Both services and fulfilling a need that taxis don’t provide
A few days ago transport group Drivers Unite for Mass Progress and Equal Rights held a demonstration outside the offices of the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) protesting declining profits because of ride-sharing services like Grab and Uber. According to DUMPER Vice President Gerry Donesa, TNVS’ like the services mentioned earlier are one of the main culprits of the worsening traffic situation in the Metro, and are unfairly taking away customers from taxi drivers.
Here’s the thing, Mr. Donesa. The problem here isn’t Uber and Grab. The problem here is regular taxis. I’m old enough to remember a time before Uber and Grab were widespread in the Philippines, and while I primarily drive myself to presscons and other events in my line of work, there are times that I am forced to commute and take taxis to go to events. And you know what? I absolutely hate those times.
Because when I leave my car at home, I know that I’m the mercy of the whims of taxi companies and their drivers on the road. The same companies who were given a franchise by the LTFRB to ferry people where they needed to go in exchange for a fee, to render a public service as a public utility vehicle.
The problem here is that every time I hail a cab, it feels like I’m asking them a favor to ride on their vehicle and to hand them money. People are used to the routine: you hail a cab, it gets close to you, the driver lowers his window and asks you where you want to go, and he decides if the trip is worth it.
And that’s not how it should be. Taxis should not be able to choose where they go – they should go where the passenger tells them to, within reason. Pinoys are so used to this system that many of us actually get yelled at by other taxi drivers in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other countries abroad because we’re telling the cabbies where to go before we get on. The Philippines is one of the few countries where this practice is so commonly accepted.
And despite the government’s many efforts to try and curb this behavior, each time anybody hails a cab it’s always the same – you ask in your nicest voice if they could please go to your destination, and oh yeah there’s a little something extra in it so the guy relents and you don’t arrive late to wherever you’re going.
And don’t think I don’t understand why they’re like this either – it’s because of the borderline criminal boundary system (where a driver has to hit a certain fare target before he starts pocketing the fares for himself) taxi drivers are incentivized to make sure every trip is worth it. To make sure that every trip falls neatly into the route that makes them the most money. That boundary system is also the reason why many of them drive like freaking maniacs on the road, without a care for safety or road courtesy.
I haven’t even gotten to the part where most of the taxis on the road today look like rolling coffins that are mechanically unsafe, but you guys probably know what I’m talking about.
Between those drivers and services like Uber and Grab, who make sure that the vehicles that they drive are brand new (or close to it), their drivers courteous (for the most part) and here’s the most important part: take you where you want to go without asking for a tip or something extra and arrive where you tell them to, then the choice isn’t difficult for many people.
Granted both Grab and Uber have their faults. There’s a fair number of Grab and Uber horror stories that regularly make rounds on Facebook. Their surge pricing model also is a pain in the neck, especially when you want to go home right away but can’t.
But you know what? When those viral stories of terrible Uber and Grab drivers are brought to the attention of the management of both companies, they act on it. There’s a number you can call on to complain, a Twitter and Facebook page you can keep bugging for resolution. The last time I complained to a taxi company about a driver who refused to give me a ride never amounted to anything. They were probably laughing their asses off when I complained about him.
You want to complain? Fine. Fix your service first. Don’t make us beg you to drive us to where we want to go. Don’t bug us for tips or try to make us feel guilty when there’s traffic on our route. Make your cars look the part of a public utility vehicle and not a deathtrap. Educate your drivers and stop taking advantage of them through the boundary system.
When you do all of that, you have the right to complain about Uber and Grab taking your customers away.
Until then, STFU.