It seems not too long ago when Edsa evoked a sense of national pride because of the 1986 People Power Revolt. But Metro Manila’s main and busiest thoroughfare has become a curse to the hundreds of thousands of people who traverse it every day, with the traffic problem developing from bad to horrible.
The Metro Manila Development Authority, which is assigned to manage the traffic situation in the metropolis, knows only too well the issues that concern the 24-kilometer stretch of road on which pass some 350,000 vehicles daily. MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino is fully aware of the interrelated problems arising from the traffic—pollution, increased fuel cost, wasted hours and squandered economic productivity. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson was spot-on when he said: “Edsa is our main artery. It can make or break us in terms of pollution, in terms of economy, in terms of our utilization of time. It’s right in the middle of the metropolis so all attention is focused on Edsa. So when Edsa gets choked, you practically choke the whole metropolis. That’s how important it is.”
A lot of reasons—or excuses—have been given for the horror that is Edsa. Topping the list is what the MMDA calls volume density: The number of vehicles using the highway is just too much. But why should traffic be so bad even at such times of the day as an hour or two past noon, or even close to midnight? Common sense also dictates that even with too many vehicles, traffic should continuously flow on Edsa because there are hardly any traffic signal lights on it. And why do the bottlenecks occur at the major bus stops?
It’s plain as day that many bus drivers behave with wanton disregard of traffic rules, and many more with brazen recklessness. Yet bus companies appear to be untouchable and bus drivers are inexplicably arrogant when facing MMDA personnel, who often pretend not to see the traffic violations going on around them.
A number of proposals to alleviate the traffic problem have been implemented; a few are on the drawing board. MRT 3, for example, was envisioned to drastically reduce the number of vehicles using Edsa, the idea being to lure motorists into leaving their cars at home and taking what was supposed to be an efficient train system. But today, commuters are literally packed like sardines in the coaches, and the traffic on the street below remains terrible. Then there are the U-turn slots and the number coding scheme that bans certain vehicles from Edsa based on the last number of their license plates. Still, the problem is unchanged.
The most promising solution we have heard so far is the proposed 8.3-kilometer Skybridge that will start on E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City and end near the former Sta. Ana race track in Makati. MMDA’s Tolentino says the preliminary design of the Skybridge will use the current esteros and transform them into an alternative thoroughfare to Edsa, making travel time from Quezon City to Makati and vice versa just around 15 to 20 minutes. One major snag is that it will take years before the project can get started. First, it has to go through the tedious approval process for the project design at the Department of Public Works and Highways, then another lengthy process to secure the approval of the National and Economic Development Authority for funding.
But meanwhile, the MMDA people can start unclogging major intersections on Edsa by barring bus drivers from lingering at the bus stops. It takes only two or three buses to clog a bus stop and cause traffic behind them to pile up. Traffic enforcement personnel should also be retrained to become persons of real authority. It’s a sad reality that many drivers don’t respect or fear them, and it’s a fact that drivers will discipline themselves only if they know that they can’t get away with violating traffic rules. (Observe how Metro Manila drivers behave when they go to the Subic free port.)
Edsa’s traffic is not a hopeless case. The Aquino administration is only required to act boldly and decisively in making the historic highway a showcase of what Filipinos can do—that is, making everyone, bus drivers in particular, follow the rules. This is one area where President Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” campaign should focus on and succeed. If the administration cannot address the problem given the simple and obvious solutions available, can it expect everyone to believe that it can solve such problems as poverty and income inequality?
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.