Why bunch all 17 road projects together? | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Why bunch all 17 road projects together?

/ 01:42 AM February 21, 2014

Only a nitwit will schedule 17 road projects (another two were added to the first 15) in a metropolis that has long been suffering from monstrous traffic jams brought about by too many vehicles on too few streets. Couldn’t the government have spaced the projects so that not all 17 will diminish the inadequate road space? Couldn’t it have first prepared alternative means of transport? Couldn’t it have found a way to reduce the number of vehicles on the streets? Couldn’t it have improved the mass transit system first? Couldn’t it have considered the additional suffering that it would impose on the people? Couldn’t it have prepared the people much earlier?

But no. The government surprised the public with the announcement on the eve of the start of the projects. Instead of trying to find ways to ease the traffic congestion, it asked the people to make sacrifices for a short period as the projects would make traveling faster in the future.

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For a short period? Is three years a short period to crawl on the streets of Metro Manila every day? Imagine the trillions of pesos that the economy will lose in those three years. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has estimated that the economy loses P2.4 billion every day because of the lost work hours and business opportunities, and the tremendous amount of expensive fuel burned by the vehicles crawling through the traffic. Imagine the pollution that these vehicles spew into the atmosphere every minute of the day and night.

Why didn’t the government space out the projects instead of bunching these together? Because it wants to finish all the projects before P-Noy bows out in 2016. It dawdled during the first three years, and now that the Aquino administration is on its last two minutes, it crams everything in that short period. It wants P-Noy to be able to crow about his achievements when he bows out, earning the gratitude and adulation of the people.

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Does the government think the people would be grateful and loving after being made to suffer for three years?  By that time, the people would be so exasperated and angry that they would be cursing P-Noy.

The Metro Manila Development Authority, which is in charge of traffic in the metropolis, could do nothing but tell the people to find “alternative routes” to avoid the expected traffic jams.

What “alternative routes”? In the metropolis there is no such thing. All the streets of Metro Manila are heavily congested. Every day I try to find an alternative route to Makati and back to Quezon City, to no avail. The alternative routes suggested by the MMDA, being narrower, are even more congested than the main streets. And parked vehicles make these narrow streets even more so.

Only a few days before the start of the projects, the MMDA held a “traffic summit” during which it asked for suggestions on how to ease the traffic congestion. Among the suggestions were a four-day school week, a four-day work week, and the revival of the Pasig River ferry.

What would a four-day school and work week do? Nothing, except make the government workers happy but the general public unhappy because it would get even less service (already deficient during five-day or even six-day work weeks) from government employees. Private employers would be unhappy, too, because they would get less productivity from their employers. Schoolchildren will learn even less because of the reduced school days. They already lose plenty of learning time during the rainy season and frequent holidays; they would lose even more because one more day would be deducted from their class hours.

But would it reduce the traffic jams? I don’t think so. Traffic will remain the same during the four-day work and school week. In fact, the congestion will be even longer because workers and students will go home later. During the three-day weekend, the freed employees and students, with nothing to do, will crowd the shopping malls and traffic would be just as heavy.

The revival of the Pasig River ferry is a good idea, but it should have been started much earlier. How long would it take to procure the needed ferry boats? Preparing for the bidding for suppliers alone would take a year, and the procurement and delivery of the boats would take another year, considering the notorious slowness of the government in doing such things.

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Look at the planned procurement of more trains and coaches and a faster ticketing system for the elevated trains—these have been delayed again because losing bidders have a penchant for going to court and judges have a penchant for issuing restraining orders.

More trains, coaches, and trips for the LRT-MRT would have allowed the people to get somewhere even with the traffic jams. But now it would take at least a year to determine the winning bidder, considering the even more notorious slowness of our courts: at least six months for the bidder to place the orders, at least another year for the factory to make the trains and coaches, and still another year to complete the deliveries.

A few days ago, I read that the local car manufacturers sold more cars than the previous year. A day later, I read that car importers have also increased sales. Where are we going to put all of those vehicles when the number of our streets is not increasing as fast as the number of vehicles? The day is not far off when Metro Manila will become one huge parking lot.

So what can be done quickly? Remove all obstructions on the streets like parked vehicles and sidewalk vendors. Cut the number of buses plying Edsa. Limit car ownership in Metro Manila, as is being done in Tokyo and New York.

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TAGS: Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, Metro Manila traffic, traffic gridlock, traffic jams
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