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LTFRB to allow only one bus route on EDSA once ECQ is lifted

From the previous 61, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will provide only a single bus route dedicated to EDSA once the enhanced community quarantine is lifted.

During the virtual hearing of the House Committee on Transportation on Saturday, it was also revealed that out of the 96 bus routes in Metro Manila, including those that ply through EDSA, only 29 bus routes will be given a special franchise.

LTFRB chair Martin Delgra, in the hearing, said they decided to use the COVID-19 health crisis as an opportunity to rationalize all land-based transportation systems and shorten routes to allow for a faster turnaround of buses and other public utility vehicles.

Delgra said only one bus route will be dedicated to EDSA, while all other trips that were previously served by buses that also traverse EDSA will have to be served by separate and dedicated bus routes.

Under this new scheme, a commuter traveling from Fairview to Makati would have to get on a bus at Fairview and get off at EDSA. He would then get on a bus on the EDSA route and get off at Ayala, from where he may get on another bus to reach his destination in Makati.

These "rationalized" routes will replace the old ones not only during the general community quarantine but even beyond that as part of the Department of Transportation's effort to reform Metro Manila's outdated land-based transport system, he added.

According to Delgra, acquiring franchises for buses and other modes of transport is initiated by operators. Therefore, when these franchises are applied and issued, they are mostly from the perspective of the operators.

"The longer the route, the more expected commuters they will get and therefore in terms of profit,  they would be able to be assured of the economic fundamentals of their operation. That model is no longer relevant today," he said.

Sarmiento supported the move of the LTFRB, noting that this was similar to his proposed "centralized and synchronized bus dispatch system."

"For me it is really the right time to reform the land sector. I will be supporting you but I'm hoping that you will plan it well and execute it well. The most important here is for the public to have the transportation system that they need come GCQ," he said.

"The public transport system, and I'm referring to the land-based public transport system, is in dire need of reform, even pre-COVID scenario. Part of that is having to improve the efficiency of our public transport system. What has happened in the last 30 or 40 years, the model of bus franchises is no longer relevant today and we have been saying that even at the start of this administration," he added.

During the virtual hearing, the Department of Transportation said they are fully ready to lift the ban on public transportation in Metro Manila once the ECQ is lifted, except for jeepney and motorcycle taxis as they failed to comply with the parameters set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on social distancing.

Meanwhile, jeepneys will be allowed subject to the approval of the IATF, the department added.

The ECQ in Metro Manila and in other areas of the country is in effect until May 15. — BM, GMA News