by Dine Racoma
No one can contest the dire traffic situation along EDSA. There is a hodgepodge of all sorts of vehicles (legal and otherwise) that find themselves on the country’s most heavily driven road, ranging from private vehicles, motorbikes, taxis, pedestrians and vendors. Among the staples to be found on EDSA are the commuter buses that service millions of motorists in the metropolitan area.
The presence of these buses can only be described as a necessary evil.
This may sound harsh as the 4,000 commuter buses and 7,000 provincial buses do provide a service to millions of Filipino passengers to help them make their way around the city. In 2009, the DOTC recorded the total passenger traffic close to 44 million passengers. Without these buses, millions of passengers would be stranded.
However, these buses undoubtedly have caused their fair share of troubles to passengers and motorists alike.
For many motorists, the way the bus drivers operate their vehicle is unsafe and often causes major traffic accidents along the thoroughfare.
In 2011 alone, there were 395 casualties related to bus accidents. According to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTRFB), a total of 74 deaths and 301 injuries stemmed from bus accidents. This isn’t even counting the number of motor vehicle accidents the buses cause, resulting in further traffic on the road.
For one thing, the way these long buses change lanes is without any regard for the other vehicles around them. The buses weave in and out of traffic, as if these were compact cars or motorbikes, rather than long vehicles that can carry several dozens of passengers at a time. Many buses cut other drivers or simply change lanes without any regard for the other vehicles they are affecting.
Racing for profit
Another major issue with the buses is the way the drivers seem to think they are racecar drivers in NASCAR, regardless of road and weather conditions.
Just a few weeks ago, a CCTV camera caught a speeding bus along the South Expressway careening out of control as it hit a rail guard and toppled over to the side, injuring the passengers onboard.
In the Philippines, the government doesn’t run the public buses. Instead, bus franchises are given to private operators who are obviously in it to make money. This is why they have placed quotas on bus drivers and conductors to load their vehicles with as much people as possible. The quicker they are able to ply their route, the more passengers they will be able to take. The more passengers they take, the more money the drivers and conductors make.
This is why the buses seem to be in a hurry all the time and why the drivers seem to drive as if they are in The Amazing Race. At the same time, it’s also the reason why they want to stop at every single point where there are potential passengers, regardless if it’s at the corner of an intersection, at the foot of a bridge, a fenced in area or other non-designated area. This abrupt stop and go motion causes headaches to other motorists and is a cause for vehicular accidents.
Imposing a speed limit
In response, the Department of Transportation and Communications will soon implement a 40km per hour speed limit for buses.
DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas is pushing for the plan since he doesn’t think that there is a need for the commuter buses to go faster than 40 kph.
“The service buses applied for is to carry passengers to their destination. The safety of the commuters should be their main concern. They did not get a permit to become car race drivers.”
A device would be installed in all buses to help drivers identify their speed. The device would also prevent the buses from speeding. Apparently, these bus drivers don’t seem to care about their odometer readings.
Because of the tremendous volume of traffic along EDSA, the MMDA has identified that the average speed limit along the road is only at 36 km per hour. Given, this average speed limit, it shouldn’t be a problem to impose a stricter speed limit for buses. With the heavy volume of traffic, the speed limit on EDSA may as well be 40kph during rush hour.
However, many buses seem to defy this at every given opportunity. At present, the current speed limit for buses on EDSA is at 60 kph.
So far, Integrated Metropolitan Bus Operators Association (MBOA) president Claire dela Fuente has yet to respond to this proposal.
Many DOTC secretaries and land transportation personnel have come up with several solutions in the past. This was to help the buses move more safely and efficiently and to help ease the worsening traffic condition in the country.
Increased traffic personnel
Most of the MMDA personnel on EDSA can be seen arguing with bus drivers, knocking on the back of the buses or simply trying to coral and discipline these vehicles and their drivers.
The presence of these MMDA traffic officers may be the bane of the driving existence of the bus drivers, but their presence does not really help discipline the drivers. With the mentality that as long as no one is looking, you should be able to do what you want and it’s not against the law. Traffic officers and other monitoring devices are needed to make sure these guys stay in check.
There is the yellow lane or bus lane along EDSA, which only buses are supposed to use. There is now the provincial lane, wherein the buses headed for the province have a dedicated lane so these buses don’t have to mingle or compete for road space with the commuter buses that make frequent stops. Of course, these aren’t always followed as all sorts of vehicles find their way on the bus lanes, and the buses don’t always stick to their designated lanes.
Photo: “California Bus Lines Mitsubishi Fuso MP118N CEL-236 (fleet No 315), Cign Trans Nissan Diesel CPB87N NXZ-356 (fleet No 685), Columbus Nissan Diesel CPB87N NYA-573 (fleet No 112) in EDSA, Mandaluyong, Manila, Philippines.” by John Ward, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved