Based on my experience in Hiroshima, Japan, where we spent some time learning the ropes of living in a developed country with our kid who was going to be a resident under a student visa for a few years, allow me to demonstrate how the bus service to ride works in a country with a properly designed and working public transport system.
First, after having picked your destination, the main thing is that you can easily figure out the stop, time, and number of the bus/tram you will be taking. Even for those of us who had been there only a few days, this information is easily available on Google maps or route charts.
With that in mind, prepare your mode of payment, be it tap card or cash, and then walk to the stop and be there before the ride is scheduled. Note that there are no trisikads or tricycles available to ferry your lazy ass directly to the bus stop, so you will have to use your legs properly.
Because this was Japan, the ride will arrive more or less on time. It will stop just to allow passengers to embark/disembark and will not wait until it is full because it is on a strict schedule. So, if it is expected to arrive at 10:10am, it will be there at that time. I know, right… absolutely magical.
When the bus arrives, passengers disembark at the front, and embarkation will be at the middle door. If there are others waiting, you will all line up properly and enter accordingly. Upon getting on the bus, those with a card will tap in, while those who don’t will get a ticket stub from a dispenser by the door. The ticket stub will indicate the number of the stop, which will help you determine how much to pay when you get off later. Those tapping in and out will have the fare automatically debited upon tapping out.
This part is simple: ride the bus until it is time to disembark at your designated bus stop. Note that pressing the stop button will not make the bus stop anytime/anywhere, jeepney style. Clinking a coin on a metal railing or knocking on the ceiling will not help either. Pressing that button alerts the driver that a passenger intends to get off at the next stop. Note that because the bus runs on a schedule, you will arrive at more or less the published ETA, so you can actually count on their schedule, and not be subject to the whims of a vehicle that doesn’t abide by any kind of system.
If you are going to pay in cash, prepare the exact change, because there is no conductor, only a driver, an automated payment machine, and the honesty system. If you don’t have change, there is a change machine near the exit, which accepts JPY1000 bills and all of the bigger denominated coins, and spits out change so you can pay the proper fare without problems.
Once your stop is up, take a look at the ticket stub and the monitor to see how much is the fare. The number on the stub corresponds to a number on the monitor, which also indicates the corresponding fare. The minimum fare is JPY220 (around PHP88 in current exchange rate). The exit is at the front only, and payment is beside the driver. Those who use tap cards simply tap out, while those paying in cash drop their coins in the automatic cash counting machine. The driver usually only checks if you put in at least the minimum fare, so it is an honesty system, although I reckon that if you look dodgy, they might ask to see your ticket stub to confirm the correctness of the fare.
Because they have an efficient and effective system in place, you will step off the bus at more or less the time you expect to, so it is actually possible to plan your day around the consistency of the bus or tram schedule.
Note that their system is not particularly modern or high tech. I don’t even think the buses are electric yet, they don’t hover, there is still a driver, and there is no teleportation. They still issue ticket stubs and accept coins as payment. You can’t even pay with a credit card tap ala Singapore. The drivers are usually middle-aged guys.
They aren’t even oblivious enough to call what they have a “modern bus,” but what they have is a system that works properly and seamlessly.
They also have a tram system that is more or less similar to the bus, except that it runs on tracks, can carry more people, has a shorter and less flexible route with a flat rate of JPY220. There is no subway or elevated metro rail.
I chose to describe the bus riding experience in Hiroshima, which is how my kid gets around now that he lives there, safely, efficiently, with no need for a car or taxi, because if you come to think of it, if we strip it down to the basics, we already have 85% of what we need in place: large vehicles on wheels with a set route and a driver, for use by the public. The difference is that they have a system in place and on our end, despite government forced the private sector to “invest” billions on so-called “modern” jeepneys, there is still no system in place to make our public transportation better than the chaotic, overcrowded and unpredictable mess Filipinos have to deal with every day of our lives.
After experiencing how a first-world public transportation system works, not as a tourist, but as someone preparing to be a resident, it has become clear that until the people who can do something about it cough up the political will to power through the expected complaints and criticism that come with change, and establish a real public transport system that works for everybody, our “modern” jeepney is nothing but a billion-peso consuelo-de-bobo scam.*