The jeepney gets a modern Twist
by FFE PH News staff
Bright white body and quiet engine, equipped with WIFI, CCTV camera and GPS – when they ply their route, you won’t believe they were actually jeepneys.
The COMET (City Optimized Managed Electric Transport) is lithium battery-operated shuttle service that will soon be a common sight in the metro. The 20-seater shuttle was designed by American company Global Electric Transport Ltd. (GET), and is set to be the future of the clunky and noisy jeepney.
54-year-old Domingo Rivera is among the first 64 jeepney drivers to finish their training for the maiden fleet of COMETs, and he is convinced the new e-shuttle will change his life.
Rivera used to suffer from tough competition, heat, air pollution and fatigue just to earn a living through the jeepney. For all his hard work he only takes home Php500 a day, which he tries to divide equally to feed and send his 4 kids to school.
With COMET, Rivera and jeepney drivers in the same plight may save 30% in diesel. They can also be relieved of the hidden costs of maintaining a jeepney, which has a sub-standard engine and a crude brake system. The COMET is 50% more efficient, has less parts, consumes less fluids and is 3,500 pounds lighter than the conventional jeepney.
With zero emissions, the COMET also helps keep the air clean for both driver and passengers. According to a World Bank study, jeepney drivers are the main victims of air pollution in Metro Manila, making them susceptible to pulmonary tuberculosis and pulmonary diseases.
The transport and payout system of COMET is also designed to prevent competition among drivers. GET director for communication Armi Consunji said that COMET drivers’ profits are pooled together and divided equally, then paid out as a monthly salary.
The director added ‘if they meet the monthly target for passengers, all of them get a bonus. We think of it as a shared tip.’ In addition, drivers will be covered by PhilHealth, PagIBIG, and SSS (Social Security System). COMET drivers will also benefit from better working conditions as they only need to work 10 hours a day, 4-6 hours less than conventional jeepney drivers.
‘The solution has come,’ said jeepney association Pasang Masda president Robert ‘Ka Obet’ Martin. GET and Pasang Masda are in talks to shift 4,000 of 15,000 Metro Manila jeepney drivers to COMET by the end of 2014.
During the graduation ceremony of the first batch of COMET drivers, Rivera shouted ‘Walang iwanan [no one gets left behind]!’ The 5-Saturday workshop co-sponsored by community development foundation Gawad Kalinga not only covered the technical aspects of driving a COMET. The drivers were also taught work ethics, road discipline, courtesy, honesty and responsibility towards passengers and other motorists.
Jeepney driver Jommel Fortuna said in Filipino ‘With the jeep, life is a rat race. We are like beggars. But here, we look like celebrities. All eyes are on us. We are given some dignity.’
The first 30 COMET e-shuttles will roll out in January 2014. They will connect SM North EDSA in Quezon City and SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City through Quezon Avenue, University of the Philippines Diliman, Katipunan Avenue, Libis and Ortigas.