The move of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to field articulated buses along EDSA to help ease the traffic problem in Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is definitely good news for weary commuters.
However, the fielding of the articulated buses—which are like the rolling stocks of intercity railways —should be considered a permanent solution not just a temporary one. The reason is simple—bus rapid transit (BRT) systems that utilize articulated buses are currently in operation in many parts of the world, often with good results.
A study by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) also showed that the proposed BRT for Cebu City can move 330,000 passengers per day, which is almost the same capacity as the Metro Rail Transt Line 3 (MRT-3) currently serving EDSA.
First tested in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, the BRT system deploys articulated buses along dedicated lanes, and passengers board and get off the bus units through dedicated stations.
Lauded as a less costly alternative to rail systems, BRT systems are growing in popularity partly because of the technologies being developed for the system, which include buses that run on electricity.
As it is now, the MRT-3 is operating way beyond its capacity of 350,000 commuters per day, or carrying approximately 650,000 passengers per day.
The bus system along EDSA, which are all operated by private companies, can be considered chaotic, because buses “compete” for passengers. We can blame that on the “boundary” system being imposed by private bus companies on their drivers, who then disregard simple traffic rules just to get as many passengers.
Meanwhile, the “UV Express” system of vans that also operate along EDSA has a limited capacity, because these are vans that each has a maximum capacity of 16 passengers only.
Although the installation and operation of a BRT system along EDSA will surely encounter opposition from private bus operators, the government, particularly the DOTC, should start looking for a long-term solution to the horrendous traffic situation along EDSA and other major roads in Metro Manila.
Expanding the capacity of the MRT-3 with the acquisition of light rail vehicles from a Chinese firm should be a welcome development for commuters, even if it will take two to four years to complete that project. But an MRT-3 with an expanded capacity might only address the anticipated demand of the system by the time the expansion project for the rail system is completed.
Completing a skyway link between the Southern Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway is also very much welcome, but that will only benefit mostly private car owners.
In the end, a BRT system along EDSA that will complement an upgraded MRT-3 should be seriously considered by the DOTC, especially if one takes into account that more commercial centers and central business districts are being developed in Metro Manila near EDSA. Two of these is Vertis North of Ayala Land Inc., and Bonifacio Global City.
Cities like Curitiba in Brazil, Jakarta, Peking, and even Lagos in Nigeria have proven the viability of BRTs. China is also envisioning to have a total of 30 BRTS across the country, with more than 20 currently undergoing development or construction.
It is a known fact that the Philippines was the first country in Southeast Asia to build an intercity rail system, which is the Light Rail Transit Line 1 that traverses Taft and Bonifacio avenues. But the Philippines must not fall behind in the adoption of BRTs as a transport system.