Monday, July 09, 2012

Transport Econ 6: More on Office Bus Carpooling

Last Thursday, July 05, 2012, a friend Doods de los Reyes, posted in his facebook wall about his proposal to  limit public buses into zones. Our exchange, below, later shifted from land transport planning to urban planning. Doods always gives me permission to post in my blog our exchanges, thanks pare.

Doods De Los Reyes The LTFRB should revoke all bus franchise licenses effective upon a future date and divide the metropolis into zones, then bid out licenses for these zones with an eye towards modern, comfortable buses and service capability.

Dito (Singapore) dalawang malaking companies lang ang may hawak ng public buses. nag-merge yung ilang maliliit na bus companies. malalaki ang sweldo ng bus drivers dito, average ata is $2,000/month. pero strict sa service quality. in all, panalo ang publiko kasi maganda ang service at nabibigyan ng magandang kita ang drivers

Nonoy Oplas Doods, LTFRB can't do that, many of those franchise holders are ex- or current DOTC guys themselves, also PNP guys. And while they like bureaucratic procedures in getting a franchise, they will oppose bus monopoly or duopoly. I would say that bus competition here is working. Only a few accidents from some bus lines should not lead to demonizing competition among many bus companies.

Doods De Los Reyes Noy, of course they can. You're saying they won't, which is not the same thing hehe. I don't think the current setup is not working at all. There are too many buses plying the same routes, so they are competing against each other for passengers. To do this, they stick around too long at certain spots which makes traffic build up. This results in half-empty buses slowing down traffic on major highways with their maneuverings even outside of rush hours. If you have a single bus line servicing a specific route, the bus is no longer competing with other buses but instead can concentrate on measuring up to the QOS standard otherwise they could get penalized or their franchise revoked. With no competitor, the bus company can study the date and determine how many buses they need to deploy at all hours of the day to meet the demand. This results in less traffic on the road and passengers get to their destinations quicker.

Nonoy Oplas Actually the "half empty" buses occur only in non rush hours. During rush hours, you'd wish that perhaps there are 2x the current number of buses now. If you see the loooong lines of passengers in Ayala ave for instance every late afternoon to evening, you know what I mean.

About bus monopoly, when I went to Hawaii a few years ago, after the conference, we went to the Pearl Harbour by bus. The bus is govt monopoly. They run very slow. On our way back, we waited for almost 20 minutes before the next bus came, the number of passengers was already big, at 2pm or non rush hour. Monopolists don't care, passengers have no other option anyway, except take the cab, which is expensive.

Doods De Los Reyes i was among those passengers too for a time. the reason why it seems that the buses are too full during rush hour is because the buses stay longer at each stop in order to fill their bus with passengers to the brim, even to unsafe levels. the correct thing to do is to have bus schedules where each bus has to be at each stop. this way, buses make a stop, load up on however many passengers there are then leave immediately. instead, the buses stay longer waiting for more passengers if they still aren't filled up -- because there is competition. If there is no competition, the bus can leave any stragglers behind to wait for the next bus.

‎20 minutes wait during non-rush hour is not that bad. Filipinos are just not used to waiting for public transportation. :) in Singapore, people wait for buses. In the Philippines, it's the other way around. There are bus schedules that should guide people on whether they should hurry to catch the bus, otherwise they know they'll have to wait a certain length of time for the next one.

Nonoy Oplas Not really. The problem is that there are too many cars. Even if the buses are already full, or over-loaded, they can't move bec of too many cars in front of them. If some people will take 3-4 rides to get to their destinations (tricycle from house or village to main road + jeep or bus to say Makati + jeep to their final destination), and if you're carrying a laptop or in business attire, they better endure the traffic and drive their cars.

Doods De Los Reyes that's another problem, too many cars because most people can afford them and even very old vehicles are allowed on the road. Control the taxes on cars to lessen their number and require road worthiness inspections on old and defective vehicles. Public transportation should be of greater importance than private means. A lane should be reserved to public bases, and this lane is the one which will allow them to make frequent stops. Private vehicles should not be allowed to stop at bus stops. As for having several legs to their commute, that will encourage people to choose to live closer to work, or to work closer to where they live. This will encourage property developers to build office buildings outside of the central business district and foster growth in other areas. Imagine if you live in Sta Rosa but have to go to Makati everyday. Wouldn't it be better if good companies start springing up near your home? The worker is happier and there are less people having to travel to the metropolis.

Nonoy Oplas This is actually my argument -- allow school bus/service type, to service office bus/service, door to door pick up of passengers, to their major if not final destinations. You do not need too many government central planning schemes like more taxes on cars, regulate the number of lanes for private and public vehicles, etc., my longer discussion here, Fat-Free Econ 14: Traffic, Car-pooling and LTFRB,

The problem with many LGUs is that they slap too many or too high real property tax and related taxes. LGUs in M. Manila do that, so many residential villages are in the suburbs. But offices cannot easily follow those residential villages, they have to be in the metropolis as much as possible, near their suppliers, financiers, consumers, etc.

Doods De Los Reyes that's because development is so concentrated in the metropolis. Government can spur greater development in the suburbs by making it more attractive to businesses to locate there. People will work where it makes better sense for them. So if businesses and workers (i.e. consumers) are in the suburbs, the retail and service businesses will start to locate there as well. Pretty soon you'll have self-sufficient residential and business districts in these areas.

Nonoy Oplas But if you notice, its people themselves who chose to congregate in one place -- Tokyo, Seoul, Bkk, KL, Jalarta, Sing, HK, Taipei, NY, Chicago, Paris, etc. There is value or utility to certain people to be in a densely packed city than in a sparse area. Govt policies often have little to do with it.

Doods De Los Reyes As for the door-to-door pickup idea, that will only make things less efficient. Also, the premise is that a lot of people going to a certain building or district live in the same general area. Yes, it will encourage more people to stop using their cars. However it will force individual passengers to wait for everyone else before they can leave. When they finally get on the road, they will still be held up by all the buses which will be waiting even longer to get filled up because there will be less passengers. Finally, there's the problem of unloading these passengers. Could you imagine the number of buses that will be jostling for position and waiting for their turn to deload at RCBC Plaza during rush hour? And the passengers will again be delayed because presumably they won't be allowed to just get off wherever they want. Furthermore, this will leave the passengers at the mercy of the shuttle operators with regards to price increases. So aside from today's numerous bus companies clamoring for fare increases and threatening strikes, you will add the shuttle bus companies.

I think the better idea is to improve public transportation first. With a good public transportation, who would want to buy and maintain a private vehicle especially with the problems in parking, fuel costs, and security? Also, this encourages businesses to locate anywhere aside from the metropolis because their workers, suppliers, etc can still easily reach them through public transportation.

I did not make additional points after Doods' last comment above. But here's the mechanism I have in mind with regards to the "office bus/service" system.

1. A bus and van company will have both aircon buses and vans. The vans will enter gated villages to pick up passengers house to house. There will be specific pick up time. If some passengers will make the vans to wait for them for whatever reason, the vans will leave them after say, three minutes max of waiting, then move on to pick up other waiting passengers. Then the vans will deliver the passengers to waiting buses from the same company and those buses will go to major destinations (Makati, Ortigas, Eastwood-Marikina, Quiapo-Taft, etc.) and will drop off passengers to a few bus stops there.

Coming home, they will just reverse the process: from major destinations to major stops in residential villages, and the vans will be waiting for the passengers to bring them home door to door. The fare will be fixed per month, so that even if passengers will not ride the bus-van going home on certain days, the bus company is assured of basic or minimum revenues.

2. This bus and van company will be registered and certified by both the LTFRB (government) and the homeowners or village association (private) for transparency and accountability purposes. If foul events like bus/van hold-ups will happen repeatedly, the government and the private bodies can easily go after that company and make it accountable under existing laws of the country.

3. It is better to have two or more bus-van companies that will enter and service those villages and subdivisions and the competition between or among them will improve services and give options for the passengers to shift from one bus company to another for whatever reason. Passengers themselves, not the village association, will enter into contract with those bus-van companies, say for three or six or 12 months contract.

4. Tricycles and jeepneys that currently serve a particular community or village need not be stopped or prevented from entering these places. They will serve other passengers from those areas who are not regular customers going to major destinations. Say people going out of the village to go to the public market, etc.

I think that under this scheme, many car owners will stop driving their cars in going to their offices and just relax sitting in air-con vans and buses and this will significantly reduce traffic congestion on the roads. They will drive their cars on special occasions like carrying a rather big volume of things, or if they will be coming home very late.

See also:
Transport Econ 1: Public Transpo Regulation, December 19, 2007
Transport Econ 2: Small-Scale Monopolies, April 22, 2010

Transport Econ 4: Tricycles, November 15, 2010


GabbyD said...

i think the only problem with your plan is the schedule.

to work, people would have to agree to be ready by a certain time, and leave at that time, and they need to all communicate to the bus, and they all need to have similar schedules.

there are clear increasing returns here, which requires alot of coordination to get alot of people to participate, which is why you dont see this service spontaneously occur.

Nonoy Oplas said...

Thanks for the comment. For those with non-traditional work scheds, like their shift is from 6am to 3pm, then this scheme may not work for them, they can go with their usual mode of transpo, drive their cars or take the tricycle-jeepney-buses combo. The above proposal is mainly for those on traditional work sked of 8-5 or 9-6, which comprises the bulk of workers and personnel.

About being "ready at time", I suggested above that the vans can wait possibly 3 minutes max, then the vans will leave with or without the passenger ready at their door.