Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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Mr. President, please personally look into the Edsa problem

In the fight to improve the traffic situation on Edsa, there have been a number of “solutions” presented. Which pose a serious question: Is the government turning communist?

The basic problem seems to be that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority under Francis Tolentino is very good at drawing up policies and plans that, on paper and in theory, all seem well and sound. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world so their plans are worth a little less than Stow High In Transit (SHIT). Tolentino was a good mayor of Tagaytay; he should probably run again there. But running the MMDA and improving the traffic situation? The jury is still very much out on that one.

In comparison, Bayani Fernando, a former MMDA chair who had an engineering background, knows that the best, sustainable plans are the ones that are workable and can be implemented given the current conditions. He is a realist. Too bad he  made too many political enemies during his tenure.

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The latest proposal that had netizens in a furor is the revised number coding scheme, which seeks to double the number of days that one  is prohibited to use his or her car. The new scheme proposes the following for cars and their respective plate endings: Mondays, 1,2,3,4; Tuesday, 5,6,7,8; Wednesday, 9,0,1,2; Thursday, 3,4,5,6; and Friday, 7,8,9,0.

Motoring is an extension of freedom. People work hard for them to afford buying their own cars, so that they can move at their own time, own pace and at their own convenience. If the government seeks to curtail this freedom, what’s next? Mandatory curfew? A limit on travels locally and abroad? Invasion of privacy?

Shortsighted plan

The plan is very shortsighted. The ones who will suffer are in the middle class; many of whom have only one car or, at best, two that are used daily by both husband and spouse in a dual-income household. By curtailing the usage of these cars to two days every week, how can you expect a dual-income household to work freely and conveniently?

And the rich who make up a small percentile of the total population? Well, obviously they already have a lot of cars in their garage and will simply buy another one to two more cars to tide over the proposed number  coding scheme. The net effect is a very small difference in traffic improvement. But it is a significant drop in work productivity, which will obviously be detrimental to the economy.

I wish President Aquino would read this because this proposal reeks of laziness, stupidity, devised by people who live in palaces in the sky, unaffected by traffic and the number coding scheme. A hubris in its purest sense. If government does intend to execute this plan, then we should expect all government officials, both elected and appointed, to follow suit and observe and be under the same restrictions.

In my column two weeks ago, I listed a number of choke points which are  staring at the MMDA right to their face. But it seems like these were left unnoticed. If the government can simply improve the flow of traffic in these choke points, Edsa, regardless of the number of private cars, will be able to flow freely enough. I received feedback from various private citizens, a number of civil leaders, and, most surprisingly, a number of foreign NGOs (think World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency) who are involved in providing assistance to the traffic situation.

All of them agreed to my observations on the choke points, and a number have openly said that the reason why government and the MMDA can’t seem to do anything is that many government officials involved are receiving “fixes” to look the other way, allowing buses and PUVs to make use of Edsa as their own parking lot in picking up passengers. The MMDA and the other government agencies should also look into policing their own people. A CCTV system is a good idea to help apprehend offending motorists, but you can’t completely remove traffic enforcers from the scene because cars and traffic need a physical presence for proper policing and enforcement. That is obvious. In the words of the new “Q” in the James Bond thriller “Skyfall,” “Someone has to pull the trigger.”

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Get rid of excess buses

Next up are the buses. And this is the infuriating part. If government is willing to make a huge, very huge, inconvenience to private motorists and their hundreds of thousands of cars, why can’t it get rid of the excess five thousand buses on Edsa? Doesn’t that make more sense? Currently, there are almost 330,000 vehicles plying Edsa.

The new proposal hopes to drop it down to about 195,500 vehicles to match Edsa’s overall capacity of roughly 280,000 vehicles. Statistically, that looks to be a huge improvement. But it doesn’t give a spread on the density of the traffic during the day. We only need to reduce the number of vehicles during peak hours from 7 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. What am I saying? Government should focus on improving traffic, specifically at these times. Which leads back to my earlier statements. Regulate the buses, improve the choke points (God knows how much more traffic will flow freely if these choke points are eliminated) and have the MMDA and the Philippine National Police out in full force to regulate the traffic situation at these hours.

Also, have a little more common sense where you put PUV stops. Some are too close to intersections on Edsa, while others need very heavy policing. The PUV stops at Guadalupe, in front of the SM Light Residences and the GA Towers on the opposite side are beside the MRT Boni station so a large number of commuters get on and off there. We need the full support of the MMDA, PNP and local police authorities to help speed up traffic through these areas.

The Department of Transportation and Communications should also stop fiddling their thumbs and actually increase the number of carriages on the line. Currently, there are less than 20 operating carriages on Edsa-MRT3, which ferries half a million people daily. The maximum capacity is 72 carriages. If we can increase the number of carriages on MRT3, do the math and go figure. We will be far less dependent on buses for public transportation.

Mr. President, your parents’ legacy are heavily connected to Edsa, which back in the day was a symbol of freedom, hope, progress and the promise of a better, brighter future. It seems that your people have done a mighty fine job of destroying the beautiful memory of Edsa because of their inability to regulate traffic, constricting the economy, separating families from each other unnecessarily and losing the promise of a brighter tomorrow. I know it isn’t simple, but it’s definitely not impossible. However, this is obviously beyond your people at the MMDA. You personally need to look into this yourself, or else your legacy will be that you let Edsa go to hell, spitting at the symbol of freedom, prosperity and peace your parents worked hard for. The proposals we’ve seen so far take a turn for the worse because they curtail freedom.

Let’s sit down when you’re not too busy worrying about your image and people’s perception of your government and how it is doing, and focus on finding workable, real-world, implementable solutions on improving traffic. Solutions thought up by ordinary people like me who are affected by number coding.

The author can be reached at botchilah@yahoo.com.

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TAGS: Edsa, MMDA, Motoring, Philippines, traffic
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