How to ease EDSA traffic
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - June 13, 2019 - 12:00am

We give way to a reader, Ely Ouano, on his reaction to the MMDA’s proposal to ban provincial buses as a way of easing traffic on EDSA. Here are excerpts of his letter.

“Your article is highly thought-provoking on alternatives other than banning. Sad to say, the kneejerk approach in banana republics is ban-na-naman by banana man. Let me share some insights on EDSA and the traffic problem in Metro Manila in general.

“The odd-even scheme was tried and abandoned in Mexico City in the late 1970s as it created more traffic jams and air pollution. In fact, the Mexico City experience is often considered a prime example of unintended consequence of environmental policy or public policy.

“Before the odd-even scheme was introduced, most families were content with one car. The father drove the family car with all the family members –the wife going to work and the children to school – before going to his office.

“Without a decent public transport system, the odd-even scheme forced the family to buy another car, most often dilapidated and air polluting … thereby contributing to the traffic jam. Worst, the habit of the whole family driving together was lost. Once the kids were capable of driving, they wanted … even a rundown car as long as it gave them independence.

“The problem is compounded by the uncoordinated and conflicting government policy on car ownership. While the traffic management and environmental agencies want a lower number of cars on the road, the industry department wants to promote more cars.

“Improvement in the public transport system is a must. Increasing car sales taxes, fuel taxes, and registration fees should be used to build and subsidize public transport.

Reducing buses on EDSA

“In a number of countries I have been to, the bus routes run perpendicular to the railway and subways. The buses move the passengers to and from the railways and subways. In fact, when there is a change in the railway and subway timetable, the buses’ timetables are correspondingly adjusted.

“Buses should not compete with the railways and subways, but rather complement the railways and subways. Of course, there is a need for some mode of transport between the railway and subway terminals, especially in hot climates and where the trees and sidewalks are practically non-existent. A limited number of buses may be allowed to operate in parallel.

Timeliness and P2P services

“Timeliness is an important factor for the commuter. Commuters are willing to pay extra for timeliness. However, the passenger volume is not constant throughout the day. During peak hours, buses are easily filled, and in fact, there is normally a long queue of passengers waiting to get on board the P2P.

“Off peak, the buses run half empty and sometimes with a handful of passengers even with longer time intervals. However, the buses leave on time. This is possible because of the monopoly or duopoly rights granted to the P2P operators. The operator recovers his off peak losses from gains during peak hours.

“With UVs, hundreds of individual operators … would be running [their vehicles] like jeepneys. During off peak hours, operators will look for reasons to delay [commuting] until the vehicle is full.

“During peak hours, they will compete with the existing P2P services like guerrillas, [and erode the] profit of the current P2P operators. The result will be the destruction of the current P2P services.

EDSA speed limit

“Road hogging by slow drivers is one of the major reasons for the …. phalanx of slow moving vehicles. Most often, the slow moving vehicles are driven by inexperienced drivers or drivers with very poor skills.

“Rather than putting a [blanket] speed limit on EDSA, there should be specific limits for each lane. There should be penalties for road hogging or driving below speed limit. There should be proper driver education that slow moving vehicles should not ride abreast.

Education of traffic officials

“Traffic officials should be properly trained on traffic management. There is a response time during acceleration and deceleration. The cars have to maintain distances. When waiting [for the light to turn green], cars are normally closer, almost bumper-to-bumper, under Manila’s traffic congestion. For this reason, the direction of the vehicle flow is altered after a minute or so. You might notice at traffic intersections with digital timers how (short or) long 120 seconds feels.

“There are traffic personnel who love the pakyaw system. They run the traffic in one direction for as long as 20 minutes. When there are no more vehicles in that direction, they start to wave their hands to signal distant vehicles to go faster instead of allowing the traffic from other directions to move on.

“Second, the traffic personnel should be properly educated to look at the volume of traffic from each direction. Take the case of the Skyway traffic. It takes some 15 minutes to cover the 18-km stretch from Alabang to Buendia. From the Buendia ramp to Buendia could take another 20 minutes if you are unlucky. If you are lucky, because you are part of the stream currently favored, it can take just five minutes.

“There is a traffic light system that is supposed to be calibrated, and in some instances, even controlled by a distant monitoring system to balance the traffic flow. If the traffic officer on the ground ignores this system, the whole purpose of calibrating and coordinating traffic flow is lost.

“Traffic officers who ignore the traffic lights should be punished.”

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