What you need to know about the DOTr’s move to reduce social distancing on public transport

by Drei Laurel | Sep 14, 2020
PHOTO: Department of Transportation

A few days ago, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) had already approved plans to reduce social distancing on public transportation. If you’re a commuter during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a pretty big deal.

Are authorities making the right call here? It’s still a little too early to tell. On the one hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends maintaining a distance of at least one meter between individuals to effectively practice social distancing. But on the other, more businesses are opening under general community quarantine (GCQ), and people need to get to work.

Good move? Bad move? We’re not here to judge. What we can do, though, is inform and help get the word out. Below is everything you need to know about the DOTr’s move to scale down social distancing on public transportation.


When does it start?

The revised protocol takes effect on September 14, 2020. That’s a Monday, and just a handful of days after the DOTr and IATF let the public know about the move.

The reduction of social-distancing measures will be done gradually over the course of several weeks, with different modes of public transportation increasing their passenger capacity every 14 days.

Who is affected?

Anyone who commutes, basically.

All modes of public transportation are covered by the move. For the railway sector, this means the MRT-3, the LRT-1, the LRT-2, and the PNR. For the road sector, it’s buses (both in 3x2 and 2x3 configuration), UV Express vehicles, and jeepneys. The maritime and the aviation sectors will be affected by this as well.

What does this mean for train lines?

If you take the train, expect more passengers during trips over the coming weeks. Starting September 14, the required social distance between passengers will be brought down to 0.75 meters. This will drop further to just 0.5 meters and 0.3 meters on September 28 and October 12, respectively, subject to confirmation of the IATF and the DOTr.

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By the time the final phase of the scale-down is completed, the MRT-3, the LRT-1, the LRT-2, and the PNR will be taking on 327, 300, 502, and 320 passengers per trip, respectively.  Check out a detailed breakdown below:


1 meter – 153 passengers

0.75 meters – 204 passengers

0.5 meters – 255 passengers

0.3 meters – 327 passengers


1 meter – 155 passengers

0.75 meters – 204 passengers

0.5 meters – 255 passengers

0.3 meters – 300 passengers


1 meter – 160 passengers

0.75 meters – 212 passengers

0.5 meters – 274 passengers

0.3 meters – 502 passengers


1 meter – 166 passengers

0.75 meters – 184 passengers

0.5 meters – 256 passengers

0.3 meters – 320 passengers

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What about buses, jeepneys, and UV Express vehicles?

The scheduled scale-down of social distancing for the road sector will be the same as for Metro Manila’s train lines: down to 0.75 meters on September 14 and reduced further to just 0.5 and 0.3 meters every two weeks.


For jeepneys and UV Express trips, a reduction to just 0.75 meters of social distancing means an extra one or two passengers. For buses with 2x2 configuration, up to three extra passengers may be accommodated, while units with a 3x2 configuration will now be able to take on up to 36 passengers.

Why is social distancing being scaled down?

The main reason is the economy. According to authorities, there’s a need to provide more trips and increase passenger capacities as more businesses begin to open under GCQ.

Sa mga nakaraang araw ay nakita at narinig po namin ang mga hinaing ng ating mamamayan sa kakulangan ng public transportation, kasabay ang panawagan ng economic team na magtulong-tulong ang mga sektor upang mabuksan at makabangon na ang ekonomiya ng bansa,” DOTr undersecretary for administrative service  Artemio Tuazon Jr. said in a statement.

Kaya naman po inatasan ni Secretary Arthur Tugade ang ating mga sektor ng transportasyon na pag-aralan kung paano mapaparami ang kapasidad ng ating mga public transport na hindi sinasakripisyo ang kalusugan at kapakanan ng ating mamayanan.”


Is it safe?

Well, the government seems to think so, provided that commuters continue to follow other guidelines put in place.

The use of face masks and face shields is still required on board public transportation, and commuters are still prohibited from talking or answering calls during trips.

Let’s do our part to help ensure that this doesn’t lead to a repeat of what happened several months ago, when MRT-3 operations came grinding to a halt after a COVID-19 outbreak among train line personnel. Do you think the government is making the right move here? Let us know in the comments.

For more of our stories on the ongoing crisis, click here. For the latest news and updates on COVID-19, check out reportr.world/covid-19.

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PHOTO: Department of Transportation
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