‘Crazy’ ideas to unravel traffic gridlocks
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Traffic gridlocks in Metro Manila will turn for the worse before it gets any better. In fact, Edison “Bong” Nebrija, chief traffic “enforcer” of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), candidly admitted there is no sugarcoating that can ease the daily traffic jams that both motorists and passengers would have to bear.

But being the designated MMDA “traffic czar,” Nebrija is not about to surrender. For as long as there are creative ideas on how to make vehicles move much faster, Nebrija vows in behalf of the MMDA to consider several proposals and enforce them once authorized to do so.

“Traffic is not hellish but very hellish since last week. But we’re facing the problem up front, face-to-face. So we need to address the problem head-on. There is no sugar-coating,” Nebrija told us without equivocation.

Since this is under the area of responsibility of the MMDA, we have invited Nebrija and MMDA official spokesperson Celine Pialago to our Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast forum to discuss the alarming signs of traffic jams that could get more problematic than we have seen in the country’s premier metropolis.

We also invited Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) official spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo to our Kapihan sa Manila Bay that we hold every Wednesday at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle, Malate. Arevalo spoke about the AFP’s full endorsement of the bill that seeks to amend the loopholes in the Human Security Act of 2007. The proposal seeks to strengthen military and police capability to face the “real and present danger” of suicide bombers following three succeeding in Mindanao where several people were killed and injured many others.

For lack of space, we will take up in our column next Monday our conversations with Arevalo about the Senate committee on national defense public hearing on a bill to amend the Human Security Act.

Coincidentally, both Nebrija and Pialago attended a public hearing held also at the Senate last Tuesday to investigate “in aid of legislation” what the government needs to or not to do in addressing traffic gridlocks in many urban centers in Metro Manila. Nebrija and Pialago joined their fellow MMDA officials at the Senate committee on public services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe.

Pointing to a recent study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency that the Philippines incurs economic losses amounting to an estimated P3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion, Poe called out top officials from various government agencies concerned with the worsening traffic congestion, especially along the entire stretch of the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, or EDSA for short.

With total length of 23.8 kilometers, EDSA is the longest and the most congested highway in the metropolis.

As of current count, Pialago noted, there are already around 402,000 vehicles plying EDSA everyday. Or, she cited, this is about two times higher than its carrying capacity of 200,000 vehicles per day. According to her, beginning September – signaling the start of the “ber” months – the MMDA is seeing an additional 20 percent vehicle increase on EDSA, adding to the already congested thoroughfare.

Thus, the MMDA spokesperson advised the motorists to brace for heavy traffic as the “ber” months of the holiday season draws near. Travel time during the Christmas holiday season last year, she recalled, the average speed along EDSA was measured at 19.30 kilometers per hour (kph). Pialago fears this speed will likely go slower this year.

At this rate, it won’t be a surprise that this could literally drive motorists crazy. 

The cause of such slow traffic speed ranges from ordinary road problems, minor ones like vehicular accidents to the most serious ones like rains and floods, potholes, road obstructions like illegal parking, undisciplined bus drivers getting out of their designated lanes along EDSA, etc.

Aside from an average occurrence of 42 vehicular accidents per day, Pialago cited MMDA records which show other major causes of slow travel time along 77 chokepoints such as bus stops, intersections, malls and the volume of vehicles passing through the stretch of EDSA.

Another factor that adds to the monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila, she added, is the ongoing construction and repairs of various bridges and roads that are ongoing along the entire stretch of EDSA and perpendicular roads going to and out of it.

But traffic will hopefully ease once these various road and other infrastructure projects of the government are completed and operational, Pialago reassured the public. For now, the MMDA is asking the public for more patience and cooperate by observing road discipline.

As far as the MMDA is concerned, Nebrija disclosed they are merely implementing the existing traffic engineering schemes along EDSA like the “yellow” lane for all buses and the MMDA provincial bus ban that has been turning EDSA into a huge parking lot of stalled vehicles.

Nebrija believes traffic on EDSA can only be addressed if the lawmakers will be able to legislate a law that puts a moratorium in car sales in our country. He finds merit in the “no garage, no car policy” being pushed by Senator Win Gatchalian. But its implementation is another question. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo is proposing a 24-hour workday, saying it can help ease traffic woes because it will reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Panelo complained about the “horrendous” traffic in Metro Manila after being stuck in Makati City last week. He vowed to personally relay his suggestion to President Duterte. Who knows, he might even have a back-up security vehicle, but to no avail.

During our Kapihan sa Manila Bay, DWIZ veteran Aya Yupangco suggested the MMDA “number-coding” be instead revised from odd-even for ending of car plates to brands of vehicles that would be banned from the road on specific days based on the highest to the lowest sold cars in the country. 

These ideas and proposals might sound crazy indeed but they could possibly restore our sanity while stuck in traffic rather than being pushed into road rage.

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