View From Taft

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has been planning to disallow provincial buses from entering Metro Manila supposedly to lessen traffic and congestion in the metropolis — especially in EDSA which most of the provincial buses eventually use to drop off passengers and enter their respective bus terminals. The MMDA’s plan is to have common terminals north and south of Metro Manila where the buses will drop off their hapless passengers. Since most of them will not have these points as their final destinations, they will have to take other means of transport (city buses, taxis, jeepneys, among others), to reach their final point which are mostly their places of work and business.

What is wrong with this picture? There are hundreds of buses coming both from the northern and southern provinces of Metro Manila who bring thousands of workers then bring them back daily. It will mean extreme discomfort and anxiety for them as well as additional expense. It will take them also longer to travel since getting off the terminals to catch another ride will easily mean more travel time.

If you look at EDSA and most other major thoroughfares of the metropolis, it is not the buses — big as they are, which congest the roads. It is the extreme number of passenger cars which more often than not carry only one or two passengers. Buses are part of the mass transport system and can carry anywhere from 60 passenger sitting down to around 80 with standing passengers.

Therein lies the rub where we prioritize the comfort of car users by lessening the volume of buses which carry a lot more passengers. Therein lies the mentality of addressing traffic issues by moving vehicles when our mindset should be moving people. We move vehicles by building roads, skyways, and instituting traffic management systems. But the more roads you build, the more it will encourage people to drive. And the government can only build so many roads with the efficient car manufacturers dumping so many more vehicles on the road network.

We have to prioritize the mindset of moving people through mass transport. It sounds easy enough to just add more trains which will run more frequently on the existing LRT and MRT lines to alleviate congestion there. But in a span of 25 years, our light rail system has not really expanded to meet the requirements of the riding public.

We have an existing rail system which traverses the metropolis from north to south all the way to Alabang and beyond but the state and frequency of trains that runs through it leaves much to be desired.

The government is now in the process of connecting the North Luzon Expressway to the South Luzon Expressway with an elevated highway system which will cut travel time from Magallanes to Balintawak significantly. But again, the ones who will be favored here are the car riders. It would have been great if a bus rapid transit system was designed to be accommodated in that connector stretch which would benefit thousands of daily commuters from Alabang to Balintawak. At the very least, maybe a point-to-point bus system can be set up that will travel that stretch, bringing more people to their destinations.

Gustavo Petro, a Colombian personality where the bus rapid transport system is largely used in its capital city of Bogota, said that “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” It all starts with a mindset — prioritize moving people, not moving cars.


Dr. Dennis L. Berino is an Associate Professional Lecturer with the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University.