(Un)common Sense by James Veloso
(Un)Common Sense

Disrupted routes, disrupted lives

(First of two parts)

Jul 29, 2022, 12:23 AM
James Veloso

James Veloso

Writer/Columnist

Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced plans to bring back to at least 30 percent the “pre-pandemic” bus routes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in order to accommodate the expected rush of students once full face-to-face classes start in November.

Most of these routes, according to the DOTr, will be those on “non-EDSA” routes such as those passing through the University Belt, Lawton and Taft Avenue in Manila, where large universities and colleges meant thousands of students struggling to catch a ride home in the pre-pandemic era.

Here's my two cents, as a commuter who, from 2010 to 2020, regularly used public transportation from Laguna to Manila and vice-versa, and thus experienced the agony of heavy traffic, overcrowded buses, and lack of sustainable transport options: it’s high time.

-o0o-

When the so-called “Bus Route Rationalization” program was implemented in June 2020, our government may have had the best intentions at heart: re-organizing the chaotic bus system that some have blamed for the heavy traffic in Metro Manila, especially EDSA.

Unfortunately, the system, in my opinion, lacked both foresight and hindsight.

In fact, the Department of Transportation was accused by some netizens of “making life harder” for commuters as some routes were chopped up and the EDSA Busway was created.

For instance, in the “old normal,” going to Nueva Ecija (my late father’s home province) from Laguna meant just two bus rides: one from San Pedro to Cubao and another from Cubao to Nueva Ecija.

The new rationalized bus system, however, now meant that I would have to get off at either Magallanes or Ayala and take the MRT to Cubao. There’s currently no bus stop at the EDSA Busway in Cubao, which meant passengers must get off at either Main Avenue or Mega Q-Mart which are almost half a kilometer from Aurora Boulevard.

And if the government ultimately succeeds in forcing all northern bus companies to use the NLET in Bocaue, Bulacan, that means I’ll have to take three buses just to get to the bus that will take me to Nueva Ecija.

-o0o-

That’s another problem: many of the bus routes did not take into account the possibility of “returning to normal,” which meant the return of students and workers to their old offices and schools once Covid-19 health protocols are relaxed.

And some routes, like Route 12 (Kalentong-Pasig City), Route 8 (Cubao-Montalban, Rizal) and Route 23 (PITX-Sucat, Parañaque City) also overlapped into the routes of traditional jeepneys and modern PUVs.

When jeepneys and modern PUVs were allowed to ply these routes again last year, bus ridership gradually declined until the bus companies operating these routes simply decided to stop plying these routes.

As a result, some companies have started deviating from their routes to meet a growing demand as life gradually eases into the “new normal.”

Heck, some buses plying Route 15 (Ayala-Biñan City via San Pedro City) now go to their old bus terminals at LRT Buendia in Pasay City instead of to their designated bus stop at MRT Ayala.

(To be continued)


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