Friday, August 2, 2013

Bus Stopped

Much has been discussed lately in the local media about the horrendous traffic conditions in Metro-Manila, especially along the main thoroughfares such as Edsa and Taft where there are often gridlock conditions.  Over the years, various plans and solutions have been offered and / or attempted, such as  coding by which vehicles are allowed on the roads only on certain days of the week according to the number on their license plate. But car owners who can afford to do so circumvent this rule by purchasing a second car with plate numbers that have alternate restriction days.

One of the latest "solutions" for easing traffic is banning the numerous buses traveling between Metro-Manila and the provinces  by relegating them to depots at the city, specifically at Alabang (Muntinlupa), ParaƱaque, and Trinoma (Quezon City) for southwest, southeast, and north bound buses respectively.  Presently, the terminals are located throughout Metro-Manila, and every day hundreds of these buses pick up and drop off passengers at numerous points along city streets en route out of and into town.

Unlike other previous attempts to resolve the traffic mess, this one impacts my wife Lydia and me directly, especially her as she frequently travels to and from her home province. Currently, the bus service that she uses for those trips is a fifteen-minute taxi ride from our home. Soon she will instead have to travel to Alabang, which is about an hour away when traffic is light. And she will be forced to pay a considerably higher taxi fare to get there (about 5x the amount she's now paying), assuming that she can get a cab that will take her to that destination because many drivers refuse to transport that far.  And of course, there are thousands of other passengers likewise affected, many others of whom carry heavy baggage and / or will have to travel on city buses to the outlying depots. 

I don't mean to sound complaining. I suppose that we all need to do our part to help improve the traffic situation. But there are others ways to address the matter such as cracking down and on and removing the hundreds of  "colorum" (unauthorized) pubic utility (city) buses plying the streets every day instead. If traffic is reduced at the expense of franchised provincial buses, as Lydia points out the former will likely use the freed-up space to increase their incidents of speeding and racing  each other for passengers.

In other words, the traffic problem here will never really be solved until the main cause is eradicated: Lack of discipline among the majority of both private and public vehicle driversand in Philippine society as a whole. If the authorities would enforce and if motorists and pedestrians would obey the existing regulations, there wouldn't be a need for this bus station relocation plan in the first place.So until people here learn to behave behind the wheel and on foot—or are forced to do so on pain of stiff fines, all the attempts by the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) to improve the flow of vehicles will wind up as mere band-aid solutions. 


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

Sorry to hear that you guys (especially your asawa) will be affected of the changes to the buses and their stations.

Yes, they do not seem to get it right, knowing that they have a very serious problem on their hands.

We do have now two cars (an older car and a second newer car for the day that we can not drive the first car). But, ownership of cars is a very small percentage of the vehicles you see on the Manila's roads. It's the other vehicles (the jeepneys and the buses) that really take the space on the roads, but I agree, you see very many cars and SUVs on the roads, too. If you have ever been on EDSA, you'll see the cars/SUVs.

Not too mention the other small things on the road (like tricycles, bikes and the motor bikes (many of these). I am sure, I forgot other things with wheels.

They have not kept up with building enough road infrastructure here in Metro-Manila compared to their counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries

Also, it takes very good planners and engineers to get these out there on the streets, and that is what the Philippines is lacking.

If you have ever been to Los Angeles :), you must have seen the enormous road infrastructure that exists there, although, it's not perfect there either.

There's certainly enough money to make it happen that we have a better road infrastructure here (e.i. pork barrel money), but we don't see it very much for this.

Also, like you say, discipline on the roads prevent one to drive smoothly, but it's almost a must to swerve left and right to get anywhere a little quicker.

Good that they do not ticket us here for parking too much. It's almost impossible to park like Americans park, neatly along the roads, but they do have this set in the Central Business District of Makati, and the ticket officer usually still comes to your car and then you have to pay them for the first 2 hours (less then a dollar).

Your wife can still take the MRT to Makati and then go south with a taxi (if she can find one who wants to travel that far!!!), to Muntinlupa (South Station), which will cost about P300 to P500.

All the best!


Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your response. You made too many good points for me to address each one. So I will address just a few of them.

Aside from the colorum vehicles, the traffic problem is not so much the number of vehicles on the streets and highways as it is the lack of discipline by the drivers and disorganization. ill-planning by the engineers, and shoddy work by their contractors.

Lydia and I lived in L.A. and suburbs for many years. Among the worst traffic problems I remember there are motorists who don't know how to drive in the rain (which turns the place into another Manila) and psycho drivers in places like Interstate 15.

It wouldn't be practical or prudent for Lydia to use the MRT for any part of her itinerary as she is carrying luggage. And she would still have to take a taxi to get to the station from our place. There are just no really good solutions here.

Kano said...


You got a good point. There has also been a really big rise in new car purchases in the last 2 years, as the Capital experienced an economic boom (mostly for the few fortunate) and banks have been expanding more into giving car loans and mortgages out.

It seems to be easier for ordinary people to get credit now, and knowing the Philippine culture, it's a society full of consumers, not so much of savers, with a possible negative effect in later years to come for all these young chaps who have risked a big chunk of their monthly salary on a new car or condo that needs to be paid off.

I haven't seen too many new roads, highways and overpasses since president Marcus went abroad. It's still the very old roads we see today.

Not to mention, how narrow these busy roads are compared to the ring roads in the US or Canada.

Yes, there's no discipline of many drivers here, like the jeepney drivers who constantly pick up drivers anywhere from the road, the amount of vehicles on the outdated roads are just too much here in Metro Manila.

I just can't seem to know how they now can expand these roads, knowing the City will need to get rid of many people who live close to these roads and the constant traffic presence on these roads.

In Belgium, where I came from, they have lots of farmland where one sees Autostraden (highways), so the farmer can just sell pieces of his land to them and way you go.

But, of course, the roads in the cities of Belgium are also narrow, but they have a lot less of these junk vehicles and most of their road infrastructure is very well organized into very proper planning how everyone needs to drive accordingly. Stop, go, lane change, proper traffic light locations, etc...

Also, in most subdivisions here, you always see a guardhouse and guards and you can not enter. That is also another blockage for alternative routes, unless you have gotten a sticker of the subdivision, you can then enter.

That is why many Filipinos would like to go and live in the US, Canada or Europe. Even in many parts of the Middle East, they have a better road network than the Philippines, but that is why they maybe call it "Gates of Hell."

I agree, it's not too practical to have Lydia go on the LRT with heavy luggage and then only half way to another station with a taxi, before even starting her trip to the province.

Those things have changed for the worst in your case. I wouldn't know any other better solution. I wish I could but that is now fact that they have changed these things, much for the inconvenience of many travelers and daily commuters.

Buying a car may not be an option for you, as I feel, you do not want to drive here. Maybe in the future, you may, just to go to the province with Lydia. C5 ring-road is a more pleasant route than EDSA. Then, you can reach the South Super Highway/Skyway and go south from there.


Secular Guy said...


Obviously the Philippines, especially Metro-Manila has a long way to go in getting its road system and traffic acts together.

One partial solution would be completion of the missing link between the NLEX and the SLEX. It's just ridiculous that there's no way to bypass MM surface streets in traversing the city. Alo, ring roads are definitely in order.

As for public transit, the MRT Line 3 and LRT Line 1 have become victims of their own success and are overwhelmed with passengers. As a result of the current storm, two stations on the former which are subterranean or street level are flooded, as are various streets and venues. What a mess.

Kano said...


Yes, a solution would be for them to start the link of the Skyway from Makati (Buendia) to Balintawak, where the NLEX meets. It will be all overhead then.

I know, it's a money making roadway already, the existing Skyway now (Alabang to Buendia) is
P164 one way, that is for a car. They ask for trucks and buses a lot more.

The new stretch would be another
17.5 kms linking the NLEX. It was in the planning to start 2012.

Many of these roads were built when president Gloria Arroya was in power. I have not seen too much happening since the Aquino government took over.

My wife and I did travel a few times with the MRT here and must say, quite an event, lining up for a ticket in a disarray fashion and then boarding too crowded trains. We may have gotten on the trains when everyone was finished work or something else, but it was awful.

We did get to see an elevated view in crossing Metro-Manila and have now a clear picture how it looks like overall. It's clearly an old and run-down city.

But, I hope for them to someday linking the SLEX with the NLEX, no matter how much it will be. It will then be a blast for everyone (who can afford it) to drive on.


Secular Guy said...


Never haven driven and rarely been a a passenger on the Skyway, I defer to your suggestion as to the particulars of linking up the North and South Expressways. I just know that one way or another, it needs to be done.

I've pretty much given up on the MRT Line 3 and LRT Line 1. They are often impossible even during non-rush hours. Line 2 is the only is the only one in the system that doesn't seem to get jam packed with passengers. Crowded, yes, but not like cattle.