DOTr to privatize EDSA carousel to 'conform to international standards'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
DOTr to privatize EDSA carousel to 'conform to international standards'
Commuters queue for the Libreng Sakay program at the Main Avenue station of the EDSA carousel busway in Quezon City on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in the last work week of the year. The Libreng Sakay program is set to expire on December 31.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — After months of studying the idea, the Department of Transportation will look into privatizing the EDSA Carousel busway in 2023, it confirmed Wednesday. 

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista confirmed this on the sidelines of the opening of the Tramo Station of the EDSA Busway, per a tweet by GMA Integrated News

Bautista said that the busway, which plies the busiest thoroughfare in Metro Manila, "must conform to international standards" as he noted an increase in the volume of passengers using the EDSA Busway since it began operations.

“The DOTr will continue to improve the services and infrastructure of the EDSA Busway. The EDSA Busway must conform to international standards. There’s a lot to do here,” Bautista was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the DOTr. 

“As more passengers are being catered by the busway system, we need to improve its efficiency."

This comes with the Libreng Sakay program offering free rides along the busway set to end on December 31 after it was extended. 

As of December 2022, the EDSA Busway Project has been catering to an average of 389,579 passengers daily. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said it plans to add 100 units to the busway, putting the total number of units to 650 and allowing the system to carry around 500,000 passengers per day.

The EDSA Busway features the use of a dedicated median lane for buses with stations built at the median island, allowing for more efficient travel by avoiding conflict with connecting streets, driveways, commercial centers, and curbside drop-off points.

Based on the last LTFRB record on December 27, the busway recorded a total number of 80,832,186 passengers served, while 87 operators and 751 Public Utility Buses participated in the program.

The busway system has 17 median stations, four temporary curbside stations, and an Integrated Terminal Exchange. The Tramo Station is the fourth EDSA Busway station opened since July.

To recall, the Management Association of the Philippines submitted its proposal to privatize the busway's operations and align the project with measurable performance metrics based on busway standards outlined by nonprofit Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

“The upgrade will complete the EDSA busway, a work in progress, scale up its capacity and raise it to the level of global standards to optimize the system to achieve its full potential as a cost-effective, efficient, high capacity urban mass public transport system commensurate to the high commuter density of EDSA, and to ensure long-term sustainability to serve its role as the complementary mass transport to the Metro Rail Transit Line 3,” the MAP said earlier.

In September, Transportation Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor said Bautista ordered a study on the possible privatization of the EDSA Busway.

Pastor said a study was necessary because the project "involves many components such as bus units and infrastructures, which are under the jurisdiction of other agencies."

Sought for comment, transport planner Ira Cruz, director of transport advocacy group AltMobility PH said that "the ideal arrangement" would be for the government to "still have to be responsible for certain components - such as easier boarding, road prioritization."

“We look forward to DOTr sharing specifics of the planned privatization; In particular, the roles and responsibilities between the private bus operators and the Government, and how this will translate to better services for the commuting public," he told Philstar.com in an online exchange. 

"We hope that there will be a thorough discussion of these issues and how the DOTr plans to resolve it so that private bus operators will be able to deliver on their mandate under this arrangement." — Franco Luna 

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