The past months were very harsh on commuters with the ongoing road reconstruction and the growing number of vehicles on the road on any given time. While we are not yet experiencing the same terrible plight of commuters in Manila, we fear that we are going in that direction if nothing is done to rationalize the use of our streets, including the parking of vehicles in two-lane roads and the presence of vendors in narrow sidewalks.
Since last year, the city has been working on the High Priority Bus System, which is expected to ease commuters’ woes especially during peak hours. In her State of the City Address last Monday, Mayor Sara Duterte said that this will cut the existing 120 to 130 routes into 29 routes which will really ease the number of vehicles on the road. We are expecting the phasing out of 7,000 public utility vehicles to be replaced with 1,000 buses with automated fare collection system. For commuters in Catalunan Grande and Toril, the Expanded Peak Hours Augmentation Bus System (EPHABS) has been serving them since early part of this year so they are more familiar with this system.
The mayor said the funding which will be taken from the supplemental budget in the amount of 100 million pesos, will be able to finance the operation of low floor buses in Catalunan Grande and Diversion Roads, opening a new route for North to South commuters.
The most asked question is, what will happen to the PUJ drivers who will lose their means of livelihood? The city has planned for a financial assistance program to recompense PUJ operators and drivers. As part of this, they are offered social development programs from other national agencies for re-tooling or other skills training that will enable them to continue to work in the transport industry if they so wish.
We hope that with a more systematic and rationalized transport system, more people will take the bus. Most of the vehicles on the road, estimated at 90 percent, are private vehicles. They occupy the same space as the cramped PUJs with around 18 people.
Owners of private vehicles also have trouble finding parking spaces especially in the downtown area. Taking an air conditioned, comfortable bus certainly becomes more appealing not only for commuters but private vehicle owners as well.