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Opinion

Political will

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide - The Freeman

If we were to believe the comments written by respected opinion makers and aired by acknowledged broadcast journalists all over the land, the traffic problems we have been experiencing are simply insurmountable. Every time we hit the road, either on board public transport or in private vehicles, our main concern is the time we need to spend to reach our destinations. Yet, almost always, we are delayed by monstrous traffic jams. And if only to avoid being late in our respective appointments, we jump off earlier than necessary.

That is why residents choose carefully where to build their homes. They factor daily travel to their places of work thinking in terms of how fast they can be at designated stations in just about the same weight as the cost of building their residences. Developers, on the other hand, consider the flow of traffic in selecting their investment sites. Upper in their minds is the access of their clientele to good road network.

Profound thinkers and experienced urban planners entertain us with concepts of possible solutions. They proceed with accepting the fact that there are more vehicles using road networks of decades-old length and width. So, to narrow the proportion, they talk about the need to widen roads, to build new highways and adopt tested systems. Why, some of them inject the radical thought of limiting ownership of private cars to certain numbers.

Let us consider the one aspect of road widening. It is a lot quicker for people to buy new cars than for the government to widen existing roads to accommodate the increased volume of vehicles. For instance, there was conceptualized a road building program in the early 80's here in Metro Cebu based on empirical data as to the number of vehicles running for a foreseeable forward time. The then Regional Development Council, headed by Governor Eduardo R. Gullas, approved the plan to widen certain streets and open new ones in the Metro Cebu and the RDC endorsed it for implementation to higher authorities. It took so long a time for the project to gestate such that when actual work came, almost ten years had lapsed.

But, it happened that the growth of  Metro Cebu was nothing less than phenomenal. Towards the last years of the 80's, there sprang the so-called Cebu Boom that blew beyond the most favorable economic forecast. In unimaginable rate and in remarkable frenzy, people bought cars left and right and business establishments had to add vehicles to their existing fleets. Necessarily, the data that was also used in forecasting the regions traffic proved to be wrong.

The other road efficiency solutions that were forecast in otherwise clear literature were not attained. Legislative actions to put a cap to ownership of cars did not reach first base. We do understand the hesitation of lawmakers to interfere with the privileges of the elite social class which limiting car ownership would have brought. Also, the systems that made road travel efficient in other cities had not been adopted in our land.

Fortunately, for us, we witnessed an eye opener recently. In Metro Manila, a combined effort was undertaken by many government agencies. It looked to me that EDSA was the focal point. They enforced traffic laws seemingly without fear or favor. Illegal structures, untouchable for decades, were removed. Wrongfully parked vehicles, some owned by the high and mighty, got towed. And sidewalk vendors, favored by politicians for their voting clout, were pushed to reasonable areas. The result showed that enforcing existing laws could be a way to ease our traffic jams.

Indeed, what I saw was political will. Ironically, the politicians were not involved. When laws were enforced recently in Metro Manila, its flow of traffic improved tremendously. Traveling at EDSA might be not as fast and comfortable as driving thru an American Interstate, but we have to admit that the travel time of Metro Manilans using the EDSA principally has dramatically been shortened.

If the employment of sheer political will in enforcing the laws of the land can help alleviate, to a certain extent, the bad traffic condition in Metro Manila, it can also be used here in Metro Cebu. Their parameters are not entirely different.  Rather than await for the other remedial measures, let authorities take this route.

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AMERICAN INTERSTATE

CEBU BOOM

GOVERNOR EDUARDO R

IN METRO MANILA

METRO

METRO CEBU

METRO MANILA

METRO MANILANS

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

ROAD

TRAFFIC

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