4 alternative ways to commute around Metro Manila

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Alternative transport modes in Metro Manila might just help ease that line of angry red lights along EDSA. Photo from P2P PREMIUM BUS SERVICE/FACEBOOK

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — If there is a single thing a car owner can do to help ease traffic and curb urban pollution, it’s this: leave the car at home or at a secure parking lot in a mall, and hop on the bus (or ride aboard the ferry). Gone are the days when riding a bus meant enduring a crowded 50-seater with your seatmate munching on peanuts or the driver zigzagging along an already-congested highway, worsening that migraine that began developing when you realized you were late for work. Today, riding the bus (and other alternative modes of transport) is not so bad, what with the DOTC, MMDA, and the LTFRB’s joint efforts to provide clean, safe, and most importantly, non-stop services for commuters who just want a mode of transport that will not leave them exhausted even before the daily grind has started.

To help you in reassessing your daily commute (and lessening your carbon footprint), we list three public modes of transport (plus one limited only to riders of a university, but is nonetheless significant for its initiative) that will get you around Metro Manila, sans the burden of a car. The list does not include shuttle services around the Makati and Ortigas business districts, which are also available — but we recommend walking around these areas since the sidewalks here are in good condition, and more often than not (read: during traffic) you’ll reach your destination quicker by foot.

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P2P Premium Buses

Introduced last December 2015, the P2P (Point-to-Point) buses now ply six routes, all leading to the Makati central business district except for one, which leads to Ortigas. All buses are non-stop and do not compete for passengers along EDSA, significantly cutting travel time.

Three bus operators share the load of passengers flocking to the business districts for the rush hour commute. RRCG operates the route from Alabang Town Center (Muntinlupa) to Greenbelt 1 (Makati) (see full schedules and rates here); one-way fare is ₱50 and the bus leaves every 30 minutes, starting at 6 a.m. from Alabang, every weekday and until late Saturday afternoons. The bus breezes through the Skyway and usually reaches one point to another in 30 minutes, so make sure to arrive at the bus stops ahead of time, as the service can become quite full. An Alabang-Ortigas route is in the works.

The sleek black and yellow double-decker buses along EDSA, meanwhile, are operated by Froehlich Tours, and ply three of the routes: Trinoma (Quezon City) to Glorietta 5 (Makati); SM North EDSA (Quezon City) to Megamall (Pasig); and Eton Centris (Quezon City) to Glorietta 5 (Makati). (See full schedules and rates here.) Froelich is one of the first operators to roll out the P2P service in December, at a time when commuters were still skeptical and left seats mostly empty. Today’s bus rides are mostly full, but unforgiving traffic along EDSA can expand the trip for up to two hours. Standard fare is ₱55 (for the Makati routes) and ₱40 (for the Ortigas route), with discounted rates available. Tip: the Trinoma-Glorietta 5 route now operates for 24 hours, but all routes here operate only on weekdays.

In contrast to the yellow buses of RRCG and Froehlich, the red and white buses of HM Transport, in a partnership with Robinson’s Land, connect the Robinson’s malls to Makati in two routes: Robinsons Novaliches (Quezon City) to Park Square (Makati), and Robinsons Galleria (Pasig) to Park Square (Makati). The fare from Novaliches is ₱120 while the one from Galleria is ₱30. The Novaliches route is the newest P2P route to be opened to the public, being launched only last August. Full rates and schedules (operation is limited to weekdays) are available here.

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UBE Express Premium Airport Bus Service

The UBE (Ultimate Bus Experience) airport buses, operated by Air21, seek to relieve traffic congestion along the roads leading to NAIA by encouraging flyers travelling to the airport to book seats instead in its state-of-the-art Mercedes Benz MCV 120 units, 21 of which are in operation. The premium black buses boast of wi-fi, ergonomically-designed seats with space for luggage, and low ramps for access to the disabled. The service operates three routes (see schedules and stops here) from NAIA 1, 2, and 3, to Makati, Entertainment City (Paranaque), and Roxas Boulevard (Pasay and Manila) with brief stops in various hotels and bus terminals in between. Introductory fare is at ₱150, and seats may be reserved ahead of time through their website.

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Pasig River Ferry Service

The Pasig River Ferry Service System, operated by the MMDA, has managed to keep itself afloat despite relatively low ridership and its lack of accessible terminal stations. No less than the president has declared in his SONA that its revival is seen as a viable solution to traffic congestion in Metro Manila, which may finally help boost its availability as an alternative mode of transportation in a region cut through by an ailing, still-polluted river. Riders may try out the service at its 12 stations, which includes Pinagbuhatan, Maybunga, and San Joaquin in Pasig, Guadalupe and Valenzuela in Makati, Hulo in Mandaluyong, and PUP Sta. Mesa, Sta. Ana, Lambingan, Lawton, Escolta, and Plaza Mexico in Manila. New stations are eyed in Manila, including one in Quinta Market in Carlos Palanca Street. Rides from Pasig to Marikina usually take 45 minutes, and fares vary (from ₱15 to ₱95), depending on one’s destination. The MMDA expects that with more stations, more commuters will utilize the service and hopefully raise awareness on the need to rehabilitate the river further (though the MMDA reassures that the garbage smell is gone). More information (some parts of which need updating, however) is available at the MMDA’s website.

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Ateneo P2P+

While largely limited only to employees and students of the Ateneo de Manila in Katipunan, Quezon City and its affiliates, the Ateneo Point-to-Point Plus (operated with the MMDA) is nonetheless a laudable initiative, which hopefully other universities can follow, to prevent the needless armageddon of cars crowding into to a school to drop off and pick up employees and students. The service, which requires one to register as an Ateneo employee or student, picks up commuters from hubs located in SM Marikina, UP-Ayala TechnoHub, Temple Drive, and UP Town Center at designated times, as well as conveniently drops them off, come dismissal or the end of the workday, at several varied stops, including malls (Trinoma, Robinson’s Metro East) and even at locations near subdivision entrances. More information is available here.