Traffic-solving Pinoy innovation adopted in 136 cities, except Phl

In Photo: Transjakarta Zhongtong articulated buses at Harmoni Central Busway, Central Jakarta, Indonesia.

First of three parts

IT is ironic but true: There are now over 136 cities in 39 major countries worldwide that have adopted a traffic-solving transport innovation started by a Filipino inventor, which caught the World Bank’s attention and got adopted by the US and the world over, but treated with disdain, lamentably, in the Philippines.

Not wrong to copy, but don’t copy wrongly? Innovator Francis R. Yuseco Jr., a onetime investment banker, registered his intellectual-property rights (IPR) 27 years ago in 1989, or 10 years before the popular bus rapid transit (BRT) was adopted abroad.

For Yuseco, getting copied is okay, provided it redounds to the common good, but what matters most is being ignored locally. In the free market of ideas, one can’t demand consideration for originality, as any modification in design, or even change in name, is considered, at times, an innovation and, thus, tolerated.

Lamentably, if they have copied, they should have, at least, done
it grammatically. His system PhilTrak rapid transit (PRT), a proposal of his company PhilTrak, was renamed BRT “Rapid,” describing the bus transit, thus, it should have read “rapid bus transit” to be grammatically correct. But because the Americans called it so, everyone swallowed it without question.

With improvements, Yuseco now calls it Intel-Track, for Philippines Integrated Intelligent Trackways. Perhaps, it’s best to correct its nomenclature to its generic descriptive acronym as RBT, for rapid bus transit.

Faster, cheaper and bigger impact

WHATEVER the name, Yuseco said his is much cheaper by a fraction of the costs of railway, which requires massive construction of pillars, railroad tracks, costly train coaches and power systems, which entail huge investment costs, and five years to build.

But Yuseco’s Intel-Track “can be completed in six months to eight months, or one year, at most to allow delays, because all it takes are designated road tracks. “

Unlike railways, which are subsidized and imported, Intel-Track is subsidy-free. In fact, this is why many countries have shifted to RBT from Metro Rail Transit (MRT)/Light Rail Transit (LRT).

While railways are dependent on foreign technology, foreign imports, foreign loans, foreign consultants and everything foreign, Yuseco’s RBT involves local innovation, local design, local engineers, local investors and local funding. Except for engines of buses, road tracks can be built by local contractors using local materials, thus, generating local employment.

The “ticketing system” and bodies of the buses can also be done locally. With high local content and huge dollar savings, expect higher economic multiplier effects.

Studies, experts validate Yuseco’s idea

AS early as August 1989, the National Center for Transport Studies (NCTS) at the University of the Philippines declared Yuseco’s RBT of only 92 articulated (elongated) buses, carrying 200 passengers each, mostly standing, except for the elderly, pregnant, etc., similar to LRT/MRT, can match the volume of passengers carried by LRT, or the volume of 6,000 regular buses.

They can transport about 1,054,000 passengers daily. The study by the NCTS, then called the UP Transport Training Center (UPTTC), was corroborated by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), with all agreeing RBT has the same operating efficiency and capacity of railways, and has an “amazing decongestion factor of 96.8 percent.”

These buses are 18-meters long and 2.7-meters wide, and if necessary design, even much longer buses. If Singapore has buses with passengers standing, except for the elderly, pregnant and the disabled, these buses must also allow mostly standing.

Rejected by all, except then-President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR). Except for Ramos, all past administrations rejected Yuseco’s proposal. Even former President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration wanted railways, but could neither fix MRT. It even told Yuseco his proposal is allegedly “merely theoretical, unproven and has limited systems capacity.”

Under FVR and eight months of study, it was recommended that pilot tests be done along Commonwealth Avenue and C-5. By October 15, 1997, the Ramos administration made a historic move to award the first RBT project of its kind in the world. Signatories were the late Transportation Secretary Arturo T. Enrile, Public Works Secretary Gregorio Vigilar and MMDA Chairman Prospero Oreta.

But when Enrile died, his successor, Josefina Lichauco, had it reviewed, but approved it anyway. To waive a public bidding, what were invoked was a constitutional provision favoring local inventors; Republic Act (RA) 7459, providing incentives to Filipino investors, and RA 8293, respecting intellectural- property rights.

Gains WB, world attention

YUSECO shows “two vital documents proving indisputably that it gained more attention abroad and that it is Filipinos—the inventor, engineers and academe—who are the originators of the global phenomenon .”

One is the World Bank Internal Memorandum dated April10, 1990, written by World Bank transport expert Gerhard Menckhoff, who met and praised Yuseco for “the vision, features and operating characteristics of the Filipino invention” and recommended it as “the appropriate mass-transit system for developing and developed economies.” He disseminated it to all World Bank officials worldwide.

The other is a letter from American Bus Association (ABA) President Georg Wynn on August 31, 1999, citing US Federal Transit Administrator Gordon Linton declaration to “reinvent bus service in the US, with the features and characteristics identical” to Yuseco’s PRT, but baptizing it with the catchy but grammatically wrong BRT.

When interests interfered? After getting reviewed and approved twice, Yuseco’s project suddenly screeched to a halt, after the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), under the next administration, suddenly demanded P1 billion in hard real-estate collaterals.

One can only surmise or hazard a guess of interests interfering. And yet, DBP took bigger risks bankrolling a lease financing for shopping lines, by purchasing the ships and leasing them to industry.

It is ironic why a project with great impact is not funded, even by phases, and yet, four foreign investors even get power subsidies of P5.86 billion for 2016 alone as provided under Executive Order 666, a number which sounds unholy to Christians.

Public transport’s interests must also be managed well and told they will not be threatened much because when motorists leave their cars, traffic will ease up, and create a huge demand for public transport along arterial roads feeding into the Intel-Tracks. This is crucial because many good plans are blocked when marginalized transport groups oppose, although the government must carry the higher interests of the bigger riding public.

Offtrack maybe, but on-track to the end. Yuseco’s project may have gone offtrack temporarily for almost 30 years, but he hasn’t given up his advocacy, a passion he has developed as early as his first job when he worked with Pantranco North Express. Although he later became an investment banker with companies like Bancom Development Bank, and much later as a partner and executive director of the Philippine Investments Systems Organization, he continued to pursue his passion in transportation.

And to quote Les Miserables French writer Victor Hugo, “Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.” Yuseco should also realize that the government, in the end, can be reasonable, if he is able to reason.

To be continued

  1. Yung nadeveloped ng DOST na HYBRID ELECTRIC BUS RAPID TRAIN (cheap and Filipino designed) ay isang classic example.

    Nagdesigned, gumastos at nagsikap ang DOST – FILIPINO Engineers para makatulong para maibsan ang HEAVY CONGESTION / parking lot TRAFFIC in EDSA – METRO MANILA, anong NANGYARI ?

    Sa laki ng gastos – budget (P100.0 million) na ginugol ng DOST, ang tanong ng marami, napakinabangan ba ng mga Pilipino? NAGAMIT ba..? Pinuri ba ng ating mga leader pulitiko ang HYBRID ELECTRIC BUS RAPID TRAIN ? May NAG-INVEST bang mga pribadong kumpanya (Metro Pacific, Ayala, San Miguel) para makagpagawa ng 100 units (Hybrid BRT) para magamit sa Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao or Iloilo ?

    1. ang mali kasi doon nagtitiwala sa DOST … e karamihan ng mga invention ng pinoy nakatambak lang doon … ayun sa reliable source ko …

  2. “Not
    wrong to copy, but don’t copy wrongly? Innovator Francis R. Yuseco Jr.,
    a onetime investment banker, registered his intellectual-property
    rights (IPR) 27 years ago in 1989, or 10 years before the popular bus
    rapid transit (BRT) was adopted abroad.”

    – The article


    first BRT system was the Rede Integrada de Transporte (‘Integrated
    Transportation Network’) in Curitiba, Brazil, which entered service in

    Did you know that the moon was made by a Filipino? Regardless, it’s best not to entirely believe everything you see in the internet. Including in Business Mirror.

  3.; in service since 1974 in Brasil. Well many others countries do use these articulated (or even double articulated) buses since the 1960’s. As far as I can remember those were used in Amsterdam, replaced when the longer 15 meter buses became available (the extra 3 meter didn’t make much difference anymore)

  4. “The first BRT system in the world was the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT, “Integrated Transportation Network”), implemented in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1974.[4]:5[5] … in 1980 the Curitiba system added a feeder bus network and inter-zone connections” Is this another florescent light? :)))

  5. “For Yuseco, getting copied is okay, provided it redounds to the common good..”

    but… (

    “It behooves us to let you know, that such move shall infringe upon the intellectual property rights of Inventor Francis R. Yuseco Jr. under Republic Act No. 8293, including the severe criminal and civil liabilities imposed to violations thereof,” a portion of the letter read.

    Read more:
    Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

  6. Madali lang yun……impose hefty parking fee like in Manhattan, NY, tingnan natin kung may gusto pa bang magdala ng pribadong sasakyan.

    1. Kaya pla ang mahal ng parking dun NY, kasing mahal ng hotel, haha. Kaya inisip tlga namin na next time maisipan nmin magvisit ulit sa NY, iiwanan nmin ang sasakyan sa New Jersey, lol

  7. Wow. Just. So. Much. Wrong. In. This. Article.
    Factual. Grammatical. Logical. Errors.
    I wouldn’t hold my breath for the 2nd part.

  8. Better take a look at the so-called RBT and do not forget to tell me more about it, Mr. Michael M. Alunan.

    I am sure you would have to understand what RBT really means in the Philippine transport context. Just follow the best practices from what is found in France then to Curitiba’s – and rest of the world’s – adoption of RBT and a lot more. Thank you very much.

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