The response of bus operators to the latest attempt to ease traffic along Metro Manila’s busiest thoroughfare was typically undisciplined and irresponsible. On the first day of the week, thousands of commuters were stranded yesterday after bus operators and drivers staged a wildcat strike in protest over their inclusion in the number coding traffic reduction scheme along EDSA.
It looked like Black Friday on EDSA as the buses disappeared from the avenue. Their absence emphasized just how big a factor they play in traffic congestion along EDSA. And it showed why the Metro Manila Development Authority decided to include the buses in the traffic reduction scheme based on the last number in license plates, which covers all other vehicles.
The inclusion is not without merit. One look at the buses hogging almost all the lanes of EDSA at every major stop and turning the thoroughfare into their terminal will show that there are simply too many buses competing for passengers. Those leisurely waits at every bus stop and the slow drive along EDSA account for the immense popularity of the Metro Rail Transit, which is faster and more efficient and has a set schedule of departure and arrival at every stop. A similar schedule has been proposed for buses, but operators have long resisted it, preferring the anything-goes status quo.
The inclusion of buses in the number coding scheme on EDSA led to yesterday’s wildcat strike. It could not have been staged without the imprimatur of bus operators, who are mostly affluent and are among the most irresponsible businessmen in this country. Most of their buses pollute the air due to poor maintenance, their drivers often defy traffic rules and bribe traffic cops, and now they stage a collective tantrum at the expense of the public in an attempt to force the MMDA to its knees.
The best response to this blackmail is to revoke the franchises of the bus operators. Yesterday’s strike caught authorities by surprise, but today’s holiday should be used as an opportunity for a better response in case bus operators and drivers alike want to continue losing their daily earnings. The strike should also galvanize the government to develop a more efficient system of mass transportation in the nation’s main region. If most Metro Manila residents believe using their own vehicle is a necessity, it is because of the inefficiency of the mass transport system.