Metrobus Istanbul 2010

Bus rapid transit in Istanbul

MRT3 is a long-standing issue. Things need to be fixed. But the problem has many dimensions:

  • The MRT-3 is in disrepair. It cannot operate at full capacity.
  • Its designed capacity is insufficient to absorb people using EDSA.
  • Taking it down for repair is not feasible – traffic would get even worse.

A quick solution must also think of the future. This is where I had this idea today which I am now outlining.

Solution Proposal Summary

The solution that I consider the most sensible for the MRT-3 conundrum and EDSA traffic would have three phases:

  1. Build a BRT system similar to that in Istanbul.
  2. Shut down the MRT3 for overhaul.
  3. Operate both after the overhaul.

This sounds crazy but it is in my opinion feasible and helpful. Why do I think it is:

  1. BRT systems can be up and running very quickly.
  2. The MRT needs a total overhaul to run properly again.
  3. Both systems together would absorb a lot of people using EDSA.

One would need some experts to help a local core team run from DOTC and controlled there:

  • Experienced BRT people from cities that have it. Istanbul, Bogota, Curitiba or Brisbane, it doesn’t matter. To build and enable a local Filipino team.
  • Experienced subway/tram people from cities that have it. Munich, Prague, I don’t care. To build and enable a local Filipino operation/maintenance team.

IMHO the local teams should all be from DOTC. Build own capabilities to be competent in supervising subcontractors. Make sure real lessons are learned from past glitches.

Building the BRT

Bf Bln Sw, 126 552

1924 train coach from Germany

The BRT could be built up quickly using the following steps:

  • Built bus rapid transit lanes by fencing off one EDSA lane on each side. Simple barriers are I think enough.
  • Build provisional stops where the MRT-3 stops and stairs are at present. This should not be too hard either.
  • Have bus operators drive on the left-hand side in the BRT lanes. So that boarding is alway on the right of the bus.

The following could be the way to deal with the BRT system set-up:

  • BRT experts have a look at the roads to see whether there are any problems with setting up barriers and building stations.
  • Where barriers or stations cannot be built that easily, have the buses cross to the normal road and use it for a while.
  • Get the work on the barriers and stations done and make sure the bus contractors are all on board and use them on Day X.

The BRT would replace the buses chaotically blocking EDSA on the sides. So no loss by getting it running quickly.

Buses in the BRT system would go on as normal buses to wherever the bulk of people live. I think this can be found out.

Divide the concessions based on different lines – Makati-Fairview, Makati-Pasig, whatever. Let old normal concessions expire.

Overhauling the MRT-3

As for overhauling the MRT-3, look at what needs to be done in the following areas and make sure the current state of the system is meticulously documented to avoid conflict:

  • Overhead lines and rail tracks
  • Stations and access to them
  • Coaches and engines

Find local contractors for each area. Agree on technology transfer within what is possible if foreign partners are involved. Contracts should have strict delivery and quality clauses.

BRT and MRT

MRT-3 Manila train towards Ayala Station

MRT-3 near Ayala

As soon as the BRT and MRT are working in parallel, do the following:

  1. make the MRT fare more expensive than that of the BRT – to get back the cost of overhauling the system.
  2. Built new lines using the team that overhauled the MRT-3 and their subcontractors to use their capabilities.
  3. The same team should become fully local after a while, and take care of maintenance and operation of all lines.

This is to avoid the same problems from occuring once again after a few years.

Is this crazy?

Yes it is. But it is much crazier to let the system continue to rot. It is both a quick fix and a long-term solution.

Having two systems also means having a fallback option. Ideas to enhance this proposal are very welcome.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 12. January 2016