Metro traffic system needs thorough overhaul | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Metro traffic system needs thorough overhaul

/ 03:00 AM March 19, 2012

“It was a strike,” said the government of the protest walkout of jeepney drivers last week.

“No, it was a caravan,” said the drivers. Strike? Caravan? Either way, the jeepney drivers’ and operators’ associations violated provisions of their franchises. They did not serve the public.

“But we have the right to protest,” say the drivers.

Yes you have, but don’t forget the public you have sworn to serve.

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With these periodic strikes, the jeepney associations are actually using the riding public as hostages. You don’t give us what we are asking for, the people wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, they warn. And many times in the past, the government, afraid of the backlash from the riding public, backs down and surrenders. And the jeepney associations have gotten used to this—of the government surrendering—and threaten a strike at the drop of a hat.

It is also one way the leaders can strengthen their hold on the rank and file. Also, don’t forget that for every peso increase in the pay of the members of a labor union or association, the officers, and especially the labor lawyers, get a percentage of the whole bonanza. If the total salary increase for members of a labor union is P20 million, for example, just 10 percent of that is P2 million and this goes to the lawyers. Now you understand why unions, and especially their lawyers, threaten strikes so often. I suspect the same is true with jeepney associations.

And that is the reason why passenger fares in jeepneys and buses have gotten way above in proportion to the rise in the cost of fuel. In the past, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was headed by somebody who was afraid of strikes and readily surrendered to the fare hike demands of the jeepney associations. There were no strikes during his term, yes, but the fares skyrocketed way above what was necessary.

In fact, I think the jeepneys, and especially the buses, are overcharging their passengers until now. Why am I saying this?

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Use your common sense. If you stand anywhere along Edsa even during rush hours, you will see all those half-empty buses lined up along the avenue. If these buses were not overcharging their passengers, they would be out of business by now. But there they are, plying Edsa day after day, half-empty, wasting gas and oil and polluting the environment.

If the bus companies were losing the income from all those empty seats, they would have given up by now, that is, left Edsa and moved to another more profitable route.

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But many bus companies all want to ply Edsa, contributing to the traffic congestion and air pollution there. Some of them operate as colorums, thus breaking the law. Even the provincial buses operate as colorum city buses. Why?

Obviously, there is richer picking there. Meanwhile, in the provinces, transportation vehicles are so few that people have to wait for hours before getting a ride to town. Why don’t the excess buses in the cities go to the provinces where they are needed? Why doesn’t the LTFRB shift the franchises of the excess city buses to the provinces where they are badly needed? Laziness, lack of common sense, or just plain corruption?

Why would the bus companies operate in the city where their buses run half-empty rather than in the provinces where they are urgently needed?

And where are they getting the money to pay for all the vacant seats? Where else but from the few passengers on board whom they are overcharging. Yes, the few passengers are paying for all the empty seats. And yet the bus association has the temerity to ask for another fare increase.

The traffic situation in Metro Manila is getting worse every day. Color coding, truck bans, rerouting and one-way streets, all these have not worked. Even the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has run out of gimmicks. So what can still be done?

As I see it, it requires no less than a thorough overhauling of the Metro Manila transportation system. Move people, not vehicles. We don’t have enough money to build new roads, elevated or not, through the cities to accommodate all the new vehicles joining the melee every day.

MMDA made things worse by allowing provincial buses to load/unload passengers on city streets, even allowing the spaces under some flyovers to be used by them as terminals. Bad move. What is needed is to reduce the number of vehicles in the cities, not add to them, which the entry of provincial buses has done.

So the first thing we can do, without spending a single peso, is to limit provincial buses out of city limits. Have bus terminals at the boundary of Muntinlupa in the south and at the boundary of Valenzuela in the north. There are more than enough city buses to take passengers to the inner cities.

The bad luck of Metro Manila is that it lies in the center of the route from north to south. People and cargo that have to be transported from north to south and vice versa have to pass through Metro Manila even if they don’t want to, adding to the traffic congestion there.

One solution is to strengthen and develop the railroad system around Metro Manila. Increase the trips of the commuter trains; they don’t add to the congestion. PNR trains can be used to transport cargo from north to south and vice versa around Metro Manila, not through it. That should reduce the number of trucks and truck-trailers plying city streets.

And instead of building an elevated highway from Quezon City to Makati, which will worsen traffic in these two cities, use the money to build a highway around Laguna Lake to serve as a bypass through Metro Manila, thus reducing traffic going through there.

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Then make maximum use of our rivers and seaways for transportation.

TAGS: Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Metro Manila Development Authority, MMDA, transport strike

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