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An article came out today on a popular online news site stating that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) blames the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for the severe traffic congestion that is experienced daily along Katipunan Avenue (part of Circumferential Road 5). The article may be found in the following link:
Reading the article, I would like to think that the MMDA likely misunderstood the advisory from the LTFRB extending the “non-apprehension policy” for trucks that have not renewed their franchises. This policy is not the same as the truck ban scheme being implemented in Metro Manila by the MMDA and LGUs. The trucks using Katipunan Avenue during the prescribed period that they are allowed travel along this and other roads are not violating any laws or regulations. Meanwhile, the increase in the volume of trucks can only be attributed to an increasing demand for goods that translate into freight movement. There are very limited alternatives to Katipunan Ave., which is a truck route (note: most of EDSA is not a truck route), and there are few wide roads that can accommodate the volume of trucks carried by C5.
I use Katipunan everyday as it is the main road between my home and my office. I can say that traffic has worsened along this stretch of C5 and one can always see the long queue of vehicles caught in traffic along the northbound side of Katipunan especially from the afternoon to night periods. There are many causes of traffic congestion along Katipunan Ave. and during times when trucks are banned from traveling, it is still congested due to the sheer number of private vehicles using the road. C5, after all, is a major road connecting Quezon City with Pasig, Makati and Taguig, which host major CBDs (Ortigas, Makati and Bonifacio Global City).
In the mornings, much private vehicle traffic is generated by the exclusive schools along Katipunan and the northbound side of the road is usually congested from C.P. Garcia all the way to Blue Ridge. Meanwhile the southbound side is full of vehicles from B. Gonzales (across Miriam College’s main gate) to Tandang Sora. In the afternoons and evenings, traffic congestion is caused mainly by traffic returning from Ortigas, Makati, BGC, etc. to Quezon City and elsewhere where their passengers reside. Road capacity is usually reduced by the parked and standing vehicles that usually occupy a couple or more lanes along Katipunan southbound.
I guess the MMDA would just have to do a better job of managing traffic along this corridor. However, they can only do so much given the sheer volume of private and freight traffic using Katipunan and the limited options for reducing traffic over the immediate to short terms. Only an efficient mass transit system (including walking and cycling for short trips) and a significant mode shift from private to public transport can provide a long term solution to traffic congestion along Katipunan. Until then, congestion along Katipunan will continue to worsen and this will further be exacerbated by the full development and operation of the U.P. Town Center and other high rise developments along the road. Good luck to all of us using Katipunan Ave.!
The recent clamor for bicycle facilities have led to several initiatives in Metro Manila and other Philippines cities (most notable recently is Iloilo) to support the demand for cycling facilities. While Marikina City already has a network of off-street bikeways segregated from motorised traffic, there are few other examples of such facilities elsewhere. The more recent initiatives in Metro Manila involved the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) establishing bikeways in several areas along major roads in the metropolis. I say establish because the MMDA did not construct new bikeways like the ones in Marikina or Iloilo. What the agency did was to designate sidewalks and other existing paths for cycling by painting these over. Unfortunately, these so-called bikeways did not take into consideration the needs of pedestrians with whom cyclists must share this limited space. And so few people use them despite a high profile launch that brought together government officials and NGOs including cycling and mobility advocates and enthusiasts. I guess the big test was really not whether advocates and enthusiasts would really use the bikeways (Don’t count on the officials to use them. They have chauffeur-driven vehicles.). Would the regular commuter use them instead of the roads, despite the risk or dangers posed by motor vehicles?
Commuters waiting for a bus ride along EDSA with suspended bicycle racks behind them. The sidewalks along EDSA have been painted red, designating them for bicycle use. The big question now is how cyclists will interact with pedestrians given the very limited space they should be sharing.
Bicycles hanging on racks attached to the perimeter wall of an exclusive subdivision along EDSA.
Cyclist using the curb side lane of EDSA – these people run the risk of being sideswiped by buses operating along the yellow (bus) lanes of this busy thoroughfare. It is quite obvious in the photo that there is no space on the sidewalks to accommodate cyclists and even pedestrians. Column for the MRT-3 stations are right on the sidewalks and makes one wonder how this flawed design was approved in the first place. MMDA enforcers usually appear as if they are only bystanders and seem to be generally helpless when it comes to managing traffic.
Workers cycling back to their homes after a day’s work. Many people have opted to take bicycles for their daily commutes even if they have to travel long distances in order to save money that would otherwise be paid as fares for buses, jeepneys, UV Express or tricycles. Note that the cyclists use the outermost lane of the road as the sidewalks pose many obstacles including pedestrians as shown in the photo. Some cyclists though want more than a share of the sidewalk or a lane of the road for their use regarding pedestrians and motor vehicles as nuisance for them. Surely, some pedestrians also regard cyclists as nuisance to walking and would prefer to have the sidewalks for themselves.
Cycling is in a way an emancipation from motorized transport commutes, and savings translate to money they could allocate for other needs of their families. While there are raw data for family expenditures from census surveys, there are few studies and publications focused on transport. It would be interesting to see how much a typical Filipino family spends for transport in absolute terms as well as a percentage of their total incomes. Such information would be essential for understanding the needs of travelers, especially for daily commutes for work and school (other trips include those for purposes of shopping, recreational, social and others). Long commutes are associated with higher expenses (e.g., in terms of fares or fuel costs) and reducing such costs through shorter commutes should free up money for necessities like food, housing and clothing. Ultimately, this would help solve issues relating to poverty and health, which can easily be related to commuting behavior and characteristics.
It is in that context that transport systems should be planned and implemented carefully along with the housing developments. This underlines the essence of the relationship between transport and land use that has been the topic of discussions for quite some time now that apparently, a lot of people in this country, especially officials and the private sector have chosen to ignore or apply selectively (i.e., according to their own advantage and not really for the general welfare of the public). A transport system is not cycling alone, or roads or railways alone. It is, by definition, a network, a set of interacting, integrated elements and each of these components of the system are essential for it to function well. It is the interaction and integration that are the key elements that we often forget as we advocate one transport mode over others as if they are independent from each other. They are not and we should complement rather than compete in our advocacies for transport so we can finally achieve an efficient, effective system for everyone.
I had originally wanted to use “Clarifying issues on bus bans and terminals in Metro Manila” as the title for this post. However, I felt it was too strong a title, and one that would be more appropriate for a government agency like the MMDA or DOTC, or an LGU like Manila. More than fault-finding and criticizing government agencies and local governments, I believe we should take a closer and more objective look at the issues (or non issues?) pertaining to the Manila bus ban and the opening of the southwest provincial bus terminal for Cavite-bound buses. Following are my comments on issues raised the past weeks about the two initiatives.
Issue 1: There were no or few announcements about the implementation of the bus ban in Manila and the southwest terminal in Cavite.
Comments: While the bus ban in Manila came as a surprise to many, the move was actually a consequence of a Manila City Council resolution. Normally, such resolutions would take time to implement and would entail announcements for stakeholders. Though we will probably never know the truth or who is saying the truth about the resolution and its implementation, it is likely that bus operators already knew about the implications but decided to call Manila’s bluff and play the media and public appeal cards rather than comply with Manila’s requirements for franchised buses and terminals as they have done before in other issues like fuel prices and fare hikes.
I find it difficult to believe that the MMDA did not do its part in announcing the opening of the southwest terminal. Perhaps people thought the announcement was over a very short period? Or maybe people didn’t mind the announcement and are also at fault for paying no or little attention to the announcement? If so, then the public is also partly to blame for disregarding the announcement from the MMDA, assuming the agency won’t push through with its initiatives to implement central terminals for buses. Next up will be another southern terminal at Alabang and a northern one near Trinoma.
Issue 2: Poor transfer facilities and services including a lack of pedestrian facilities between the bus terminal and transfer point, and lack of public transport like jeepneys to ferry passengers to their destinations.
Comments: I think it’s quite clear that the MMDA and LGUs are at fault here. Despite the construction and scheduled opening of the southwest terminal, there have been limited effort in improving pedestrian facilities. Such facilities needed to be in place prior to or upon the opening of the southwest terminal and requiring all provincial buses to terminate at the facility instead of continuing to Metro Manila. People-friendly facilities could have helped people in adjusting to the new policy though walking from 100 to 200 meters is certainly not for all, especially during this rainy season. Senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) would have specific needs that could have been addressed from day one of operation of the terminal. One approach to “bridge the gap” between the terminal and where people could take city bus and jeepney rides could have been to modify some city bus and jeepney routes to make these closer to the terminal. Ideally, the terminal could have been an intermodal facility providing efficient, seamless transfers between modes of transport.
In the case of Manila, the jeepneys were already there with routes overlapping with buses but their numbers and capacity could not cope with the demand from the buses. Since the main objective of Manila was to weed out colorum buses, it could have coordinated with the LTFRB to check the registration and franchises of buses rather than generalizing among all buses. Perhaps Manila just wanted to make a big statement? But then this was at the expense of the riding public, which obviously got the attention of many including the media. Coordination among agencies and LGUs, however, has not been a strong suit for these agencies, and this thought leads us to the next issue.
Issue 3: Lack of coordination among LGUs and agencies in implementing transport schemes.
Comments: This issue is an enduring one and has been the topic of discussions, arguments and various fora for as long as we can remember. On one hand, the DOTC and the LTFRB should provide guidelines and guidance to local governments on transport planning and services. The agencies should be proactive in their engagement of LGUs in order to optimize transport services under the jurisdiction of national agencies and local governments. On the other hand, LGUs must accept the fact that most if not all of them are ill equipped or do not have the capacity nor capability to do transport planning much less addressing issues regarding public transport. Citing the Local Government Code and its devolution of local transport to LGUs everytime there’s a transport issue certainly won’t help LGUs solve their problems.
Issue 4: Terminals required for city buses in Manila.
Comments: There should be a terminal for city buses in Manila but not a terminal for each company. There should only be one or maybe two terminals where buses can make stops prior to making the turnaround for the return trip. There is actually a terminal in Manila, which the city can start with for city buses. This is the one just beside the Metropolitan Theater and near City Hall, which can be utilized by city buses. It is also close to the LRT Line 1 Central Station so the facility can be developed as a good intermodal terminal for land transport.
Issue 5: Colorum or illegal public transport vehicles in Manila
Comments: This is actually a problem not just for Manila but for the rest of Metropolitan Manila and the rest of the country. The colorum problem is there for both conventional and paratransit services as there are illegal buses, jeepneys, UV express, multicabs, taxis, tricycles and pedicabs everywhere. Many of these are allegedly being tolerated by national agencies and local governments with many allegedly being fielded or owned by public transport operators themselves.
In most cases, the best time to evaluate a traffic policy or scheme is NOT during its first days or weeks of implementation but after a significant time, say at least a month, after it was implemented. This is because the stakeholders, the people involved would take some time to adjust to any scheme or policy being implemented. This adjustment period will vary according to the magnitude or scope of the scheme/policy and can be quite “painful” to many who have gotten used to the old ways. Usually, a lot of comments and criticisms are quite emotional but it is clear that the collective sentiment is the result years or decades of poor transport services and fumbling by government agencies. Transport in Metro Manila is already quite complicated with routes overlapping and services competing with each other for the same passengers. Perhaps it is time to simplify transport while also in the process of optimizing and rationalizing services. I have written about this in this previous post.
More transport issues in Manila will come about should the city train its attention on other modes of transport including jeepneys, UV express vehicles, tricycles, pedicabs and kuligligs. If the city is really intent on reforming transport services within its jurisdiction, it should consider the needs of all stakeholders and especially and particularly the riding public. Transport should be inclusive, people-friendly as well as environment-friendly and there are many good practices in other cities that Manila could refer to and study for adaption and adoption for the city. If it is successful in improving transport, then perhaps Manila could be the country’s model for transformation from being the “Gates of Hell” to being a “Portal to Heaven” to residents and visitors alike.