By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan
MANILA, Dec. 3 (PNA) –- The government is set to implement the “holiday non-stop bus service” to provide relief to commuters who are facing a daily grind of traffic congestion along the stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA).
The bus system is a joint project of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to help ease traffic along major thoroughfares particularly during rush hours along the stretch of EDSA in line with the Christmas season.
During a press briefing at the MMDA office in Makati City, Cabinet Secretary and traffic czar Jose Rene Almendras said the express bus scheme is one of the medium-term solutions to improve the traffic situation along EDSA especially during the Holiday season.
Almendras said the Holiday non-stop bus service will be back starting Saturday up to Jan. 6, 2016 to encourage motorists to leave their vehicles at home in an effort to decongest the major road during the Yuletide Season.
Almendras said the scheme is a “way of increasing efficiency of the use of the streets.”
He reiterated that with the 120,000 new private vehicles in Metro Manila this year, it would be necessary to lessen the travel time of commuters.
“We want to see a shift the culture from car-riding to bus-riding public ,” Almendras said after a technical working group (TWG) meeting with officials of the MMDA, led by Chairman Emerson Carlos, DOTC, LTFRB and local traffic bureaus.
According to Carlos, the MMDA and the PNP Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) will escort the holiday non-stop buses to ensure that these vehicles will make it to their destination on time.
”Holiday non-stop bus escorted by HPG and MMDA to assure commuters they will arrive on time. We need to assure that they will arrive on time. We are trying to start up the bus riding culture. We want to provide an alternative to people on how to move faster,” he explained.
Holiday non-stop buses are exempted from number coding and will be allowed to use flyovers, underpasses and mixed traffic lanes, which will help decongest the “yellow” bus lanes and reduce competition at bus stops for passengers, Almendras said.
Robert Siy, DOTC Planning Adviser said that the holiday non-stop buses will be picking up passengers from Trinoma, SM North Edsa in Quezon City and SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City and bring them to Park Square Ayala Center, Glorietta 5 and Park Square Terminal all in Makati.
Holiday non-stop bus fares range from PhP50 to PhP80.
The system will have three routes:
Route A1: Trinoma (North EDSA) — Park Square Terminal, Ayala Center (fare = PhP80) (6 units with 45-49 passengers capacity — Genesis Transport)
Route A2: SM North EDSA — Glorietta 5, Ayala Center (fare = PhP80) (10 units—37-41 passengers capacity- Froehlich Tours)
Route B: SM Megamall — Park Square Terminal, Ayala Center (fare = PhP50) (4 units—45-49 passengers capacity — Genesis Transport)
He said the buses can load or unload passengers along Ayala Avenue once these reach the Makati City Central Business District.
Siy also said the operation of the express buses starts around 6 a.m. with trips every 30 minutes. The last trip will be around 10 p.m. on both directions.
To ensure the unhampered daily operations, Siy said the LTFRB will be issuing special permits to 20 express buses.
The buses will be dispatched on time from the terminal whether the units are already full of its seating capacity or not. Fare tickets will only be sold depending on the seating capacity of the buses.
Siy said that the buses are air-conditioned with maximum of four seats per row and not more than two years of age. Also, the buses should display identifying sign/sticker at all times.
He noted the mall operators to provide clear signage at the dispatch site and around the mall to identify where passengers can board the buses, adding that dispatching schedule should be displayed at loading areas.
Meanwhile, Almendras also noted that plastic barriers will be put from Shaw Boulevard to Buendia in Makati southbound EDSA on Friday midnight which would serve as separators for bus lanes and private vehicles.
”On Friday midnight, we are going to put barriers on the bus lanes from Shaw Blvd to Buendia these are the barriers we used during the APEC (Leaders’ Meeting). Instead of it being in the middle of the road it will be moved on the right side on the yellow lanes for the buses. This will delineate buses from the private vehicles,” he explained.
”When we do these we expect the buses to move better and faster. EDSA has five lanes: two lanes will be for buses three lanes for private vehicles. Whatever improvement we achieved on EDSA after few months, I’m sorry to say it will be difficult to sustain this Christmas. Therefore we are providing an alternative. It is really better to take premium buses for your convenience,” Almendras added.
Almendras said the groups of businessmen that actually wanted separators.
”They (groups of businessmen) kept on insisting that it was the buses that were causing the problem so if you remember they made a public announcement seeking to separate public utility buses from the cars. So, I think this is going to answer that question. We will do it, and well see what happens. We actually think it will improve the flow of the buses more than the cars,” he added.
The separators will provide two lanes for buses and three lanes for the private vehicles.
”But that’s the whole point. We want to encourage the high occupancy vehicles to move faster. So that’s why we are going to do it. And were doing it with the plastic barriers before we put the cement separators, then we can adjust accordingly,” he said. (PNA)