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Avoid Edsa on Holy Week

/ 12:04 AM April 09, 2014

The infernal traffic jam that motorists of Metro Manila and surrounding areas have to suffer daily was the subject of last Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel. The guests were representatives of the Metro Manila Development Authority (Director Neomie Recio and engineer Emil Llavon of the Traffic Engineering Center, Gen. Frank Manalo of the Traffic Discipline Office, and Tina Velasco of the office of MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino) and of the Light Rail Transit Authority (Hernando T. Cabrera, corporate board secretary, and Annabelle Gananciel, manager of the business development and public relations department).

It looks like we have to grin and bear it for at least one-and-a-half more years before we see any improvement in the traffic flow.  The MMDA representatives said the agency is doing everything it can think of to ease the traffic jam. It has invested in smart traffic signals that can detect the volume of traffic on the streets. If traffic is heavier on one street, it will light the green signal on that street longer. It is clearing the streets and sidewalks of parked vehicles and other obstructions. However, its jurisdiction is only over national roads; the side streets are under the jurisdiction of the local government units. So don’t blame the MMDA when side streets are clogged; blame your mayor.

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The MMDA’s response to traffic accidents has been reduced to 15 minutes, according to its representatives.  If it takes longer than that, blame the traffic jam (hahaha) that delays the traffic investigators. And the MMDA has revived the Pasig River ferry that should relieve some of the traffic load on the streets,

But there’s bad news for the Holy Week—the only time of the year when traffic is light in Metro Manila, as city folk flee the cities and head to the open spaces and cooler climes of the provinces. During Holy Week, the daily traffic jam is transferred from the cities to the highways going to the resorts. But not this time.

The MMDA has warned motorists not to use Edsa during Holy Week as it would surely be clogged with traffic. But don’t blame the MMDA for that; blame the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The DPWH will undertake an extensive road reblocking project on Edsa. That is the puzzling practice of tearing up the concrete of still good streets, on which motorists see no defects, and then pouring new concrete into the hole. Why the DPWH wastes so much money that can be put to better use elsewhere on this practice puzzles many people.

But how else will the contractors earn any money unless the DPWH gives them contracts? And when contractors have no money, how can they spread the joy?

Anyway, the MMDA said the DPWH will close Edsa, leaving only one lane open, during Holy Week to do its road reblocking on this busy street. If you are going anywhere north or south of Metro Manila on Holy Week, avoid Edsa; look for alternative routes. Except that the alternative routes would probably be clogged with vehicles avoiding Edsa.

You will perhaps think that it would be better to escape to the provinces. Except that the highways would also be jammed with traffic. So the smart thing to do may be to stay home and laze in the garden, hose yourself and the children with water on the lawn, and then cool yourselves with ice cream, halo-halo, or any ice-cold drink. In the late afternoon, when the sun is no longer so hot, go to the nearest church and pray that our officials will grow better brains.

As to the infernal traffic jam, everybody at the Kapihan agreed that the problem is that there are too many vehicles in Metro Manila and environs. Every year, the car companies pour 250,000 new vehicles into the country, most of which end up in Metro Manila.  That does not include the vehicles smuggled in through the free ports and the jeepneys assembled in Cavite and Laguna from second-hand parts. Where are we going to put all that when the number of streets is not increasing proportionally? You cannot put 10 pounds of sh-t in a five-pound bag—it’s as simple as that.

Unlike in other countries, no vehicle is voluntarily phased out in the Philippines. Filipino mechanics and body builders can make the World War II jeep run almost forever.

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In the Philippines, roads are used not only for travelling but also for parking. Drive around Metro Manila at night and you will see vehicles double-parked on all streets, including those in squatter colonies.

In other Asian cities like Tokyo and Singapore, you will not be sold a vehicle unless you can show a title to a garage. In Singapore, downtown is closed to most vehicles. If you have to go there, you have to pay a stiff fee. And in New York, owning a vehicle has become so expensive that New Yorkers have to content themselves to life without a car.

But New York, Tokyo and Singapore have efficient mass transport systems which we don’t have. And this is where the Light Rail Transit and the Metrorail come in. Their problem is not too few but too many passengers. The train passengers are packed like sardines and the long queues run down to the streets. Passengers line up for an hour or more, much longer than the travelling time on board the trains.

In this the LRT is better off than the MRT 3. The former has 140 coaches, double the 70 coaches of the latter. MRT 3 is buying 48 more coaches, but the first batch won’t be shipped here until late next year. Until then, we have to grin and bear it.

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TAGS: Annabelle Gananciel, Diamond Hotel, EDSA, Emil Llavon, Francis Tolentino, Frank Manalo, Hernando T. Cabrera, holy week, kapihan sa manila, light rail transit, Light Rail Transit Authority, Metro Manila, Metro Manila Development Authority, Metrorail, MRT-3, Neomie Recio, Pasig River ferry, Tina Velasco
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