Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The value of an urban PMV service

TODAY would be exactly three weeks from the last small man issue and writing this one was a struggle. I was in a state of what they call 'writer's hibernation'.
Not that I ran out of words to write but I was struggling to find that place and time to write. Not in the literal sense but an environment of total serenity. There must be total peace of mind to allow the writer to go into a trance.

This is when the five senses are in direct intercourse with the sixth sense liberating you to go forward and backward in time. Different worlds are seen in oneness.

I am actually writing this on one of the empty sick-beds at Port Moresby General Hospital's Ward 4A at 1:30am. The sick are all around me and the quietness is so tranquil. Talk about the crying and wailings taking place right below where I sit, at Accident & Emergency and the layout is a stone's throw away, are now more like distant kundu drums beating.

The invisible buses that bulldoze around picking up the ghosts must be outside now.
My wife was diagnosed with severe malaria so we have to spend some nights at the Accident & Emergency Ward. While there, due to her condition, she asked me if we were on a bus; one of those buses Powes Parkop brought up form Queensland, Australia.

She was hallucinating. At that instant my memory went back to a film I saw about a ghost-bus that bulldozes around picking up the spirit of the dead. Or maybe what she saw was the perfect picture of urban public motor vehicle (PMV) transport.

Imaginations without being induced by drugs are perfect pictures of a game plan that is only fifty per cent achieved. The next fifty per cent is the actual implementation to materialise this plan, otherwise it is only a dream.

Talking about urban PMV bus services, those buses that run around towns and cities picking up and dropping off commuters may sound horrific given the many bad practices that associate with this system of transportation. Careless, reckless driving, filthy unkempt driver and the crew, modified unusable seats, route incompletion drivers, drivers that create their own bus stops, unlicensed drivers and crews, unregistered buses without road safety stickers, and the list goes on. It has kind of become a norm.

Public transport is a public utility or infrastructure for public consumption. Those who have been given this business opportunity to render this service should go by the books. Not use this opportunity to hold the public at ransom and feel big for nothing. Otherwise, it is easy as 1, 2, 3 for the town authority to put everyone out of business and run its own fleet of buses to service the immense need of the majority urban dwellers.

People who return from overseas trips reminisce the admiration they have of how near perfect the transportation system in that place they visited and wish ours was like that. Simple things like queuing up for first-come first-serve basis arrangement to get into the buses rather than rushing here and there like schools of fish. Ticketing is another option that can make things better.

The recent move by the NCD Governor, Powes Parkop in securing 10 40-seater buses from Queensland, Australia, is a very commendable move. The move revolutionises the current monopolistic bus service we have in the city. This is where a particular ethnic group of bus owners, with one-too-many from other ethnicities following suit, makes life totally miserable for commuters.

Again the Governor is not blind to instantly phase out the existing bus service but compliment what we already have with the 10-new buses for convenience in especially getting to work on time.

It does help in defeating our PNG-time syndrome. The existing bus service is now expected to tow the line in completing their routes and ensuring that their service is top rate or else it is only better we take our buses back to our hamlets. Thumbs up, Governor!

What I am writing is not a first of its kind of outcry by the public on how disgusting the current urban PMV bus service is. It is prevalent in Port Moresby and other centres who also have a similar service can share the grievances.

Many of us sigh away with our hearts heavy and curse the driver and his lieutenant of a time when their actions will haunt them. We can't wait any longer to see these bush-thinking drivers, who maybe acting on the owner's advice, being given a run for their money.

Urban PMV transportation system is a feature of urbanisation or industrialisation. Its effectiveness, conveniences, reliability, outlook and the one that meets customer demand portrays the state of urbanisation in that particular place. Without an urban PMV transportation system that meets the mentioned criterions it is only befitting to downgrade a place from being a city to a town. Let us not kid ourselves.

Talking about outlook, the reality could only be skin deep. Take a look inside the bus and you can wonder what the authorities like Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited (MVIL), Transport Department, town authorities and the like have been up to. My opinion is none of these authorities know who is responsible because there are just too many authorities with ambiguous role overlaps causing all these debacles.
Why can't we put these PMV owners on notice and tell them to perform or ship out. Seats being unfit for human use, exhaust pipes puffing out excessive smoke, unclean interior are defiance to standards in urban PMV transportation system.
We are no longer living in the plantation era of 'yes boss, yes master'. Our filthy habits from home should be kept where they belong. One or two people cannot hold our lives at ransom and determine how things should be done in this respect.

In emphasising urban PMV transportation system which services the bulk of the urban commuters, we are directly helping in minimising the number of vehicles on the road, hence reducing carbon monoxide emission into the ozone layer. Carbon monoxide is hazardous to the ozone layer that is having direct effect on our weather patterns, which is causing climate change. So it we can help in a little way to prolong life on earth then vehicle ownership or having lesser number of vehicles on the road at any one time is one way.

 Fossil fuel is a non-renewable resource and reducing its consumption helps in slowing down the extraction rate. It is surely depleting faster than the thousands of years it took to fossilise. How soon the world commercialises the use of a substitute to power vehicles is a cause for concern. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road through emphasis of public transport does help in the cause.

I believe not many of us will want to own cars if there is a very reliable urban PMV transport system. One reason people are buying cars is because the need to go to work on time after school drop offs and such is not met by the public transport. So any modern day elite must be in the rat-race regardless of the hefty daily bills that one encounters, like fuel, spare parts. Give this understanding a crazy thought in imposing law in determining vehicle ownership will have to wait until our urban PMV transport system is appreciated by all.

For those in the nation's capital, visionary leaders like Powes Parkop are gifts from God. We all must appreciate and take ownership of the 10-new 40-seater buses and adhere to the regulations put in place to make life interesting for one another.

Comments to pohromo@hotmail.com. Keep reading your Chronicle for our next Small Man Issue "When sin is not sin."

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