DOTr eyes gradual increase in public transport capacity

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 16) — With long lines of commuters recently observed at the EDSA Bus Carousel, the Department of Transportation said it is eyeing a gradual increase in the maximum number of passengers allowed in public transport.

"Inumpisahan ko na pong planuhin yan na mag-increase nang gradual because of the change of tinatawag na quarantine classification," Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.

[Translation: I've already started planning the gradual increase because of changes in quarantine classifications.]

Metro Manila recently eased to general community quarantine (GCQ) with "some restrictions" along with Bulacan from GCQ with "heightened restrictions." This will be in place until June 30.

"Sinabi ko sa road sector: sipatin niyo na kung meron kayong dapat i-increase na 5-10% and gradual hanggang magkaroon ng pagkakataon with the approval of IATF and the local government na marating 'yung tinatawag na allowable fullest capacity," the DOTr chief added.

[Translation: I told the road sector to look into increasing (public transport capacity) by 5-10% gradually until, with the approval of IATF and the local government, there's an opportunity to achieve the allowable fullest capacity.]

The Cabinet official emphasized such a move should not be rushed because public transport needs and the economy should be balanced with public health and safety.

Public transport remains operational up to 50% even when NCR Plus (Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal) reverted to stricter lockdown measures.

1,200 km in railways eyed until next year

Along with plans to ramp up public transport capacity, Tugade also said he wants to further increase the country's railways.

From 77 kilometers during the start of his term, Tugade said they have managed to add 400 more kilometers in constructed railways so far.

"Gusto ko hanggang 1,200 (kilometers) pa rin. Realistically, kung magawa ko man ang 900 hanggang 1,000 (kilometers), panalo. Ikumpara mo 'yan sa 77 kilometers na aming naumpisahan," he added.

[Translation: I still want 1,200 kilometers (in constructed railways). Realistically, if I'm able to finish 900 to 1,000 kilometers, this is a win compared to the 77 kilometers we started out with.]

Among the railway projects Tugade touted are the LRT-2 East Extension — running from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo - which is set to be inaugurated this month, the Common Station linking MRT-3, MRT-7, LRT-1, and the Metro Manila Subway — eyed to be fully operational in the last quarter of 2021.

CNN Philippines correspondent Melissa Lopez contributed to this report.