Make EDSA bus system rational
It was truly pathetic to see all those buses clogging the yellow lanes during MMDA’s traffic experiment. It showed the problem I have written about time and again: there are too many buses on EDSA.
Make EDSA bus system rational
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2019 - 12:00am

It was truly pathetic to see all those buses clogging the yellow lanes during MMDA’s traffic experiment. It showed the problem I have written about time and again: there are too many buses on EDSA.

No, I am not being biased for cars. I am told there are studies with DOTr and MMDA that concluded only half the number of buses now on EDSA are needed. Right now, it is free for all.

In addition to too many franchised buses on the road, there are the so called “colorums.” My colleague, Cito Beltran went out there and saw for himself what the problem is:

“I actually stood by the service road at EDSA – Cubao from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, taking photos and videos of the city buses that practically turned the service road into their own private terminal, only moving when there were no more passengers to scoop up.

“I observed that almost all the city buses that passed by were only 30 percent full. If the yellow lane turned into a parking lot last week it is simply because there are too many buses, especially during off-peak or non-rush hours.”

Transport expert Rene Santiago told Cito in his TV interview program “Agenda” that with efficient management using network technology, we only need half the number of those EDSA buses. 

Santiago said the revenue potential of all EDSA bus operators had declined… from a 220 km per day revenue run to just about 150-160 km per day. Traffic congestion is killing the operators and those poor bus drivers.

No wonder the operators are now willing to consolidate.

A study done in 2006, led by Santiago recommended a reduction of routes from 35 to 16 or to eight. The study determined a fleet requirement of 1,840 units – with 500 units dedicated to a special EDSA Beltway route from Baclaran to Monumento. 

Also, route rationalization would assure everyone of sufficient trips of buses when needed and no more cut throat competition. There will also be savings to operators in terms of common parts and fuel. A source told me the operators are also willing to give salaries to their drivers.

Before the Duterte team took office, we suggested granting DOTr emergency power not so much to skip bidding rules, but to deal with the politically well-connected bus operators. We were afraid DOTr will be slapped TROs if they tried to fix the existing franchise system.

But lo and behold! It is the operators who now want reform. The big question is: why isn’t DOTr and LTFRB  jumping on the opportunity right away? Unless they do, EDSA traffic will remain horrible.

As a result, the poor guys at MMDA are forced to repeat stupid experiments that already failed just to show they are doing something. All along, the first steps towards a solution had never been in their hands, but in the ballpark of DOTr and LTFRB.

The first step is to reduce the volume, not by by banning provincial buses, but by dealing with the excess number of city buses… a job that belongs to LTFRB.

We often cite an old JICA estimate of P3.5 billion a day that is lost due to traffic congestion. It is most likely a lot more by now. And that does not count the cost to our own health because longer commute times in hellish traffic exposes us longer to noxious motor vehicle fumes, not to mention getting frayed nerves.

MMDA has constantly reminded us of the enormity of the challenge: there are around 402,000 vehicles on EDSA every day. This is about two times higher than EDSA’s carrying capacity of 200,000 vehicles per day.

As the yearend holiday season approaches, an additional 20 percent vehicle increase can be expected on the 23-kilometer EDSA. Last year, the average speed along EDSA was measured at 19.30 kilometers per hour during the Christmas holiday season.

If the MRT is able to move people faster and more comfortably, perhaps so many cars could be taken out of EDSA. People drive only because they have to. Given the option of public transportation, I am sure people will choose it.

If Stage 3 of the San Miguel Skyway project hadn’t been delayed a couple of years by right of way issues, it is also claimed it could take 50 percent of current EDSA vehicle load. The latest I heard is that there are still outstanding ROW problems, contrary to the claims of the DPWH secretary.

The thing is… EDSA needs the MRT and an efficient bus system working together. DOTr could have also pursued the EDSA BRT proposal.

But they shelved the EDSA BRT, even if that was already approved by the NEDA board with a loan agreement from ADB in place. That would have led to bus consolidation and taken out the bus problem as we know it now.

Together with MMDA and the LTFRB, a source in DOTr told me, they already made a study with the help of the Swedish embassy.

“We had several simulation and trial runs which we did on Sundays. It works. Same travel time as the MRT, but longer distance as it would make the turn at MOA and Monumento.

“Aside from attaining faster EDSA travel speed for both private vehicles and buses, we would reduce the number of buses down to 1200 from the present 4000+. Also, faster and cheaper to implement.”

The good news is… from what I hear, DOTr is now seriously considering it again.

But give credit to DOTr for the Point-to-Point buses. It wasn’t a new idea, the Imelda-era Love Buses being the original P-to-Ps, but it is a solution. Hopefully it will encourage more car owners to leave their cars at home. Credit entrepreneurs like Bert Lina who are risking money on it.

The next move to make things better on EDSA belongs to DOTr and LTFRB not MMDA. Simple as that.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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