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There’s a nice interview about transport on ANC’s early morning program. The topic is bus rapid transit (BRT) and the interviewee is a colleague of mine at the University of the Philippines. Dr. Cresencio M. Montalbo, Jr. is actually a faculty member of the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) and a Fellow at the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS). Here’s the link to the interview:
About 5 years ago, I wrote about transport in Antipolo in another blog. The article was more about this old city being a major destination attracting people for pilgrimage (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) and tourism (e.g., Hinulugang Taktak). I am quoting from that article from 5 years ago and adding a few comments here and there. Note that for most of the article, nothing much has changed except perhaps that the Line 2 extension from Santolan to Masinag is now underway.
“There are now many ways from Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces to Antipolo, although several of these eventually merge into three main roads en route to the Shrine. One is via the old route along Ortigas Avenue, a second is the route via Sumulong Highway, and the third is through a “back door” via the Antipolo-Teresa Road. Routes from the general areas of Manila, Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Taguig and the southern cities of Metro Manila and towns from Laguna, Batangas and Cavite will most likely merge to Ortigas Avenue. Meanwhile, people coming from Quezon City, Caloocan, Marikina, Bulacan, Pampanga and the northern Rizal towns of San Mateo and Rodriguez (Montalban) will likely converge along Sumulong Highway. Meanwhile, those coming from the east including the Rizal towns like Tanay, Teresa, Morong, and Jala-jala, the Laguna towns like Paete, Pakil, Pangil, the Quezon towns of Luisiana, Lucban, Infanta and General Nakar, and others will most likely take the Antipolo-Teresa Road that climbs from the east of Antipolo. People from Marikina, Cainta and Pasig generally may take either the Ortigas or the Marcos Highway/Sumulong Highway route.”
I didn’t mention there that another backdoor was via Marcos Highway if one were coming directly from Tanay instead of through Teresa. This route is now popular and traffic has been steadily increasing due in part to some additional attractions in that part of Antipolo and Tanay.
“Public transport to Antipolo these days include mostly jeepneys as the city is the end point of many routes – a testament to its importance even as a reference point for public transportation. One can easily spot the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys in the Araneta Center in the Cubao business district in Quezon City. There are two lines, one via Cainta Junction (where jeepneys eventually turn to Ortigas Avenue) and another via Marcos Highway, turning at the Masinag Junction towards Sumulong Highway). Another terminal is at the EDSA Central near the Ortigas Center in Mandaluyong where Antipolo-Crossing jeepneys are queued. And still there is another, albeit somewhat informal terminal near Jose Rizal University (JRU, which was formerly a college and hence the old JRC endpoint), which passes through Shaw Boulevard, Meralco Avenue and eventually turns towards Ortigas Avenue. Other jeepneys from the Rizal towns all have routes ending in Antipolo Simbahan, referring to the shrine.”
There are also UV Express and shuttle vans (legitimate vans for hire or colorum operations) offering express trips between Antipolo and the same end points of Cubao or Crossing. Others go all the way to Makati in the Ayala financial district. These evolved out of the Tamaraw FX taxis that started charging fixed fares during the 1990’s and competed directly with the jeepneys. These are popular, however, with office employees and students during weekdays and the nature of their ownership and operations do make them serious competitors to the jeepneys even during the merry month of May (fiesta period) and the Lenten Holy Week.
“There was an Antipolo Bus Line before. These were the red buses that plied routes between Antipolo and Divisoria in Manila. These died out sometime between the late 80’s and the early 90’s probably due to decreasing profitability and likely because of its competition with the jeepneys. That bus company, along with the green-colored G-Liners, the red EMBCs (Eastern Metropolitan Bus Co.) and CERTs, and the blue Metro Manila Transit Corp. buses used to form a formidable mass transport system for Rizal and the eastern towns of Metro Manila. There were even mini-buses (one I recall were the Antipolo “baby” buses and those that plied routes betwen Binangonan and Recto with the cassette tapes stacked along the bus dashboard). Most of these, except the G-Liners eventually succumbed to the jeepneys.”
At present, there is another bus company operating along Ortigas Ave and the Manila East Road – RRCG. There is also a revival of the EMBC with buses providing transport services between Quiapo and Tanay. The only other bus is the inter-provincial Raymond Transit, which operates between Crossing, Mandaluyong and Infanta, Quezon via Antipolo, Teresa, Morong and Tanay.
“In the future, perhaps the jeepneys should give way to buses as the latter will provide a higher level and quality of service along Ortigas Avenue and Marcos and Sumulong Highways. Already in the drawing boards is a plan to ultimately extend LRT Line 2, which currently terminates at Santolan, Pasig, to Masinag Junction and then have a branch climb along Sumulong Highway and terminate near the shrine. This will bring back the trains to Antipolo and would surely make the church and the city very accessible to people. I look forward to these developments both in my capacity as a transportation researcher-engineer and a Catholic who also visits the Shrine to pray for safe travel for loved ones and myself.”
This proposition for rationalizing public transport to/from Antipolo and other towns of Rizal plus Marikina is all the more important as the Line 2 extension from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo is currently underway. There is an opportunity here to upgrade public transport following the hierarchy of transport modes. I have noticed, for example, electric and conventional tricycles providing what are basically feeder services but along Marcos Highway between Cogeo and Masinag. And a lot of people have been stranded or have difficulty getting a jeepney or UV express ride along the Marcos Highway corridor. I am aware that the DOTC in the previous administration was mulling an express bus service through Marcos and Sumulong Highways terminating and turning around at Robinsons Place Antipolo. That, of course, never happened but is something that I think is worthwhile and would be beneficial to a lot of commuters.
Here’s another quick post but it is something that should be picked up by government agencies particularly the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The following link is from Sakay.ph, which conducted a study on their own and came up with this:
The idea is not at all a new one considering you will see such appropriate stop designs and signs abroad. These are good designs that make a lot of sense (See the visuals in the article for you to be convinced). Only, the MMDA and other agencies including local government units are notoriously stubborn when it comes to innovative ideas that challenge the templates that they are used to. Perhaps the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can also take a look at these ideas considering public transport is regulated by LTFRB and the agency can take a progressive stance in ruling for more uniform bus body designs. Meanwhile, the DPWH is in-charge of most road signs along national roads like EDSA and should also be proactive in the design of signage while also keeping in mind the international standards that we need to conform with. As for the buses themselves, the recommendations underline the need to streamline (read: reduce) the number of buses and players and the rationalization (read: simplify) routes in Metro Manila. Maybe they can start doing the livery for the P2P buses to show how the concept works?
At the European Motor Show last weekend at Bonifacio High Street in Bonifacio Global City, there were obviously a lot of European made vehicles on display including the usual attractions from Italy and Germany. What also caught my attention was the new MAN bus currently being used Froehlich Tours for their P2P bus services. Here are some photos of the interior of the bus.
Note the low floor for entry and exits and the layout of the seats that could maximise the number of passengers carried by the bus. The layout maximises the space for standing passengers and seats can be assigned to those with special needs such as persons with disabilities, pregnant women, and senior citizens. Those traveling over longer distances can be seated at the back in order for them not to block those who would be boarding and alighting over shorter distances (i.e., with the likelihood for more frequent movements). This layout should be the standard for city buses in Metro Manila and other cities considering bus services (e.g., Cebu and Davao). In fact, I think the DOTC and LTFRB should seriously consider coming out with a policy/memo requiring bus companies to transition into these buses. That means replacing non-compliant buses over a grace period (i.e., to account for the investments of bus operators/companies). This is one way of modernising bus fleets as most buses for city operations you see now, especially along EDSA, are configured for long distance (provincial?) trips with their narrow aisles and maximising the number of seats as well as the baggage compartments at the buses’ bellies.
We saw a sign on a bus at Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Hopefully, the drivers of all buses plying routes in BGC practice this and stop for pedestrians crossing at the designated lanes. Perhaps they should also be proactive in stopping also for jaywalkers as this is the safe practice even if these pedestrians also endanger others by crossing juts anywhere including the most unsuitable places (e.g., blind spots).
Signs at the back of a Fort Bus including one regarding giving way to pedestrians crossing at designated lanes. Another sign cautions drivers of following vehicles about the bus making wide turns. These are good for promoting road safety.
For the benefit of commuters, here is the schedule of the premium express buses currently on experimental run along EDSA. The end points and routes are shown in the graphic below:
I suddenly remembered the slogan adopted by the defunct Metro Manila Transit Corporation (MMTC) for their Love Bus back on the 1970s and 1980s: “Save Gas, Ride Bus”. This is still very much applicable today and perhaps not only to consider saving gas but to save time and money by riding public transport. The express buses offer a higher quality of service than regular buses and should be promoted and perhaps expanded to include other corridors as well. I think many of us have forgotten about how good road public transport could be and should be (with the exceptions of those who have gone abroad to cities like Singapore and Hong Kong) that we fail to see a good initiative like the premium bus. It is also a proof of concept for the bus rapid transit (BRT) systems that can finally be implemented for Metro Manila and Cebu [crossing my fingers here].
In my previous article, I mentioned how rail transport is important as part of a country’s transport system, particularly on land. I also mentioned a study conducted by our undergraduate students that was completed back in April 2012.
Our students conducted a simple survey, as part of their research, to determine the travel times and costs for public transportation between several origin-destination pairs. These O-D pairs were selected to simulate costs and travel times of commutes using either primarily rail or all road transport. Note the choices of either ‘school’ or ‘office’ paired with ‘home’ somewhere in the south of Metro Manila.
Travel time comparisons for commutes using road and rail public transportation – ‘Road’ refers to the entire commute using road-based transport (i.e., buses and jeepneys) while ‘Rail’ refers to commutes utilizing mainly the PNR but with road transport used in the end parts of the journeys (e.g., jeepney ride from near the PNR Espana Station to UST).
Travel cost comparisons for commutes using road and rail public transportation
Relevant to understanding the above are the following
- Fare rates have changed since 2012. However, this presents a constant change over the fares that are being compared so the basic differences will remain the same across origin-destination pairs.
- PNR services had to be discontinued for some time due to derailments because of poor conditions of tracks.
- Road traffic has worsened since 2012 with several “carmaggedon” episodes showing how vulnerable commuters are when using solely road transport.
- Road public transport services are frequent and practically 24/7. PNR services are of very limited frequency. Waiting times for the trains typically add to travel times in the form of delays, which make commuting by rail an unattractive option due to their unreliability of service.
I wrote about the “kabit” system last February. I mentioned that the EMBC bus I saw was actually operated by another company (RRCG) that seems to have also engaged another company (Jasper Jean) to provide bus units operating the EMBC routes. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a photo showing information on the original operator of this bus company and its lines to Rizal and Laguna via the eastern route through Antipolo. I was finally able to get a photo of an EMBC bus bearing information on the original operator/company for comparison with the information on the bus in the previous post. It clearly states here that EMBC is the operator of this bus.
I posted something recently on an old bus line plying routes between Rizal and Metro Manila. I mentioned there about bus companies somehow being resurrected many years after what I thought were my last sightings of their buses. Of course, it is known that some bus companies have closed shop for one reason or another including what was a government-owned and operated Metro Manila Transit Corporation that used to operate the popular Love Bus. One of the major causes for bus companies folding up is labor problems. Among those that reportedly succumbed to this were Philippine Rabbit, Pantranco and BLTB Co. A few years ago, however, we was surprised to see a familiar bus along the South Luzon Expressway but upon closer look, we found that it wasn’t the old BLTB Co. that was written in the livery but DLTB Co.
BLTB Co. stood for Batangas, Laguna, Tayabas Bus Co. The name alludes to the provinces served by their buses including Tayabas, which eventually became Quezon and Aurora provinces. Their terminal was landmark along EDSA in Pasay City. It is still there along the southbound side and near the junction with Tramo. That will be just beside the left turn overpass from EDSA to Tramo and towards NAIA.
The livery on this bus is very familiar to many who rode on the old BLTB Co. buses many years ago. Was this deliberate from the owner/operator who obviously wanted to use this to their advantage? People are still familiar with the BLTBCo logo and brand so seeing these buses evoke memories of long distance travel back in the day.
There were few large bus companies in the old days. Among them were Victory Liner, Dangwa, Philippine Rabbit, Pantranco and BLTB Co. Victory, Dangwa and Philippine Rabbit served routes to the north of Manila while Pantranco plied both northern and southern routes. The latter company eventually split into Pantranco and Philtranco, with the northern routes under Pantranco (whose terminal was along Quezon Avenue where Fisher Mall now is located) and the southern routes under Philtranco (terminal is still there along EDSA in Pasay City). Pantranco is no more but Philtranco survives despite the current competition from many other bus companies plying routes south of Metro Manila.
Dangwa’s terminal was in what is still now being referred to as Dangwa in Manila, where you can get all the flowers you’ll need for all occassions. It was, after all, the “bagsakan” of flowers from the north, particularly from Baguio City. Victory’s old terminal is still the one in Pasay though it now has a couple in Cubao. It has expanded its points of destination and is perhaps the largest firm now operating north of Metro Manila.
The Philippine Rabbit Bus Co.’s terminal was at the northbound side of EDSA in the Balintawak area. It has a curious story about it; the stuff of urban legends. The name of the bus company is supposed to be Philippine Rapid Transit (another and real bus company). One time they asked their new buses to be painted, the instructions were misunderstood. “Rapid” sounded like “Rabbit” and that stuck to this day. They also had a labor problem and did not operate for a while until they resolved these issues with their drivers and conductors.
Traveling one morning from Antipolo, I spotted a bus with a familiar company name – EMBC. The last time I saw these buses operating as public transport was when I was in college, and I thought that the company folded up after losing money. However, I have seen some of their buses being used as shuttle services. It seems that the company has been revived but how is a bit unclear. EMBC stands for Eastern Metropolitan Bus Corporation, which was an old company that served the towns of Rizal along with the Antipolo Bus Co., G-Liner and CERT buses during the 1970’s and 1980’s. EMBC buses competed with the Antipolo Buses with their routes overlapping between Tikling Junction in Taytay, Rizal and Divisoria via Ortigas Avenue, E. Rodriguez Ave. (C-5), Pasig Blvd., Shaw Blvd., and Aurora Blvd. These two had overlapping routes with G-Liner and CERT, which plied the Taytay/Cainta to Quiapo route via the same Ortigas Ave. Extension.
The back of the EMBC bus states that it is run by RRCG Transport with a route connecting Siniloan, Laguna and Ayala Avenue-PICC (it probably turns around at the PICC, where Gil Puyat/Buendia Ave. terminates).
EMBC is an old company and one that has been dormant if not extinct for quite some time. Was its franchise resurrected like what allegedly happened to another old bus company, BLTBCo. a few years ago? In this latter case, certain LTFRB officials were supposed to have been axed as they were allegedly behind the revival or “resurrection” of the franchise. I think it is not a “resurrection” case as I have also seen what looked like legitimate EMBC buses with information on the bus body showing EMBC as the operator of the bus unit. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to take a photo of such examples. Thus, it is likely that the bus in the photo above is a case of “kabit.”
The concept of “kabit” (literally “connect” in English) in public transportation is not a new one. It has been used (and abused) in many cases) where the existing franchise holder(s) along a specific route could not deploy the number of vehicles necessary to address the demand for transport. In such cases, the franchisee (an operator) enlists other entities to provide the vehicles. And so there is an agreement among the formal franchise holder/operator and the “kabit” entities outside the contract between the government and the franchisee.
This is one reason why it is not necessarily the main company (franchise holder) that can be the guilty party in an incident involving one bus. However, the penalties (e.g., suspension and fines) are imposed on the franchisee and not necessarily to the “kabit” operators. The latter’s vehicles in turn continue to operate despite the suspension being technically applicable to ALL vehicles bearing the company’s name. Such are among the many issues concerning “kabit” and perhaps also among the strongest arguments to put a stop to this practice that is detrimental to the interests of people taking these buses.