The “experiment” being implemented by Mayor Joseph Estrada and his traffic czar, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, to ease traffic congestion in Manila has drawn a lot of flak from bus operators and drivers, commuters, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. But it is only because they are being forced to give up their bad habits and do what is right and legal. If only they would obey the law and traffic rules, then they would not be inconvenienced and everybody would be the better for it. In fact, other local government units and the Metro Manila Development Authority should have done it a long time ago; they just did not have the guts to do it.
Mayor Erap and Vice Mayor Moreno have the guts and are doing it. They explained what they are doing to the press at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday.
What is causing the traffic jams all over the metropolis? Too many vehicles on too few roads. Isn’t the solution clear and simple? Reduce the number of vehicles using the roads.
The trouble is how to implement such a simple solution. The MMDA imposed the number-coding scheme—some vehicles are banned from the streets on certain days, based on the last digit of their plate numbers—but it doesn’t work. Some well-to-do families simply bought another vehicle to use on days when the original one is banned from the streets. This made the car manufacturers and dealers happy and richer but did not solve the traffic problem. (The car manufacturers are producing 200,000 new vehicles every year, most of them ending up in Metro Manila. Where will you put them?) Contrary to expectations, number-coding did not decrease the number of vehicles out on the streets but in fact increased them.
Worsening the problem are the too many giant buses that occupy so much road space but do not do the commuters much good.
Anybody who stands on Edsa and España at any time of the day can see the problem: too many buses crawling bumper to bumper, but with too few passengers. In short, these buses are only wasting precious fuel and polluting the air with their exhausts, and are not transporting enough passengers. A bus would be lucky to be half-full even during rush hours.
How do these buses earn with so few passengers? Why don’t the operators go bankrupt?
The only answer is that they must be overcharging their few passengers. Yes, the few passengers are in effect paying for all the empty seats.
And it is the oversupply of buses that forces their drivers to violate traffic rules, darting in and out of their lanes in a race to get to the few passengers available.
Adding to the problem are the provincial buses that enter the metropolis and operate like city buses loading and unloading passengers anywhere. And then there are the colorum buses—buses without any franchises—that operate in the metropolis.
Mayor Erap and Vice Mayor Moreno explained to the Kapihan that Manila’s new traffic rules ban the colorum buses (colorum jeepneys, tricycles and kuliglig will be next) and limit the number of legitimate buses with terminals in the city. Each operator will be limited to only 5-10 buses a day.
And to avoid overcrowding at bus stops, where drivers stop their vehicles diagonally to prevent the buses behind from overtaking them, buses will have to wait at terminals until dispatched by city traffic dispatchers every 15 minutes, or as needed by passengers waiting in the streets. Drivers who continue this bad practice will be arrested.
Provincial buses may be allowed to enter the city but they can stop only at their terminals. They cannot stop at city bus stops to load/unload passengers. Drivers caught doing this will also be arrested.
“That is already a concession to them,” the two officials said. “They are provincial buses, so they should operate only in the provinces. There are more than enough—in fact, too many—city buses to ferry passengers in the metropolis.”
The LTFRB complained early on that the buses banned from Manila have franchises issued by it.
But that is the fault of the LTFRB, not the city of Manila. In fact, the LTFRB is to blame for the traffic congestion in the whole of Metro Manila. It has issued too many franchises to buses and jeepneys, disregarding the holding capacity of city streets. It’s said that in the LTFRB, you can get anything if the price is right.
“Did they ask us if our streets can hold additional vehicles before they issued the franchises?” traffic czar Moreno asked.
The LTFRB should help reduce the crush of vehicles on metro streets by not renewing expiring franchises and canceling those of bus companies with many accidents and traffic violations. That should force the operators to discipline their drivers.
The “boundary system” for buses and jeepneys should also be abolished as this causes drivers to drive recklessly. In the boundary system, the drivers and conductors are not paid regular wages by the operators. The drivers pay a fixed rent—the boundary—to the operators to be allowed to use their vehicles for the day. What is left of the daily earnings after paying the boundary is the drivers’ take-home pay. In a desperate bid to increase their take-home income, the drivers are forced to drive recklessly and violate traffic rules in a race to beat the competitors for the scarce passengers.
Does not the Department of Transportation see this? Will it do something to correct it?