The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) met with transport companies on Tuesday to make a pitch for a scheme designed to reduce the number of buses on Edsa and other major roads, noting that many “empty buses” just end up choking traffic when they form long queues at the stops.
But the meeting between MMDA officials and some 20 bus operators at the latter’s Makati City headquarters yielded more questions than answers, after the agency presented a draft plan to organize some 100 operators into four to six “self-regulating consortiums.”
The MMDA proposed at least four consortium sets based on bus destinations, garage locations and routes, among other factors.
If the bus operators agree to the scheme, it could reduce the number of city buses by half and increase the bus companies’ incomes, travel speed and ridership, according to MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino.
“If existing bus companies come together, it will improve service quality and there will be less of those empty buses,’’ Tolentino said, adding that if the 3,000 buses plying Edsa alone could be reduced by half, the remaining buses would enjoy a minimum of 78 per cent ridership daily.
With less traffic, the buses’ daily average of three round-trip journeys could be increased to five, Tolentino added.
He said there will also be less competition among buses, with the consortium providing “umbrella operations” under which bus companies can pool a certain number of units and other resources for maintenance.
“This bus consortium system is being done in Singapore and Germany,” Tolentino added.
In the meeting, however, bus company officials remained wary of the idea.
They recalled that when the proposal was first mentioned in a meeting last year, it only covered Edsa and not the entire metropolis. They also noted that the plan appears to override existing bus regulation systems.
“It would be hard to implement this for the whole Metro Manila. Bus companies already have their designated gas stations, garages,” said Juliet de Jesus of Cher Transport.
Another major concern raised by the operators was that forming consortiums would entail changing the routes specified on their current franchises.
They also doubted whether existing garages could accommodate the combined bus fleets of merging companies.
Another question raised was how bus operators would have an equitable representation in the technical working group (TWG) that would draft the consortium agreement.
Only five out of more than a hundred city bus operators attended the first meeting of the TWG last year, and at least two of them claimed that the draft agreement presented to them this week was different from what had been discussed.