Duterte urged: Declare traffic crisis in Metro Manila
THE DAILY 6-hour commuting “kalbaryo” of commuters in Metro Manila was brought to national attention at the last presidential debate.
Carmageddon and commutaddon have exacted such a heavy toll on the economy and society that they became among the major concerns of people in the National Capital Region and were major factors that shaped the recent national elections.
The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is keenly aware of these dire urban problems and has been actively helping the government address the mass transportation and traffic congestion problems in Metro Manila. Last Aug. 26, MAP unveiled its holistic traffic and transportation improvement plan. Key components of this plan were implemented by the Aquino administration following a Sept. 2 Cabinet meeting, but certain short-term measures were forgotten.
The MAP continues its effort. The current MAP board of governors had approved the following recommendations for consideration of the incoming Duterte administration.
First and foremost, there must be an issuance of an executive order to declare that a transportation and traffic crisis exists in Metro Manila and, with the concurrence of Congress, secure emergency powers for the President to address the crisis by mobilizing all government resources and undertaking necessary measures unhampered by regulations and procedures on appointments, procurement, budget and audit by the Commission on Audit during its pendency.
Necessarily, the President must be clothed with the power to override local ordinances, such as those allowing parking and structures that impede traffic flow on local roads needed as alternate routes.
Traffic czar with Cabinet rank
Then, there must be an appointment of a traffic czar with a Cabinet rank. The MAP highly recommends former Secretary of the departments of Trade and Communications and Public Works and Highways Jose “Ping” de Jesus, for the challenging and daunting job. He shall take overall full time management and control of relevant government resources with appropriate powers and authority delegated by the President to effect the earliest abatement of the crisis.
Early relief, pending long-term measures
The traffic czar must expeditiously employ all available short-term measures to bring about the soonest relief, while implementing long-term infrastructure solutions.
The MAP’s holistic traffic improvement plan still contains numerous short-term management and engineering measures that, when implemented, will bring significant positive improvement. Long-term infrastructure solutions, also contained therein, are designed for long-term sustainable improvement.
The MAP stands ready to constructively engage the traffic czar.
To be effective, all efforts must be comprehensive to include and conform to the generally accepted 3-Es in effective traffic management—Education, Engineering and Enforcement—while giving priority to mass transportation. This was emphasized in the MAP’s holistic plan and repeated in various fora.
The competence and decisiveness of the Duterte administration will be tested by long unresolved bottlenecks and delayed implementation of infrastructure projects, such as the construction of a common station for the interconnection of the vital existing MRT3, LRT1 rail lines and proposed LRT7, the MRT3 operations and maintenance, the LRT2 Santolan to Masinag Market extension line, the NAIA elevated expressway, the SLEX-NLEX Connector Road with a link to the Manila Port Area, the SLEX-NLEX Skyway, the C-6 or the Laguna Lake Dike with Expressway, among others. These bottlenecks are detrimental to the commuting public and the traffic czar must expeditiously and decisively resolve them.
MRT/LRT common station impasse resolution
The MAP recommends giving a non-extendable deadline of no more than 60 days to the contending private parties to resolve among themselves the location and design of the common station under a mutually acceptable solution that must be in consonance with public interest, and failing that, for the traffic czar to take direct action to resolve the impasse, likewise within 60 days.
Short-term management and engineering measures
The public clamors for soonest relief from their daily travails. Towards this end, the MAP believes the implementation of the short-term management and engineering measures in its holistic traffic plan will yield significant positive improvement.
They include the: (a) identification of persistent congestion points on major roads for enforcement and engineering solutions; (b) expanding traffic enforcement effort on Edsa, including all other major roads, particularly C-5 and all radial and intersecting roads, such as Buendia, Shaw Boulevard, Ortigas Avenue, Boni Serrano Avenue, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Bonifacio Road; (c) opening and clearing of local roads to efficiently serve as secondary routes; (d) requiring high occupancy vehicle (HOV) practices on all large schools and colleges, and providing HOV lanes on major roads for the exclusive use of vehicles with at least three occupants; (e) introduction of additional road engineering refinements, such as road channelizers and directional signages.
Organize buses like BRT
The present independently operated bus transportation system must be reformed to operate efficiently like a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Common fares and allowing transfers from one line to another within the same fare zone must be instituted. Bus stops must be improved to accommodate commuters and prevent spillage onto the road that poses risk to life while obstructing traffic flow.
Eliminate traffic-clogging intersections
Easy and economical-to-implement engineering solutions are essential components of the solution.
Traffic-clogging intersections on major roads, particularly C-5 and all radial roads, must be eliminated with grade separation utilizing fast construction methods, such as prefabricated easy-to-assemble steel modular bridges to serve as vehicular overpasses that will allow continuous traffic flow to prevent vehicles from piling up.
The ongoing MRT3 and LRT1 upgrades and capacity expansion must be expedited with the deployment of new and refurbished passenger coaches to expand passenger capacity. Safety, convenience and reliability of service must be ensured with better maintenance and upgrade of the whole system, including the stations and passenger access.
Long-term component of holistic plan
The long-term component of the MAP holistic plan consists of hard engineering solutions designed to ensure sustainable improvement.
They consist mainly of mass transportation and road system infrastructure to provide better circulation of vehicles and enhance mobility for the people, while providing the means for development of outlying districts to promote urban dispersal.
The north and south rail lines of the Philippine National Railroad (PNR) will play a vital role in this. To optimize these PNR assets, the British rail reforms will be a good model to follow such that privately-owned and -operated rail trains must be allowed to use the tracks to provide complementary service.
A megacity like Metro Manila with a daytime population estimated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at 20 million will require a subway system.
Subway trains are the most efficient people mover and being underground, is not disruptive to above-ground traffic and the environment. The MAP holistic plan recommends a subway line under Edsa from North Avenue to Makati, at the very least. Ideally, an Executive Order be issued to start the process that will lead to its completion in the near future.
The transportation and traffic situation may be critical but not hopeless. It requires only a correct appreciation of the problems and effective introduction of applicable solutions.
(The author is member of the Board of Governors of MAP; governor-in-charge of MAP traffic, transportation and infrastructure Committee; governor-in-charge of MAP trade, tourism and industry committee; and CEO of Clairmont Group including Dynamic Realty & Development Corp. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. For previous articles, please visit map.org.ph.)
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