.

This particular solution has not been without its own travails, however.

Troubles began when Uber grabbed social media mileage with plenty of pleased netizens claiming how their commuting experiences had become so much better.

No more long waits in the streets, breathing polluted air. No more long lines to get to the packed metro rail trains. No more obnoxious cab drivers refusing passengers because of the traffic (hello!).

Instead, they had reliable rides picking them up and dropping them off in comfort and convenience. It was heaven-sent, until the LTFRB breathed down on Uber and the other big player Grab, sniffing out legal violations.

To the riding public, the ensuing tighter controls from the government and eventual buyout of Uber by Grab were like being thrown back in hell.

Back came problems like uncertainty in booking rides, long waits, higher fares and sometimes refusal by Grab drivers to grant a booking.

It seemed like a case of solution becoming the problem — but was it, really?

On the side of TNVS operators and partners, the call for “smoother processes and faster timelines,” as Grab stated, is perfectly reasonable. After all, the daily transport requirement doesn’t stop or lessen while unit owners wait to be given the go-signal to take passengers.

While regulation is also of utmost importance — we do get the LTFRB point on this — speed is necessary to keep up with the pace of real life.

Every day, citizens have to face commuter hell, not to mention the temporary inconveniences brought on by the infrastructure developments in the metro. It is not just time they waste, affecting work, family and personal hours, but also health they risk.

For its part, the LTFRB had said it has done all it can to implement measures and ease the “pain points” brought up by the TNVS sector, but of course, dialogue is only the start of real solutions.

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