Buses will traverse EDSA using a single route once Metro Manila cities are downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ), a transport leader said today.
Juliet de Jesus, managing director of Samahang Transport Operators ng Pilipinas (Transport Organization of Operators in the Philippines) told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo that the single bus lane in EDSA will be one of 29 bus routes that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had planned for Metro Manila.
Metro Manila and other areas with high COVID-19 cases are currently under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), a stricter form of lockdown which has suspended mass transport since March 17. ECQ has been extended twice in the capital and is expected to end on May 15, and it is believed that at least two cities will be downgraded to GCQ.
“[During] our meeting with LTFRB [we discussed what to expect] under [the] ‘new normal’ conditions when Metro Manila transitions into GCQ. [They said] that there will new routes,” de Jesus said, adding that the city’s old 96 routes will be cut down to 29.
She added that a lone bus route in EDSA will run from Monumento in Caloocan to the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITx), and vice versa.
“LTFRB has arranged for 29 routes for public utility buses to go through in NCR. These routes have been shortened… and there’s only one route going from Monumento to PITx… our old routes will no longer be implemented,” de Jesus said.
The new set up will pose a challenge for both the commuting public and public transport operators, she said.
“Passengers will need to change from and board multiple [public utility vehicles] to reach their destinations…and we’re only allowed [to carry] 50% of [the vehicle’s] passengers. We’re having negotiations with DOTr [about] how they can help us [earn more] under these new conditions… because it’s clear that we’re on the losing side, when only 50% of passengers [are boarding the vehicles].”
Besides operating under half capacity, de Jesus said that they are required to install foot baths, check passengers’ temperature, and ensure that everyone on board the public vehicles are wearing face masks.
In the same radio program, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary Mark Richmund de Leon said that apart from buses, the city’s trains will be allowed to carry only half of their capacity under GCQ. Jeepneys will be allowed only if trains and buses prove insufficient, while motorcycle taxis will be prohibited. He claimed that said guidelines have worked in other areas where GCQ is ongoing.
“These guidelines [that we] are calling ‘new normal’ were released by the Department of Transportation. We’ve seen these protocols being implemented outside Metro Manila in areas under GCQ, and we’ve seen that they’ve complied,” de Leon said.
Commuting via Metro Manila’s public transportation system pre-lockdown has been notoriously uncomfortable, to say the least, and packed buses and trains have made it impossible to practice social distancing.
However, de Leon said that operators and commuters will just have to deal with new transport rules should Manila be placed under GCQ to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’m asking passengers and operators of public utility vehicles to sacrifice and cooperate so we can enforce social distancing. It’s important that we abide by these guidelines because our ECQ sacrifices will be for nothing if a second wave of the pandemic happens because of this,” he said.
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