Provincial bus ban in Metro Manila: Ingenuity or stupidity?

Those who came back from the provinces after the Holy Week were (un)welcomed with additional commuting time and vehicle transfers in Metro Manila. Provincial buses were banned in loading and unloading passengers in EDSA, and a dry run of unloading passengers from the the south to Sta. Rosa, Laguna and from the north to Valenzuela City was implemented. This increased not only travel time but also the transportation costs. The dry run will become final once Metro Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA’s) Regulation No. 19-002 urging all mayors of the National Capital Region to prohibit or revoke the issuance of business permits to all public utility bus terminals and operators along EDSA is implemented.

MMDA admitted, however, that provincial buses only cause 5% of Manila’s traffic. Ironically, removing this 5% will only result to an additional traffic of 15% to 20% — something like discarding a bag of trash to save a room for four more. Commuters with cars only bring their vehicles either for display, for convenience or both. But spending a lot for gas and parking fees, and wasting time in traffic and in looking for parking space is usually more expensive than commuting. Riding buses is not only cost effective but also convenient — at some point, it could even mean more time for Facebook. With provincial buses removed, commuters and visitors from the provinces will be forced to bring their cars. The same with the car-owning Manila residents who will be more than obliged to send off their relatives to the terminals in Sta. Rosa and Valenzuela. Imagine an additional 3 or four cars for every provincial bus removed? Traffic management effective, huh?

MMDA says addressing the 5% traffic caused by the provincial buses is starting somewhere rather than doing nothing. True. But creating more troubles to address trouble is not a good way to start with. If MMDA is serious in doing something, it should prioritize the following:

  1. Requesting the Department of Transportation (DOtr), particularly Secretary Art Tugade, for the vision and plans on the transportation system apart from moving the agency’s physical office to Subic. From there, develop strategies that could ease the traffic not only for those who use “wang-wang” and police escorts at the expense of those who cannot afford. Specifically, look into and harmonize DoTr’s vision with the plans toward developing a more efficient and sustainable public transportation system to discourage private vehicles plying the roads. In the first place, who would want to pay higher gas and parking fees except for the Father of TRAIN Law, Mr. Sonny Angara?
  2. Sit down with the top honchos of the MRT and LRT lines 1 and 2 and ask for their plans. For MRT management, ask what is it that they really want to operate — the trains or the augmentation buses? If the latter, then they should just resign and operate a bus rapid transit system (BRT). Use the MRT train tracks for the BRT. Removing these augmentation buses especially during rush hours could ease the traffic by around 3%.
  3. Convene the Manila Mayors and enact a resolution asking a categorical answer on whether or not the Dalian trains are for real. If the trains cannot really operate, why are heads not rolling? If it can operate, let it run. We are all but talks, right Ms. Grace Poe?
  4. Coordinate with DPWH and ask Secretary Mark Villar to strictly implement a “dig-and-fill” construction and repair system — that is, immediately after digging the roads that are being repaired, it should be filled immediately, not a week after, nor a day later but within an hour after the digging is done. In addition, all constructions and repairs should be implemented in strict coordination and consultation with agencies and companies having interests in the road networks including the water, electric and communication companies. What happens is that every stakeholder does the digging at their own pace destroying the newly repaired road surface. Construction in transportation networks is just like lotto — the more you dig, the more inconvenience you’ll get.
  5. Strictly implement a “shape up or ship out policy”. All those who are in the MMDA who are paid to think of solutions should do their job while those who are mandated to be the hands and feet should also perform their roles. If those who are paid to think of solutions will just wait for non-MMDA people to provide everything, there is no reason for these thinkers to stay and receive money. Likewise, while there are good performers in the MMDA, there are still scalawags protecting colorum bus and UV express operators. And worse, there are also those who would not issue tickets to erring bus drivers in exchange for P50. Yes, fifty pesos. Cheap!
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