Street smarts and Grab

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION -

Most of us will agree that traf­fic keeps get­ting worse. Com­plaints about get­ting stuck on the way to work or home have be­come part of our daily so­cial me­dia fare. Yet how much of these rants and ob­ser­va­tions end up chang­ing pol­icy in com­muters’ fa­vor?

Grab’s sug­ges­tion for a third-party study on how ride-hail­ing ser­vices have changed traf­fic, if at all, makes sense. Grab Philippines coun­try head Brian Cu brought up the idea while in Cebu last week, when he also pointed out how chal­leng­ing it is for reg­u­la­tors to “bal­ance the re­quire­ments of these new tech­nolo­gies with the ex­ist­ing frame­work of the gov­ern­ment.”

In­for­ma­tion from such a study could help the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, its Land Trans­porta­tion Fran­chis­ing and Reg­u­la­tory Board, Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and High­ways, and local gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials im­prove both the in­fra­struc­ture and reg­u­la­tions that would make our daily rides bet­ter.

For reg­u­la­tors try­ing to catch up to in­no­va­tions and dis­rup­tions in trans­port ser­vices, the In­ter­na­tional Trans­port Fo­rum of the OECD shared this ad­vice, among oth­ers: “Em­brace data-led reg­u­la­tion to im­prove so­ci­etal out­comes.”

We can all agree that safer, quicker rides from more ac­count­able providers are de­sir­able out­comes. Do con­sumer trans­port apps like Grab and Uber help com­mu­ni­ties at­tain these out­comes? These com­pa­nies and the com­muters who de­pend on them need the data to per­suade pol­i­cy­mak­ers and reg­u­la­tors.

The City of New York, for ex­am­ple, found some good news in a study re­leased in Jan­uary 2016: it learned that plat­form-based trans­porta­tion ser­vices have not made its cen­tral busi­ness district more con­gested. But it also dis­cov­ered pro­jec­tions that a rapid shift to these ser­vices would, without reg­u­la­tion, re­duce the rev­enue the city needs to run its sub­way and bus sys­tems ef­fec­tively.

Some­time in April 2016, The World Bank an­nounced that Grab would share real-time data that will help au­thor­i­ties “bet­ter man­age traf­fic flows on the streets of Metro Manila and Cebu City.” That was sup­posed to in­clude sta­tis­tics on in­ter­sec­tion de­lays, speeds, travel times, and high-risk ar­eas for ac­ci­dents. Did that OpenTraf­fic ini­tia­tive move ahead or did it get stalled with the change in the na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion?

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