[SIZE="4"]Traffic management for dummies[/SIZE]
BACKSEAT DRIVER By Manny Delos Reyes (The Philippine Star)
Updated November 10, 2010

Pop quiz: Next to trailer trucks, what vehicle occupies the biggest amount of space on the road? Which type of vehicle, public or private, is most often seen spewing the greatest amount of toxic black smoke out of their tailpipes? Which type of vehicle is most often breaking road rules and regulations (i.e. swerving in and out of lanes)? Which type of vehicle is most often seen being driven recklessly, often resulting in some of the most horrific accidents (and almost always with their drivers abandoning their vehicles at the scene of the accident)?

I think anyone with two eyes and half a brain will know that the public utility bus is the answer to each of those questions.

Buses have been at the forefront of motoring news for the past several weeks, mostly in relation to the MMDA’s drive to rid – or at least – minimize our highways of gridlock. For motorists who slave hard and even go into debt to acquire a car, there is no bigger insult than to ask the government for help in minimizing Metro Manila traffic only to be told that the solution is to make it illegal for them use their own cars.

And not just for one day a week but half the time! The MMDA even had the temerity to suggest the revival of the much reviled odd-even scheme wherein a car is banned from being driven three days of the week. What the…!

I guess we should be thankful that the 17 Metro Manila Mayors who had veto power over this proposal unanimously shot down this hare-brained scheme. At least they showed common sense.

C’mon, MMDA? What were you thinking? Who causes monster traffic jams all the time? Who consistently displays arrogant and reckless driving habits? IT’S THE BUSES! They’re huge. They smoke-belch. And most importantly, they’re far too many for our streets and for the number of passengers who ride them every day. Which is why you see mostly empty buses clogging our highways for the better part of the day.

And what about their sheer recklessness? We see buses on EDSA weaving in and out of traffic, bullying everyone in their path. But that’s just EDSA. I pass the even wider Commonwealth Avenue every day and this stretch of highway has become the playground of some of the most savage and homicidal bus drivers I have ever seen.

Commonwealth traffic is much freer flowing compared to EDSA, and I’ve seen buses tilting crazily on their left then on their right sides as the crazed drivers swerve from one lane to another as they race each other at 120 kph. And I see this happen almost every day!

Yet it’s the law-abiding motorists that the MMDA originally wanted to take off the streets!

It’s also no secret that a large number of buses that ply EDSA and other major thoroughfares everyday are colorum buses. Thankfully, a decrease of 20 percent in the volume of PUBs plying Metro Manila routes is expected with the conclusion of the bus inventory conducted last month by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Assuming of course that the inventory is completely above-board and that no monkey business is involved. Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, House committee chairman on Metro Manila development, already filed House Bill 379 to investigate what he called the indiscriminate issuance and misuse of franchises by bus operators.

Meanwhile, a report funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) entitled “EDSA Bus Route Revalidation Survey” showed that there is a 50-percent oversupply of buses during the morning peak period between 6am to 9 am.

There is a substantial difference between the JICA estimate of 5,000 buses and the LTFRB’s count of 3,800. The discrepancy can be attributed to the sheer number of colorum buses.

Safety-wise, MMDA records show that there were 1,488 bus accidents in the first five months of 2009 – and an average of 13 bus accidents PER DAY in 2008. Need I say more?

Personally, I feel that the people who own and manage these bus companies – and who continue to field decrepit buses and hire the most undisciplined and unruly drivers and conductors – are nothing more than thieves or crooked businessmen (and businesswomen).

A safety check conducted on bus terminals by the LTO two weeks ago uncovered 88 buses that were not roadworthy.

Not only do bus operators hire drivers and conductors of highly questionable integrity, they wilfully encourage reckless driving, no thanks to their compensation schemes that leave their drivers with no choice but to desperately race for their next passengers and overstay at bus stops.

I still remember when Pia Guanio was still Caltex’s helicopter-borne Traffic Angel in the late 90s. We spoke at one of Caltex’s presscons and she told me how painfully obvious it was from a bird’s eye view how a traffic jam is caused by buses converging at a terminal or at a bus stop. Immediately after you pass that chokepoint, traffic flowed freely.

She told me how frustrating it felt to see how two or three ill-placed buses waiting for passengers can back up traffic by as long as five kilometers!

More than ten years later, this is still the case in many parts of EDSA, especially the stretch near New York St. in Cubao, the approaches to the Ortigas and Mantrade flyovers and the approach to the EDSA-Shaw underpass. This is the only country in the world where buses wait for passengers; not the other way around. And we wonder why our regional neighbors are leaving us in the development race…

Yet the geniuses in the government agencies are still wondering how to solve the traffic chaos…

I’m not saying that removing 20 percent of colorum buses or getting these idiots to follow road rules will turn EDSA into a high-speed autobahn. But anytime there’s a big problem and there are several solutions, you go for the most obvious, right?

And right now, it’s crystal clear that some of the buses really have to go. But do the MMDA, LTFRB, and other government agencies know this?