We need a real solution

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

High cost of living in urban centers is not peculiar in our country.

Unless money is not a problem, having your primary residence in Tokyo or New York is completely out of the question.

And so they take up residence in the outskirts of Tokyo or even outside of it, and just shuttle back and forth from home to work and back via trains. The Japanese love their trains. And why not? They are convenient, fast, efficient, and they no longer have to worry about parking space.

Same for New York City. Why live in the Big Apple when you can just take the commuter ferries which travel along the East River between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Or if you live in New Jersey, you can just take the train.

Living far from their place of work is not a problem because they have a lot of alternatives, whether it be the roads that they can take or the mode of transportation that they can choose from.

Finding a place to stay anywhere in Metro Manila can be very expensive. I live in a townhouse unit and have managed to acquire a few tiny condominium units but I have always wanted a big yard where my pets will be free to roam.

There have been a number of prospective locations for a lot where I can build my future home, mostly in Rizal because the prices are still reasonable and because Rizal is relatively nearer to Quezon City where I currently work. But just thinking about the daily commute, the monster traffic makes my desire to have a new home outside Metro Manila go away.

There are simply inadequate roads linking the province of Rizal to the National Capital Region, as aptly pointed out by architect and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox.

I am a member of Forest Hills Golf and Country Club. I love golf. But just thinking about the extremely stressful ride back to Quezon City makes me just want to stay at home and play WGT golf on my iPad. On good days it takes me an hour to get to the golf course. On bad days, it can take as much as three hours. But then, I have no choice but to take Marcos Highway and then Katipunan Avenue.

Imagine how those working in Manila, or even in Ortigas, Makati, BGC and other central business districts, feel about living in Rizal.

Why is the traffic always bad going in and out of Rizal province, in particular to Antipolo, Cainta, Angono, Taytay, Binangonan, to mention some?

I can sympathize with those who have been working from home during the pandemic but are now being asked to report back to work. If you are living in Rizal, whether you are a commuter or you have your own vehicle, four to six hours daily are wasted on traffic. And the level of stress is something not quantifiable but the effect can be huge, not only on one’s health but also on one’s and their family’s quality of life.

To illustrate the congestion, travel from Cainta Junction to Ortigas Center, which is around six kilometers via Ortigas Extension, would usually take an hour.

The longer route, if one is on the way to Ortigas or Makati, is via Marcos Highway, but that puts the motorist right into the busy C-5 thoroughfare, joining the rush of vehicles from Quezon City.

In recent years, a wider C-6 road alongside the Laguna Lake became a better alternative from Rizal going to the south of Metro Manila compared to C-5 and EDSA.

These limited road options have shown that unlike Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna, the province of Rizal is far behind in terms of transport infrastructure.

Bulacan has NLEX and Skyway 3, the latter a project of San Miguel Corp. Another SMC project, the MRT-7, will connect San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan to North Avenue in Quezon City and to other train lines like MRT-3 and LRT-1.

The south, where Cavite and Laguna are located, has the lion’s share in terms of bigger roads with SLEX, Skyway, CALAX, and CAVITEX. Residents of Cavite will also have the train option as well with the targeted start of operations by 2024 of the LRT-1 Extension from Baclaran, Paranaque to Bacoor, Cavite.

The only significant transport infrastructure development in recent years for Rizal, or at least the lower part of Antipolo, was the inauguration of the LRT-2 East Extension that connected Recto in Manila to Masinag.

For those who use cars to travel, whose businesses entail deliveries of goods and services, and utilize public transport from Rizal to Metro Manila and vice versa, the 19.37-kilometer Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) is a long-overdue road project.

But the project is being opposed by so-called advocates who would rather push for a Pasig River Esplanade (PARES) which will convert the Pasig Riverbanks into an extended greenway for walking and biking.

The only problem is that it is not viable, no one will fund it, and it will not address the main problem – the need for improved access from east and west and vice-versa for hundreds of thousands of motorists and commuters who have to ply this route everyday of their lives.

Yes, PAREX is not the ultimate and only solution. But it can and will ease up traffic and improve the quality of lives of motorists and commuters and their families.

If the opposition have been paying close attention to the government’s programs under the Department of Transportation (DoTR), they would have learned that the agency also signed a contract for the design of the MRT-4 last year.

This is the first step in building the monorail system that will cut travel time from Taytay, Rizal to N. Domingo in Quezon City to just 27 minutes, according to the DoTR. The MRT-4 stations are N. Domingo, Bonny Serrano, Greenhills, Edsa, Manila Electric Co., Tiendesitas, Rosario, St. Joseph, Cainta, San Juan, Tikling Junction, North Manila Road and Taytay.

Based on news articles about the project, the start of construction is set in 2023, or over two decades since the feasibility study of the Ramos administration in 1995.

With the PAREX and the MRT-4, the province of Rizal will finally have the transport infrastructure boost it needs. It gives motorists and commuters more options to travel back and forth from Rizal to Metro Manila.

Travel times will be greatly reduced for those who will use the PAREX either as private motorists or will ride the BRT or Bus Rapid Transit. For those who opt for the train option, there’s the existing LRT-2 East Extension and the MRT-4 when it becomes operational a few years from now.

Palafox has summarized the reason why we need PAREX best. It will address an unmet demand.

Our infrastructure development has simply lagged and our road and rail networks, airports, bridges, transport systems, have just become too inadequate, especially in the face of tremendous growth in our population and economy.

While a lot of infra projects have started or been completed under the Duterte administration, most of these are oriented towards addressing north to south traffic. East to west traffic and vice versa is left very much behind.

Contrary to what those against the PAREX project are claiming that the new expressway will just bring about induced demand and encourage more people to buy cars, a new infra project like PAREX can bring in huge benefits not only for commuters and existing vehicle owners but the economy in general.

With faster and smoother access, expect reduced transportation costs for businesses and motorists as this may even convince locators to consider Rizal province as a future business hub, a development that could produce more jobs. Easier access through better and bigger roads and more transport options will also boost land values in the province in the coming years.



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