"Solutions should not create bigger problems."
Senator Nancy Binay and the Department of Transportation are at loggerheads. This is all because of the DOTr /MMDA bus way project which involves converting the two innermost lanes of EDSA to bus lanes.
The idea is to provide what DOTr calls a seamless and uninterrupted travel from origin to destination. Beginning from North Avenue, the buses upon reaching Taft Avenue will execute a U-Turn and return to where they originated without stopping. According to DOTr/MMDA calculations, travel time will greatly improve thereby allowing for more trips, which will in turn benefit commuters.
Senator Nancy Binay for her part is saying that the plan is not only impractical but unsafe. For instance, since we drive on the right side of the road in this country, passengers boarding and exiting the buses in the middle of the road will not only endanger themselves but will also disrupt traffic. As currently engineered it is not easy for elderly people and those with disabilities to go to the inner road to board the bus safely. This being the case, it would better to just take the MRT which is simpler.
It seems that the DOTr did not like that Senator Binay has chosen to attack the project in the media instead of simply writing DOTr to voice her concern and objections.
Setting aside both arguments in the meantime, let us try to look at both sides of the story. The issue of safety raised by the senator is a valid concern. Passengers of all types of vehicles in this country normally board from the sidewalk and also exit on the sidewalk. In this program, however, passengers will have to do it on the middle of a busy road. Right now, the MMDA have already installed barriers on the inner most lane of EDSA to ensure that the buses operate as planned instead of two lanes that was earlier reported. Whether two lanes will eventually be used, we will have to wait and see.
The most important consideration for the DOTr and MMDA is apparently to declog EDSA and improve travel time. Together with this bus way project is the implementation of the old plan of prohibiting provincial buses from entering the Metro area. Buses coming from Southern Luzon must discharge passengers at the Paranaque integrated bus terminal while those coming from Northern Luzon will discharge passengers at the Valenzuela City terminal. In the minds of DOTr and MMDA planners, this will drastically reduce the number of buses plying EDSA and other roads of the Metro area thereby improving travel time and lessening congestion. This will indeed happen if trains can be connected to the terminals but because road transportation will still be used to pick the provincial passengers, this will require the same number of vehicles to ferry tens of thousands of passengers back to the Metro area which in the end will not improve or decongest traffic. I understand the objectives of DOTr and MMDA. Having tried everything on EDSA, DOTr/MMDA now wants to try a radical solution, perhaps along the lines of desperate situations needing desperate solutions. But why set up essentially another train service along EDSA when there is already one? If this is the intention, why not extend the EDSA line further to Monumento in Caloocan and the North Avenue line to Commonwealth Avenue and beyond to make the trip longer and avoid frequent stops?
As to the problem of bus entrances, a major planner of the program was quoted in a media report that the bus entrances will be transferred to the left side of the bus.
I hope this report is not accurate because this cannot be done if the bus is left hand driven. Declogging EDSA to improve travel time is a commendable objective but the chosen solution, unfortunately, is not what we call the best solution because it might indeed solve part of the problem but will also create other problems. And in this case probably a much bigger problem. Passengers getting off at both the North and South integrated terminals will have to take one or two additional trips before reaching their final destination. This would be an added burden to the riding public. This project was first proposed about 23 years ago but was discontinued because it was impractical. If two inner lanes will eventually be used, the constriction of the three remaining lanes will slow travel time instead of improving it and there will be more accidents if a lane is reduced to 2.8 meters like an ancient Roman road. In the end, whatever benefits that will be gained will be negated by the new problems created. The planners should perhaps review the overall objectives and modify their solutions.