EDITORIAL - Cebu imploding from traffic mess

The Freeman

The thing going for Cebu is that it has, on a smaller scale, everything that Metro Manila has to offer. That is on the positive side. Negatively, Cebu also has some of the Big City's terrible headaches, traffic included -- no let that stand corrected -- traffic in particular. That Cebu has Metro Manila's traffic woes, if on a smaller scale, cannot be grinned away.

Consolation does not work according to scale. Cebuanos cannot console themselves by saying Cebu traffic may be bad but it is not as worse as Metro Manila's. Besides, wrong assumptions make any consolation ring hollow. There is no truth to the assumption that Cebu's traffic situation is not as bad as Metro Manila's. On the contrary, it is far worse.

Cebu City, with a land area of roughly 315 square kilometers, is about half the size of Metro Manila, which has an area of 638 square kilometers. But Metro Manila is almost entirely urbanized while Cebu City is only about a third urban, the rest being rural and therefore sparsely populated. It follows that there should be more vehicles fighting for space in largely urbanized Metro Manila than in Cebu City which is only half the size and only a third as urbanized.

Put to scale, the traffic dimension in Cebu City should therefore be much worse. But that is not all. Metro Manila is the seat of government and therefore enjoys top priority in the landing of big ticket infrastructure projects meant to address traffic congestion. Cebu City does not enjoy the same status in the pecking order of government projects. It has to fight and beg for what is left of the national infrastructure pie. Or it is forced to borrow.

This dearth of resources and low standing in the order of priorities are being conveniently used as excuses by local leaders not to use their imagination in finding solutions to the worsening traffic situation. There has not been a single major road construction project in the heart of the city for decades. What projects there are merely involve road repairs but never the addition of more kilometers to a road network that has long burst its seams.

This lack of imagination and inspired leadership is driving Cebu City to the brink of economic stagnation. Do not be fooled by the unbridled rash of real estate development and construction because they represent only one aspect of growth. Unless some solution is found and found fast for the traffic mess that is already here and choking everyone, even vertical development will have to consider its contribution to the overall congestion.

The much-ballyhooed BRT system only works in the minds of its proponents. Just because it works in the countries where it is found does not mean it will work here. One thing the proponents conveniently ignore is the fact that the cities where BRT is a success are cities that are unlike Cebu in many ways. They are bigger and more spacious, have more comfortable population densities, have wider roads, lesser vehicle-to-population ratios, and more importantly, better disciplined drivers.



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