Edsa ‘transformationʼ for buses, bikes under way
No jeepneys and only a few buses when Metro Manila starts to spring back to life on Monday after 80 days of strict quarantine?
That does not seem to be a major problem for the Department of Transportation (DOTr), whose plans to move people from home to workplaces and back include significant changes on Edsa, the country’s busiest highway.
But don’t have high hopes, either, according to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
“We have to balance our mandate to provide transportation with our responsibility to help in [preventing] the spread of the virus,” Tugade said late on Thursday night after President Duterte announced he had approved placing the metropolis of 12 million under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting June 1.
“On the first day that we transition and it’s put into effect, we can already put into operation our train and rails,” he said. “Each seat, alley, queue line has been marked. It’s all ready. We are ready for this Monday.”Tugade said, however, that the four rail lines that crisscross the national capital would run with much-reduced loads.
The MRT 3, LRT 1 and LRT 2 will carry only 12 percent of their passenger capacities, while the Philippine National Railways will operate at 35 percent.
But in the case of Edsa, there will be 300 to 500 buses that will carry half the number of their regular passengers to “augment” MRT 3’s reduced load. And there will be bike lanes on Metro Manila’s main artery, too, Tugade said.
Transportation network vehicle services like Grab will be also allowed to resume operations under GCQ.
Come June 22, “modern” jeepneys, city buses and UV Expresses vehicles will be allowed but at 50 percent capacity.
Tugade said his office was working on “transforming Edsa’s landscape [by] starting bicycle lanes.”
“If this experiment proves viable, we would make the structure permanent,” Tugade said, adding that it could be applied to other parts of the country.
Illustrations released by the DOTr on Friday showed that the dedicated bus lane on Edsa would be moved from the outermost to the innermost lane, alongside the MRT 3 line.
The former bus lane would become the new cycling lane, leaving the center of the road to private cars and other vehicles.
The design for the dedicated bus lane, which would also be used by point-to-point buses, will drastically transform the road, according to the DOTr.
It said the transformation of Edsa would entail the construction of 11 bus stops beside the MRT 3 line—Monumento, Roosevelt, Quezon Avenue, Cubao, Main Avenue, SM Megamall, Greenfield, Guadalupe, Ayala Avenue, Taft Avenue, plus one at SM Mall of Asia—during the first phase (June 1-21) of the two-phase project.
During the second phase, from June 22, 15 other bus stops will be added—General Malvar, Balintawak, Kaingin, SM North, North Avenue, Ormoc, Kamuning, Ermin Garcia, Santolan, Connecticut, Ortigas, Boni Avenue, Gil Puyat Avenue, Magallanes and one at the World Trade Center.
Commuters will use a pedestrian lane at each stop to cross to the other side of Edsa and vise versa, according to the DOTr plan.
Group lauds plan
The plan to make Edsa a more cycling- and walking-friendly road to handle the surge of commuters when the metropolis moves into GCQ raised hopes among cycling advocates that there would be a more permanent and lasting commitment by the authorities to promote sustainable transportation.In a statement, the commuter group Manila Moves thanked the DOTr, saying “many commuters would benefit from these plans, including pedestrians and cyclists, as we prepare to enter the GCQ phase.”The bicycle advocate, Cycling Matters, proposed planting more trees along potential cycling corridors outside Edsa to make them more conducive for bikers.
Tugade said the DOTr would implement cashless transactions and “digitalized” operations in taxis, buses and “modernized” jeepneys as part of the “new normal” to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2, which causes the severe respiratory disease COVID-19.
Reacting to the plans, traditional jeepney drivers and operators were outraged by what they described as a discriminatory policy against those that failed to “modernize.”There are around 180,000 registered jeepneys across the country, 75,000 of them in Metro Manila. Less than 3 percent had shifted to Euro-4 compliant vehicles under the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program.
Militant transport group Piston on Friday said its members would hold a noise barrage on Monday “to express our indignation against this ban and for the government to heed our calls to return to work.”
“What our drivers need right now is to be able to go out on the road again to survive, especially as most of us failed to receive aid from the government,” Piston leader George San Mateo said. “This is also important so that our workers can reach their workplaces and return home safely.”
He said the ban on old jeepneys must be rescinded. “We need to revitalize our economy and not to pit our jeepney drivers against those who were able to afford to modernize,” he added.
Airline, ferry operations
The shift to GCQ will also allow ferries and airlines to restart operations next month.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia Philippines are gearing to resume regular services.
Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., which also owns a stake in 2GO Group Inc., will resume passenger ferry services next month.
The air carriers said they were finalizing flight details in consultation with local and national government authorities.
It is expected, however, that the airlines will operate fewer flights until demand fully recovers.
The air carriers’ safety measures will include minimal contact between passengers and airline staff, increased use of online and digital check-in, and boarding and intensified cleaning, and disinfection of all aircraft and facilities. Face masks and temperature checks will also be required.
Chelsea President and CEO Chryss Alfonsus Damuy told the Inquirer they will implement physical distancing onboard their vessels.
They hope to operate their regular routes mainly in Luzon and the Visayas but this will depend on the outcome of talks with local governments. INQ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.