Traffic. Again.
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - November 6, 2018 - 12:00am

From what I heard, it was not as bad as last year. Maybe most of the authorities whose jobs were to address traffic congestion learned from the past. But it was still at least some five-hour jams especially in southern Cebu. The ongoing road projects of the public works agency is the usual reason given. But let’s call it what it really was, in technical terms – lack of road infrastructure capacity. Because DPWH is expanding the roads which, ironically, are intended to increase road infrastructure capacity. It has always been like this since time immemorial. Or for 30 years, at least, if I can remember.

The problem with this vicious cycle is that it may not be a cycle at all. But a long, continuous agony with some breathers periodically, few and far between. It is because building infrastructure takes considerable time, but the supply side, in terms of number of roads, does not stop while we’re building. For Cebu, it’s at least four to five cars are added to the road every day. Permit me to repeat that. Four to five cars! ADDED! EVERY DAY! Tomorrow there will be four to five cars more on the road than today!

And until such time we change our mindset, it will get worse. Quoting Mayor Enrique Peñalosa of Bogota, Columbia: “No city or country in the world has improved its mobility through adding more transport infrastructure.” And another quote: “Solving traffic congestion by building more roads is like putting out a fire by pouring gasoline on it.” And still another: “Addressing traffic jams by expanding roads is like buying bigger clothes to cure obesity.” It’s the mindset which defines the solutions.

Are we saying we stop building? Far from it. But we’re saying building more roads or widening existing ones will not solve traffic congestion. On the contrary, these will worsen congestion in the long run, as we have always postulated in many previous write-ups and given international studies and examples, too. What will improve mobility? Public transportation, walking, and biking. And the easier we convince ourselves of that and do something, the better and nearer for us towards better mobility.

Many of us do believe in that. But a lot are putting their stakes on rail transport solutions which takes 10 to 15 years to develop. If we’re lucky. The best hope is the Bus Rapid Transit but even that continues to be hounded by objections by opposition and obstacles until now, that it may take four times as long as it usually takes to build. The funny but sad thing is, we could have both, and even more of both. And we should, without us having to pit one project against another. The bottom lines are: (a) we need good public transportation, and we need them fast, and (b) BRTs can be “constructed” in 18 months, rail projects in four to five years. So, blocking the BRT is shooting ourselves in the head! Without a change in mindset, we will be in for worse traffic jams next year, and each year that the opening of the BRT is delayed.

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