For people living or working in Bonifacio Global City, BGC Bus is important to us as it is the main mode of mass public transport. BGC Buses move us within BGC, as well as help us get in and out of BGC. Their omni-presence here, however, also means that BGC Bus has a major impact on the air quality in BGC. Vehicular exhaust is the most significant contributor to air pollution in Metro Manila.
That was why we approached BGC Bus to ask them about their efforts to help clean the air.
According to Mr. Mike Obias, Assistant Operation Manager, BGC Bus, BGC Bus started making efforts to comply with the Clean Air Act in 2014, when they acquired their first Euro V compliant buses. Currently, out of the total fleet size of 43 buses, 24 are Euro V compliant buses, which means that they are equipped with engines built specifically to meet Euro V emission standards. The rest are Euro 1 to 3 compliant.
What are Euro V engines? European emission standards define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of vehicles. It regulates emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), total hydrocarbon (THC), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM). Each number after Euro refers to a stage of standards that are progressively made more stringent. In simple laymen term, the higher the Euro stage, the more stringent is the requirement for reduction in toxic emission from the engine of a vehicle.
For example, the size of suspended particulates, or particulate matters (PM), allowed under Euro III is 0.1 g/km, while for Euro IV and Euro V is a much lower value of 0.02 g/km. PM is the one that is visible as black smoke from a vehicle exhaust, and it cannot be expelled from our lungs once inhaled. So meeting a higher European emission standard should mean a lot less polluted air.
The major improvement of Euro V over lower European emission standards is the lower nitrogen oxides (NOx) allowed. Long term exposure to nitrogen oxides is said to be damaging to the lungs and respiratory functions.
For diesel powered buses, Euro V compliance is currently the highest level obtained by any franchised bus in the Philippines, and BGC Bus is the first franchised bus company to have Euro V compliant buses in its fleet.
Photo above: Euro V compliant buses can be identified by the "BlueTec 5" sign displayed on the side of the bus, as well as the black band that decorates the sides of the bus
In addition to acquiring Euro V buses, BGC Bus also has a bus replacement schedule that is shorter than what the government mandates. Instead of replacing their buses after 13 or 14 years of use, BGC Bus has a schedule of replacement of 10 years.
While the story may end here, it is actually more complicated than this. To get the desired reduction in toxic emission, a vehicle needs to have clean fuel plus compatible engine. Right now, refineries in the Philippines do not produce Euro V compliant diesel. Importing Euro V compliant fuel can be very expensive. So BGC Bus has to do with Euro IV compliant diesel for its buses, but the technology used by the Mercedes Benz engine helps.
We were told that the Mercedes Benz engine uses something called BlueTEC to reduce the toxic emission from the engine.
Photo above: Special ingredient is added to the fuel of Euro V compliant buses through this inlet to trap pollutants produced by fuel combustion
Euro mission standards and the Clean Air Act of the Philippines do not specify the means for a vehicle to achieve the goals, so in theory, BGC Bus could use buses that are powered by electricity or CNG (compressed natural gas).
Some of you may recall that BGC Bus ran an electric buggy called BGC Beep last year to transport people in BGC to Bonifacio High Street for free during lunch time. Somehow, the local government unit discouraged the continuation of that service. So no more electric vehicles are operated by BGC Bus.
CNG powered buses were also found not feasible due to technical difficulties. For example, the nearest CNG refilling station is said to be far away in Mamplasan in Laguna.
While having more than half of its fleet to be Euro V compliant is a very admirable achievement already, we wonder if they can do better than that. Luckily, it seems that BGC Bus is planning to get more new buses that are Euro V compliant. Since the development of BGC is still only about 60% completed, in the next few years when the rest of the development comes to fruition, we can expect a huge increase in demand for transport services.
The plan of BGC Bus is to increase its fleet size to 80 buses by 2018. Of course, by that time, the number of other vehicles will also increase significantly. Therefore it is imperative that we have good public mass transit services so that the need for individuals each to drive a car to work is reduced. By good public mass transit services, we mean those that are not only fast enough, but also with the least pollution as far as possible so that apart from wasting time in traffic our health does not suffer more.
BGC contracted buses
We asked about the non-BGC buses that ply BGC Bus routes. We were told the HM buses are used as back up during peak hours (6 to 10am, 4 to 8pm), when traffic is very bad and many people are waiting for buses to go home. While HM buses are not Euro V compliant, they should meet at least Euro 3 standard in emission. So if we see smoke belching HM buses, we should not hesitate to snap a photo that includes its plate number and send it to BGC Bus for their further action!
photo above: BGC Buses are probably the most pedestrian friendly buses in Metro Manila, as they often give priority to pedestrians
Other BGC Buses tidbits
The number one question on any bus rider’s mind is likely to be the waiting time for a bus. We have received angry comments on our social media about BGC Buses' long waiting time at peak hours for most routes, and for other routes at any time, as angry riders mistook TheFortCity.com as being related to the management of BGC Buses. We ourselves have experienced long waiting time for buses on the Central route a lot.
We were advised that BGC Bus aims to achieve a performance level of no more than 10 minutes of waiting time during all time for all stations. If this is correct, then it would be a very welcomed goal. In fact, we believe most people would not complain if they have to wait 15 to 20 minutes during rush hours to get their ride. However, we have received complaints of waiting time of over 40 minutes. If BGC Buses need to find out the actual waiting time at each stop at rush hours, we are sure that there will be no shortage of volunteers.
During our visit to BGC Bus office, we were shown their command center. The bus company in fact has many hi-tech ways to keep track of their buses in real time. Each bus is equipped with GPS, so there is a screen to show where a bus is at all time. In addition, BGC Bus can access the CCTV controlled by FBDC and installed at various locations in Bonifacio Global City. So the staff of BGC Bus can see, for example, whether heavy traffic at a particular intersection is the cause of delay for a bus or not. Then there is the old technology of radio. Each bus can be reached by radio, so the command center can talk to the driver of a bus at any time.
The technology for monitoring bus movements is therefore not lacking. What we were unable to see was a system to take action if a problem is identified. For example, if there is a lack of buses reaching a particular stop for a prolonged period of time, will they take action to re-route or redeploy buses that are less needed somewhere else? We are sure that cities that have a long history of running efficient bus services, such as Hong Kong or Singapore, will have systems in place for bus dispatching that optimize between waiting time and resources used, given the traffic condition. We wondered if similar systems can be used on BGC Buses.
You have views about this article? your comments will be much welcomed. If you would like to give your views to BGC Bus, or have questions about their service, you can message them at https://www.facebook.com/BGCBus/ or call them at Tel: (02) 882.0746 / (02) 882.5474 / (02) 882.8287.