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As I See It

LTFRB adding to Metro traffic jams

/ 12:10 AM August 08, 2014

What’s happening to the directors of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)?

Are they blind, or do they see only peso signs? Don’t they see the daily traffic gridlock not only on Edsa and C-5 but all over Metro Manila? The reason can be seen by anybody with common sense: too many vehicles on too few roads. We should reduce, not add to, the number of vehicles on the streets. But what is the LTFRB doing? It is allowing trucks and buses without franchises to use Metro Manila’s streets, “anywhere they want,” with no risk of being apprehended. As expected, the result is bedlam—motorists stuck in unmoving traffic for hours and losing precious time and opportunities.

The LTFRB’s alleged excuse for its “no apprehension policy” is to give the operators time to complete the documents needed for new franchises. What, it will award more franchises when, clearly, there is no more room on the streets for more vehicles? What it should be doing is cancel franchises, not issue more of them. Metro Manila is bursting at the seams. There is no more room to move around. It is becoming one huge parking lot.

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The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and its mayors are understandably angry over this latest boo-boo of the LTFRB. They have warned truck and bus operators that drivers of colorum or out-of-line vehicles would be arrested notwithstanding the permits given them by the LTFRB. You know what the LTFRB advised the drivers and operators to do if they are arrested? Take the local government units to court. That’s the type of officials we have at the LTFRB.

The LTFRB has also allowed provincial buses to enter the inner cities. Provincial buses should stay in the provinces. They should stop at the city limits and not add to the traffic jams inside.

And yet the provinces need the buses very badly. Farmers often wait for hours for transportation to take their produce to market. Schoolchildren have to walk many kilometers to go to school because there is no transportation. Provincial folk would be very grateful to have more buses. But why do the bus operators insist on plying their route in Metro Manila, where they have fewer passengers and they have less trips because of the traffic jams, and where they operate as colorum vehicles? They must be making more money there.

The LTFRB should be issuing franchises to more bus operators to ply their routes in the provinces. But money speaks louder than common sense.

President Aquino should change the top officials of the LTFRB to bring sanity to our streets. We do not need transportation officials such as what we have now at the LTFRB. Instead of looking for ways to ease the traffic jams, they are exacerbating them.

It’s said that the LTFRB has been a den of corruption since it was first established as the Public Service Commission. The PSC then was full of fixers. It’s said that you could get anything from the PSC “if the price is right”—and that includes a franchise. Thus, we now have a surfeit of buses running half-empty even during rush hours and wasting precious fuel and polluting the air with their exhausts. And many of them are not roadworthy and driven by unqualified drivers, which result in accidents that take the lives of their passengers.

I invite LTFRB officials to get out of their air-conditioned offices, stand on the sidewalks of Edsa and watch the buses crawling bumper to bumper with very few passengers even during rush hours. There are just too many of them. Now the LTFRB wants to add more buses and trucks on the streets. Why? How many millions of reasons do they have for such a decision?

How do the bus companies survive with so few passengers? They must be overcharging their few passengers. These passengers are paying for all the empty seats. Who fixes the passenger fares? The LTFRB.

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If the buses were not overcharging their passengers, they would have gone bankrupt a long time ago. But obviously they are making more money in Metro Manila even with few passengers.

The elevated train lines were intended to put the buses out of business because even then, they were already taking too much road space and contributing to the traffic jams. Commuters were expected to take public transportation and leave their cars at home. In fact, having huge parking lots for private cars at every train station was among the original plans, but that was not followed by the concessionaires.

The concessionaires, with only profit in mind, did not provide for enough trains and coaches. Now we have long lines of commuters waiting to get into the already packed trains. In self-defense, commuters, or at least those who have the means, buy cars—and these add more vehicles on the streets that cause traffic jams. Every year, 300 new cars are poured onto the streets by the car assemblers, but old ones are not being phased out.

Where will we put all those vehicles?

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TAGS: As I See It, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, LTFRB, Metro Manila, MMDA, neal h. cruz, opinion, traffic, traffic jams
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