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Merging bus companies to solve Metro traffic?

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino has suggested that merging bus companies would be an effective strategy to improve the quality of public transportation in Metro Manila.

The major contributor to Metro Manila’s traffic congestion, Tolentino said, is the perceived inefficient operation of public utility buses.

He noted the observations that public utility buses’ operations are marred with low average occupancy levels that often result in long queues at bus stops, chaotic behavior of bus drivers brought about by fierce competition for passengers, a high accident rate, high pollution levels and proliferation of illegal activities including colorum and out-of-line operations.

“We have complaints from commuters all the time about this,” Tolentino said.

The MMDA chair noted the amalgamation of bus companies in Singapore and Colombia, which resulted in a more efficient public transportation system.

He also cited the airline mergers in the U.S., which increased the profitability and financial sustainability of airline operations.

“Singapore has one of the best public transportation systems in the world, and it never would have been realized if not for the government’s initiation of mergers,” Tolentino said.

Tolentino referred to the authority and power of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to initiate and encourage mergers and consolidations of bus companies.

“The LTFRB can grant incentives to companies who opt to merge or consolidate, such as granting them preferential and exclusive Certificates of Public Convenience (CPCs),” he said.

LTFRB has the power to issue, amend, revise, suspend or cancel Certificates of Public Convenience or permits authorizing the operation of public land transportation services provided by motorized vehicles.

Examples of incentives currently given by the agency are ten-year CPCs for applicants who have brand new fleets of vehicles and an additional two-year license validation for taxis that will convert to LPG.

Tolentino called for LTFRB to issue merger guidelines based on of the buses’ franchise, income, history of traffic violations, viability and passenger ridership.

This proposal is in line with the Authority’s traffic and transport management mandate under Republic Act No. 7924. The MMDA is also proposing the following programs: modernization of its Organized Bus Route (OBR) System; construction of the Skybridge, Bus Rapid Transit and the Personal Rapid System.