EDSA Busway and Bus Carousel System: Toward a cleaner, greener metropolis


In my boyhood days, I became aware of what the big city is like, as my parents took us along with them on bus rides along what was then called Highway 54, that brought us from our residence in Makati to their places of work in Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The important junctions along this long highway were in Guadalupe, Boni Avenue in Mandaluyong, Shaw Boulevard or Crossing, Ortigas Avenue, Santolan, Cubao, East Avenue, Quezon Avenue, West-North Avenues, and Muñoz Market-Project 7, leading all the way to Balintawak and Monumento in Caloocan City.

According to Paulo Alcazaren, a noted architect and urban planner, EDSA was an outgrowth of the expansion of Manila that could not be contained within the five-kilometer radius originally plotted by city planner Daniel Burnham. In 1948, Quezon City became the capital of the Philippines and envisioned to become the government center.

In my teenage years, I became a daily bus commuter from Makati to the University of the Philippines in Dili-man, Quezon City.

There were few buildings and landmarks on both sides of EDSA that I could recall.

The San Carlos Seminary occupied an elevated lot in Guadalupe Viejo, on the southbound side adjacent to the Pasig River; the silos of the Republic Flour Mills along the Pasig River; and a clutch of low-rise industrial buildings including those of Commonwealth Foods and Winthrop-Stearns. From Shaw Boulevard to Ortigas, there were big and wide empty lots on both sides, until the bus reached Santolan Road after passing both Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo.

The EDSA People Power Revolution changed all that. The Shrine of Our Lady of EDSA has been built on the same spot at which a column of tanks and armored personnel carrier was stopped by nuns, women and men clutching rosaries and flowers. Gleaming high-rise buildings on both sides now dot the skyline.

But wait, there was an important event that occurred in November 1985 before the events at EDSA in Febru-ary 1986 triggered the massive redevelopment and transformation of this major thoroughfare. I refer to the in-auguration of SM North EDSA, with an initial footprint of a 1.2 million square feet that has since expanded four-fold. Many admired the foresight of Mr. Henry Sy in pushing on with the project despite the myriad uncertain-ties of that era.

After nearly four decades, EDSA is in dire need of an extreme, paradigm-shifting makeover. Enter the Green EDSA Movement (GEM), an advocacy group that seeks to implement important structural innovations that could reverse the massive pollution and environmental degradation in the country’s busiest major thorough-fare.

GEM was established in March 2021 by a group of private sector and civil society convenors led by Eduardo H. Yap, a public transport and urban renewal advocate. Ten months earlier, Eddie Yap’s proposal to establish an EDSA Busway and Bus Carousel System got the nod from then Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who, in turn, secured the support of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) then headed by retired General Danilo Lim.

That was in June 2020, barely three months after a series of lockdowns imposed by government to stave off the highly contagious coronavirus pandemic. The busway moved the buses from the curbside or rightmost lane to the center lanes to enable controlled access by commuters. Prior to the pandemic, bus operators fielded up to 3,000 units that clogged EDSA and caused traffic mayhem as many ill-disciplined drivers weaved in and out of lanes while their dilapidated buses emitted noxious fumes.

I recall that there used to be a device mounted along the perimeter of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters along EDSA adjacent to the Ortigas junction that recorded excessively high levels of carbon emis-sion.

With no more than 550 buses plying the EDSA Busway, a one-day peak ridership of 454,649 was attained. GEM is prodding the government to greenlight its full development, including the establishment of bridges that will link pedestrian-friendly walkways with concourses, concierge, ticketing booths, and turnstiles for an au-tomated fare collection system. These are envisioned to provide more convenient access to senior citizens, pregnant women, and persons with disability.

Former Public Works and Highways Secretary Jose ‘Ping’ de Jesus cites “the substantial reduction of carbon emission along EDSA (that) will greatly contribute to the containment of global warming and climate change that have degraded quality of life in the metropolis and victimized our country from typhoons that have grown in intensity that have caused widespread loss and damage to lives, property and the economy.”

GEM also commends the Metro Manila Development Authority now headed by lawyer Don Artes for turning down a proposal from the EDSA Bus Consortium to revert to the discarded curbside yellow-lane scenario in which the uncontrolled deployment of thousands of buses – many of them in run-down condition – caused traffic mayhem on EDSA. According to former Secretary De Jesus:

“GEM says no to backsliding from the transformational bus transit policy reform in EDSA; no to policy in-stability; no to return of bumper-to-bumper bus traffic congestion; no to massive air pollution and traffic noise; no to more exhaust gases in this time of boiling climate change! GEM says yes to the most innovative solution ever proposed, introduced and implemented in a long time to put order in the EDSA bus traffic.”