Is there a solution to traffic?

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete - The Freeman

If there are two words that people are always talking about nowadays it's traffic and flooding. As usually described, both are very similar in nature, often seen as twin disasters that plagued urban centers throughout the world. As what others also say if it is any consolation, even New York, one of the classier of US cities, also suffers from both. But it does not make the problem any better or more palatable. These two tests our wits every single day.

I hate to be a bearer of bad news but the answer to today’s question is: No, there are no quick solutions to traffic. Inevitably, human population increases, cities and nations progress, and development causes more people to travel even more. Progress also means increases in purchasing capacity which means more families can buy private cars for daily use.

Unfortunately, while our government builds more roads to cater to the ever-increasing number of vehicles, there is a limit to what it can do. We really need to understand that the only way to face this issue is to ask people to use cars less and public transportation more. In any developed country in the world, public transportation carries the bulk of daily trips. More familiar to us in the Philippines are the examples of Hong Kong and Singapore, both our neighbors, more progressive, and yet has more percentage of its population riding trains and buses. The challenge really is how to get there.

As far as Cebu City is concerned, as early as a decade and a half ago, former Mayor Osmeña already started to work on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). And yet today, we only see a portion of that being started at Osmeña Boulevard, and with all the complaints of motorists, mostly private car owners, who feel that their entitled space is being taken by BRT-exclusive lanes. It will be worse once these will be extended beyond that stretch. While that may be a hard pill to swallow, there is no alternative. And the result would be one that will make us a better city, comparable to the developed world. A lot of people cannot see that, imprisoned behind the lens of car-centric transportation that caused the congestion in the first place. As has been often offered as a challenge: If all of us will use buses in going to work, there won’t be any traffic to speak of in the first place.

No, there's no solution to traffic, or if there is, it’s public transportation. Math and physics dictate that you can’t forever build roads and more lanes or even elevated expressways. Only solutions containing more efficient use of space will prevail. Others still insist on rail which has been demanded countless times in the last 30 years yet failed --decisions are based on viability and these were found lacking. The BRT is causing issues now and there will be more in the future as we develop the network. But this is the solution and it would be best for all of us to stop bickering and help towards completing the solution. One of these days we, and our children, will be thankful.

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