Monday, September 14, 2015

EDSA Traffic Solution: Buses

The traffic problem in the metro has been at the forefront of the news for quite some time now. I remember back then when news programs would only allot a few minutes of their airtime. Nowadays though, it's the first thing they talk about and the last thing they rant about.

People in Manila just can't stop talking about traffic. I myself have ranted about traffic in the past. I ranted when the Skyway was being built when I was in college. Although I have to say that that construction has really helped alleviate traffic here in the south. I was pissed at how Bayani Fernando's enforcers constantly bugged buses for a few hundred bucks. This was a constant occurrence in Edsa-Ayala southbound. I was angry at how Tolentino's MMDA forgot about the bus lanes and their inconsistent style of management. And now, I'm still pissed at Tolentino as well as Abaya.

I've been pissed at the traffic situation in Manila ever since I went to college in 2008. It's been seven years and EDSA has remained a constant source of disappointment, hate and anger. I'm sure a lot of people can relate. And I'm sure that a lot of you readers have harbored the same emotions even longer.

As I've said, I've posted about traffic before. And since traffic in EDSA is still a hot-button topic, as well as a thorn in my side, I'm gonna talk about it again. But now, I'm gonna offer up a solution and try to justify a few believes with regards to EDSA and public transport.

This particular post will focus on the bus system. I'm a commuter. I don't know how to drive and I don't plan to learn because it doesn't fit my lifestyle. And let me also say that I'm not an expert. I'm just a dude with a keyboard.

There are three main destinations for city buses going northbound. They are Fairview/Lagro/S.Palay, UE Letre/Monumento/Karuhatan and Novaliches Bayan/Malinta. Some Novaliches buses use Mindanao Ave. and not Malinta. There are also a few buses going to SM Marilao as well as San Mateo. 

For southbound city buses, they usually go to LRT Ayala/Leveriza, Pacita/Alabang/Sucat/Bicutan, FTI, Tramo/Coastal and Baclaran. There are also some suspicious buses going to Dasma in either Ayala or Ortigas. 

Many people have said that there are too many buses in EDSA. One of the more prominent websites who adhere to this belief is Just this April, they offered up a photo that they claim proves that there is an overpopulation of buses in EDSA. Of course, this wasn't met with unanimous applause.

As a lot of the comments on the page said, this is a private vehicle owner's perspective. As a commuter, I know for a fact that during the rush hours in certain locations, it's impossible to get on a bus without having to stand up. Sometimes, it's impossible to get on a bus PERIOD.

But in agreeing with the comments, I am not saying that these buses operate in a perfect setting.

Some people have long alluded to the "boundary" system as the major cause of traffic. According to them, drivers swerve and turn EDSA into terminals because of passengers. With that going on, people find it less appealing to ride the bus. Part of me agrees with them. But I don't see the "boundary" system as the root cause of the problem.

Personally, I see the free-market system being employed in public transportation as the root of the problem. I'm not against the free market system. It's just that I always thought that the system worked better for innovation and discoveries of new technology. For example, I believe that the car manufacturing industry works best in a competitive market because manufacturers have profit as an incentive to create the best car. What does profit give incentive to in public transport? Reckless driving? Collusion? It's not like the demand for transport is elastic that a change in service would result in us actively waiting for a particular bus. People don't care if their riding a Dela Rosa Transit or a Pascua Liner. There is no point in innovating or developing technologies for these companies.

When in comes to public transport, I believe the government should heavily regulate it or simply own it.

Now, owning the transport system may not be a good idea in the Philippine setting. I mean, directly controlling the movement of millions of people leads to opportunities for corruption. And it's not like we trust the government completely. No matter how many times Noynoy Aquino shoves "Tuwid na Daan" down our throats, we still know there are a lot of hocus pocus going on in the government. Aside from that, the political will needed to attain the sector is immense.

So, I guess heavy regulation is where I am heading.

The MMDA has implemented a few prohibitive actions when it comes to the buses. Aside from the number coding scheme, they also implemented the bus segregation scheme where buses are assigned letters which would tell them where they are allowed to drop off and pick up passengers. There was also the express bus to the airport as well as the express bus plying the Fairview-Backlaran route. Of course, there's the bus lane system which to a point, some time in 2013, prohibited the buses from using all the flyovers/underpasses. 

Sure enough, these regulations ended up sucking. It's either because of lack of political will and succumbing to the interest groups immediately, enforcement stinked or the regulations were merely patch work.

Eventually, the MMDA gave up on EDSA and left us with worse bus system compared to that of what Bayani left us. But we can't blame the MMDA fully for the traffic. I mean, it's not like they have a full grip on public transport and the local governments along EDSA. That being said, there's no way in hell I'm going to praise Tolentino for doing his "best".

Now, as a dude with a keyboard, what regulation enters my mind whenever I'm stuck in a bus in EDSA?

The main problem I see in the bus system in EDSA is how insensitive the supply of buses are compared to the demand. 

The government is just now seeing this.

If you are waiting for a bus in Crossing at around 6 PM on a Friday and you are heading northbound, there is no way you are sitting down. Heck, there is little chance of you actually getting on a bus. If you're going Southbound at around the same time in Ayala, it's the same thing. On the other hand, if you are waiting at around 12 PM, you have enough time to smoke or have a quick snack since the buses are flying by with empty seats.

I believe the absence of the response time of the demand is caused by a profit-driven company dispatcher. The dispatcher doesn't care if the passengers are standing. He'd actually be happier. There's no incentive for him to add any costs. He also doesn't care if the buses he is dispatching are inefficient and causing unneeded traffic. He'd rather have two half-full buses making EDSA their terminal as they jockey for more passengers than send out one bus with every seat occupied speeding pass the stops.

If we want a solution to the inefficient bus system we have, the government needs to be the one determining how many buses are plying through EDSA at a given time. It's not as if it's really difficult. I mean, they know where the buses are coming from and going to. They have traffic cameras and enforcers that can relay real-time situations. We have police/MMDA outposts everywhere that can serve as spotters/counters that can make sure the bus companies are sending out the right amount of buses. And, government is starting to really take the bus lane seriously basically guaranteeing a steady flow of buses. I don't know. It's one of those "easy" things that I think about whenever I find myself stuck in a bus; whether it be a crowded or almost empty.

With this thing I'm thinking about, traffic should be affected for the better. When it is not rush hour, the government can lessen the volume of the buses. This improves the traffic not only because of the lower volume, but also in behavioral change. With less competition, buses are less inclined to turn EDSA into a terminal or swerve since they should have more passengers in theory. And during the rush hours, the bus system can accommodate more passengers thus making it more appealing to someone who would otherwise use his car.

With this hands-on approach, some may argue that the government may be encroaching too much on a privatized sector. But if you think about it, the government would only be doing what it has already been doing in the first place. The government already controls the routes. It's the government that controls the competition already. With what I've written here, the government is just furthering its control of a vital strategic component of the state. The buses are still free to put silly advertisements on their units as they please.

I don't know. Maybe I'm oversimplifying/overthinking whenever I'm stuck in traffic. But if there is one thing I'm sure of, it's that the bus system in EDSA needs to improve.

Well, actually, Metro Manila traffic management needs to improve as a whole. There are a few things that cross my mind whenever I see the congestion of trucks in Magallanes as they head for the port area. There are also things that cross my mind when I'm in an MRT as some guy stares at the ceiling trying to avoid looking into my eyes.

Maybe I'll get to write about them. But I have to go to sleep now. I have to go to Valenzuela City from San Pedro, Laguna... and EDSA is in my way.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Jun Sabayton's Bayaw Gives a New Perspective on Philippine Politics

It's funny how comedy paints the reality of a serious condition. In the US, popular TV shows like Jon Stewart's The Daily Show or SNL  routinely mock the shortcomings of their leaders through sketches, exaggerated clips or, in the case of Stewart or Stephen Colbert, outright commentary. Here in the Philippines though, comedy and politics are not seen as a match made in heaven. Jun Sabayton and rest of his crew are looking to change that.

For people like me who watched UNTV in the early 2000's, Jun Sabayton is one of the constant bit players in the show Strangebrew. He, along with Ramon Bautista, played weird characters in the querky show that rose the late Tado Jimenez to prominence. A few years later, you may have seen him in Radioactive Sago Project's widely successful video "Astro". Nowadays, he is seen with Astro and Strangebrew director RA Rivera, Ramon Baustista and Radioactive's Lourde de Veyra in another comedic news and commentary internet program called Kontrabando. He is also a prominent cohort of Lourd de Veyra in Word of the Lourd, History and Wasak as well as in TV5's morning show.

Judging by his past and present roles, Jun Sabayton is not the conventional guy to turn to when it comes to politics. And this is what makes this BAYAW campaign effective. This is what makes it fresh. He is like Pugad Baboy's Cabalfin except that he uses actual lines and gimmicks of current presidentiables where Cabalfin is simply a generalization.

Think of it this way: Whenever Binay goes around and eats with the "masa" or hand feeds kids in a wet market, some say it shows how he is a working man's man while some may say he's just being a "trapo" and campaigning early. But whenever Jun Sabayton goes around and  does the same thing, what would the same people say? Or when Mar Roxas said something like "tinatanggap ko ang hamon ng aking mga boss!" when Aquino endorsed him, what did we say? Compare that to when Sabayton said the same thing last week when he came out in a balikbayan box to "declare" his candidacy.

People tend to focus more on who is speaking instead of what is being said. A good example of this is how Binay's "TSONA" was quickly dismissed by many simply because it was him who said.what he said.

With Jun Sabayton's Bayaw, it is easy for me to see how ridiculous it is to see a guy like Binay try to make himself look like a part of the masses. With Bayaw, it's easy to see just how ridiculous it is to see Roxas say "tinatanggap ko ang hamon ng aking mga boss" when we all know he's been trying hard to climb the political ranks for a long time. I mean, he would've been the LP candidate in 2010 had Cory not died. It's as if he's telling us he's only running because we want him to run.

I've long criticized the media whenever election season comes. I feel as though they don't really make people want to think about the important stuff. They flaunt their slogans about how change starts with me without recognizing that if they really do want "change" they have the power.

I've always believed that the media's call for change is a mere advertising plot by the massive corporations backing them. And this "Bayaw" thing may be no different. But hey, Jun Sabayton, once the world's most useless celebrity reporter, has never been known to let corporate competitions get in the way in doing what he wants.

Hopefully, Bayaw stays with us all the way tot eh elections. Hopefully, he continues to look like a complete tool/idiot as he mimics the people running for office. And here's hoping he dances like a complete nut job the same way our candidates do during political rallies.

And with that, let's give it up for Bayaw: