For as long as this Urban Roamer can remember, managing traffic along EDSA has been a nightmare. So many schemes were set in place as a way to alleviate the heavy traffic that has plagued the area but none of them worked in the long run.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic which forced a nationwide quarantine lockdown in mid-March 2020 that brought a massive shutdown of public transportation. Naturally, it caused an unusual smooth flow of traffic throughout an unusually almost empty EDSA. Inadvertently, as with other changes that were implemented thanks to COVID-19 like the growth of cashless transactions, the pandemic was an opportunity to make some major changes in the EDSA commuting experience.
Thus, on June 1, 2020, as quarantine restrictions were eased a bit in Metro Manila, the Metro Manila Development Authority unveiled the EDSA Busway, popularly known as the EDSA Carousel in which buses plying along EDSA were restricted to ply the innermost lanes with designated stops in place. This was actually part of the greater public transport reorganization implemented by the Department of Transportation, which reorganized bus routes in and around the metropolis.
Now the idea of the EDSA Carousel is something that was actually in the pipeline for years, albeit in a different form from what it is today. It goes as far back as 2018 when plans were made for a bus rapid transit system in EDSA in which there would be a dedicated section for buses and bus stops along this thoroughfare, albeit with more infrastructure in place like proper bus stops.
The EDSA Carousel was more than just a change in managing the traffic flow in EDSA. It was also about managing the flow of people, especially in the midst of a pandemic where flow of people and contact with one another should be more managed than usual. Thus, there are traffic personnel at every stop and contactless payments through beep cards are encouraged (used to be mandatory but it was scaled down a bit after pushback due to additional fees charged by some operators).
Enough of the history part as you might be more interested to hear about what the Urban Roamer thinks of the EDSA Carousel. Well, allow me to share first the positives of the system after having experienced it myself recently:
- Smooth flow of traffic – Granted it was a weekend and just a day removed from New Year’s Day, but the flow of traffic is very smooth, comparable to that of the Line 3 train above/below/beside the route.
- Controlled stopover times – Again, experience may vary but from what I saw, the length of time a bus stops in a stopover is at least tolerable, thanks in part to that single lane buses are afforded to in the EDSA Carousel which forces buses to be mindful of the other buses behind them who are waiting their turn.
- Designated stops – With the EDSA Carousel located in the innermost lanes, buses and passengers were forced to embark and alight at designated stops which fostered some order in a once disorderly EDSA.
Of course, there are some negatives to share, important ones I have to say:
- Few bus stops – One problem I had with the EDSA Carousel is the few bus stops that are in place at the moment which seriously impedes its acceptance by some commuters. For instance, between the bus stops at Guadalupe and Ortigas Center, there are no stops in between. And this is a huge gap for those who intend to ride or alight in the Boni-Pioneer area and Shaw Boulevard, both with existing mass transit stations already existing as well. I understand that the layout of the Line 3 tracks along EDSA are a factor in the placement of the bus stops but this has to be remedied ASAP.
- Accessibility to and from the bus stops – The fact that these bus stops are accessible by pedestrian footbridges which have no facilities friendly to the elderly, persons with disability, or other persons needing such facilities is unfortunate news enough. But it’s worse in the case of bus stops that near the Line 3 stations. That is because while the stops make use of the emergency passages connecting the train platforms to EDSA, the steps of these passages are too many and too high for some passengers to easily handle, and again with no facilities for the elderly, PWDs, and others to easily get them to and from the bus stop. Also doesn’t help that many of these Line 3 stations are so poorly designed that they put the concourse and the platform in one location, which is a no-no in mass rail transit station design.
Fortunately, there are plans underway to address the issues I mentioned. The MMDA is planning to construct more bus stops with the help of the private sector which are at least better designed. Not to mention the Line 3 stations near the bus stops will have lifts installed for the benefit of the elderly, PWDs, and other people needing easier access.
With all its faults, the EDSA Carousel system holds so much promise in the betterment of public transport in the metropolis. The fact that it has lasted for over half a year is testament that at the very least, this change is working. As such, we hope this system will be here for the long term, even beyond the post-pandemic environment. Thus, our hope is that this will be made better to benefit not only EDSA but the entire metropolis as a whole.