Give provincial bus ban a chance: MMDA eyes panacea to EDSA traffic mess

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2019 12:15 PM | Updated as of Aug 13 2019 03:27 PM

Buses line up at the yellow lanes, except for P2P buses, along EDSA in Quezon City on August 7, 2019. The MMDA called off the dry run for the provincial bus ban along EDSA after volunteer bus companies pulled off from participating, amid a court order halting full application of the proposed ban. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Tuesday proposed several solutions and appealed for understanding from the public as it seeks to decongest EDSA by banning provincial buses along Metro Manila’s busiest thoroughfare.

The MMDA earlier drew flak after it strictly enforced the yellow lane policy in conjunction with the dry run of its provincial bus ban last week, leaving many passengers stuck in traffic for hours.

MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said the idea of the dry run was to rid EDSA of some 3,400 provincial buses, which would have to drop their passengers off interim bus terminals located in the outskirts of the capital.

He said the plan to put up integrated terminals was firmed up during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III and was just continued by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. So far, only one bus terminal in Parañaque has been operational.

"We are not experimenting. Panahon pa ni PNoy (Aquino), naglabas na sila ng (they launched) integrated terminal," Garcia said in a Senate hearing.

Many bus firms did not join the dry run because of a preliminary injunction issued by a Quezon City court on the bus ban. This, Garcia said, rendered the dry run ineffective.

“If we remove half of those [buses] sa EDSA, iyang mga bus na iyan kaya nating i-schedule natin kasi maluwag na,” Garcia said.

(If we remove half of those buses along EDSA, we can schedule the flow of the other buses because the road would be decongested.)

“[On] paper, the way I present it, maganda sa dokumento, but how can we know if it’s effective kung di natin ida-dry run? How can we give a chance sa mga ganitong policy na ang iniisip natin yung mga commuters?”

(On paper it is good, but how can we know if it’s effective if we won’t do a dry run? How can we give a chance to these kinds of policies which have the commuters in mind?)

Garcia argued that provincial buses cause so much traffic along EDSA, as their passengers make bus terminals the pick-up point for their respective destinations. He added many bus firms’ terminals are not capable of handling their respective bus units, forcing some to park in arterial roads leading to EDSA.

Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, said while she lauds MMDA’s effort at finding solutions for the traffic in Metro Manila, the bus ban was “not a substitute for a rational, consulted and evidence-based policymaking.”

‘PRO-POOR’

Various groups have questioned the legality of the traffic scheme before the Supreme Court, claiming the MMDA does not have the authority to ban provincial buses along EDSA as the agency does not have legislative nor police powers.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte and Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin said the MMDA must consider allowing provincial buses to enter EDSA at least during non-peak hours.

“I don’t see any logic in implementing the said policy. If you will allow the provincial buses to peacefully proceed on those hours, you don’t need to implement this provincial bus ban,” he said.

Both Villafuerte and Garbin also questioned the difference between provincial buses dropping off passengers on EDSA and point-to-point buses ferrying passengers from the integrated terminals to EDSA.

Forcing bus passengers to transfer to another bus just to reach EDSA would cause inconvenience and probably increase their travel time, Garbin added.

Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares said the MMDA policy appears to favor cars which occupy more space but carry fewer passengers compared to buses.

Garcia said of the 380,000 vehicles passing through EDSA daily, only 6,800 are city and provincial buses.

In order for cars to have an average speed of 20-30 kilometers per hour, the total number of cars plying the busy thoroughfare must be cut in half, he said.

To address the chaos along EDSA, Garcia said the MMDA is proposing to overhaul the major thoroughfare’s bus loading and unloading areas as well as its lane spacing.

He said EDSA sidewalks would be fenced and the three lanes allotted to private vehicles be made 2.8 meters wide. The two outer bus lanes, would be made 3.2 meters wide, Garcia said, while a 1.8-meter motorcycle lane would also be provided.

Jedd Ugay of AltMobility PH, a pro-commuter group, said focus must be shifted to the experience of commuters, who comprise majority of road users.

“We are focusing too much on vehicle travel time, which is just one half of the picture. We should look at the commuter experience. If we only look at traffic, our policies would be short-sighted,” Ugay said.

Ugay said his group has submitted a proposed bill on commuters rights which would guarantee their convenience and safety.

The Philippine capital’s traffic congestion costs the country P3.5 billion daily, a 2017 data from the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed. This could rise to P5.4 billion by 2035 if no interventions are made.