As I See It

Limit buses on metro streets to ease traffic

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Filipinós are saddened by the death of Lolong, the world’s biggest crocodile in captivity. Not to worry, there are still many, bigger and greedier crocodiles in Congress. They should also be in captivity.

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At last, the Metro Manila Development Authority is becoming sensible. It will have terminals outside city limits for provincial buses so that these buses will not add to the congestion in the cities. There will be more than enough city buses to take commuters to the inner cities. This should have been done a long time ago, but the MMDA had been busy putting up hollow-block separators on the streets, particularly the wide Commonwealth Avenue, removing old bus stops and putting up new ones, and hanging many traffic signs from the pedestrian overpasses.

The MMDA said this move would cut the number of buses on city streets by half. It’s a good first step, but not enough. There will still be too many city buses running half-empty even during rush hours, burning expensive imported fuel and polluting the air with their exhausts. They also contribute to the wear and tear of the streets.

The number of city buses should also be reduced or, at least, be made to wait at terminals until they are dispatched, as required by the number of waiting passengers. This was planned a long time ago by the previous MMDA administration but has not been implemented, yet, by the incumbent. I don’t know why, unless it is the usual refusal of new officials to continue their predecessors’ plans.

Much of the traffic jams result from too many buses (and jeepneys and tricycles) competing for too few passengers. Buses linger at bus stops to wait for passengers, thus blocking all the other buses behind. This creates a pileup not only of buses but also of other vehicles.

With regular trip schedules, buses can ferry more passengers in a shorter time, save on fuel and lubricants, make more trips and earn more, and relieve the traffic congestion on the streets.

This is common sense, but bus operators oppose it because the present arrangement is good for them. The drivers and conductors pay a fixed amount, called the boundary, to the operator. What they earn above that, minus the cost of fuel, is their take-home pay. The operators don’t care how much their employees take home, or how many trips they make, as long as they get their boundary.

The government attempted to abolish the boundary system and pay the drivers and conductors regular salaries—which would put sanity and order in the transport system—but again the plan was not implemented. Why?

You’d think that with too many buses competing for too few passengers, bus companies would lose money and withdraw from city operations, thus reducing the number of city buses. It was also expected that with the elevated rails, buses would lose more passengers and force the operators to quit.

Wrong on both counts. Although most buses run half-empty, the operators continue to make money. The explanation can only be that the few passengers are paying for all the empty seats. The few passengers are being overcharged!

And although commuters prefer to take the elevated rails because they are not slowed down by traffic jams, the trains cannot accommodate all of them. The trip is faster but the wait at the train stations is much longer.

Those who can afford to buy cars buy them in self-defense, thinking that they can get to their destinations faster. But too many private vehicles add to the traffic jams.

The solution is obvious to Juan de la Cruz even if not to our public officials. There are too many vehicles on too few streets. Reduce the number of vehicles on the streets to their carrying capacities and traffic will move faster. The first step is to reduce the number of buses. With these buses traveling faster, car owners will leave their vehicles at home and take the bus. Thus, the number of private vehicles will also be reduced and traffic will flow even faster.

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School bullying is such a big problem in the United States that of its 50 states, only Montana has no antibullying legislation. Easy access to guns and being bullied in school have, time and again, proven to be a deadly mix in America.

On April 20, 1999, two youths who had problems in school killed 13 and wounded 24 in a shooting rampage at Columbine High School before turning their guns on themselves. Eight years later, a bullied South Korean student went on a shooting rampage at

Virginia Tech, killing 32 and wounding 17 with semiautomatic fire. The latest school shooting incident was of course in Connecticut where a similar number of students and teachers were killed.

While we are lucky that we have not yet experienced such tragedies (although we are fast getting there because of very liberal gun control laws; the Maguindanao massacre is the beginning), that is no reason not to address school bullying in our own country. We have written extensively on how gun-crazy our country has become, thus let us focus on the antibullying bill filed by Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.

Angara has been urging the Senate to pass its version of the antibullying bill (House Bill No. 5496), which he coauthored and which was passed by the House in December 2012. The Senate version has been languishing at the committee level since 2010.

If passed into law, the measure will require all elementary and secondary schools to lay down an antibullying policy to be implemented on campus. This is similar to antibullying legislation in the United States.

I don’t see any reason why the Senate is sitting on this measure, unless it is plain laziness.

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