Disappearing roads

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Why is traffic in Metro Manila slower than other Asian cities? The standard answer is because there are too many cars and every year more and more cars are added. Sorry but the real answers is because, believe it or not, “roads” are disappearing. EDSA is no longer a four-lane or five-lane highway that authorities want us to believe. The lanes are “disappearing.”

Last Saturday morning, we drove from Pasig City to Subic Bay Free Port. From EDSA crossing to the turn off to NLEX it took us 35 minutes to cover 9.9 kilometers or an average of 15 kilometers per hour. That is right on the money as far as speed and distance goes. But what is causing the slowdown of vehicles compared to past years?

While the buses practically take off from high-speed driving in the bus carousel, all other vehicles are trapped in what most of us thought were four or five more lanes. Based on what we observed from the crossing underpass all the way near NLEX, private vehicles and motorcycles essentially have 2.5 lanes left. On the Crossing underpass, one lane goes to buses, two go to private vehicles. On the flyover at Ortigas-EDSA, one lane goes to buses and two go to private vehicles and one is the service road from Ortigas to EDSA northbound.

At the Santolan intersection and flyover, one lane for buses, one lane for left turners to Crame, two lanes for straight on northbound and one lane for right turners. At the Cubao underpass, things average out at three lanes. But what really causes the choke point is the chaotic traffic management past the North EDSA junction, where one lane goes to buses, two lanes go to U-turning or left turning vehicles where dividers eat up the space for half a lane or more, leaving two to 2.5 lanes for cars and motorcycles all the way to the NLEX area.

Adding to that mess are about four or five MMDA enforcers who are always at the junction spotting clueless drivers who are not aware that the two left lanes are now U-turn lanes. When they change lanes to go straight even 50 meters away, they are immediately flagged down by MMDA enforcers. Instead of accosting or issuing tickets, those entrapment specialists should pay more attention to getting things flowing rather than slowing things down more by stopping the drivers to issue them tickets.

At the very least, there should be tall advance warnings or visible signs to advice motorists to be on the correct lane, or is the absence of visible signs part of what many drivers call an entrapment plan? As we drove past the MMDA trap for ignorant innocent motorists, I also noticed that an MMDA enforcer was making “alalay” vehicles coming out of a nearby mall. So, while four or five enforcers capture or trap drivers, their associate plays mall cop to relieve the build up at the mall road.

Blaming the traffic and waste of time on EDSA on the number of vehicles qualifies as “intellectual dishonesty.”  The real reason is there are too many cooks at the MMDA and no real experts in urban traffic management. These political appointees are the ones who implemented the lane reduction program to intentionally slow down vehicles allegedly for increased safety, but they never said anything about taking away roads by design, roads that we vehicle owners pay Road Users Tax on.

Perhaps it is time for people-friendly or populist members of Congress to investigate if there is still a justification to collect Road Users Tax if vehicle owners have gradually lost the number of roads and lanes they previously enjoyed.

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Along our 35-minute drive through EDSA we also noticed many other causes of delay: we spotted a mobile or moving advertising van (NGC-7995) that was intentionally crawling along EDSA. The question is, who gives permission to these traffic generating vehicles to do business on EDSA? Then there were numerous drivers who were violating the Distracted Driving Law, namely delivery drivers or people who simply hogged a lane while talking on the phone.

While passing in front of the Corinthian Village’s main gate, we noticed a line of cars building up, causing other vehicles on the service road to change lanes and swerve to the next lane. The build-up or line of cars is due to the tight security measures where gate guards have to get clearance from residents before letting in visitors in vehicles. In other villages we’ve been to, the vehicles are directed to a waiting area instead of piling up on public roads.

While on the issue of slow flows and traffic mismanagement, why is the MMDA so lax on the violations, obstructions and blatantly illegal things on the road of certain municipalities? For instance, if MMDA Chairman Romando Artes took a drive on Kalayaan road starting from the BGC/Lawton bridge all the way to the Buendia flyover, Artes will see so many illegally parked vehicles, sidewalk vendors and obstructions, non-standard “vehicles” such as electric tricycles and electric scooters occupying the limited road space. Why are these types of “vehicles” allowed on main roads?

Who is protecting or defending the Kalayaan stretch from the MMDA enforcers? Why is the MMDA not clamping down on the area? Word of mouth gets around when the MMDA undertakes serious clean up and demolition campaigns. So far all is silent except for the entrapment comments of drivers about North EDSA.

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