Saturday, April 22, 2006

Solving Heavy Traffic (one thought at a time)

How do you solve a problem like heavy traffic? When everyone wants to go home and fast, there'll be traffic everywhere. I guess the solution is not to want to go somewhere at the same time. But that is running against the tide... on a waterfall..., something that is impossible to do.

In order to pose a solution to any problem, we might as well think of how the problem happens in the first place. Why is there traffic? That is the question we should answer... and here are some of those reasons:

1. Buses that are "nakabalandra"

You see this in EDSA everyday. The MMDA calls this "nagbubuntis". I prefer to call it "bumabalandra". When buses go out of their lane, and returns to it by crossing 3 to 4 lanes of EDSA and stop to load/unload, that is when that bus is "nakabalandra" or simply "nakaharang".

For the bus drivers, there are two reasons they do this: (a) They want to get ahead of the other buses (that is why they go to the outer lanes) yet (b) they do not want those same other buses to overtake them (that is why they are "bumabalandra").

Now imagine every bus driver trying to do the same thing and you will now have the traffic that EDSA is famous (infamous) for.

But hey, we cannot blame the bus drivers. Their employment contract is designed for them to do that. They are purely compensated on commission basis, therefore they have to get as many passengers as they can on their single run. Kapag hindi sila bumalandra, liliit ang kikitain nila, and it is as simple as that. Now tell me, who would volunteer to have smaller pay?

Meanwhile, the bus companies doesn't want to pay their drivers on a regular basis because they are not sure of their own profitability when they do that. These are the usual small thinking business style that Filipino businesses are mostly doing - spreading the risks as small as possible, and thinking profit in the shortest of term.

Is the problem purely economics then?

I agree, MMDA should implement the rules on EDSA, and they should set rules against "pagbalandra" (I am sure there is already some rules against that). MMDA (or the others mandated to do so) should apprehend drivers as they break the rules.

But the LTFRB (if I have it right) should also set some kind of rules for bus owners whereas the latter have to change the way drivers and conductors are compensated. A commission basis compensation may pose less risk to a start-up bus company, and beneficial to a driver who get more pay in the short term, but it is not to the benefit of the riding public. Meanwhile, this compensation style is not even good for the bus companies themselves in the long term, because they end up paying more to their employees, while they have less passengers because of the traffic. Even for the drivers and conductors, this is not beneficial in the long run, because they will never be assured of long term employment and they would never have the benefits that goes with regular employment.

And of course, traffic because of "pagbabalandra" is never beneficial to anybody, not to the riding public, not to the bus drivers, not to the bus companies, not to anyone.