Is the use of informal public transport modes in developing countries habitual? An empirical study in Davao City, Philippines

Document Type


Publication Date



The presence of unique kinds of public transportation often described as informal characterizes many cities in developing countries. As often noted, people in the lower income categories are usually the ones who rely on informal public transport services. In the Philippines, one can observed that an average Filipino uses door-to-door transport services regularly. This starts from stepping out of the house, walking several paces (if at all), hailing a “pedicab” (bicycle with a side-cab) or tricycle (motorcycle with side-cab), to riding a public utility jeepney (PUJs) or bus, getting-off, hopping on to another “pedicab or “tricycle”, and getting transported right to the door of final destination. Using Davao City, Philippines as the case study area, the paper tries to explore the concept of habit and dependency on the different road-based public transport modes based on both theories of rational behavior and planned behavior. Empirical results using structural analysis show the strong public transport dependency to PUJs and tricycles where half of the household population have vehicles. It confirms the role of rational behavior where socio-economic factors affect modal decision. Likewise, the study also shows interesting findings wherein the quality of service evaluation played a direct role in the perceived dependency to formal modes (buses, taxis) and informal mode (such as motorcycle taxis or MC taxis) but an indirect role in the actual use of the mode. The study shows the relationship of perceived reliance vis-à-vis trip recall using indigenous modes (PUJs, tricycles) and supports the theory that suggests the role of habits and “mere exposure” effect. As noted in many related studies, it is not easy to alter habits. This indicator is validated by the actual use of public transport modes especially tricycles and MC taxis for short-distance trips as well as how one views own dependency vis-à-vis how the same individual sees his/her household and community dependency to a certain public transport mode. These findings suggest the need to understand Filipino commuter's psychology and a careful review and understanding of the concept of sustainability, infrastructure needs, seamless multi-modal connections and over-all quality of service given limited economic support in a context of an emerging city in a developing country.