Fast Times gives you the run-down on how to use Transportation Vehicle Network Services
Multinational transport companies Uber and GrabTaxi (mother company of GrabCar) have been in the news recently for agreeing to apply for accreditation with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
This is because of a series of memorandum circulars released in May this year, where LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez stipulated the guidelines for a new public-utility vehicle category: the Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS). This is considered landmark legislation worldwide since the Philippines is the first country to require the vehicles and drivers of such companies to comply with government standards.
But the questions in many commuters’ minds are: Why weren’t they accredited in the first place? And are they better to use now that they are now accredited?
In other words, are Uber and GrabCar now truly viable commuting options?
Understanding ride-sharing apps
Before anything else, we need to take a look at how these companies work.
Uber and GrabCar are online-based, transportation network companies (TNCs) that operate like traditional taxi firms. They hire drivers who pick up passengers and drop them off at their requested destination.
But the major differences are: passengers must download a smartphone application and have mobile Internet in order to get real-time updates of available vehicles, fares and routes; passengers can only hire vehicles through the app, not by flagging them down; and the drivers usually operate their own vehicles, without holding a professional driver’s license or an LTFRB franchise.
The second and third characteristics are what got a lot of flak from franchised taxi drivers, who argued that they were losing business to these companies and that it was unfair that these companies weren’t burdened with the government regulations that they must comply with.
To address these issues, the LTFRB stepped in by requiring TNCs to obtain franchises to operate in the country.
How to use them
As mentioned earlier, all you need is a smartphone with a mobile Internet connection. The Uber app is available on Google Play, App Store and Windows Phone Store, while the GrabTaxi app is available on Google Play, App Store and Blackberry World.
Once you have the app, all you need to do is open it (Uber requires signing into your own account), set your pick-up and drop-off points, see your computed fare, book the ride and wait for the car to arrive. You can also choose the type of car you want to ride, with both companies offering standard/budget (UberX and GrabCar) and premium (UberBlack and GrabCar+) vehicles.
How much are they
TNVS cars have a base fare (equivalent to the flagdown rate of regular taxis), a per-minute rate (computed when the vehicle is stopped) and a per-kilometer rate. Payments are usually done via debit or credit card (although GrabCar drivers accept cash).
The handy chart below shows a comparison of the companies’ rates, alongside those of regular taxis:
*The company says it may impose Rush Hour Rates of up to twice the standard rates during peak hours.
Things to remember
So now that you know how to use ride-sharing apps and how much to shell out for every trip, here are some other things you need to know:
TNVS vehicles may not pick up and/or drop off passengers at taxi terminals;
TNVS vehicles can carry up to seven passengers, but may only do so if the car is designed for it (Asian utility vehicles [AUVs], Sport utility vehicles [SUVs], vans, etc);
TNVS vehicles must display markings of their respective companies when they are on duty;
TNVS drivers must hold professional driver’s licenses and display their identification cards to passengers at all times;
Drivers are also not allowed to change routes without the express consent of the passenger;
Passengers are not allowed to carry and/or transport alcoholic beverages unless these are still in the original, sealed packaging;
Unless authorized by airport management, TNVS vehicles are prohibited from getting passengers at airports. Until these cars are certified, you’ll have to stick to the airport taxis; and
Always remember: Caveat emptor. But now that TNCs are government-accredited, you can report violations to concerned government agencies (like the LTFRB), who have the power to punish errant operators and drivers.