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I’m mad, mad as hell

/ 12:11 AM October 09, 2014

You should be. And the President should be, too.

I was on the road—unmoving—for six hours on Monday due to the gridlock brought about by less than an hour of rain. This is a disgrace. It’s simply nothing more or less than a failure of government. It has no excuse, although no doubt excuses will be presented. Well, I won’t accept them. Enough is enough, and that enough is long past.

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Read again what I said as introduction to my Feb. 13 column: “I was stuck in traffic the other day, and other day, and other day. It’s the unacceptable norm now. And 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 next to nothing except firm political will to enforce sensible traffic rules.”

That was last February, but I started complaining four years ago. I wrote about the woes of traffic first on Dec. 17, 2010, then April 15, 2011, then May 11, 2012, then Feb. 13, 2014, then March 6, 2014. Five columns, with a number of sensible, doable suggestions. Yet none—I repeat, none—has been done. It’s a primary reason we have the mess we do today. Action hasn’t happened; if it had, we wouldn’t have the chaos we do today.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency did an extensive study of traffic and infrastructure and estimated that the economy was losing P2.4 billion a day in potential income through traffic delays. You need no more justification than that to spend money, and lack of money is no excuse for nonaction. You need no more justification than that to get things done—now.

Will the President finish his term with gridlock so bad that the only solution will be to pour concrete over all the cars stranded on the roads, and start anew? Or will he crack the whip and get action?

What did I suggest? Best that you read the columns but here’s a summary. And mind you, many others have made good, doable suggestions, too. The solutions are well-known; there’s no need for more studies, more plans, only for action.

The suggestions I’ve raised over four years (with explanations given as to why at the time):

  • Take half the buses off Edsa (December 2010). A recent report says 3,000, leaving a sensible 500.
  • Pay bus drivers a fixed wage, and force them to stay in line and stop only at designated bus stops.
  • Encourage pooling (three people or more in a car) and a dedicated lane for buses, taxis and these cars.
  • Hire hundreds of traffic aides and TRAIN them to ensure smooth traffic flow.
  • Keep intersections clear, with traffic aides at every intersection to enforce it. And fine violators.
  • Move cars involved in an accident off the road after taking a photo if they can be moved.
  • Resurface the roads, so you can move faster: The test should be: Can you text?
  • Discipline jeepneys as to where to stop, and only against the curb. No doubling up.
  • Close the bottom Dasma gate in the mornings. The few getting kids to school is disrupting hundreds, nay thousands, coming from SLEx.
  • Don’t allow on-street parking on Makati’s side roads so these can be used as alternate routes. If you own a car, you must have somewhere to park it.
  • Waiting for kids or passengers on the main road outside schools and malls should not be allowed. They must provide off-road access.
  • Put large screens at SLEx ramp outlets with cameras down below showing the traffic condition so you can choose the exit to take.
  • Get Subic and Batangas operating as planned, as alternate international ports (suggested BEFORE the chaos that the Manila mayor caused).
  • Cancel all driver’s licenses and require retesting of driving competence and knowledge of road rules. Start with drivers holding professional licenses.
  • Have “P” plates, a provisional license for the first six months where if you have an accident or violation, you lose it and can’t reapply for a year.
  • Do random checks of PUVs for mechanical condition.

Others have made very good suggestions, too. Some quarters suggest that the government impose fees on vehicles entering the central business district, like Singapore does. It’s a good idea IF you have efficient, accessible public transport as an alternative. Singapore does, Manila doesn’t. So it’s not a workable solution.

As I said last March, “What has to be recognized is that even the briefest stop disrupts traffic. A taxi letting off a passenger sends a wave of delay through the smooth flow of traffic. There must be no stopping of any kind on the main thoroughfares, pull into an emergency bay, or into a side street. A nuisance, yes, but just for you. The hundreds behind you benefit. Let’s have signs: THINK OF OTHERS, BE COURTEOUS, GIVE WAY, and so on. Let’s get traffic moving, safely.”

One problem is that too many people have a say—the Metro Manila Development Authority, the mayors, the national government agencies assigned to public transportation. You get nothing done like that. Give one entity full power, properly funded to get action, to get things done. And all other entities compelled to comply and support. If that needs a law, pass it in weeks.

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There’s no shortage of ideas, just a deplorable shortage of doing anything about it. (Yes, I know I’m repeating myself. I have to, in the faint hope of our leaders taking notice.) It’s time for the renowned Filipino patience to come to an end. Government action must now happen, no more plans, no more promises—just ACTION. Otherwise, Manila comes to a halt. Is that to be the President’s legacy—a paralyzed national capital?

* * *

P.S. After I wrote this, I was stuck again on Wednesday: two hours for what should have been a 30-minute trip. When will this absurdity stop?

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TAGS: EDSA, Edsa Traffic, Floods, gates of hell, Heavy Rains, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Manila Traffic, Metro Manila Development Authority, Metro Manila traffic, traffic
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