The city government of Manila, together with Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) implemented a ‘bus ban’ traffic scheme that prohibits public utility buses (PUBs) from entering the city’s busiest roads, including Taft Avenue, Espana, Lawton and Quiapo.
During the first day of the ordinance’s implementation, thousands of commuters and bus drivers remained unaware and confused with the new traffic scheme.
“There was even no dissemination of the new traffic policy,” says Paul Mangune (II, AB-DSM), a regular southbound student-commuter coming from Muntinlupa City. “We as the people, we were not informed, [remained unaware] and didn’t know what to do. Even the bus drivers didn’t know where to go,” he adds.
The new traffic scheme
The bus ban is but one of the two measures that the city government has come up with as an effort to ease traffic along the city’s more congested roads. The first was the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras along the Plaza Lawton, to monitor ‘colorum’ buses or the unregistered buses that enter the area.
This more recent measure came in the form of the implementation of the ‘bus ban’, with the passage of Resolution No. 48 by the City Council of Manila, dated July 16, regulating the entry of city and provincial buses, allowing only those bus lines with existing private terminals to enter the city.
New routes were devised in accordance to the resolution. Southbound buses entering the city via Taft Avenue must turn right along Vito Cruz while those coming from San Juan must turn left to Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard. While, buses from Osmeña Highway should turn right to Quirino Avenue then turn around at Plaza Dilao Rotonda back to Osmeña. Buses coming from north of Manila should turn around from A. Bonifacio, then left to Aurora Boulevard, then left along Dimasalang Street onward to A. Bonifacio, with prescribed loading and unloading zones along Aurora Boulevard corner Elias Street.
The buses that are allowed to enter the city are not allowed to pick up and unload passengers along any street, only at their respective terminals.
Modifications on the ‘bus ban’
Due to the confusions on the first day of implementation, Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada clarified in an interview with DZMM that they are not banning the buses with franchises but only regulates them with regards to the loading and unloading areas. He reiterates that the new traffic scheme only prohibits ‘colorum’ buses or buses with no franchise or terminals to enter Manila.
Six days after the initial implementation, Mayor Estrada adjusted the bus ban, and also allowed the buses with stickers from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to enter the streets of the city, but under a temporary arrangement since the city government remains in the process of studying other adjustments, with PUBs still left to adjust with the new schemes coming in from City Hall.
In an interview with InterAksyon.com, Police Senior Inspector Olivia Sagaysay, Traffic Enforcement Unit head for the Manila Police District, mentioned that 10 units per bus company with valid franchises will be allowed to enter and cross the city streets, but only to load and unload in designated places around the city limits. “Buses will also be allowed to load and off-load at the “Park and Ride” Terminal beside the LRT Central Station in Liwasang Bonifacio if they have stickers signed by Vice Mayor Isko Moreno. The buses “should have license plate and body number on display, and the sticker of Park and Ride Terminal, signed by Vice Mayor Moreno,” he adds.
However, according to drivers of the Sunsville Trans line, up until now, only a few buses have been given the stickers and are allowed to enter the streets of Manila, including the ‘Green Star’ and ‘HM Trans’, both owned by Homer Mercado, the President of South Luzon Bus Operators Association (SOLUBOA). While a Rappler report on the ordinance mentions that prior to the bus ban an estimated 1000 buses traverse the city 3-4 times a day, the resolution has cut the number to a total of 166 buses travelling at any given time.
Alternative routes, more fares paid
After banning the buses without terminals or franchises in Metro Manila, lighter traffic along the city’s more congested thoroughfares was observed. However, many passengers and student-commuters of buses find it inconvenient to have to take an extra ride, including Lasallians who commute into the city from outside NCR.
Student-commuters from areas south of Manila, such as Muntinlupa, Alabang and Laguna, still take the same bus going to school. However, they no longer get off just in front of DLSU. They are dropped off along Buendia or at the Gil Puyat LRT Station, officially the farthest area the bus can go closest to Taft. Students are made to ride the jeepney to Vito Cruz to get to the University.
“It is really a hassle, considering the additional fare and time consumed,” says Mangune. “In a regular bus before which passes in front of DLSU, we pay P36. Now, we pay the exact amount but are dropped off in Buendia, then we pay P7 for the jeepney fare. For me, [the additional fare] matters,” he adds.
Student-commuters from Cavite take the Naic-Lawton route to get to school and back. Before, many could alight from Quirino and walk to the DLSU campus or take an FX. Now, Cavite commuters have Adriatico as a drop-off point, where it takes longer to get to school due to the walking time. “It’s an inconvenience since I usually carry a lot of things like books and other materials,” says Darel Pichay (III, POM-BSA), a student commuter from Cavite.
Student commuters both from the North and South tend to look for several alternatives in their commuting given the new scheme. Most of them ride other PUVs or the LRT as alternatives to PUBs.
Carlo Padilla Añonuevo (I, BS-IT), a student commuter to Paranaque observed several changes in the number of commuters who ride the shuttle located outside the University Mall terminal. He said that on the first week of the implementation of the bus ban, there were more people who ride the shuttle going to Sucat, Paranaque than usual.
Meanwhile, traffic along the Light Rail Transit (LRT) the number of passengers has “doubled”, creating long lines in the rush hours in the afternoon. Prior to the ban, the the Vito Cruz station did not, according to the testimony of queuing commuters have long lines that reach the end of the stairs. “The competition on riding the train became worse than before,” comments Tezla Gael Raquinio (II, AB-ISE), a regular LRT commuter from the north.
A positive development?
Though there exists disgruntlement against the new traffic scheme, several motorists with private cars and vehicles find the resolution a positive development, as it has lessened the time it takes to travel due to less congestion along their usual routes.
“It made travelling easier, less buses, less traffic, especially from Espana to Taft,” says by an anonymous motorist who travels every day from Fairview to Taft. “It is an advantage to those with the luxury of having a private vehicle all the time,” he adds. A student of DLSU from Paranaque who travels with her private car to get to school experiences the same advantage.
To aid the problem of commuting and putting order to the operations of the legitimate passenger buses plying the Cavite-Manila route and other southbound areas, the city government together with the MMDA is about to open a Southwest Integrated Terminal. But despite the pleas of bus operators and commuters, the City Government of Manila has no plans to lift the ‘bus ban’.
“Tuloy-tuloy yan habang ako ang mayor. Ganyan ang mangyayari,” [It will continue, as long as and while I am the mayor] Estrada said in an interview aired over GMA Network’s Unang Hirit.
Compromise and changes
Mayor Estrada said earlier that only unregistered, colorum or illegal buses were prohibited from entering the streets of Metro Manila, while those with a franchise would be allowed to travel in their designated routes under certain conditions, one of it is to have an issued a piece of laminated paper containing control numbers and their vehicles’ plate and body numbers. They would also receive a sticker from the owner of the Park N Ride in Lawton.
Due to this, it seems to be impossible that all franchised, legal and non-colorum buses would be back to the streets after they declined to sign the contract with the owner of Park and Ride Terminal and Multi-Modal Bus Terminal in Lawton, the said contract is a requirement in order to receive a sticker.
According to the Bus Operator Association, they declined to sign the said contract because of the terminal fee, which is 120 pesos per entry.
The Park and Ride Terminal and Multi-Modal Bus terminal are only one of the few loading and unloading areas set for the buses, especially for the buses from and going to Cavite, for they only would be allowed to load and unload passengers only at Quirino/Taft Avenue and Park N Ride Lawton.
To address the confusion brought about by additional or changing regulations, Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso only hopes that commuters gradually become adept with the new routes and schedules as this is mostly for everyone’s benefit. He also positively claims that 89 percent of commuters are in favor of the new system, Rappler reports. Domagoso furthers that as long as cooperation is attained, the resolution would be open to other amendments. In the meantime, the regulations must strictly be followed.