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The recent spate of incidents involving EDSA Carousel buses hitting concrete barriers that separate the new median bus lanes along the traffic-stricken highway has sparked condemnation and criticism yet again on the government’s latest mass transportation solution. 

What started as an augmentation service for the limited operations of the EDSA MRT last June, the new bus operation scheme saw the transfer of the exclusive bus lane from the outermost lanes to the median of EDSA. This reconfiguration of large sections of the capital region’s main artery is reinforced by the erection of both plastic and concrete barriers as lane separators. 

Unfortunately, as the program’s critics have predicted, these barriers have figured prominently in accidents that have already damaged property. As of press time, three buses have been caught on camera making contact with these barriers. Luckily, no serious injury or fatality has resulted from these incidents. Yet.

According to Metro Manila Development Authority spokesperson Assistant Secretary Celine Pialago, there have been as many as 40 incidents of vehicles making contact with the barriers just last June, when the program was initiated. This July, 10  incidents have been noted by the 20th of the month with the three bus crashes adding to the tally. 

Pialago further mentioned on her social media post that out of the 550 buses allowed to ply the EDSA Carousel route, only 1% have come into contact with the barriers. And of the private cars that hit the barriers, she maintains that data shows 99% of these were self-induced either through drunken driving (30%), overspeeding (25%), or distracted driving (45%).

However, critics of the barriers insist that without these solid objects lining the median lane, the incidents would have been avoided. To which the MMDA spokesperson called out Filipino motorists, especially bus drivers, for their lack of discipline. Thus the need for such drastic measures to be adopted. 

There are two sides to this argument. And both have valid points to raise. But there is actually a third point-of-view, and perhaps the most important, that we hardly hear about: the bus drivers’.

Taking a ride from the North EDSA bus station to Ayala Makati, it can be noticed that the one-way trip is quick and convenient. The ride is done in just about 30 minutes including stops. This is the most beneficial effect of having secured and dedicated lanes for buses. 

Obvious cause

Given that they are allowed to cruise up to 50km/h along EDSA and without private vehicles impeding their way, are the current measures  enough though for the drivers to operate these large and long buses safely? 

We asked a bus driver, who did not want to be identified as it is prohibited for him to talk to passengers, what he thinks is the main culprit of the recent bus versus barrier incidents caught on dashboard camera. He says overspeeding is the obvious cause. According to him, the faster the bus, the more difficult it is to control.  That is why he agrees with the 50km/h speed limit on EDSA for buses. 

But on the same breath, the driver acknowledges that the width of the lanes bordered by these concrete barriers are indeed too narrow. 

As a passenger, one will easily see how close to the barriers the buses can get to. A slight misalignment of the barrier, combined with a lapse in concentration and a misjudged move will most likely end up in unintended contact. 

Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran recently shared a live feed from her Facebook account while riding one of these buses on EDSA with the press. She says the current bus lanes conform to the internationally accepted 3.2 to 3.5 meter width for a road lane. However, what the bureaucrats do not factor in is the width of each concrete and plastic barrier. This easily lessens that 3.5 meter lane width by about 610 millimeters or 2 feet, depending on where on the lane it is placed. 

In the Cubao underpass area for example, it takes a lot of skill for drivers of both buses and private cars to safely traverse the tightening lanes without brushing these barriers. Luckily for all of us, slow moving traffic has become a natural deterent for more incidents to happen. The same cannot be said, however, when there are less vehicles on the road. Cars and buses will naturally move faster as traffic opens up.

The MMDA proposes three solutions to the evolving problem: 1) Don’t drive drunk or distracted; 2) Follow the speed limits – 50 km/h for buses, 60km/h for cars; and 3) Stay in your lane. 

But really, as with many government programs that have issues, the solutions merely address the symptoms. Even if we add that government should repaint the remaining lane markings in order to properly accommodate vehicles along the width of EDSA, what really needs to be done is a wholistic transformation of Filipino driving mentality.

From selfish and self-centered driving that values being ahead of others no matter the cost, to one that is guided and principled on obedience to the rules of the road for the greater good of the many. 

This is the change that is really needed. 

There is only so much concrete barriers can do to reign in the lack of discipline on the road. And as we have seen in other parts of the world, the Filipino driver can be much better than this. 

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