Long lines persist at EDSA Bus Carousel despite end of ‘libreng sakay’

January 4, 2023 - 5:16 PM
NO LONGER FREE. Passengers queue to get on board an Edsa Carousel bus at the Mega Q-Mart Station in Quezon City on Tuesday morning (Jan. 3, 2023). The minimum fare is PHP13 for the first five kilometers and additional PHP2.20 for every succeeding kilometer. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

Long lines of passengers were seen taking the EDSA Bus Carousel after the bus services’ free fare program ended on December 31.

Back then, some users attributed the passenger buildup at its terminals to the free-of-charge rides that the government provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: Commuters air dismay over ‘libre na may reklamo pa’ post about EDSA bus carousel

The situation, however, did not improve even with regular fares already being charged.

Since January 1, Sunday, commuters have had to pay a minimum of P15 and a discounted minimum of P12 for their trips.

This bus system is open every day for 24 hours.

Reports on the ground showed long lines of passengers at different bus carousel stations along EDSA during the first week of 2023.

It should also be noted that work resumed on Tuesday after a long holiday weekend.

Commuters, meanwhile, complained about bus shortages. They said buses took several hours to return to board the next passengers, resulting in long queues.

“Kung kelan may bayad na ulit, saka naman kaunti ang bus,” one user said.

“Yung may bayad mas lumala yung pila mas masakit nito walang bus na dumadaan,” another user commented.

One Twitter user shared footage of her terrible travel experience while waiting for a bus at the carousel for an hour.

The video showed a crowded area of mixed queues of commuters and no public buses.

“1 hour nako dito. T*ng*na. Sobrang lala tapos walang bus na dumarating. anonaaaaaa naiiyak nanaman ako, gusto ko ng makauwi,” the tweet reads.

Other users also complained that some bus conductors were allegedly not following the implemented fare matrix.

“Sinasamantala ng mga conductor na di kabisado ng pasahero yung pamasahe. Sobra sobra ang singil,” one user said.

“Iba iba ang singil ng mga bus. Hindi lahat sumusunod sa fare matrix,” another user commented.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) released the fare matrices of the EDSA Carousel on December 31.

Fare matrix for PUB EDSA Carousel northbound (Facebook/LTFRB)
Fare matrix for PUB EDSA Carousel southbound (Facebook/LTFRB)

This public bus system was initially launched as a response to the limited public transportation options for front-line workers in June 2020.

In 2021, the Department of Transportation offered bus rides for free through its “Libreng Sakay” program to supposedly help decongest the MRT-3 stations and the traffic along EDSA.

RELATED: Metro Manila commuter woes in photos, videos: Long queues, crowded terminals for buses, trains Concerned Filipinos back EDSA Bus Carousel drivers’ clamor for release of salaries 

Possible comeback

LTFRB technical division head Joel Bolano said the agency is looking into resuming the “Libreng Sakay” program in the second quarter of the year.

“Baka we’re looking at second quarter. Hopefully, kung makakahabol ng first quarter, the better. Pero kung sakali, baka second quarter,” Bolano was quoted in a report as saying.

Bolano noted that they have yet to discuss the initiative’s reimplementation.

This development came after Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista reportedly confirmed the possibility of privatizing the EDSA Busway system.

In a separate statement, the DOTr also expressed its goal to upgrade the system to meet “international standards.”

“Layon ng DOTr na mapabuti at maiangat sa international standards ang mga istasyon ng busway sa mga susunod na buwan, upang mas maging kaaaya-aya at kumportable ito para sa lahat,” the department said.

There are currently 17 stations of the EDSA Busway along the busy thoroughfare.

DOTr also said that more than 300,000 passengers benefited from it throughout its operations.