Of short jeepney routes and expensive tricycle rides: A rejoinder on Nick Joaquin’s “A Heritage of Smallness”

 Society for the Filipino is a small rowboat: the barangay.-Nick Joaquin, “A Heritage of Smallness.”  

In this time of modernity (or what passes off for modernity in these parts), I would like to modify Senyor Nick’s introduction in his essay, and it goes like this: Travel for the urban Filipino is a small jeepney, and involves moving around in small routes like crossing over to another street.

You see, I am a self-confessed aggrieved passenger who used to be taking two jeepney rides for a short route. For example, I used to take two jeepney rides from Tandang Sora Avenue, at its corner with Commonwealth Avenue, on my way to work at an NGO in Katipunan; I will first take a ride at a “Sangandaan-UP Balara” jeep then drop off in front of the MWSS compound, then ride another jeep plying the Katipunan route. These two rides alone had cost me already P17 (P8.50 per ride), and that’s for one way; I will shell out another P17 when I return back to Commonwealth Ave, after work. That would sum up for around P34. And to think that it almost matched my FX fare from Fairview up to UST, last year! (At least, when gasoline prices did not yet reach sky-high levels.) In my estimate the total length of that stretch of Tandang Sora Ave, eventually integrating into Katipunan Avenue, would be around 3-5 kilometers. Yet for such a hefty price!

(For starters, I’ll describe what that stretch of avenue-cum-provincial road looks like: a  narrow-two lane asphalted road winding through a witches’ brew area of houses, schools, stores, vulcanizing shops, a basketball court, the MWSS compound and the outer edges of UP-Diliman. By the way, all types of vehicles pass here, ranging from garbage trucks, cement trucks, to FX megataxis, jeepneys and tricycles.)  

 If the route is short, then the traveling time there would not be much of a problem, one may ask this aggrieved passenger. Yes…theoretically. Oh, there were times that it took me only 5-10 minutes for my jeep to negotiate Tandang Sora Avenue toward Katipunan. But these were only the exceptions, not the rule. As a whole, traveling time in that stretch depends not only on the number of times the jeep makes a stop to embark/disembark passengers, but also of how many vehicles pass through the avenue every morning. There was this instance when my trip took 30-45 minutes to complete the stretch of the avenue from Commonwealth up to the MWSS compound just because of traffic. As vehicles just piled up, a series of immobile diesel/gasoline engines rumbling in heated patience, all of us passengers inside that jeep had all the saints to pray for so that after 30 long, long minutes, at least the car on front of us would move at least by a few steps away. When it was clear that prayers would not help, at least for now, I just decided to disembark from the jeep and walk all the way toward the MWSS compound. Prayer may work, but its up to our feet to make our prayers work.

 But the jeepney drivers may seem kinder. Tricycle drivers plying street-to street routes in the Varsity Hills Subdivision in Loyola Heights (where my office is located) charge much as a whopping P25. I learned this from an officemate who has to travel by tricycle from her dormitory a few streets away from our office. She also complained that if that will be the case, shelling P25 for so short a route, then she might as well take a jeepney, despite the fact that it may take a longer trip.

 

Even though one may not be an economist or a degree holder in business administration, one may already know that, this practice of jeepneys’ plying short routes is not efficient, in terms of investing money, gasoline and engine. For one, the driver would shell out around P200 worth of gasoline so that he can have a fuel for the entire day, only to find out that he spends 10-20 minutes at the average, revving up his engine while waiting for the traffic to loosen up. Not to forget also the fact that the jeepney’s machine is always subject to wear and tear, with the driver making around 5 pasadas (trips) or more  a day.

 In the case of tricycle drivers, as of now, I cannot fathom why they charge that much amount of fare for the passenger. Now, I am no mechanic, but based from what I learn and hear, I think that maintaining a tricycle is definitely cheaper than a jeep because it involves fewer spare parts, taking up lesser amount of gasoline or diesel, while wear-and-tear may take much longer to take its toll on the tricycle. 

 Now, after all this pontificating and whining on riding jeepneys and tricycles and shelling P30 for a round trip, what’s next? I’ll make some suggestions. First why don’t the officials from the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board and the drivers plying the two different routes in Balara make a standard, longer route for efficiency’s sake. For example, make the route from Katipunan end at the Tandang Sora Avenue-Commonwealth intersection? But since the road there is still narrow (pending the long overdue road widening in those parts), can they divert some of the jeeps to the UP terminal at the Magsaysay-Ylanan corner? That way, the drivers can use up their gasoline in a more expeditious manner and at the same time can pick up more passengers. As for the second suggestion, if possible, can they also impose a ban on large vehicles passing through Tandang Sora? It’s a miracle that vehicles of all sizes still manage to negotiate the street that is called Tandang Sora Avenue despite the great number of vehicles passing there. But, I may not be surprised if one day, there will be a collision between a Payatas-bound garbage truck and a Malaueg jeepney and will create a heavier volume of traffic.

 As for tricycle drivers in the Varsity Hills Subdivison, I have this much simpler suggestion: BRING DOWN THE FARE to what is the standard amount. P7.50.

 I guess pondering over these “small’ problems and then resolving them would be a big step already toward a more efficient jeepney-tricycle ride every day

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