After news spread that Uber has sold its Southeast Asian business to Grab, the clamor of Metro Manila residents surfaced again: that the government must solve the traffic problem.
There are two presuppositions from this demand. First is that people believe that it is the responsibility of addressing Manila’s traffic woes falls solely on the national government’s lap. While the Philippine government undoubtedly plays a huge role in addressing our traffic woes, the contributions of a wide variety of stakeholders are also needed, including everyone from urban planners and NGOs, to taxi drivers and LGUs. You—as in the riding public—must also be part the solution.
The second presupposition is that people believe that a silver bullet—perhaps tucked in a legislator’s breast pocket—will magically clear congested roads in the Philippines.
Sad to say, there is no single solution that will alleviate the traffic condition in our streets. Just as there is no such thing as a “cure to cancer” for there are hundreds of forms of cancer, each with its own origins, prognosis, and outlook, there is no magic wand that can wave away our traffic woes, for there are equally as many types of traffic. While you always experience traffic the same way—as an inconvenience—the traffic on EDSA during the morning rush hour is different from the traffic that leads up to a toll both, which in turn is different from the traffic that emanates from a stadium at the end of a basketball game.
Given that there are many different kinds of traffic, we will need many different solutions, many of which will come from the private sector. As the co-founder and CEO of taxi-hailing application, Micab, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with many of these founders firsthand and found inspiration in their boldness: They want to completely change what most of our peers have accepted as a fact of life.
I want to highlight their work here, not only because of my own pride that I call them colleagues, but as a rally for support. For any of our solutions to reach the scale where we can make a meaningful impact on the country, their products need to be seen, understood, and adapted. This column is my pitch for you to do so.
The most frustrating part about traffic in the Philippines is that a large number of cars on the road are filled with only one passenger. Yes, that’s right: Just the driver plus two, three, or even four rows of empty seats. Founded by Gunnar Froh and headquartered out of Germany, Wunder allows local commuters to effectively carpool by finding a ride sharer if you’re a passenger, or passengers if you’re a driver. You’ll not only do your part by filling vehicles closer to their capacity, but you’ll almost certainly make friends in the process.
Traffic is not just caused by people traveling from point A to point B. It is as often caused by people circling point B in their private car, looking for a parking spot, in a phenomenon known as cruising. Convenience platform Dibz, founded by Leeroy Livas and Donald Saurombe, remedies this issue by allowing drivers to book a valet who will be responsible for parking your car for you. This solution reduces cruising-based traffic and allows you to roll up close to your destination and get in and out in a flash.
Finding out what public transportation to take in the Philippines is hard, which discourages many commuters from taking to our buses, jeepneys, and trains who could otherwise easily have. Founded by Philip Cheang, Thomas Dy, and By Implication, a group of designers, developers, and business analysts, Sakay.ph bills itself as “commuting made easy,” as it enables anyone to find directions to their destination via public transport. With Sakay.ph in hand, there’s no reason not to take public transport on occasion, since it makes doing so as simple as taking a private car.
For many Filipinos a personal car may be an aspirational purchase, even if it’ll end up sitting in front of their home, seldom used. For these Filipinos, Graventure might be a better bet. Founded by Gracy Fernandez, Ritz Seng, and Kaiser Dapar, Graventure will enable Filipinos to rent a vehicle that matches their specs, schedule, and price preferences all on a common platform. You will also be able to self-drive or book a friendly driver. While Graventure is still in development, you can already register on their website as a car rental agency or individual car renter. We need to encourage the sharing economy in the Philippines every step of the journey.
Founded by Au Soriano, a graduate of the Ideaspace Foundation program, PinoyTravel was created to solve inefficient intercity travel in the Philippines. Soriano noticed that most Filipinos would wait at bus terminals or roadside stops as chance passengers for the bus, even though most of them had a smartphone in hand. She then developed PinoyTravel as a platform from which they can book bus tickets entirely online and in advance. PinoyTravel has digitized much of the bus industry in the Philippines and has even expanded into ferries and hotels as other verticals on their platform.
No single one of these companies can solve traffic on their own, but together we can make a significant dent in the congestion affecting our streets. I also want to humbly do my part, as I believe the taxi-riding experience can be vastly improved through Micab, with passengers quickly finding cab drivers who are courteous, friendly, and kind at the tap of a button. This goal is by no means easy, but I find inspiration in the steadfast resolve of the other entrepreneurs on this list: While others see Manila’s streets for what they are, these founders see them for what they can be.