Buses are bad and should be destroyed
Great minds think alike. My original topic for today was to be an observation on how we as a society have become idol worshipers, to our own detriment. The topic was inspired – or perhaps more accurately, provoked – by blobs in the stew of current events like the now weeks-long fascination with Elon Musk’s antics in his quest to redeem Twitter, and of course , the course and thank-god-this-campaign-will-be-completed-with-us soon.
In regards to this subject, however, all I really need to say at this point is: “What he said”, and to include a link to my good friend Stephen CuUnjieng’s column from Friday , “Sound and fury…”. I have nothing to add, and I could add nothing to that. Please take a few moments to read it; you will be a better thinker after that. I sometimes worry that Stephen will decide that his weekly endeavor is just tossing pearls before hogs – which I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with, for reasons he knows well – but I’m glad he doesn’t not be. We need those pearls, the occasional little reminders that society collectively losing its goddamn mind permanently doesn’t have to be inevitable, and that it’s okay to keep some hope alive.
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Of course, if you live or work in Metro Manila and have any reason to move around the city, you may have already thrown hope out the window and no one will blame you. The gradual collapse of transport around the metropolis since the end of pandemic restrictions (I know we are technically still under “alert level 1”, but no one knows what that actually means, or cares) and the aggressive efforts of the responsible authorities to make the situation even worse has been alarming, to say the least.
The latest affront was the decision by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to ban provincial buses with their own terminals in Metro Manila from operating routes to or from them between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. . Bus routes from outlying areas to the city. during the day, it must start or end at either the Parañaque Integrated Terminal (PITX) for southbound routes, or the North Luzon Express Terminal (NLET), Bocaue, Bulacan. for those going north.
There is a third terminal located in Cubao for eastbound routes, but only until the MMDA realizes it is there and decides to move the station to a suitably inconvenient location on the outskirts of the metropolis, like Tanay or Infanta or Saturn.
“Buses are bad and should be destroyed” has been part of the gospel of transport planning and regulation in this country since long before the current administration, but the fortunately soon unemployed management of the Ministry of Transport, the MMDA and the Land Transport Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has currently elevated blaming 1% of Metro Manila’s traffic volume for 99% of congestion to an art form. With the latest decree, commuting has gone from extremely long to virtually impossible, and with the new two-day coding system for private vehicles soon to be imposed, things will get even worse.
At this point, all anyone can do is try to smile and endure for the next two months until a new administration takes over, and then hope that some sense of transportation planning and management will be applied. There are a lot of people working on the problem now, and more than willing to help, if the new president just harnesses the intellectual resources. Buses are actually the simplest part of the problem – the fleet of vehicles, operators and most of the necessary infrastructure already exist, they just need to be organised.
Setting up a transit terminal that no one wants next to the Philippine Arena because a superior is a member of the INC is not organizing. Bocaue might as well be on the moon, for all the good it does to commuters. But the basic idea of a hub-and-spoke type network is useful, and what is more, already existed in the form of urban terminals of private operators; that the MMDA decided to effectively reject them – at least for 17 of the 24 hours of each day – indicates that the current problems are not so much a question of incompetence in transport policy, but open hostility towards a form of that -this.
If the new administration has the same flawed vision for public transit as this one, or the previous one, or the one before it – and again, there are a lot of people working to try to break that cycle – that will take the negative economic effects uncontrolled congestion and loss of mobility will inevitably force the authorities to do something. It shouldn’t have to come to this, but just hoping it doesn’t has never been enough.
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