We are quite familiar with the woes caused by buses: they stop everywhere, they block traffic, overspeed, etc. We even think that we know the cause of the problem: the “boundary system” for drivers/conductors of buses. With the boundary system, the drivers/conductors pay the bus owners a fixed amount at the end of the day. This means that the drivers/conductors should earn as much as they can during their trips – resulting in a mad scramble for passengers, in order to make a profit at the end of the day.
With the boundary system, drivers/conductors don’t have an assured income – if they earn too little during the day, they may go home without any money at all. In contrast, the owners of the buses have hardly any risk, since they get an assured income every day.
The problem is worsened by the presence of “colorum” buses (i.e. buses which are not authorized to ply those routes) which compete with the regular buses, and which tend to be even more guilty of traffic offenses. At the same time, the presence of these buses mean that the income from a given route is divided among even more drivers/conductors, resulting in lower incomes per team.
Consolidate the Buses
I suggest a straightforward solution to these problems: consolidate all Metro Manila area buses into one bus company. All bus companies should contribute their buses, and get corresponding shares in the new company. This is an essential step towards rationalizing the bus system in Metro Manila.
After the buses are consolidated, it would be time to change the compensation scheme for drivers/conductors from the boundary system to fixed salaries. Since all legitimate bus companies are part of the new consolidated bus company, there would be no problem of competing buses (who may be under the boundary system) to crowd them out of picking passengers. There would be dispatchers at the end of each route, timing the departure of buses. There would also be room to have a stricter enforcement of bus stops, and to regulate driving speed.
With consolidation, the logic shifts from “every bus for itself” to that of maximizing overall company profits. And company profits are maximized when buses are properly spaced out, and that there is no oversupply or undersupply of buses in any route. The threat of colorum buses will also be over – they could be easily spotted and apprehended.
Provincial bus companies would be encouraged to move their stations to the borders of the city, so that only Metro Manila buses operate within the city. However, until this is the case, provincial bus companies will be expected to only stop in the designated bus stops, and to follow defined departure schedules.
Should jeepneys also be consolidated? I don’t think that this a feasible thing to do; especially because of the multitude of jeepney operators. Besides, jeepneys service smaller routes – where the roads may be too narrow for buses, or where the volume is too small.
Steps could be made to consolidate jeepneys, though not as thoroughgoing as that for buses. Operators could be encouraged to have bigger jeepneys or even minibuses (with 30 passengers). Operators could form cooperatives that will regulate jeepney departures, and ensure that all members make a decent living.