Get smart on traffic

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Motorists and commuters who are stuck in traffic should remain calm and refocus their attention to activities they could do while on board their vehicles. Rather than simmer in anger or frustration, motorists and passengers alike can productively spend quality time even when caught in a traffic gridlock. But most importantly, it would prevent potential hypertension attack. 

A doctor came out with this piece of advice as early as a month ago and long before the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) issued its Christmas holiday traffic advisory. It was Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who first called out to motorists and commuters to remain calm when caught in heavy traffic rather than risk a spike in blood pressure due to anger and irritation.

Stress caused by traffic jams is also among the triggers of the “holiday blues,” or self-induced depression during Christmas, according to the latest DOH health advisory last week. 

 Duque suggested to those stuck in traffic to pray the rosary, contemplate or meditate, read books, transact business or do office work on one’s laptop, or just watch YouTube or the Netflix on mobile phones or I-pads, like I do. “That way you will feel more relaxed,” the Health Secretary advised the public. If a person loses his cool due to traffic jams, it could lead to higher blood pressure “and you might suffer a heart attack,” he warned.

The caveat though is you can only do these things if you’re not the driver. Using mobile phones while driving is a traffic offense. Certainly though, driving through hellish traffic requires full attention of one’s mind and the faculty of eyes, ears and hands. But as a passenger, certainly he or she can afford to watch movies in Netflix, entertain phone calls, or conduct some office work while on traffic.

Over the weekend, the MMDA warned of another expected “carmageddon”’ on Dec. 20 when they project the start of more severe traffic jams as Christmas draws nearer. The MMDA estimated an additional 20 percent, or 80,000 more vehicles, to ply Metro Manila roads during this holiday season.

Aside from the usual traffic, added vehicle volume would come from motorists going to malls and other shopping centers and those trying to catch trips to the provinces for the long holidays ahead, among other Yule-related road travel activities. MMDA official spokesperson Celine Pialago announced the projected “carmageddon” as something inevitable given the present road network that could not simply accommodate the additional volume of vehicles coming in and out of Metro Manila.

This was why the MMDA sought out the cooperation of mall owners to refrain holding bargain sales promotion gimmicks during weekdays and re-set the opening of mall hours from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. instead, among other stopgap measures to decongest Metro Manila roads. 

As the government agency principally in charge of traffic management over the entire metropolis, MMDA direct motorists to take the alternate routes. The MMDA earlier designated several roads as alternate routes for the holiday season traffic called as “Christmas lanes.” Actually, these are the existing MMDA-designated “mabuhay lanes” where vehicles are directed to go around a number of choke points along major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.

Hopefully, the MMDA would be able to create additional alternate routes out of the roads they have cleared from traffic obstructions that previously blocked vehicle travel. The MMDA, supported by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), have jointly undertaken the campaign to clear these roads from street vendors to illegal structures and other traffic obstructions.

This was after no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself stepped into untangling the traffic problems in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas. President Duterte sternly warned all local government executives to do their part to ease traffic movement, or face sanctions for failure to address bottlenecks in their respective areas. 

In a roundtable conversation with editors and reporters of The Philippine Star on Wednesday night, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar conceded it would be impossible to fulfill any time soon the wish of President Duterte to travel from Makati to Cubao through EDSA in just five minutes. However, Villar clarified it can be done if the EDSA load capacity limit is restored to 200,000 vehicles per day. Currently, the road services an average of 400,000 vehicles daily.

And Villar is confident this will turn to reality once the major road, bridges and other infrastructure projects under the ambitious Build, Build, Build infrastructure program of the Duterte administration are completed and become operational.

The 41-year-old Villar feels he “aged ten years” older trying to do his share of infrastructure building all around the nation since he started as DPWH Secretary. His dream for his four-year old daughter is for her to never experience the monstrous EDSA traffic like what we are living through each day.

Making mental calculations, Villar pointed to the Skyway extension project that would result to about 100,000-in vehicle reduction from EDSA. The connector project is calculated to bring about a 50,000-vehicle reduction from EDSA. The Sta. Monica bridge, he added, will reduce about 30,000 vehicles from EDSA. Plus the C-6 widening, another 20,000 vehicles would be taken off from the daily traffic along EDSA.

For the rest of the country, the DPWH Secretary rattled off various by-pass roads that will not only improve the mobility of the Filipino people across provinces and cities but also connect everyone to economic growth activities. Villar, however, sought out public sacrifice while these road projects cause traffic inconveniences.

But for now, with the traffic scenario expected to worsen this Christmas season, we have to heed Duque’s health advisory: Do not curse the traffic. We cannot do anything about it. It will not make our travel any faster or any more comfortable. So get smart on traffic. Road rage won’t help us any.

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