MMDA: Provincial buses only cause 5% of Metro Manila traffic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) — The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) admitted that provincial buses can only be blamed for a small fraction of the traffic in the metro, amid the dry run of the provincial bus ban.

'Yung provincial bus, napakaliit ng percentage na 'yan ang cause of traffic. Siguro nasa five percent lang 'yan eh ng total traffic. Kaya lang we need to start from somewhere,” MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Monday.

[Translation: Provincial buses only account for a very small percentage of traffic. Maybe just around five percent of the total traffic. But we need to start from somewhere.]

The MMDA is testing a ban on provincial buses entering Metro Manila to ease traffic congestion in the region, which is estimated to cost billions daily. It eyes full implemention within the next two months.

Once in full force, provincial buses from the south can only unload at the temporary terminal in Santa Rosa, Laguna, while provincial buses from the north can only unload at the temporary terminal in Valenzuela City.

For now, provincial buses can still enter Metro Manila, but the MMDA is encouraging them to pass by the terminals to get a feel of the new scheme. However, as of 10 a.m., only one bus has volunteered to pass through an interim terminal.

The interim terminal in Valenzuela would not open for a dry run until May 15, as some issues are still being addressed, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian told CNN Philippines.

Gatchalian said the Valenzuela local government wants the Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to first certify that the interim terminal passes their standard and to issue provisional franchises to buses, jeeps and UV Express units to ensure that there are enough modes of transportation from there to the rest of Metro Manila.

He added that the local government also wants the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to open another entry away from the main roads of Valenzuela to avoid traffic congestion in the city.

Gatchalian said the LTFRB and the NLEX management have agreed to their conditions. All these will be met by the time the interim terminal opensfor a dry run in May, he added.

“I will not agree to the dry run period unless these three requirements are met,” Gatchalian said. “We don’t want the commuting public to be hassled because these requirements are not in place.”

Garcia said the provincial bus ban is different from the "no loading, no unloading policy" along EDSA, where provincial buses can only unload passengers in terminals. He said that although this has always been in place, it was not strictly implemented.

Masasanay rin ‘yan, ‘yung tao. Nasanay sa mali eh. Nasanay sa walang disiplina. Nasanay sa kung saan-saan bumababa. Tinatama lang natin,” Garcia said.

[Translation: The people will get used to it. They got used to doing the wrong thing. They got used to having no discipline. They got used to alighting anywhere they want to. We’re just correcting it.]

Bus ban can be pushed back

However, the policy has raised eyebrows among some commuters and lawmakers, who have decried it as inconvenient and even anti-poor.

“Ito’y talagang pahirap at karagdagang gastos, inconvenience at stress sa ating mga mananakay … Ito’y hindi pinagaralan at basta lang ipapasa ‘yung burden at pahirap doon sa mga galing sa probinsya,” said AKO BICOL party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin, one of the authors of a House resolution calling on the MMDA to reconsider the provincial bus ban.

[Translation: This is a burden and an additional expense, inconvenience and stress for our commuters ... This was not studied and just places the burden on those who hail from the provinces.]

Garbin added that traffic congestion would not be solved by removing provincial buses, but by implementing traffic rules and regulations along EDSA and by providing mass transportation to commuters, like buses.

But Garcia said the measure, which has been given the nod by the Metro Manila Council composed of the region’s mayors, is not aimed at making commuting harder – even if he admitted that it will burden some commuters.

Garcia also said the eventual ban will ease traffic along the yellow bus lanes on EDSA, compensating for the additional travel time expected by provincial commuters as they would have to transfer from one bus to another.

He added that they are working with the Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board to extend the routes of city buses to Santa Rosa, Laguna and to ensure that bus fares would not shoot up.

However, Garcia clarified that the bus ban is not all green and go. “Kaya nga may dry run. Kapag nakita naming sakit ng ulo, walang sistema, pwede naman naming iusod ‘yan eh,” he said. Garcia said they are looking at mid-May or June this year to fully implement the system.

[Translation: That’s why there’s a dry run. If we see that it’s just a headache, if there’s no system, we can push it back.]

The MMDA also faces the challenge of closing down provincial bus terminals in Metro Manila, which would require the cancellation of their business permits issued by local government units.

The MMDA has previously attempted to ban provincial buses from plying along EDSA, but has repeatedly suspended it.