Thrown under the bus

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Supposedly to help ease traffic in Metro Manila, LTFRB and MMDA have thrown bus riders under the bus, so to speak. It is now more difficult for those living in adjacent provinces to commute to work in Metro Manila.

Over the past week, there have been complaints about a new ban on the entry of provincial buses into Metro Manila. The problem is apparently worse for those coming from the north. At least in the south, they have the PITX where a relatively smooth transfer to a city bus is possible.

In the north, three seems to be some confusion and the poor commuters end up spending more time and money trying to get to destinations in Metro Manila. Here is one letter I received last week that I forwarded to Sec. Art Tugade, but no response yet.

“Thank you again for your last article on transportation challenges. Please allow me to share and ask your intervention to another latest transportation rule to be implemented for provincial buses.

“Yesterday, I went to Victory Liner to get my regular trip from Monumento to Calumpit, Bulacan. To my surprise, there was a long line and I was informed that the trip was suspended because of a new travel ruling: (1) Regular trip is now from Marilao, Bulacan, Arena Bus Terminal. (2) Window trip at Monumento will be implemented – 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“Paano naman kaming mga seniors, PWDs, and children, the “POORS.” And to go to Marilao, how do we get there from Manila?

“The system of traveling from Monumento is just perfect, because it is linked to LRT1. The bus does not pass EDSA anymore, it will exit to C5 then Karuhatan NLEX in just 10 minutes (NO TRAFFIC AT ALL). So why change the present system of buses stationed at Monumento.

“I hope you can ask Mr. Tugade’s help again on this. Thank you po.”

It is clear that neither LTFRB nor MMDA studied this ban very well with the convenience of bus riders in mind. In fact, the two agencies seem to be blaming each other after complaints mounted.

Banning provincial buses had long been proposed to ease traffic along EDSA where most of their terminals are. It should be simple to just manage how they load and unload passengers to make sure they don’t block traffic flow.

The provincial bus passengers have as much right to use Metro Manila streets, specially the national roads like EDSA, as any Metro Manilan. They have also paid national taxes that went into the maintenance of EDSA.

LTFRB and MMDA should make sure there are easy transfer arrangements with city buses to take the passengers to Monumento or elsewhere in the city. The problem is that the big shots at LTFRB and MMDA do not take public buses.

That’s why I have been urging Sec. Art to require transport officials to take public transport so they can have more empathy with the masa who use buses, jeepneys, FX, etc. The tendency to cater to the car riders shows an elitist mindset that only makes the lives of the masa more miserable.

This problem should be addressed once the North Commuter train system is operational. That will take a few more years. In the meantime, our transport officials shouldn’t make commuting more difficult than it already is.

Then there is the matter of proper dispatching of buses. There ought to be a system to allow a smooth transfer from a provincial to a city bus. Otherwise, it is an added inconvenience to bus riders.

Buses from Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite, Laguna and Batangas shouldn’t even be considered provincial buses anymore. These provinces are part of MegaManila and the flow of people and commerce from these areas are important to the economy.

When I was working in Makati, our company dentist lived in Batangas and commuted to work every day. I know of people who live in Pampanga and work in Manila. Why should they be considered second class citizens in the National Capital Region?

I agree with Congressman Joey Salceda (who claims he rides the bus to Bicol regularly) that banning provincial buses “will not solve traffic congestion” along EDSA. He cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority that indicated only around 4,000 provincial buses use Metro Manila’s roads out of a total of 2.8 million vehicles.

“Why pick on probinsyanos to solve Metro Manila traffic? While each bus can carry 50 (people), a car can carry only five,” Salceda said. “MMDA should have instead managed the 800,000 utility vehicles, 400,000 cars, 120,000 trucks, and 1.4 million tricycles fighting for every available space in its streets.”

This problem has persisted for so long now and the fact that it is still a problem speaks of the competence of transport management officials.

EDSA buses

There is this other problem with city buses that LTFRB can’t seem to solve.

I asked around why the government is having problems with the EDSA buses service contract scheme. Here is one explanation from a knowledgeable source:

“Hindi naman dapat mahirap ang pag manage ng bus sa EDSA carousel. Ang major complaint ng mga bus operators is that matagal bago sila mabayaran ng LTFRB. Kaya may mga araw na nahihirapan ang mga operators mag-source ng diesel. Sa laki ng utang nila sa mga suppliers, wala nang mag extend ng credit sa kanila.

“Not to mention yung atraso nila sa mga employees (drivers, conductors, maintenance crew).

“May problema rin sa system. Suppose to be consortium yan. However, that is only on paper. Kanya kanya pa rin ng operation ng mga member operators kaya walang maayos na fleet management.”

Maybe that’s a problem for the next administration. But only VP Leni is a regular bus rider (when she goes home to Bicol) among the major presidential hopefuls. If she makes it, consider it a priority for the next DOTr Secretary.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochancohttp://[email protected].



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