By: Krixia Subingsubing
Hundreds of thousands of employees in Metro Manila who plan to take public transportation when they return to work on Monday should prepare for a possibly longer trip than what they were used to before the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on Edsa.
If they don’t take a taxi or book a car through Grab, the only rides available would be the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) and several hundred buses running at reduced capacities.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) hastily rewrote transport regulations to maintain health measures to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, when Metro Manila goes into general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1 after the more strict enhanced community quarantine.
Commuters should expect long queues before getting on the MRT 3 or a bus as authorities will strictly impose physical distancing even at the train stations and bus stops.
MRT 3 will be allowed to carry only 12 percent of its regular passenger load and the buses 50 percent.
Passengers of Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT 1) along Taft Avenue and LRT 2 which runs above Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City and Magsaysay Avenue and CM Recto Avenue in Manila should also expect extended waiting time as they also will run at 12 percent capacity. Buses along those routes will be allowed, but also at 50 percent capacity.
The jeepneys will not be allowed anywhere in the metropolis and motorcyle-hailing rides like Angkas will also be banned.
Officials are still studying how physical distancing could be enforced in jeepneys before they are allowed back on the road, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
“That will be studied because there are jeepney prototypes where passengers can only occupy every other seat. If all jeepneys could change their seats to allow this, the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) would study it,” he said at the Laging Handa briefing on Saturday.
About 300 to 500 buses would be allowed on Edsa, down from around 3,000 before the pandemic prompted authorities to stop all public transportation in the national capital on March 17.
These buses will be moved from the outer lane to the inner lane alongside the MRT 3 line and will make only four stops for the next three weeks—at North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Ayala Avenue and Taft Avenue.
Passengers will have to cross Edsa to get to the sidewalk from the bus stop.
Crossings on Edsa
Other motorists on Edsa should expect traffic to halt or slow down at these pedestrian crossings.
“Our strategy here is gradual, calculated and partial,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said on Friday. “We are not rushing [to revive the system all at once]. We have to balance the safety and health of the people.”
One Edsa commuter is leery about the new transport setup.
Before the pandemic, Christelle Lyn Peralta, 22, took a point-to-point bus from her home in Plaridel, Bulacan, to North Avenue where she’d ride the MRT 3 to Shaw Boulevard, where she works at a drug store.
“Our operations didn’t actually stop during [the enhanced community quarantine period],” Peralta said. “But a lot of us, including myself, weren’t able to go to work because we had no means of transportation.”
Now that Manila is reopening its borders again, Peralta is anxious about commuting as provincial buses are still not allowed to enter Metro Manila.
She told the Inquirer that she may request her parents to drive her to work on Monday. She then plans to stay with a friend in a dorm or join some of her fellow employees who had taken quarters in the drugstore to avoid being late for work.
The full story in today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer