Disclaimer: Before anyone condemns me or proposes to turn me into a persona non grata, let me set expectations that this piece may be filled with negative comments and passionate dislike for all ugly and frustrating things a commuter must face on a daily basis. Hence, if you are someone who is likely to condemn or propose for the persona non grata status, read no further. For those interested in what I am likely to say due to the possibility that they might think the same way, please carry on.
I will not say that I have been to a lot of places because I haven’t. So I will not pretend that I am an expert with the transportation system of the few countries I’ve been to. But for a regular tourist like me, some things are quite plain to see: that there is something seriously lacking with our transportation system here.
In my city, I am a commuter. I am proud to be one because it means that being a tough cookie is part of my personality. I can get around the city, out to the suburbs and ultimately to the provinces and enjoy people watching and the passing scenery. Now while people and sceneray watching is fun, there are a lot of things that are so not fun in the world of commuters.
The top of the list TRAFFIC. Or more appropriately, HEAVY TRAFFIC. I live in a tropical country, which means that majority of its citizens spend their time baking under the sun and sweating their faces off. Now throw in the inevitable waiting time, frustration and dizziness found when jeeps, buses, cars and motorcycles all stuck in heavy traffic for over two hours, surrounded by heat, sweat and exhaust. What do you get? A commuter sighing over the miserable state of things. You’ve got to ask: why is there heavy traffic? There are a number of reasons, take your pick: inept traffic enforcers, broken traffic lights, water systems excavations on the road for the nth time, accidents caused by irresponsible drivers, events held near extremely populated areas, the list goes on. And if you’re really lucky, all of these can happen all at one time.
They say that if you can drive in this city, you can drive anywhere. I’d say the same about commuting. Commuters face danger all the time, from all directions. From road construction work left unfinished, PUVs letting passengers alight at the middle of the road, jeepney racing (especially in the wee hours of the morning), motorcycles suddenly appearing out of nowhere, irresponsible drivers, other irresponsible passengers, again the list goes on. And then there are snatchers and hold-uppers who would take away everything you’ve worked hard for (like your iPhone, Nine West Wallet, Coach bag and Tiffany’s jewelry) the moment you let your guard down of unluckily fall asleep while traveling. Either way, you are faced with the threat of physical, psychological, emotional and financial harm.
Now, let’s move one to the public utility vehicles themselves. To start off this part of my rant, let me relay a story. It was raining hard, as it always seems to be half of the year. While I was lucky to have an umbrella, my clothes were starting to get soggy. And then headlights appeared and I was glad to finally be able to ride a jeepney. The moment I sat down, I wished that I hadn’t ridden this particular vehicle. The body of the vehicles seemed to be made of rusting metal, so worn through that there was a hole on the floor. Water had seeped into the ceiling making the plywood soggy and bulgy. There were also holes on the ceiling where water dripped steadily from. The seats were saggy on some parts and bulgy on others. And there was a distinct smell of fish permeating from the upholstery. The plastic flaps covering the open windows were next to useless, I might as well use my umbrella to shield myself from the rain. To top it all off, the driver was in no hurry to get to his next destination. I thought to myself: I have sit in this dilapidated vehicle for the next 45 minutes? Now, my story pretty much covers my distate for unkempt public utility vehicles. I will pay the fare for this PUV to bring me to where I want to go, so the least I could expect was a comfortable ride. But it looks like I’m not even getting that. My story relates to jeepneys but the sentiments apply to buses and taxis too. And you don’t want me to start on stories about the PNR train.
I want to go back to my comment about being in other countries. The countries I’ve been too had an impressive transportation system, which included (but not limited to): an efficient subway system, an orderly bus route (with designated bus stops for numbered buses), taxis which nearly equals private cars, working stop lights and an overall sense of discipline. Because at the end of all my hypertensive ranting, it’s still order and discipline that’s missing.
You see, we do follow a circuit or route, in fact we have plenty of options. For instance, if I were in the Espana and I want to go to Alabang, I can go through the following: 1) Take the PNR from Espana to Alabang, takes about an hour and 15 minutes, 2) Take jeep to LRT Central Station, Central Station to Edsa station, take jeep from Edsa to Alabang (Takes about an hour and a half) or 3) Take FX to MRT North Ave station, North Ave station to Ayala Station, take bus from Ayala to Alabang (takes about an hour and a half), so on and so forth. What transportation here lacks in efficiency, it makes up with diversity and options. But without people’s instilled discipline, commuting remains a tall order.