The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said on June 2 the government is looking to add more bus routes to ferry more passengers as Metro Manila operations restart under general community quarantine (GCQ).
MMDA EDSA traffic chief Bong Nebrija said around 50 to 60 percent of vehicles filled EDSA on June 1, the first day of GCQ.
Around 90 buses passed through EDSA to help augment the metro's train systems. Taxis, ride-hailing cars, and shuttle services were also allowed to operate as part of phase 1 of DOTr’s transport plan.
Commuting has changed because of COVID-19—buses and trains are no longer cramped, social distancing and face masks are required, and the new transport plan strictly follows drop-off and pick-up at terminals. Buses were able to stop for commuters in the middle of the trip, but now they have to wait at dedicated stops.
"I hope the public will understand this is not final yet. This is just the beginning. In the days to come, the DOTr has a plan to phase in more routes," Nebrija said in an ANC interview.
There are many people who need mass transport, but not enough trains or buses to accommodate them because of social distancing guidelines. However, Nebrija assured commuters that the Metro and its transport systems are slowly adjusting to the new norm.
"We do not want to overwhelm the system in a way there will be more commuters and less buses and there will be chaos in the road because everybody is confused. We’re trying to phase in one by one so that commuters will get used to it slowly but surely."
The DOTr also release a “makeover” for EDSA which sees a dedicated lane for buses, private cars, and bikes.
"No vehicles will be able to get through bus lanes anymore. Now, this is barricaded and buses will just go around and round," he added.
"We need to do this to protect the commuters as well because we don’t want them to cram in one station of MRT and other bus stops and then everybody will just get the virus and transmit it back home," he said.
Phase 2 of DOTr’s transport plan will commence on June 22 to 30, and will allow public utility buses, modern jeepneys, and UV Express vans to resume operations.
According to Nebrija, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will ultimately decide which bus companies can pass through EDSA under phase 2.
LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra said in a Dobol B sa News TV interview that transportation officials are studying the situation in the coming days in order to determine how many more bus routes are needed.
Aside from a dedicated bus lane and more routes running through the Metro’s main throughway, DOTr Undersecretary Giovanni Lopez said the agency is also looking into vehicles that could operate with cashless payments or transactions in order to prevent contact between passengers and the driver.