Journey to Taft Ave.: Lasallian commuter woes rush in as F2F classes near

As fares hike and student commuters influx, transportation becomes a main concern as Lasallians return to campus.

As pandemic restrictions continuously loosen, the University’s doors are finally set to welcome the Lasallian community back on campus. Despite this being widely anticipated, the slated widening of face-to-face class plans for Term 1 of Academic Year (AY) 2022-2023 leave commuters of the student body with concerns, questions, and worries regarding the reliability of public transportation. Established price hikes, rising gas prices, and crowded vehicles and streets are expected to put Lasallian commuters through a tough trip. 

To aid in this endeavor, the University currently pushes for policies and programs to improve the transportation operations it manages and to ensure student preparedness in attending on-site classes.

Heeding the calls

For student commuters John Chavitt Cariño (III, OSDM), Zanyah Gahol (I, LGL), Dan* (I, CSE), and Leann* (I, CSE), leniency and consideration from the University would help them most, especially in terms of class times. To them, it would help if classes were not too early and not too late to give time for traveling. Other students also note that retaining pure online classes would be of great help to others who have trouble commuting or are opting not to attend classes on campus for now.

The students also emphasize that the University administration can assist DLSU’s commuters by expanding the routes covered by P2P shuttle operations to accommodate more students and to lessen their commuting woes. In line with this, the Support Services Office of the Manila Campus released a survey through a Help Desk Announcement (HDA) on July 4 regarding the schedule of N. Dela Rosa Liner’s Alabang Town Center (ATC)-Robinsons Place Ermita P2P bus and the possible lobbying of other suggested routes.

Manila Campus Support Services Office Director Katherine Arboleda assures students that their office is already cooperating with the Supply Chain Management Office for the accreditation of shuttle service providers for the routes most voted for in the given survey. Arboleda shares that their office is also currently coordinating with N. Dela Rosa Liner regarding new P2P bus schedules.

“We summarized the survey and informed [and] coordinated with N. Dela Rosa [Liner] the proposed schedule of the ATC [to and from] Robinsons Ermita P2P starting this September. However, they are yet to respond to us on the final schedule,” Arboleda discloses.

Laguna Campus Support Services Unit (SSU) also released an HDA last August 4, stating that shuttle lines will be operational starting September 5 as in-person classes begin.

Students would need to reserve a slot in the designated Google Form for a seat in the shuttle service and are expected to present their school identification card—or their enrollment assessment form if the former is not available—on the day of the trip. A two-week suspension shall be imposed on those who fail to show up on their reservation date.

On August 24, the University announced that it will offer paid shuttle services to the Manila Campus for the upcoming term, with two-way routes from across Metro Manila, in Laguna, and in Cavite. It will be available to both students and employees starting next term, although limited in slots, with a pre-registration timeframe of just two days.

Compounding factors

Although there is continuing assistance from the University, woes and struggles still remain. Cariño identifies traffic as the number one problem for commuters. A 30-minute travel time can turn into an hour or longer solely because of traffic.

Waiting in line to get on trains, enduring cramped spaces, and rushing along with commuters are a few of the many everyday encounters when taking public transportation. Residing in cities near the University is an advantage, but dealing with the traffic of Metro Manila cancels out this benefit.

Public transportation is the cheaper option for Filipinos, hence the hordes of passengers every day. Dan sees the gas price hikes as “too much to handle” should driving become an option, thus making him choose to commute instead.

Meanwhile, Cariño mentions the crowd of people as another scenario that adds to the commuter struggle. “They’re always in a rush, so I also have to be in a rush. I have to match their energy,” he illustrates.

While this bustling transportation setting in Metro Manila is already a familiar scenario for Cariño who had firsthand experience commuting to DLSU pre-pandemic, a lot of younger students are yet to get used to the impending horrors of traveling to and from the campus.

Familiarizing Manila commute

Gahol, Dan, and Leann—all freshmen who have relatively fewer experiences commuting along Manila compared to Cariño—express that they still have a lot to learn about commuting to Taft, especially now that global health concerns and rising commodity prices are continuously reshaping the transportation sector.

Gahol expresses that the lack of P2P transportation options is her biggest concern. Attempting to remedy this, Gahol plans to discover cost- and time-efficient ways to commute from Parañaque. “I intend to travel more to Manila before the classes begin [in] September [to try different routes and travel times],” she attests.

Meanwhile, Dan cites time management and class schedules to be his biggest concerns in the coming term as his previous travels were less time-bound. He emphasizes concerns about making it on time for class, waiting long hours for succeeding classes, and catching trips on the way home.

On the other hand, Leann is concerned about the availability of public transportation modes from Pasig that would take her to DLSU, especially during rush hour. Besides that, she mentions that the struggles do not end with getting a jeepney ride as she would have to worry about getting caught in heavy traffic on the way to Taft.

Flawed but practical

Despite key concerns about commuting, the interviewees collectively agree that it still is their best option as it is more cost-efficient than spending on fuel or renting a living space near campus. “Face-to-face [classes are held] only three days a week. [Personally, there is] no point in renting [a unit],” Leann explains.  

Contrastingly, Raina (I, HUM-BIO)—who currently resides outside the National Capital Region—believes that commuting is more burdensome than renting a unit nearby. “I chose to live near the campus so I won’t have to face the challenges of commuting, especially since I’m not really that accustomed to it,” she shares.

As such, the interviewees who opt to commute acknowledge having no choice but to wake up one to two hours earlier than class hours to arrive on time for their courses. “I have to plan on how I [will] commute,” Dan shares, emphasizing that he will have to focus on working around time.

With recent crises and events causing hikes in fare prices, students also expect transportation expenses to increase along with the costs of their other daily needs. This poses a concern to student commuters who primarily use their allowance for all their expenses. Cariño even recalls that half of his daily allowance during in-person classes then went to transportation costs.

Some students suggest keeping classes purely online as it helps in taking away the inconvenience of commuting, especially for those residing far from the vicinity of the University.

But as face-to-face classes are approaching, Cariño points out the extent of the capabilities of DLSU. “At the end of the day, the University can only do so much. This problem is at the hands of the government to solve,” he stresses.

*Names in asterisks are pseudonyms.

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