Thursday, January 18, 2018
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New Year wish to solve MM traffic problem

/ 05:18 AM January 03, 2018

The calendar has turned another leaf, and it is 2018. But traffic in Metro Manila gets worse by the year, and the prospects of traffic getting any better appear dim. There are simply too many cars with too little passengers, and the road network is not enlarging to accommodate the increase in volume of road users.

At the onset of the changing of the guard in the Palace by the Pasig, a building frenzy to address traffic in Metro Manila was much-vaunted. The construction of an underground subway that would run from the country’s only mall by the bay to a growing city in the northern suburbs of the metropolis was bruited about, to be financed by Japan’s overseas development assistance fund. The plan was ambitious, and surely of long gestation. It would not provide short- or medium-term relief to the perennial traffic gridlock, and surely not within the term of the current administration.

Another strategy bruited about to decongest the metropolis is to build a fast light rail system to Clark in Pampanga, and relocate national government offices to the economic zone into which the former US air base had been converted. But this would also mean dislocation for a big number of families—a solution that could be as bad as the problem intended to be alleviated.

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Some quarters suggest the construction of a skyway system on the stretch of Edsa, or another light rail system parallel to the MRT that is besieged with dysfunction. The construction of such transport systems would be tremendous both in terms of cost and the aggravation of traffic on Edsa.

One will wonder why the Department of Transportation does not consider the construction of monorail systems on both sides of and the whole stretch of Edsa. A monorail system is less costly than the traditional light rail system, and requires almost half the volume of physical infrastructure. The construction of a monorail system would require less road space, less time, and less traffic distortion. Monorails are also known to have the least carbon footprint among all the mass transport systems.

The national government could persuade the condominium and mall developers and local government units in Metro Manila to form a consortium that will build the monorail systems. Once established, the consortium should be listed in the stock exchange to give the public a chance to acquire ownership of the mass transport system.  Better patronage can come from a stake in ownership.

Affluent cities like Makati, Quezon City, and Mandaluyong can establish their own monorail systems in their respective jeepney thoroughfares. The national government can take care of monorail systems in big thoroughfares such as Edsa, España, Roxas Boulevard, Shaw Boulevard, and Quezon Avenue. Monorail systems, which can ply both short and long routes, and be interconnected to existing light rail systems, can be completed within the term of the current administration.

Congress should also look into the creation of road right of way (RROW) courts with a specific mandate to resolve such disputes within a short time frame, with summary proceedings, issuance of writs of possession pendente lite, and executory decisions pending appeal. The Supreme Court can designate existing courts as RROW courts.

The procurement law must likewise be revisited. It does not provide for a simplified bidding procedure for infrastructure projects responsive to manmade calamities, subject to a presidential proclamation. Traffic in Metro Manila is a manmade calamity, and solving it requires a simplified bidding procedure, like unsolicited, but coaxed, proposals to build a mass transport system subject to a Swiss challenge.

Happy New Year, everyone, and let us look forward to 2018 with renewed hope that the country and the people will continue to be better, and more prosperous.

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Frank E. Lobrigo practiced law for 20 years. He is a law lecturer and JSD student at San Beda College Graduate School of Law in Manila.

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TAGS: Frank E. Lobrigo, Inquirer Commentary, Metro Manila traffic, New Year 2018
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