Heavy Metro Manila traffic kills

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

Every working day in Metro Manila, motorists experience heavy traffic and gridlock despite all the MMDA traffic enforcers and the Highway Patrol. Even with all the different traffic schemes and supposed improvements on the roads, nothing has changed. If anything, things have just gotten even worse. At this point, is it even possible to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila?

Things have gotten so bad that people are not only wasting their day being on the road collectively for around four hours (two hours going to work and two hours going home), but people are literally dying on the streets. Gridlock in the city is costing lives as patients in ambulances are made to endure horrific traffic on the way to the hospital.

We all know the ramifications that can come from delaying medical treatment. In severe medical cases like stroke and heart attack – a simple delay can be a death sentence. And there is no way that a patient stuck in an ambulance for two hours on the road is going to have a fighting chance. It’s sad because all the technology and doctors’ prowess in the world is going to make a difference to a patient stuck in the middle of EDSA.

We’ve seen it more than once. While on the road we see ambulances doing their best to maneuver through cars and make it ahead. And for the most part, we see cars doing their best to give way. The problem is when there is nowhere for everyone to go. Cars try to move out the way but that doesn’t make as big of a difference as they should and ambulances still inch along extremely slowly taking away precious time that the patients inside need to get medical treatment.

Ambulance drivers are disheartened and have recounted stories of losing patients during a 40-minute journey that should have just taken 15-20 minutes and relatives of loved ones stuck in traffic have shared their anguish and disbelief that it was traffic and that caused them to lose someone they love. If this isn’t a big enough sign that something needs to be done immediately I don’t know what is.

Just last month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) declared Manila the most congested major city in developing Asia. That’s not hard to believe at all. Even though other Southeast Asian countries may experience traffic, nothing compares to what we have here in Metro Manila. The closest would probably be Thailand and even there it’s not as bad as what we face on the streets daily.

ADB cited several contributors to the traffic problem the biggest of which was the lack of affordable and efficient public transportation. With our infrastructure not being where it should be and our existing public transportation constantly breaking down or not functioning it’s no wonder people are constantly in cars on the road. If only we could truly invest in creating a train system that worked and could cater to our large population then we could get people off the streets.

We see it work firsthand in neighboring countries. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan are just some examples of an efficient train system taking countless cars off the streets. If we can come up with something like that we could truly make a difference in our traffic problems. Instead, we have trains breaking down right and left and all those people left with no choice but to use buses, jeepneys, and taxis. Just recently almost all the lines – except one – were malfunctioning. This shouldn’t be the case.

And one of the worst things is hearing that the government – or at least Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo – thinks that we don’t have a transport crisis in the capital. He so flippantly just advised Filipinos that if they need to get to work at a specific time to leave earlier. That’s such a careless off the cuff remark belittling commuters’ travel woes.

To make matters worse, Panelo decided to rise to the challenge people gave him to try commuting and see if he felt the same about the traffic situation after. He decided to do it and it ended up taking him almost four hours to get to work. He arrived late and for some reason still stands by his earlier statement that the traffic situation is not that bad. Netizens roasted him online saying four hours of travel is unacceptable and that no job in the world that would allow employees to waltz in late with traffic as an excuse. It’s ridiculous.

We need a solution and we need it now. Again, I think we have to double down on creating better infrastructure and a more reliable public transportation system. That’s the only way to make things better. It might be hard for the foreseeable future, but in the long run, everyone will benefit.

Additionally, perhaps projects like the one proposed by San Miguel Corporation’s president and COO Ramon Ang are worth pursuing. The conglomerate is proposing to build an elevated expressway along Edsa to help decongest the city’s busiest road. While details are still coming in we know that the toll-road would be a large 10-lane expressway with a dedicated lane for bus rapid transit system. Honestly, I think this is a great idea. We’ve all seen what the Skyway has done for the South Luzon Expressway. It’s time to give Edsa some much-needed relief too.

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