Been stuck in traffic lately?
I was stuck in traffic the other day, and another day, and another day. It’s the norm now, although unacceptable. It won’t do. And it needn’t do, if there’s one simple thing: ACTION, instead of talk. What is needed is control—control that would cost nothing except firm political will to enforce sensible traffic rules.
We’re stuck with the inadequate roads that are there, and the older ones that are acceptable. What aren’t, and what I’m very angry about, are the new cities (past 20 years is new) that were blank pieces of ground where anything could have been done—but wasn’t. Roads are narrow and there are intersections. Roads should be eight, even 10, lanes wide with over- or underpasses on all major intersections, or roundabouts in some cases. Traffic lights should be at a minimum, as unnecessary; malls and popular areas should have LARGE off-road areas for loading and unloading so normal traffic is not affected in any way.
The so-called “city planners” and government officials should suffer Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s solution. Greed has dominated decisions. Sadly, what’s done is done. But over- and underpasses can still be built at some critical intersections—if the political will is there. I wish to devote this column to some simple, quick solutions that can help right now.
The first is to hire hundreds of traffic aides, and TRAIN them in the art of keeping traffic flowing, with the power to enforce their directives. Given the ill-discipline and ignorance (how many drivers have actually passed a license exam?) of too many drivers, external control is essential until disciplined driving is second nature. Station 100, 200—whatever is needed—traffic aides and cops all along Edsa to ensure that buses stay ONLY in the curbside lane and stop at designated bus stops. Take away the license of any bus driver outside the curbside lane, and ensure that intersections don’t get blocked so cross traffic can flow and drivers don’t cross lanes and push in for selfish advantage. All it needs is disciplined driving. It can be done. At peak hours, turn off the traffic lights, have INTELLIGENT (I have to stress that) cops maximizing intersection flow.
So, top of the list: Keep intersections open. If you can’t get through to the other side, you can’t enter the box. The delays that a blocked intersection causes are horrific. Corollary to this is, let left-turning traffic through if your side is moving slowly so the other side can maintain a smooth flow. A block on the road doesn’t just affect those nearby, it also has a strong cumulative affect that builds up. The other day we wanted to cross over SLEx from the airport to Bonifacio Global City—a couple of hundred meters, and it took 45 minutes. The problem was, cars entering into SLEx blocked the crossover; they couldn’t clear the crossing but entered anyway. Beyond that the road was clear, and we were in BGC in 10 minutes. A perfect example of mindless selfishness, a perfect example of the need for a cop, or two. Or 10.
Parking outside malls and schools should not be allowed, not even to drop off or pick up. That minute or so is enough to create substantial delays. The Virgin Mary Immaculate School in Alabang has cars two, sometimes three, lanes deep (leaving but one) as parents and drivers wait for the kids to emerge. Parking must be off-road; walking is good for kids (adults, too) anyway.
In Australia, when there’s an accident the vehicles must be immediately moved out of the traffic if possible. A picture is taken to provide needed detail. The other day a bus (of course) and an SUV had a minor bump coming down the ramp from the Skyway onto SLEx. The traffic buildup was over a kilometer because the vehicles stayed there while the drivers argued with the cops. Both vehicles were perfectly drivable.
On that SLEx exit ramp that leads to Edsa, one thing I’d do is put up a large live screen sufficiently ahead of the exit showing the traffic flow, or lack of it, on Edsa so you can choose to exit there or proceed further down. You don’t have to add to the chaos. And that happens wherever a choice can’t be made before entering a blind intersection.
A reason for the chaos there, incidentally, is the lower gate to Dasma. Cars from the boulevard cross from the far left lane to get to it, stopping traffic flow. The solution is simple: Close that gate at peak hours. The few cars taking kids to school or whatever can drive an extra 200 meters to the main gate so thousands of other motorists aren’t disadvantaged.
And now that we’re on Edsa, everyone agrees: TAKE HALF THE BUSES OFF IT. A study by the University of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has confirmed it. Why on earth hasn’t it been done? The buses are half or less full, so half of them gone will disadvantage no commuter. I challenge our transport officials to take half the buses off Edsa before Holy Week.
Who are we trying to look after, the public in millions or the bus owners in tens? And don’t give me nonsense about franchises and things, I’m sure it can be done. Half of the buses were probably fraudulently acquired anyway. And police them to stay only in the curbside at all times, absolutely no overtaking. And for the buses left, pay drivers a fixed salary so there’s no temptation to rush for the next passenger. Bus service is a public service, not a profit-maximizing venture.
As to trucks, get Subic and Batangas operating as planned, as alternate international ports.
A successful city is where you take public transport by choice, where the system is so good you don’t need, or even want, to use your car. We are far, far from that. So cars have to remain part of our city life, but let’s get them moving.
It’s time we demanded one simple thing from government: ACTION. Just do it. Now.
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