Unseen costs: Free bus rides, rising fuel prices causing longer EDSA Carousel queues

June 7, 2022 - 4:32 PM
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EDSA Carousel free bus ride
Commuters line up at an EDSA carousel bus terminal along Monumento in Caloocan City on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Many commuters opted to take public transportation due to the recent round of fuel price increase. (The STAR/ Walter Bollozos)

The bus stop at Monumento, Caloocan City saw serpentine queues this morning as motorists ditch their own vehicles hoping for free tides after oil companies implemented another round of fuel price hikes.

The EDSA Busway Carousel is still being offered for free to passengers via the Department of Transportation’s “Libreng Sakay” program.

Others also preferred riding buses because they are free, air-conditioned and fast because of the dedicated bus lanes.

“As usual libre po kasi sa carousels kaya no wonder kung bakit pinipilahan ng marami… Laking tipid din po yun sa pamasahe,” a social media user said.

Commuters and transport operators reeling from the continuous increase of fuel prices that affect their daily travel. Photo shows a long line of bus riders at the EDSA Carousel bus terminal in Caloocan City on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (The STAR/Walter Bollozos)

GMA News reported the situation at the Monumento bus stop this morning. “Mahaba na ang pila ng mga pasahero na sasakay sa EDSA carousel bus sa Monumento Caloocan. Ang dulo ng pila, nasa Benin Street na mula sa southbound lane ng EDSA,” the report read.

The price of time and effort

Some Filipinos, however, lamented on how much these free rides cost to the commuters’ daily lives.

Transport advocate Robert Anthony Siy with Twitter handle (@goodkidbikecity) pointed out that these people gave up their time just to save money.

“Nakamura nga sila, fair. But it says something about how hard life is now that people are willing to trade so much time for the gas money they save. Their time is valued so little,” Siy said.

EDSA Carousel
Serpentine queues for buses at EDSA Carousel terminal along Monumento in Caloocan City on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (The STAR/ Walter Bollozos)

“Rather than aiming to make everything free regardless of queue times, we should be aiming to provide good value for the combination of people’s time AND money,” he added.

Community health advocate Leonard Javier with Twitter handle (@STPbasileo) also expressed dismay on how the transport crisis takes away the commuters’ time and energy.

“Kung mura man ang pamasahe, ninanakaw naman ng transport crisis ang oras at lakas ng mga manggagawa at mamamayan. Pero walang choice ang marami kasi para sa may pera lang yun,” Javier said.

Statistician Peter Cayton described this as a worker’s crisis.

“This is your economic recovery slowly becoming a worker’s crisis,” Cayton tweeted.

Youth and transportation advocate Reycel Hyacenth Bendaña, meanwhile, voiced her concerns about the welfare of drivers.

“Libreng sakay drivers remain unpaid for weeks; namamalimos para makakain,” Bendaña said.

READ: Concerned Filipinos back EDSA Bus Carousel drivers’ clamor for release of salaries 

Why are there free rides?

Early last year, the EDSA Carousel buses were offered for free to aid the limited capacity of the MRT-3 and decongest the traffic along EDSA.

Months later, last April, this program resumed operations and is still free of charge to commuters.

The “Libreng Sakay” scheme was supposed to help public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers who are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising gas prices.