With the increase in taxi fares, gas rates, and MRT/LRT train rates, and most likely increases in other transportation costs to follow, one can’t help but worry about how to get around town. Metro Manila isn’t exactly commuter friendly, what with violence everywhere (it’s a wrestling match if you take a train during rush hour, a horror ride when you get on the wrong bus or jeep, and haggling that could be considered psychic violence in cabs, and let’s not forget the ever-present threat of actual criminal violence and bombings and the like) but making commutes safer, faster, and more efficient will be necessary for us to have more productive work lives, and would lead, I believe, to an improved economy. I am a firm believer that removing barriers or obstacles to work is always a good thing, and solving transportation problems is an important aspect of that. Also, it would give people less excuses for being late (because really, you can’t ever complain when people say, sorry traffic) which would also lead to better, more efficient meetings, gimmicks, events, and the like.
I got to thinking about this as I had to negotiate my cab fare. The cabbie’s meter was busted and he was asking me how much I usually paid. Obviously I would rather have just sat there, let the meter run up, and just paid him. But as most of us often are, I felt that I really needed the cab, wanted to get moving, so I tolerated the lack of a meter. But then I got to thinking, how can we solve this problem using the technology at our disposal? It isn’t just the problem of busted meters. The solution might solve the much more difficult problem of tampered meters that run faster than they should, and also these issues with cabs imposing ludicrous rates instead of following the meters. These are common issues which have yet to be addressed. At present the process to complain against bad cabbies is cumbersome and requires a personal appearance at the LTO to testify against the cabbie.
So what’s the possible solution? I propose designing an app that is synchronized with GPS or google maps and the set cab fare rates. When you get in the cab, you turn the app on. It tracks time and distance. When you get to your destination, it should show how much is the appropriate fare for your trip. This should measure up almost precisely with the cab’s meter. If the app is accredited, monitored, of even better yet designed in coordination with the LTO, then this would stand as the proper fare. No haggling, no arguing. You could allow for an error margin of a few pesos, but otherwise, things are set. Even better, if the driver tries to cause trouble, demands more money, makes a scene, or anything else, you can snap a picture of him with your camera-phone and send it through the app to the LTO, filing a formal report instantaneously.
Now I know that there are iffy aspects to this. Cabbies can still turn you down, try to negotiate before letting you in, and other things that would negate the abilities of the app. But I believe that the existence of the app would help to empower consumers who are often at the mercy of the taxi driver. I have had the pleasure of many good cab rides, ridden with a lot of good, decent cab drivers. And those drivers are the first to decry the misdeeds of their colleagues. But a bad cab ride when you’re having a bad day, or worse the feeling of being taken advantage of are terrible things and can ruin your day, if not sometimes challenge your faith in humanity.
With an app like this, and other similar measures in commuting (for example, an integrated card that works with all of the train lines, which could be loaded up using different pay schemes like cellphone load, postpaid, prepaid, or other options; ok I know there are some like the Gcash button thing that I used to use, but that thing melted and I think there should be some more efficient use-all card) which would help to streamline our daily trips. The longer we travel and the more stressful the trips are, the unhappier we get. I just hope that people in the government and people who can design similar projects can help to spread more happiness through such things.