Good enough for the first week
Moderate at best and spotty at worst is the recent government effort to decongest traffic at the busiest road in the country, the 28.3-kilometer Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa).
Highway patrol on the job. On the whole, though, I think that for the first week, the effort was good enough, despite the nightmarish “carmageddon” last Tuesday night due to a massive downpour, and its scary near-repetition last Thursday, saved this time by the presence of drenched cops and traffic enforcers. But the authorities must do better in the coming weeks.
From Monday, Sept. 7, the smartly-uniformed, motorcycle-riding and sufficiently-armed cops fielded by the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), under the direct supervision of the Palace, instilled discipline among drivers and pedestrians, arrested the recalcitrant, and shooed away “colorums” and provincial buses.
Also, the PNP-HPG cleared the thoroughfare of peddlers and illegally-parked vehicles, ordered walkers to use marked pedestrian lanes, directed buses to stay inside the yellow lanes, and allowed them no more than 30 seconds to load and unload passengers.
And voila! Several choke points were decongested and traffic flowed, even if intermittently. Quite pleased were motorists from the northern end of Edsa going south to Makati, because with the clearing of hawkers and the towing of illegally-parked vehicles at the Balintawak, North Avenue, Quezon Avenue and Cubao areas, coupled with the strict enforcement of rules, southbound traffic considerably eased.
However, going northward, especially from Makati to the Guadalupe, Shaw Boulevard, Ortigas Avenue and Cubao intersections, traffic was still quite heavy and vehicles were still crawling. To repeat, the downpour on Tuesday night (and on Thursday, too) simply overwhelmed the antique drainage system.
MAP strategies. These immediate solutions, including the deployment of the PNP-HPG, were suggested by the Traffic, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), chaired by the energetic Eddie Yap.
Two months ago, the MAP submitted to President Aquino a “holistic approach” to solve the horrendous gridlock. The MAP believes that “the traffic problems besetting our metropolis are behavioral and structural.”
It added that these “problems should be addressed through the three most basic elements, the three ‘Es’, of effective traffic management: traffic engineering, education of all stakeholders, and enforcement of traffic rules.”
After reading the study, I waited to find out what Malacañang would do. And sure enough, starting last Monday, many of the MAP proposals were implemented and followed through the whole week.
Significantly, the MAP strongly suggested the appointment of a “traffic czar” to take full charge of the deteriorating problem and to assume responsibility in case of failure. Elementary it is in the science of management that someone must always be responsible for the success or failure of any undertaking.
Despite the lack of an official appointment, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Yap believes, is effectively performing the role, powers and functions of a traffic czar.
“Rene talks like a czar, acts like a czar and is a czar except in name,” Yap quipped. The MAP bigwig may not know it but one broadsheet (not the Inquirer) has bannered Almendras’ supposedly formal appointment as the traffic supremo.Other MAP recommendations. Anyway, with or without a czar, I think that, with the initial, though still limited, success of the PNP-HPG, it is now time to start implementing some (lack of space prevents me from discussing all) of the other MAP recommendations, like:
- Include all intersecting avenues (Buendia, Shaw, Ortigas, D. Tuazon, etc.) and radial roads (C5, Katipunan, Roxas, etc.) in the campaign.
- Organize a bus dispatch system so all buses can be dispatched and operated more efficiently.
- “Channelize” the entire length of Edsa with more bus lane delineators.
- Flood-proof all low street levels by using prefabricated quick-to-assemble steel perforated matting resting on steel supports similar to those used by the United States during World War II, as an emergency measure, while awaiting a more permanent concrete upgrading.
- Install a high-vehicle occupancy lane for vehicles with at least three passengers.
- Encourage carpools and bus shuttles.
The longer-term MAP proposals include building new bridges across the Pasig River, resolving in the foreseeable future the MRT and LRT issues, constructing high-capacity subway systems, educating drivers and pedestrians on traffic rules and road courtesy, and undertaking more effective flood control projects.
In the past, the government had the wrong focus. Instead of optimizing road usage, it wanted to curtail demand by reducing work days, suspending classes, and instituting truck bans, which exacted a heavy toll on the economy and on the patience of the riding public.
As Eduardo Lacson, president of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, lamented, “The proposal for a four-day workweek is a ‘solution’ begging for a problem… It poses risks of accident, low performance, off-spec products due to worker fatigue born of long work hours.”
Indeed, we as a people should think more horizontally and avoid what former prime minister Cesar Virata calls “short-termism,” or the “excessive focus on short-term goals at the expense of long-term objectives.”
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