Bad news: Traffic won’t get better till 2015
I have very bad news for Metro Manilans: The horrendous traffic jams and floods will be with us until next year. This comes straight from Francis Tolentino, chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, although he did not say it exactly that way. What he told the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday (the other guest was former congressman Danilo Suarez) was that the traffic jams are brought about by a combination of factors: diggings on the streets by the Department of Public Works and Highways and by the water concessionaires, the lack of an efficient transport system, too many vehicles on too few streets, and the lack of coordination among the agencies involved in transportation.
Those too-frequent road reblocking projects by contractors hired by the DPWH naturally slow down traffic. The diggings by water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water are another culprit.
Ironically, the flood-control projects of DPWH often worsen the floods. One example: The construction of the Blumentritt Interceptor that would channel flood waters to Manila Bay is exacerbating the flooding in Manila’s downtown area. The Interceptor is unfinished until now and so the floodwaters cannot flow out to Manila Bay. Hopefully, it will be completed by next year.
The lack of an efficient transport system is the biggest cause of the traffic jams. The elevated rail lines should have been efficient and fast, but there are not enough trains to accommodate all the commuters needing a ride. The wait in the long lines just to go up to the MRT3 stations is much longer than the trip itself.
The government has ordered more trains from China but the prototype won’t be coming until the first quarter of 2015. The prototype will be tried on the existing rails, and only after all kinks are ironed out will the construction of the trains begin. The coaches will be delivered here in batches and it will take many months before all 48 coaches are delivered. Again, hopefully, they will all be here and running before the end of 2015.
The problem with the buses is the opposite: There are just too many of them. So they clog the streets, especially Edsa, where they crawl like snails wasting precious fuel and polluting the air but do not carry enough passengers. The buses crawling bumper to bumper on Edsa are half-empty even during rush hours. Commuters do not want to ride buses because these are too slow, and spending much time dawdling at stations to wait for passengers.
MMDA Chair Tolentino is at a loss on how the buses manage to stay on considering that they don’t have enough passengers. “I don’t know how they survive,” he told the journalists present at the Kapihan. My theory is that the bus companies are overcharging commuters. Those few passengers are paying for all the empty seats.
The inefficiency of the mass transport system, in turn, forces commuters to buy their own vehicles, but they only add to the traffic congestion.
Every year, car assemblers pour out onto the streets 300,000 new cars. That number does not include the vehicles smuggled into the country and the jeepneys and buses assembled from recycled parts. Where are you going to put all of them when very few streets are being built? Tolentino said.
Ironically, a government agency, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, is to blame for the oversupply of buses on Edsa. It has issued too many franchises to bus companies. Doesn’t it know the holding capacity of Edsa?
Then there are the colorum buses. The LTFRB cannot—or does not want to—prevent them from operating so they don’t add to the traffic jams on Edsa. Guess why?
To make matters worse, complained Tolentino, the LTFRB lifted the ban on cargo trucks earlier banned by the MMDA from Metro streets.
Can’t the Department of Transportation and Communications coordinate all the transport agencies so they don’t work at cross purposes?
It cannot even fix the problems of MRT3 and the long-delayed issuance of license plates by the Land Transportation Office.
With more and more vehicles being poured out onto the streets and almost none being phased out, traffic congestion has gotten worse through the years.
Tolentino said he had added to the public transport system by resuming the ferry operation on the Pasig River. There’s no traffic, the ferry is fast and cheap but sadly, few commuters use it. “I already lowered the fare to attract more passengers, still the passengers have not increased dramatically,” Tolentino said. Could it be people’s natural fear of the water, or the stench from the Pasig?
How about a subway? Yes, that would be a great help, Tolentino said.
Ex-Congressman Suarez said a subway system was planned during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration but that her term ended before it could be implemented.
Tolentino and Suarez agreed that Metro Manila should be decongested by making outlying areas its bedroom and by locating industries to the provinces so the rural residents don’t have to flock to the metropolis to get jobs.
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