Banning Provincial Buses on EDSA: A Misguided and Cruel Solution

Our Philippine Automologist Harold, a traffic solution advocate and a government policy consultant, believes banning provincial buses on EDSA is cruel and misguided.

Image source: Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Whoever conceptualized this idea of banning provincial buses on EDSA as a solution to ease this notoriously congested highway is either short-sighted, ignorant of the facts, cruel to ordinary Filipinos or at the very least misguided.

Policymakers know that Philippine urban traffic congestion costs the country P3.5 billion a day, according to a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) study in 2017, and this could grow to P5.4 billion a day by 2035. This is a major economic “productivity black-eye”. This problem is currently costing the country P1.27 trillion a year and could grow to P1.971 trillion a year by 2035 if no strategic sustainable intervention is implemented immediately. This is about 50% of the Philippine national budget! It is a seriously monstrous problem!

The notorious EDSA is a major contributor to this problem, with 380,000 to 500,000 vehicles travelling on it daily. I agree that if we solve the traffic on the ESDA, we can probably reduce one-third of the urban traffic mess. All traffic solution advocates agree we have to reduce traffic on the ESDA by 50%. And so MMDA is presently banning the 3,400 provincial buses that use EDSA, claiming that it will ease traffic—what a short-sighted, cruel, ignorant or at the very least misguided policy this is!!!

Firstly, targeting the provincial buses is addressing not even 1% of the total vehicles on EDSA. And these buses do not even travel on the whole stretch of EDSA: the North inbound buses only traverse Balintawak to Cubao, whereas the South inbound ones go from Magallanes to Cubao. And, as a rule, they only allow passengers to alight on Pasay, Magallanes and Cubao. So, this is not the significant cause of the bad traffic on EDSA. Worse still, it will inconvenience the poor bus commuters who will have to alight in Valenzuela and Sta. Rosa.

Image source: Lyn Rillon, Inquirer

Secondly, over 90% of vehicles traversing EDSA are private vehicles. This is where vehicle reduction policy should be directed. About 30% of these private vehicles have no business being in Metro Manila and are just passing through from north to south of Manila or vice-versa. We know that once the Skyway North-South connector ramp is completed (disastrously delayed during the Aquino dispensation), alternate routes rid of illegally parked vehicles are efficiently utilized, the east (by the Laguna Bay) and the west (by the Manila Bay) circumferential roads are fully completed, 30% of EDSA traffic will disappear.

So, I call on President Duterte to instruct his Transport Secretary, Art Tugade, to expedite these infrastructure projects—what I mean by expedite is quadruple the complement of equipment used on these projects and work on them 24 hours a day with quadruple manpower, so that these critical connectors and circumferential roads are done in 18 months. I saw these happen in the Middle East, so why can’t we do it here? Expedite the payment process, please, on government projects, Mr DOTr Secretary, Sir.

 

Thirdly, encourage private car owners to ride the properly designed, comfortable buses or use the MRT (make the coaches bigger and increase their frequency to every 5 minutes) or even carpool instead of driving on EDSA. Car owners can leave their cars in proper parking areas near MRT or bus terminals.

Fourthly, implement the odd-even (not the present number coding) scheme on EDSA for private vehicles only. Meaning, those with plate numbers ending 1,3,5,7,9 will not be allowed on EDSA on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and those ending with 2,4,6,8,0 will not be allowed on Tuesdays, Thursday or Saturdays. Surely this will reduce private vehicles on EDSA by 30 to 40%. And car owners can take the bus, MRT or carpool as mentioned earlier.

Fifthly, expedite the setting up of an integrated mass transit system. Accelerate the implementation of the newly started subway system and expand the subway to a wider area. I am a great fan of subways because the major delays in infrastructure in the Philippines are right-of-way issues. And, there is no such problem 50 to 200 feet below the ground.

As they say in Policy Science: “Policy influences behaviour.” And since this administration prides itself in and is oozing political will, they better exercise that in solving the monstrous traffic mess by a policy of accelerated infrastructure implementation and well-thought-of short- and medium-term traffic-mitigating policies.

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