The promise and pitfalls of Pasig City's new bus line
Pasig launched a new bus service in Ortigas Center, its Central Business District.
Overall, this is a great development. It is the start of a legitimate modern bus line in one of the most congested areas of Metro Manila. If we are to nitpick, this development feels like a series of what could-have-been.
This isn't to say that Pasig is wrong in having gone forward with the plan; it is to say that the city has the opportunity to create a strong urban bus system. They have already acquired the buses, the highest capital cost of starting a bus line.
But what's wrong with this system?
There are 4 lines, each completing a mini loop within the Ortigas area. They work in an area bound by ADB Avenue, Ortigas Avenue, C5, and Shaw Boulevard. You can see the lines below.
The 4 lines run within roughly a two kilometer square. With access to proper sidewalks, a fit person can walk 5 kilometers in a city. These buses are covering an area that most people can cover in 20-30 minutes, about the amount of time they would have to wait for a bus. While not perfect, the sidewalks in the Ortigas area are some of the best in Manila. In times of low traffic, these buses may be faster than walking, but they are not being run then. They are being run at peak transit. During heavy traffic, it does not seem these buses will lessen travel times.
Another issue with the bus lines is their duplication. By approximation, the Yellow Line runs a 5-kilometer loop, the Red Line runs a 4-kilometer, the Blue Line a 3.5-kilometer loop, and the Green Line runs a 4-kilometer loop. But as you can see from the map above, much of the Green Line is serviced by either the Blue or Yellow line. Similarly, there is hardly any section of the Blue Line that isn't already being serviced by another line. All of this duplication begs the question of who is the intended audience of these buses and where are they trying to take people.
These buses largely avoid the commuter corridors of EDSA and Ortigas as well as the MRT stops in the area. Even the one point of confluence does not appear to be of any significance. However, from this intersection, it would only be a 10-15 minute walk from anywhere in the service area, raising the question, what is the point?
A third issue with the lines is that they are free. I love free things. If someone said my commute was now free, I would be pumped. The problem is the service is not free; it is merely being paid for by Pasig and some corporate interests.
I strongly believe that transportation must be accessible, but not attempting to make the buses solvent means that the government is less likely to try and expand the system in the future. By not charging a fare for the buses, they are ensuring that the buses will use valuable transportation pesos to operate. Even if only some of the costs were to be deferred by fare collection, that money could be used to fund expansion or other transportation projects such as sidewalks. The optimal situation would be for the buses to be integrated with the Beep card system.
Taking into account the stated capacity, frequency, hours of operation, and a flat fare of P10, the buses would generate over P5-M annually, giving Pasig a decent pot of money to reinvest into infrastructure (detailed breakdown of projections here).
How to improve the lines?
It is essential for the bus lines to move people to and from points of interest instead of around a very small area. From what I can tell, Pasig is using Higer Bus Model KLQ6935G which according to their website can hold up to 67 people (27 seated). It can hold approximately 3 times what a Jeepney or FX can hold, thus making it much more efficient.
In order to better use the buses, Pasig can reroute the buses to do more than circulate people around Ortigas Center. One potential route could be a line beginning in Pasig Rosario, down Ortigas Ave, left down Meralco Ave, right on either Vargas or R-5, right on ADB, and right on Ortigas. This loop would be approximately 12 kilometers but would be moving people from a residential area into a business center. A second line could run down Raymundo Ave, cross the Pasig to R-5 then loop around ADB-Ortigas-Meralco and back to R-5, about a 15 kilometer route.
Again, this would draw from residential areas and bring them into a business center. Due to the increased length of routes, it is unlikely that they would be able to run more than two with the current rolling stock, but the two routes would be much more effective as city bus routes.
The two routes stay within the borders of Pasig, but in the future, Pasig should work with surrounding municipalities to have buses move across city borders. The lines between Pasig, Cainta, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, and others are quite arbitrary for commuters and therefore buses need to be able to move without regard to city lines. – Rappler.com
Peter Bengston loves reading, analyzing, and writing about transportation issues. You can read more of his thoughts on movingmetromanila.com.