TRAF­FIC GRIDLOCKS HIT BAGUIO

Mas­sive grid­lock as tourists pack sum­mer cap­i­tal; mayor forced to sus­pend classes for 2 days

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —KIMBERLIE QUITASOL WITH A RE­PORT FROM VIN­CENT CABREZA INQ

BAGUIO CITY— Classes from preschool to high school here were can­celed on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, fol­low­ing mas­sive traf­fic jams that stranded for hours thou­sands of em­ploy­ees and stu­dents on Mon­day night.

The heavy traf­fic was at­trib­uted to the high vol­ume of tourists, many of them from Metro Manila, which is host­ing the 31st As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions Sum­mit, ac­cord­ing to Mayor Mauri­cio Do­mo­gan.

The grid­lock pre­vented taxi­cabs and jeep­neys from re­turn­ing to down­town Baguio to ferry pas­sen­gers home. Many res­i­dents stayed in line at jeep­ney ter­mi­nals for two to three hours. Some of the lines ex­tended to pedes­trian over­passes and around build­ing blocks.

Some res­i­dents walked home af­ter wait­ing for rides for hours. Even tourists ended up walk­ing.

“Where did your taxi­cabs go?” a woman asked when she com­plained of back pains af­ter walk­ing from Teach­ers’ Camp to Ses­sion Road at night.

It took the po­lice un­til 10 p.m. to un­tan­gle the traf­fic jams, which were con­cen­trated on roads lead­ing to tourist spots like Mines View Park, the Botan­i­cal Gar­den and the Man­sion, said Chief Insp. Oliver Pan­a­bang, who heads the city po­lice traf­fic man­age­ment group.

Many res­i­dents turned to so­cial me­dia to rant about their ex­pe­ri­ences. “Thank you mayor. Our chil­dren suf­fered be­cause they lined up in long queues at jeep­ney ter­mi­nals af­ter class due to the traf­fic jams,” said Eleazar Alec on a Face­book post.

An­other res­i­dent vented his ire on vis­i­tors. “An­dito na na- man sila silaaah­h­hhh mga touror­ists!!! (The touror­ists are back!),” wrote Gre­gory Ru­gay.

The Mon­day grid­lock was not the first to plague the city. In De­cem­ber 2014, traf­fic crawled to a stand­still when mo­torists took the Tar­lac-Pan­gasi­nan-La Union Ex­press­way for the first time on their way to the city.

Traf­fic jams are in­di­ca­tors that “Baguio has lost its car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity to serve a pop­u­la­tion far larger than the 25,000 res­i­dents [for which the city] was de­signed,” re­tired city ar­chi­tect, Joseph Ala­banza, said dur­ing a fo­rum on Tues­day to dis­cuss a pro­posed “smart road, smart traf­fic” or­di­nance at the city coun­cil.

“What is caus­ing [prob­lems like traf­fic jams] is the den­sity of pop­u­la­tion—which has grown to more than 350,000 peo­ple—that in­creases be­cause of tran­sient work­ers, stu­dents and tourists,” Ala­banza said.

He said the city’s re­sources, in­clud­ing wa­ter and hous­ing, were no longer enough to serve this huge num­ber of peo­ple.

Ala­banza said leg­is­la­tion to fix the city’s traf­fic woes must now in­clude the neigh­bor­ing towns of La Trinidad, Ito­gon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay, all in Benguet prov­ince, where growth projects must be di­verted.

The mea­sure pro­poses to reengi­neer road traf­fic mech­a­nisms by im­prov­ing ex­ist­ing round­abouts (traf­fic ro­tun­das), de­velop bus and truck tran­sit lanes, in­tro­duce bi­cy­cle lanes, and reroute pub­lic util­ity jeep­neys away from down­town Baguio.

On Mon­day night, the po­lice al­lowed some vis­i­tors to park their ve­hi­cles at “no-park­ing zones” to re­duce the num­ber of ve­hi­cles clog­ging the main streets.

“What we did was to draw out as much ve­hi­cles from the grid­lock and dis­trib­ute them to other al­ter­nate roads,” Pan­a­bang said.

Some jeep­neys opted not to ply their routes on Mon­day night, he said, adding, “We could not blame them, it would be a waste of fuel get­ting stuck in traf­fic.”

“We have an­tic­i­pated the in­flux of tourists but we could only do so much. The city’s roads are re­ally too small and could not ac­com­mo­date the vol­ume of ve­hi­cles,” he said.

—RICHARD BALONGLONG

Traf­fic re­mains heavy on Leonard Wood Road in Baguio City, lead­ing to tourist spots like the Botan­i­cal Gar­den and the Man­sion, on Tues­day.

—VIN­CENT CABREZA

Lines at trans­port ter­mi­nals ex­tended to down­town Baguio’s el­e­vated walk­ways as res­i­dents and stu­dents wait for their ride home on Mon­day night. The city re­ceived an un­usu­ally high vol­ume of vis­i­tors, many of them from Metro Manila, who took ad­van­tage of the three-day As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions Sum­mit break.

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