Group presents proposals to improve public transportation in NCR+ bubble

Bikes and sport-utility vehicles share the streets as people find ways to cope with the challenges of public commute coupled with the fear of getting infected with the coronavirus. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has encouraged the use of bicycles as a primary mode of transportation.

A coalition of 154 organizations has offered the government several recommendations to help optimize the transport modes and promote better mobility with the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region Plus (NCR+) bubble.

In a letter addressed to Cabinet secretaries, the Move As One Coalition advised the government on five key areas, namely: the utility of checkpoints; availability of public transport; support for safe walking and cycling; compassionate rather than punitive approaches to enforcement; and the inclusion of transport workers in the priority groups for vaccination.

The coalition said utility checkpoints within the NCR+ bubble should be removed, saying these only leads to crowding and possible exposure to Covid-19. The group called the internal checkpoints “counterproductive” given that they restrict mobility of essential workers and prevent the smooth operation of public transport.

The group also urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to authorize more vehicles and routes to reduce waiting time and queues at stops and terminals, saying that providing free rides is not a reason to reduce public transport supply.

And while it approves of the service-contracting program, the group said, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) should hasten the distribution of payouts to transport workers under the program, and that such should be extended to traditional jeepneys.

The program, Move As One added, should also put a premium on high-volume routes “so that a larger number of commuters can benefit from a more stable and predictable supply of public transport.”

The group also recommended the introduction of exclusive lanes for public-utility vehicles (PUVs), similar to the bus lane along Edsa, to reduce exposure time on public transport.

It also urged the government to be more mindful of the data on public transport to efficiently address any supply-demand gap.

Third, Move As One also advised the government to urge the public to promote “safe walking and cycling” by declaring a 30-kilometer per hour speed limit on all NCR+ roads and setting up bike lanes that connect major establishments in the quarantine bubble.

Fourth, it recommended the removal of large fines on transport workers who have passengers without face shields or overloaded vehicles as a form of “compassionate” approach to enforcement.

Likewise, the government should consider avoiding “anti-colorum” operations due to short transport supply. It said that “if public transport were safe, stable, and sufficient, there would be no demand for colorum operations.”

Colorum is a colloquial term that refers to commercial transport operations without franchises.

Lastly, the group also recommended that PUV drivers be part of the priority line for vaccine jabs given that they are considered as essential and frontline workers.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes


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