Taken a Ride

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THESE PAST WEEKS, we have heard cab riders mouth off choice expletives over the radical change in their usual fare. If you’re an inveterate online browser, you’ll surely feel suffocated — much as losing sufficient air to breathe freely — by the range of comments inundating cyberspace. What happened?

Simply, a taxi fare hike petitioned by operators and drivers associations was favorably heard by the ruling potentates at the LTFRB, not here in Baguio, not even at the regional office, but in far-off Metro Manila, obviously in the cool confines of their air-conditioned offices, away from the sweltering heat that regular passengers like you and me and the rest of us would surely inundate the hearing room. Without due notice to local government and commuter groups, the decision was laid down: retain flagdown rate of P35, add on P13.50 per kilometer distance traversed, and P2 per minute of travel time.

The effect was simply electric, sending off cabs to our local transport regulatory sites for calibration, plates ending 1-2-3 for March, 4-5-6 for April, etc. Passengers were literally caught with their pants down when the fare meter surged up from their usual rates to an astronomical levels, depending on the distance used up and the travel time of waiting, while inching through the city’s traffic. Letting loose of choice words just wafted into thin air. Arguments ensured, but to no avail.

As explained by cab drivers themselves, the price hike seems to have been ordained in exchange for additional ameneties: a GPS tracking system, a Wifi connection, and other gadgetries that cab riders just have to shell out to justify the ride. For their convenience? Ask again. For their comfort? Next question.

Already, commuters who reside in far-off places outside the CBD area are hardest hit. A cab ride to Irisan and vice-versa now costs double. Any location more proximate now fetches 30-40% more. Mall cab users, they who have been used to hailing any unit coming their way, have in fact been choosy if only to avoid getting their bottoms on the seat of cabs that are now calibrated.

How did this hapless thing come to pass, beyond the nose of our local transport authorities, much more so our city officials whose mandate, last heard, is to promote utmost public welfare considerations. Were they all sleeping on the job, or doing their jobs while snoring it out? How come not a peep, not a whine, not a beef had been heard, especially from those quick on the draw, when push comes to shove?

We’re supposed to protect, safeguard, and foster the general welfare of our constituents — but no one did, while the transport officials in far down Manila laid down the taxi fare hike, in obviously indecent terms. We’re supposed to uphold the people’s interests at all times — but no one did. Again, not a peep, not a whine. We’re supposed to do everything right for the very constituents who are constrained to make do with getting a quick ride down the road, only to be taken quite a hefty ride along the way.

Can we still do something about this situation?

Last heard, there’s a citizens’ petition for the LTFRB to unmess what they have done. Going by their latest pronouncements on the TVNS issue (of Grab’s Over the Bakod charges), there’s a glimmer of hope that they’ll do it by the book. Definitely, our cab riders have every right to be heard, their general welfare fairly considered.

Review the whole thing, fine. Make it affordable and accessible, that would be better, Madame Spokesperson. Please know that we don’t need a GPS and a Wifi contraption while riding in peace and safety back home. All we need is a fare increase that’s fair, reasonable, and just. Surely, that’s not too much to ask. Already, we’re green with envy that Metro Manilans are getting their comeuppance quickly.

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