Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman and now Marikina City Rep. Bayani Fernando opposes the agency’s proposed scheme prohibiting provincial buses from entering Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.
The MMDA put on hold the implementation of the controversial policy after a Quezon City court judge issued a 25-page decision stating there was “just cause” to stop the implementation of the bus ban and the “matter on hand greatly impacts on the welfare of the public.”
Fernando said it was too early and still inappropriate for the government to enforce the policy wherein buses coming from South Luzon Expressway, especially those from Batangas and Laguna, were to pass through the terminal in Sta. Rosa City in Laguna, while those coming from the North Luzon Expressway were told to use the terminal in Valenzuela City, instead of entering Edsa.
Under the policy, provincial bus commuters can transfer to city operating buses that will take them to their destination in Metro Manila.
“We should not assume that buses congest the road,” said Fernando, adding that buses could “ferry more passengers than private vehicles and would only occupy road space equal to that of two cars.”
Fernando is proposing an alternative solution to the problem.
The former MMDA chief is pushing for the reimplementation of the Organized Bus Route System (OBR), a traffic scheme wherein city buses can use two lanes with designated loading and unloading areas where there are high passenger volume.
Fernando said the lanes were fenced off to force drivers to pick up passengers only on designated gates, while buses were given a limited few seconds to unload and load commuters.
The MMDA enforced the scheme during Fernando’s time in the agency in 2006.
Under the OBR system, the agency designated two city bus lanes on Edsa marked A and B.
Provincial buses leaving the metro were only allowed to use the third lane (marked P) and are supposed to be point-to-point service and not allowed to pick up passengers other than in their terminals.
Arriving provincial buses, on the other hand, were to unload incoming passengers in five stations under the flyovers where taxis and short haul jeeps can take provincial passengers to their final destinations.
“Though the system had downside, it is an effective strategy that will solve the traffic problem. I have not seen a better alternative to it,” said Fernando.
“The traffic problem in Metro Manila remains one of the tough problems that the government needs to resolve. After years of finding solution, administration after administration, we have yet to implement an effective strategy to this decade-long problem,” he said.
Enforcing the OBR system, according to Fernando, would benefit both the commuters and bus operators and drivers.
He said the income of buses before the OBR from five trips in a day can be earned in four trips with the OBR policy.
He also said buses have higher load factors 60 to 100 percent full reducing the number of bus trips in a day and there will be more earnings for the operators and drivers.
“Discipline among passengers and drivers were at its best with the drivers increased income and spending less time on the road,” Fernando said.
Fernando admitted that OBR system broke down after three months of implementation then as erring drivers “learned to outwit the controls and bribery corrupted the system.”
The agency prompted the agency to use newer technologies by installing each bus with radio frequency identification (RFID) and closed-circuit television cameras to monitor every bus on the road.
“The system worked,” said Fernando. But he claimed he “lost account of the system after my untimely departure from the agency in 2009.”
“That is why I am proposing for the re-implementation of the OBR system.” He added. “The MMDA has the technology and the experience to manage the system. Use them and acquire more.”