Caught by lens: Long lines, lack of buses, other commuter woes prevail amid COVID-19 pandemic

June 15, 2021 - 7:40 PM
A driver of an Edsa Carousel bus at the Quezon City loading bay (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

Photos of long queues along the EDSA Busway route showed the prevailing problems of public transport amid the still raging coronavirus pandemic.

This was seen through posts of some on-the-ground reporters and commuters who took videos and photos of the situation on Tuesday morning.

A report from ABS-CBN early Tuesday showed photos of a long queue of commuters at the terminal EDSA Busway along Monumento in Caloocan City.

The report stated that some workers resorted to “habal-habal” or motorcycle taxis-for-hire to avoid arriving late in their respective offices.

Another report from News5 on Monday showed a similar situation of commuters queuing along the terminal in Monumento.

Last June 11, a Facebook user uploaded photos of a long queue in EDSA-Ayala. He shared it on the Commuters of the Philippines group where he likened the situation to long lines during concerts.

His photos earned 5,100 reactions and 4,500 shares.

Another Twitter user last June 12 also shared a photo of a congested terminal along Ortigas.

While the photos did show Filipinos not observing social distancing rules properly, they seemed to be queueing in line properly as they wait for their rides.

Most commuters seen were also wearing face shields with masks amid the humid heat outdoors.

The Department of Transportation previously launched a free bus ride initiative along the EDSA Busway route to help ferry workers amid the still limited public transportation in Metro Manila.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, in turn, will be the ones to pay the bus operators running the free bus services in a weekly basis.

The free rides were also supposed to support or augment the limited passenger capacity of the MRT-3 and help decongest the traffic along EDSA itself.

In a statement last May 12, a group of bus operators called the Mega Manila Consortium Corporation (MMCC) assured the public that more bus units would be deployed to meet the increase of passengers during peak hours.

Some commuters, however, are still challenged by the limited public transportation options and EDSA traffic amid the pandemic.

Lack of buses

Some of the comments conveyed were complaints about the lack of buses in some bus stops along the main thoroughfare.

“Sana maibalik na yung normal na mga byahe ng bus hirap na yong mananakay,” one user said.

“Dapat kasi balik na nila yung jeep para marami ng masakyan mga tao lalo na sa gabi ang hirap maghabol ng mga last trip pag di ka nakaabot kawawa ka,” another user wrote.

Struggle of drivers

Some Facebook users, meanwhile, shared the struggles of some bus drivers and conductors who were offering the free rides.

One user noted that because they offer their services for free, some of them don’t accept passengers anymore.

“Mas mabuti pa nga na may bayad nalang kesa libre. Halos magmakaawa yung driver at konduktor na sumakay ka. Pero ngayon na libre, halos ayaw din nila pumara. Di na naawa sa mga nag aabang. Di niyo kasi alam ang totoong nangyayari sa kalsada,” the user said.

Rush hour

One user shared a different experience. For her, she perceived that there were enough buses to accommodate all the passengers.

“Marami naman ang bus at tuloy tuloy ang dating pero mas marami lang talaga ang pasahero ng mga ganyang oras. Sa ilang buwan ng pagsakay ko kahit gaano kahaba di naman ako umabot ng isang oras sa pagpila kasi tuloy tuloy naman ang usad,” the user commented.

Long lines are inevitable’

The long lines captured in various terminals since last week have been addressed by the DOTr.

In a lengthy post last Saturday, DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran said that long lines along EDSA’s bus terminals are inevitable, citing rush hour and weather disturbances.

“Long lines, queueing and waiting time are inevitable, especially during peak travel, rush hour or because of force majeure situations like weather disturbances. Lalo na ngayon na may pandemya, kaya hindi natin pwedeng punuin ang tren o mga sasakyan,” Libiran said.

She also slammed those who shared of photos and videos of what’s happening in EDSA as “inciting anger at the government.”

The Metro Manila Development Authority likewise said it saw the viral photos of long lines of commuters in Ortigas and Ayala.

“Yes. Ito po ay dinala na namin sa atensiyon ng Department of Transportation ‘no. Nakita ko na rin po iyong kumakalat na iyon para alamin po nila kung anong nangyari tungkol po dito sa mga buses. Kasi if ever, madali naman po mag-assist ang MMDA dito. Iyon kasing mga pagtatawag ng mga buses, kung gaano karaming buses is under the supervision po ng DOTr and I believe they are making several adjustments na po kaagad dito,” MMDA chair Benhur Abalos said.

On Tuesday, the DOTr also issued a statement regarding the viral posts showing the long lines of commuters at the MRT-3 Ortigas and Ayala Stations on Friday evening.

It said that together with the LTFRB, they have taken steps to address this.

They also clarified that there was heavy rain on Friday as well as seven vehicular accidents and two stalled vehicular incidents along EDSA that contributed to the “unusual traffic build-up” that affected the turnaround of EDSA busway units.

“Allow us to note that queueing and waiting time [is] inevitable, especially during rush hour, weekend, or when there are vehicular accidents and weather disturbances,” the DOTr said.

“However, it is important to point out that unlike before when there were no designated loading and unloading stations, and when commuters were scattered along the whole stretch of EDSA to fight for their way to board the bus, there is order now. Commuters line up in an organized manner at stations, with the assurance that they can board the bus,” it added.

Steps being done

It likewise enumerated the steps being done to address the long lines in this post:

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte in an interview with a pastor on SMNI News claimed that EDSA traffic has already been solved.

“Ang traffic ngayon sa EDSA maluwang na, okay. But early on sa administration ko, it was a crisis there,” he was quoted as saying last June 8.

Travelers countered this by sharing their personal experiences of still getting stuck in traffic.

READ: EDSA traffic eradicated? Travelers counter Duterte’s claims with experiences

Abalos, however, agreed that the traffic problem in Edsa was already solved.

“Lumalabas po na iyong travel time na dating 21% na northbound ay naging 25.4 na at iyong 11 na takbo sa southbound – this is from Monumento to Roxas Boulevard ay 31.76 pero ang volume ng vehicles ay hindi na ho nagkakalayo, halos pareho na. This was taken last month po,” Abalos said during the Laging Handa press briefing.

“Ang masasabi, kaya tama ang Presidente dito maraming factors dito,” he added, citing bus carousel, Light Rail Transit, and other thoroughfares constructed.