LAST week, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) opened—for the second time in recent years—a “Southwest Interim Provincial Terminal,” also known as SWIPT, because in this country it seems no facility can exist in three-dimensional space until it can be referred to by an ironic acronym.
For commuters coming from Cavite and points farther south, the terminal promises travel that will be no more “swipt” (see what I did there?) or convenient than it was after the last vain attempt to create a transit terminal in that part of the city.
The provincial terminal concept emerged during the term of former MMDA Chairman Francis “I-don’t-understand-why-people-don’t-just-buy-cars” Tolentino, and while the basic idea makes sense, it was a complete flop in execution. The terminal was located at the derelict Coastal Mall at the junction of the Cavitex, Roxas Boulevard, and Mia Road, and instantly turned into a complete nightmare for commuters. While most buses coming from the south were directed to the terminal, little attention was paid to actually providing useful transportation to and from other parts of the city.
The results were predictable; within a relatively short period of time, the commuter routes reverted back to their pattern before Tolentino’s brainchild was born, and the only purpose the terminal served was to provide a slightly more orderly place to turn around for bus and jeepney routes that had always had their endpoints in that area between Baclaran and the Mia Road intersection.
There were also legal and financial issues with using the old Uniwide Coastal Mall. The ownership of the property is disputed and is the subject of a number of court cases, which puts the future of the terminal in doubt. In the meantime, it is costing the government P1.5 million a month in rent.
To avoid these problems, the MMDA moved the terminal to its new location at the slightly less derelict HK Plaza, which occupies an area between Roxas Boulevard and Macapagal Boulevard just south of the headquarters of Philippine Airlines and Philippine National Bank in Pasay City.
While the MMDA may have eliminated a number of administrative problems with the move, the new location is, if anything, even unfriendlier to commuters and the overall traffic situation in the city. One of the few positive attributes of the existing terminal farther south is that it is at least located along the existing commuter routes; the new terminal is not. The end of Libertad Street on Roxas Boulevard in front of HK Plaza’s east side is a stop for buses with routes to terminals in Manila (at Lawton or Santa Cruz) and for those that travel along Buendia Avenue to Makati, but the terminal is only accessible for southbound buses. As a consequence, nearly all of the buses intended to end or begin their routes from the terminal will have to be rerouted onto to streets in the area that already are fairly congested even without the presence of a large number of buses.
And once again, the MMDA has installed a terminal without remembering that it will only serve a purpose if there is local transportation to and from that location. There is very little now, only jeepneys that ply a route between the Mall of Asia and Buendia Avenue, and a limited number of UV vans headed for Manila.
This second version of the “SWIPT” is as doomed to failure as the first one, and the MMDA will once again blame everything but their poor planning for the waste of effort and resources. Again, the basic idea is reasonable, but the way it is implemented ruins it. In order for a transit terminal to work as it is supposed to, it needs to be located at a node for other transportation.
For commuters coming from the southwest, the only locations that make sense in that respect are in Baclaran near the end of LRT-1, or near the Pasay Rotonda, where the LRT-1 and MRT-3 meet. Both those locations are already terminal points or major stops for a large number of other transportation routes apart from the trains, which contribute to traffic congestion. Thus, locating the “SWIPT” in one of those areas would serve a dual purpose of serving commuters’ needs and better organizing traffic. Those objectives are, of course, concepts the MMDA has demonstrated difficulty in grasping, but they really should give it a try; they might be surprised at how well things can work if they do.