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Modernizing mass transport

The PUV Modernization Program

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Many Filipinos may be familiar with the government’s bold BUILD BUILD BUILD program composed of long overdue infrastructure upgrades and improvements. Yet paired with this is the equally ambitious Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

This government initiative is designed to streamline and organize the country’s public road transportation system. Launched in June 2017, the program seeks provide safer, more efficient, and more carefully-regulated means of transport for the riding public. Though commonly recognized as a jeepney modernization program, the PUVMP actually covers all modes of road-going 4 to 6-wheeled passenger transport.

The program involves several phases: from phasing out old vehicles that are no longer road worthy and emissions compliant; to scrutinizing and reorganizing routes, franchises, and roles of the vehicles involved; to introducing new systems and standards for vehicles that will serve the public. It is hoped to be implemented nationwide by 2020.

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The current state

Despite being a symbol of Filipino ingenuity, the jeepney has a number of flaws. Jeepney routes don’t have set stops, the vehicle is boarded from behind which can be dangerous, and their size, passenger capacity, road-worthiness, emissions, and franchises have become difficult to regulate.

Jeepneys aren’t the only problem as several far-flung cities make us of other modes like the multicabs that carry passengers over short distances, UV Express vans which were intended as point to point transport, and mini buses which connect city to city. All these different kinds of vehicles overlapping in route have contributed to the heavy congestion in major cities.

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Fixing the system

The government hopes to organize this all with the PUV Modernization Program. First of all, the new vehicles will be consolidated into four standardized classes that compliment each other rather than overlap. Their size, route, capacity and build are set by dimensional limits set by the Department of Trade and Industry’s Bureau of Philippine Standards. Amenities like a side-facing door, grab handles, seat restrains, speed limiters, electronic payment system and CCTV offer passengers more safety and security than the conventional design. Finally, the vehicles must be powered by either a Euro-4 compliant engine, or electric or alternative means.

To better control the number of vehicles plying a particular route, the government is instituting a ‘one route, one franchise policy.’ The routes are now being scrutinized, updated and steamlined to better serve busy areas better. Drivers and operators must form cooperatives or corporations and register with the LTFRB to be granted a franchise. No lone operators are allowed.

By doing this, a franchise holder is given a monopoly over a particular route. The coop can now closely monitor it and adapt to commuter needs. Drivers are required to be salaried instead of earning through the boundary system, leaving little incentive to wait for a PUV to be filled before proceeding. Driver shifts are limited to 12 hours to cut down on accidents from driver fatigue. He is also monitored by a speed limiter, dashcam and GPS tracking. Duties like collecting fair are done by electronic fair collection systems. Passenger Assistance Officers at designated stops ensure the vehicle does not exceed capacity and passengers are comfortable.

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Better fleet management

Since there is no official PUV per class, these standardized vehicles can be acquired from any of the participants of the PUVMP. With these new vehicles, the PUVMP hopes to make it easier for both operators and drivers. Their new, more efficient engines will consume less fuel, break down less, and provide reliable operation for the first few years. Service and warranty offered by these PUV manufacturers also ensures they’re kept well maintained. Finally, acquiring these vehicles is made easier, thanks to the cooperative structure and easy payment plans offered by the manufacturer and government.

Indeed, replacing all 200,000 jeepneys (according to some estimates) is a daunting task. Ye   t with these safe, efficient, and modern means of transport offered at amicable terms and unprecedented warranties, a more organized, efficient, and possibly even greener means of transport is already on the table.

By Iñigo S. Roces

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