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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Paratransit in Southeast Asia: A Market Response to Poor Roads?

  • Author(s): Cervero, Robert
  • et al.

Southeast Asia's paratransit sector has become a vital source of mobility in many cities. Run by private operators, generally under free market conditions, paratransit vehicles maneuver into areas that standard buses cannot serve and provide frequent door-to-door service, at a profit. Yet despite past successes, pressure is mounting to greatly restrict or even ban paratransit vehicles from many cities, replacing ecaks, bajajs, tuktuks, microbuses, minibuses, and jeepneys with large buses operated by public monopolies. While it is well known that paratransit provides low performance services tailored to what poor people can pay, an often overlooked benefit is that it compensates for the inadequacies of many roads in Southeast Asian Cities. This paper empirically tests the extent to which mixes of paratransit fleets and services have evolved so as to adapt to the low capacity, poorly interconnected road systems in this part of the world. Using data for eight of Southeast Asia's largest cities, it is found that the greatest variety of paratransit modes, both in terms of types and seating capacities, generally exists in the places with the least amount of road capacity per capital and a poor road hierarchy. The paper concludes that any retrenchment in paratransit's role in Southeast Asian cities should be governed by market conditions rather than government fiat.

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