organized bus routes...

Though I'm not too keen on Bayani's Fernando's design ethic (what with pink overpasses and pink fences) but his efforts to put together the organized bus route system is commendable. I know they are packaging it as a traffic solution (which gives lie to where the squeaky wheel is in urban planning decisions -pun intended) but it really is a step towards creating Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for Metro Manila.

BRT systems, also known as the "poor man's light rail," have been succesfully deployed in a number of Latin American cities. (Most notably: Curitiba, Brazil; in Bogota, Columbia; and lately, Mexico City, Mexico. BRT provides a cheaper way of organizing transport systems, and with political will, can do wonders for relieving urban gridlock while saving cities money.

It is generally not high on the list of systems recommended by multi-lateral funding agencies, or official aid programs as they can be implemented without expensive foreign engineering consultants or and don't require the recipient city to buy expensive technology from the sponsor country.

BRTs, if deployed correctly, offer a host of benefits apart from better public transport. Some notes from Bogota's Transmillenio:

The air is not pure in Bogota, either. The inefficiency of the public transport system in the Colombian capital is one more problem affecting the quality of life of the population, in addition to the violence associated with the illegal drug trade, the civil war and crime in general.

The mayor's office launched the "Transmilenio" plan in late 2000, aimed at improving transportation services and air quality in Bogota, the third most contaminated city in Latin America.

In two years, Transmilenio has increased the average speed of city buses from 10 kph to 25 kph, slashed the number of fatal traffic accidents and saved 10 million dollars a year in costs related to air pollution by reducing the incidence of respiratory illnesses.

Until the plan took effect, 22,000 outdated buses were used by more than 70 percent of Bogota's seven million residents, while just 19 percent traveled in 850,000 individual cars.

The Bogota bus fleet was too large (more than 3.5 buses for every 1,000 inhabitants), with a life of 14 years per unit and an average speed of 10 kph.

"Passengers spent an average of more than two hours a day in transit," said Transmilenio's chief of planning and administration, Angelica Castro.

The new system includes designated lanes for buses, four-lane roads with stops every 500 m along the meridian, leaving the exterior lanes for non-stop buses.

According to the plan, by 2016 the city will have 388 km of bus lanes, 300 km of bicycle routes and a new bus fleet equipped with catalytic converters to curb pollutants. They public buses will also be designed taking into account the needs of children, the elderly and the disabled.

The program seeks to dissuade the use of individual cars. In the works are a 100-percent hike in parking prices for downtown Bogota, and a 20 percent tax on gasoline. Half of those revenues will go toward financing infrastructure intended to fight air pollution.

-Interpress Service

BF's OBR, combined with a clear commitment fo converting to CNG buses would do wonders for Metro Manila. (Of course, they could do more with the aesthetics.)

The root of our transport problems though lies in how we have tended to view roads as investments, but public transport as a marketplace. -- more in next post.


Ian said...

BF's plans were a bit an abyss to me. Why would he put up pink fences on the middle of the road? Motorists have often complained about it even the U-Turn slots in which blocks had been moved showing signs that a vehicle hit it. To be succesful in making a bus route effective here in Metro Manila is quite difficult because Filipinos simply don't obey road traffic rules. Passengers as well who tend to fly off from the bus a lane further of the sidewalk. They don't go down in bus stops because they lazily don't want to walk that far from their destination. So what happens a queue of buses along EDSA especially under the Shaw Blvd MRT station and Cubao Ibabaw.

QC's new traffic code:

Urbano dela Cruz said...

BRT's really run in the middle of the road. In EDSA's case, its on the outside of the road.

It's interesting that complaints come from motorists - car drivers - who feel that it makes their drive "inconvenient." Which is precisely what I mean: road and traffic planning in Metro Manila is dominated by the logic of the car driver, not the pedestrian.

When was the last time you saw a sidewalk widening project in Metro Manila vs. a road widening project?

I disagree that "Filipinos simply don't obey road traffic rules" - the same pinoy driver suddenly becomes very disciplined as soon as he drives into Subic (well, at least in the 90s- i'm not sure how things are in Subic anymore) -so its a question of enforcement.

Maybe the OBR will help improve passenger behavior.

Also, what is behind the behavior of buses (and consequently passengers) is the economic model of the bus system: the boundary system. Where in effect, the bus drivers "rent" the bus and keep as earnings whatever they collect over the boundary. The logic of this system means they want to make as many runs as possible and capture as many passengers as possible. -So they jump the lines and drop off passengers ahead of the bus stop so they can speed to the next bus stop.

A salary based system would engender better driver discipline. (I remember how good the drivers of the original blue buses/MMTC were. Also the JD drivers. JD and MMTC used a salary system.)

I think I will write about the boundary system as a traffic (dis)organizer in one of my future posts.

ed said...

Speaking of private motorists, is it correct to say that there's simply to many of them too?

And that their sheer volume--due mostly to the sorry fact that in Manila cars are status symbols--contributes to the problem as well?

Urbano dela Cruz said...

can't help it. cities grow up around the transportation mode of their time - so Metro Manila grew up car centric. being car centric- the only way (currently) people can get around is by cars.

the numbers are also a function of the population. with 11M people -concentrated in 640 sq.km. -if only 30% of the population owned cars, that still adds up to close to 4,700 cars per sq. km.

ed said...

which in turn makes me wonder how much of the total number of private vehicles are owned by a percentage population.

Sidney said...

I hope Fernando Bayani is reading your blog !!!
If Bogota can do it WHY NOT MANILA ?!

Urbano dela Cruz said...


My point exactly. Metro Manila's challenge though is the lack of a cohesive regional government/planning authority. (See one of my first posts on the MMDA.) Bogota annexed it's neighboring municipalities into Distrito Especial in 1956 -effectively creating a regional metropolitan government.

It will take time and a lot of convincing to get the local mayors to understand that regional planning -and finding common solutions -benefits their own turf. The convincing has to be done by a citizen's led group, insulated and inured from the logic of electoral politics.

zebra said...

hello urbano,

hmmmm. just stumbled into this VERY interesting blog of yours. finally! filipino experience-based exciting (intelligent or otherwise,hahaha) exchanges about cities, transport, and people.....ok, let me read/go through them carefully first before i even attempt to engage.....

Urbano dela Cruz said...

welcome, zebra, to this small conversation.


p.s. ...plus zebra, makes, hmmm, maybe a dozen people who actually read this blog...

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