Re-discovering public transportation

After more than 10 years of car dependency, I recently went back to commuting to work and re-discovered, gladly, the joys and travails of public transportation.

Trigger

The universe conspired for all these to happen: it was the cold drizzling month of December, my old car’s air conditioning was broken, expenses for the holidays are shooting up and- the Philippine Business for the Environment launched around that time, together with Honda Philippines an eco-safe driving campaign dubbed as 1’M Blue for Blue Skies– and I happened to be present during its launch at the Ayala Museum.

It was of course the broken air conditioning that forced me to put on my walking shoes and commute to work while my car spent some time in the auto repair shop. The December weather was the encouraging factor to use public transportation while the frequent drizzle discouraged me to use my car and risk getting stuck inside in the event that it rains (although let me confess that I did try it once and it was terrible- I was sweating inside and I can’t clear my windshield of fog that formed while I was driving). The PBE-Honda campaign, I must say, kept me going until today even though my car is back to its tip-top shape. Needless to say, the savings I generated were also good motivators.

 Trade Off

There are trade-offs in taking public transportation, especially in Metro Manila where there is no real public transportation system to speak of. Then there is the missing walking paths for pedestrians, the possibility of long and winding queues, the unsafe conditions of public vehicles and exposure to bad elements: pollution and petty crimes.

Gain

But my experience recently allowed me to discover the gains in commuting to work: less expenses for gas (P1,000/week) , toll fees (P118/P84)  and parking fees (P125/day); more relaxed travel (social media time while commuting or- sleeping time); faster travel (GTE vans take the Skyway and less time spent negotiating one’s way looking for an empty parking slot); and the sweetest of them all- more savings (Pxx,xxx).  More importantly, choosing public transportation over driving to work reduces my carbon footprint. That’s one big cheers for blue skies!

A devel­oped coun­try is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use pub­lic trans­port
– para­phrased from Enrique Penalosa, for­mer Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia

Wish List

I guess I am just lucky that commuting to work- from Paranaque to Makati and back- is easy and convenient. All it takes is a short walk to the jeepney stop, a short ride to the shuttle terminal, and some 20-45 minutes travel to Makati CBD depending on the traffic situation. Going home is a lot easier as it takes only another short walk to Makati Medical Center where the shuttle to Paranaque holds its terminal. The other GTE terminals are located at the Ayala Car Park Center behind Hotel Intercontinental (this one’s always crowded) and beside Landmark, near the Glorietta 2 entrance.

But for some people commuting remains a challenge as it is difficult, dirty and dangerous. For cleaner and bluer skies, we need more integrated, safe and cheap public transportation system that encourages car owners to leave their motor vehicles in their garage and take the public transport instead. Or for shorter travels, there is always the healthy bicycles.

End Notes

GTE is short for Garage to Terminal Utility Vehicle Express. It is a relatively new Filipino invention taking after the success of FX (another Filipino invention). GTEs are more systematic than FX because it travels strictly from point to point, unlike FX which is just an air conditioned jeepney. Therefore, GTEs are more fuel efficient than FX.

GTE fare from Paranaque to Makati via Skyway is a measly P60.

Trivia: I read this somewhere but just can’t find the original article online. When the government was busy thinking (yes, sometimes they do that) about a name to call the GTEs, they had a serious dilemma. One suggestion was to use Terminal to Terminal or TT for short but it was junked as it sounds like a male appendage. So another bright man (or maybe woman) suggested to use Point to Point or PP but it was again dropped because this time it sounds like that member of female anatomy. Later on, perhaps after several long meetings and heated debates, they settled on the term GTE. Applause!

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