EDSA yellow lanes to ease traffic cause traffic jams

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Confusion on the ground on the strict implementation of the policy led to provincial buses being dragged into EDSA’s yellow lanes, trapping private vehicles plying along the same route. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 7) — A traffic scheme implemented to ease traffic congestion (by pooling city buses into one lane along EDSA) ended up worsening it.

Confusion on the ground on the strict implementation of the policy led to provincial buses being dragged into EDSA’s yellow lanes, trapping private vehicles plying along the same route.

“It was hard because they literally occupied the whole lanes of EDSA and of course, in doing so, in funneling them back to the yellow lane, there are private vehicles who got stuck in the process,” MMDA traffic chief Bong Nebrija told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday.

Provincial buses should have been allowed to drive in EDSA’s third lane and not in yellow lanes, but Nebrija said they were waiting for a “directive” to allow provincial buses in their designated lanes. He said they received the directive in the afternoon, which prompted them to let the provincial buses back into EDSA’s third lane.

But the directive to let provincial buses in the third lane has been up on MMDA’s website since at least April 22.

“Provincial buses are also not allowed to use the yellow lane. Instead, they are encouraged to use the third lane,” the MMDA said.

But Nebrija said it does not make a difference whether or not provincial buses are in the yellow lanes.

“Right now, it’s that same thing. I’m here at Ermin Garcia on EDSA and we have the same length of city buses on yellow lanes,” he said.

MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago also denied that the yellow lane policy should be blamed for the traffic jams.

"Ang daming factors. Umulan today, ayun hanggang ngayon po umaambon. Alam naman po natin kapag nakakaranas tayo ng ulan, medyo bumabagal ang takbo ng trapiko," Pialago told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: There are many factors. It rained today, until now it's drizzling. We know that when we it rains, traffic moves slow.]

The roadblock has prompted outrage from some netizens who have directed their fury at the official Twitter account of MMDA.

"All buses talaga dun sa traffic nila pinapadaan. Hoy MMDA 'di kayo ang may deduction at memo sa late!" Twitter user @yejiapsikkie said.

Other Twitter users called the policy "anti-commuter."

Twitter user @andreatagasa_ questioned if cutting travel time on the main thoroughfare is only for private vehicles.

The government has been pursuing possible solutions to the worsening traffic problem along EDSA, which costs the country at least ₱3.5 billion a day.

Among these is the controversial provincial bus ban, which would prohibit buses coming from the provinces from entering EDSA.

This move was met with staunch opposition from commuters, bus operators and lawmakers, who challenged the scheme before the courts, including the Supreme Court.

Last week, a Quezon City court ordered a stop to the implementation of the bus ban.

Nebrija explained that the provincial bus ban could have been a prelude to the MMDA’s plan to narrow lanes on EDSA to make space for an additional lane on the main thoroughfare.

Under the recommendation submitted to the Public Works department last year, lanes for private vehicles will be slimmed to 2.8 meters from 3.4 meters. There will also be a 1.8-meter wide lane dedicated for motorcycles, while the existing yellow lanes will remain 3.5 meters wide.

But Nebrija said the MMDA is unsure if this plan can push through, in light of the court order stopping the provincial bus ban.

“If you would push through with this road narrowing, I just do not know how far this traffic would go for the city buses and provincial buses,” he said.

CNN Philippines Social Media Producer Chesca Buencamino contributed to this report.