Necessary rules for buses

Ernesto F. Herrera

Ernesto F. Herrera

I am very much in favor of Manila City Council Resolution No. 48, which bans buses without terminals in the city.

Just here in Malate, where I stay when I am in Manila, prior to the enforcement of the resolution you would see so many buses parked along residential streets.

For instance, residents of Pilar Hidalgo-Lim, the former Indiana Street in Malate, have been wondering why City Hall keeps allowing buses and even jeepneys to use their street, one of the last few leafy and tree-lined streets in Manila as their makeshift terminal.

The jeepneys and buses are bound for Cubao and Quezon City. They park on Pilar Hidalgo-Lim with their engines idling a lot of times, polluting the air and clogging an otherwise tranquil street.

When it is time for them to leave, they race through the street with their engines rumbling and smoke-belching, unmindful that there are many pedestrians in the area, what with two schools and two churches located along the street itself.

The grossest thing is that a lot of the drivers use the sidewalk as their comfort rooms and throw their garbage on the street. The street has become very dirty and worn because it is not really meant for heavy city traffic.

The residents are miffed that their complaints have been unheard so far. They would surely appreciate the city’s resolution banning buses.

Manila recently relaxed the ban a bit, limiting the number of buses entering the city and assigning specific loading and unloading zones for them, after the ban issued on July 23 sparked an uproar from commuters and bus companies.

But hey, I never get tired of saying this, road discipline and traffic rules are the first sign of a civilized urban society, while breaking road rules and chaotic traffic jams depict a pathetic, backward one.

We must bring road discipline in action.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recently proposed to relocate the various provincial bus terminals spread throughout Metro Manila and ban the provincial buses from entering the metropolis, allowing them to go only as far as the outskirts of the cities in order to lessen traffic at the main thoroughfare of EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue).

This sparked a similar uproar from commuters and bus companies.

I believe the problem is more how buses operate than anything else, as can be seen during a typical commuting or driving experience in the metropolis.

You see, buses here operate like jeepneys. They weave in and out of traffic just to load and unload passengers, not caring about the bottlenecks they are causing.

There are hardly any bus stops, or if there are, nobody really waits there, and the buses don’t really stop there. There are no fixed bus schedules.

We can’t operate buses without rules.

We could solve our traffic problems here in Manila and other urban centers through relatively cheaper, ingenious ways and a lot of political will. But we need rules.

Many years ago I wrote about Curitiba, Brazil and its mayor then, Jaime Lerner, an architect and urban planner, who proved that it doesn’t take a lot of money to solve a city’s problems.

Lerner implemented a bus system in Curitiba, which has come to be known as the exemplary model of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which has been copied by other cities.

Lerner didn’t have much money to work with, so instead of building an expensive subway system, or an LRT or MRT like what we have here, he used buses and made them operate the same way trains do.

The Curitiba buses run like our LRT and MRT, only on the ground. They have their own lanes—not just the yellow lanes of the MMDA for buses on Edsa that bus drivers ignore all the time, but actual dedicated lanes.

Fares are collected prior to boarding. There is quick passenger loading and unloading. The buses, which run on (more environmental-friendly) compressed natural gas, have their own reliable, convenient and well-designed stations. They also come along frequently—some as often as every 90 seconds. That’s a lot frequenter than our LRT and MRT trains.

Curitiba now has one of the most heavily used, yet low-cost, transit systems in the world.

Around 70 percent of Curitiba’s commuters use the BRT to travel to work or wherever, resulting in congestion- and pollution-free streets.

Cebu City is planning to implement its own bus rapid transit system modelled after Curitiba. Indeed, it plans to replace all jeepneys in the city’s major roads with a BRT system.

The city government is meeting with the jeepney drivers associations about alternative livelihoods and the secondary routes they could still service.

As it did in Curitiba, the BRT system is expected to address traffic and pollution problems and make Cebu City more sustainable.

A pre-feasibility study conducted by a World Bank consultant, Integrated Transport Planning of England, showed the viability of the BRT system not only for Cebu but also for Metro Manila, where the city government could put up the BRT structure, but the private sector would manage the bus service operations.

There is a proposed budget of $350 million for the 50-kilometer BRT systems in Cebu and Manila.

If we had an efficient bus system, one that could get commuters comfortably, safely and on time to their destinations, more people would take the buses, and there definitely would not be an uproar over bus rules.


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  1. Another simple and cheap solution is about behavior modification on commuting public, i.e., that Filipinos need to learn to walk. The proliferation and virtually unregulated increase of buses and jeepneys and other secondary mode of transportation such as tricycles,pedicabs and padyaks in our roads are all brought about by Filipinos’ aversion to walking even for just several meters. A short trip of about a couple of hundred meters to do simple errands makes Pinoys to take a jeep or tricycle even if it takes a lot quicker to just walk. So what kung pinagpawisan ka kung naglakad? This Filipino cultural aversion of walking put unnecesary increase in transport demand where our roads are not designed for (eg. tricycles, motorcycles, pedicabs) even if a modest allowance for future use has been considered. This unnecessary increase in transport demand puts a heavy strain in our transport infrastructure. I am not saying that we should not expand our transport infrastructure (by all means we need more mass transport systems!) but we need to be smart and efficient about moving/transporting people/goods. And walking is just one simple solution among other smart solutions to our traffic woes.

  2. You are an Aquino clan protege, why don`t you go Malacanang and tell that sleepy guy, Mr. Herrera.