EDITORIAL - Back to traffic

EDITORIAL - Back to traffic

(The Philippine Star) - November 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Even with millions of students learning from home amid the raging pandemic, traffic along certain major thoroughfares particularly EDSA is approaching pre-pandemic levels.

It can’t be just the holiday rush; the pandemic has forced people to increasingly shop online. One reason is that with the road network limited as it is, traffic managers have dedicated one lane on EDSA to buses. U-turns have also been closed, again for the convenience of the buses. Compounding the traffic jams are ongoing infrastructure projects.

One of the rationales for the EDSA Busway experiment is that the government wants priority given to commuters, with the hope that the faster commute will persuade car owners to take mass transportation.

Motorists prefer their own vehicles, however, because of the inadequacy of mass transportation. The Busway allows the attainment of President Duterte’s objective of a five-minute drive from Cubao, Quezon City to Makati. But the Busway is not a multimodal transport hub. Most people don’t live along or near EDSA; to enjoy the Busway, they have to get to the bus stops first. It’s not uncommon for people to take several rides from home, on tricycles and jeepneys, before reaching EDSA.

For each ride, commuters need to wait in line, and for jeepneys, they need to fill out contact tracing forms. So if they have their own motor vehicles or even bicycles, they would take these to work rather than jostle or wait in long lines for rides on public transport.

In the time of COVID, private car owners are avoiding mass transportation even more. As businesses gradually reopen, people use their own vehicles to avoid coronavirus infection.

Traffic managers will have to take these issues into consideration as they assess the Busway experiment. The reason motorists prefer to move around using their own vehicles is still there: mass transportation is inefficient and inadequate. Until this problem is addressed, people aren’t going to leave their vehicles at home.

The ride from Cubao to Makati may take five minutes on the Busway, but the drive is taking two hours for private motorists. Even with time and fuel being wasted while stuck on the road, motorists aren’t going to take the bus; they will sit in their vehicles and stew and wish the worst on those who are adding to public misery in this pandemic.

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