By Mikas Matsuzawa | CNN Philippines | July 29, 2015

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Instead of the usual queue of people, a line of buses was seen at the North Avenue Station of MRT-3 early Tuesday morning (July 28).


Around ten buses were parked along the sidewalk on the southbound lane of EDSA. The buses participated in the trial run of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB's) “MRT Bus Route,” which currently operates during the morning rush hour from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

The scheme seeks to provide MRT-3 passengers an alternative form of transportation priced at the same fare rates as the train.


How it works

Under the program, passengers can take one of the 40 participating buses at pick-up sites on North Avenue or Quezon Avenue.

Buses are allowed to load according to their respective seating capacities.

The buses travel nonstop until the designated drop-off points near the MRT Shaw Boulevard and Ayala stations, Arnel del Rio, head of the LTFRB Public Assistance and Complaints Desk told CNN Philippines.

The drop-off points were strategically identified based on the number of passengers who get off the said areas.

Shaw Boulevard-bound passengers would only pay P20 — a peso more than what regular air-conditioned buses plying the same route would charge.

Those headed to Ayala will have to shell out P24 — P11 cheaper compared to the fare of regular air-conditioned buses.

Around 40 buses accommodating at least 1,800 passengers are participating in the trial run. Del Rio pegged the 40 buses as an ideal number.

On the first day of trial, he said some 31 buses were dispatched while 20 buses ran on Tuesday. Most of them were stationed at North Avenue.


Cooking up the project

Del Rio said the project was conceptualized last year but the initial test started only on Monday (July 27), as coordination with partner agencies had to be polished first.

For this project, the LTFRB partnered with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), local government units (LGUs), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and bus operators.


Another Express Connect?

Last March, the LTFRB, MMDA, and DOTC launched the “Express Connect,” a similar bus scheme offering nonstop trips to passengers and only unloading at designated drop off points at Commonwealth, Ortigas, Ayala Avenue, and Gil Puyat.

The project aimed to ease congestion on EDSA and cut the long queues at the MRT-3, but some passengers claimed that though they were traveling in comfort, as buses only carried passengers according to seating capacity, they still faced the same slow pace of traffic.

The project was supposed to end last April 20, but was extended until May 23, according to the MMDA.


Mixed views

Some commuters welcomed the move saying that it could spare them from the long lines of the MRT-3.

Liezel Aborot, who works at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Ortigas, said she took the MRT bus on Monday and found it effective.

"If you take the MRT, the line is too long, while regular buses make frequent stops," she said in Filipino.

But others are skeptical.

“It will take us longer,” MRT-3 passenger Edwin Depaur said in Filipino. “Traffic remains the same.

The LTFRB said it still has to study whether the bus route offers faster travel time compared to that of the MRT-3.

CNN Philippines’ Rex Remitio contributed to this report.