What’s next af­ter Asean-in­duced traf­fic jam?

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - MOTORING - By Tessa R. Salazar

On Nov. 11, for­mer beauty queen Maria Is­abel Lopez, who was stuck in traf­fic along Edsa, out­side the Asean lanes des­ig­nated ex­clu­sively for del­e­gates of the on­go­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean) Sum­mit in Manila, posted a shocker on Face­book: she wrote that she re­moved the py­lons sep­a­rat­ing the del­e­gates’ lanes from those of reg­u­lar mo­torists, and then drove into the Asean lanes.

She then at­tached pictures and a video ac­com­pa­ny­ing her post show­ing her speed­ing in­side the Asean lane, shout­ing “Woohoo, Asean, here I come!”

As ex­pected, the Metro Manila De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (MMDA) wasted no time con­demn­ing her act, threat­en­ing to re­voke her driver’s li­cense.

On so­cial me­dia, ne­ti­zens were as un­for­giv­ing. And they had ev­ery rea­son to be, as they had to suf­fer hours upon hours of grid­lock, com­ply­ing—al­beit grudg­ingly—to the MMDA’s traf­fic scheme pri­or­i­tiz­ing the safe and speedy pas­sage of our most val­ued vis­i­tors, a scheme that not only in­volved set­ting aside two lanes of Edsa for Asean del­e­gates, but also road clo­sures and lock­downs of SMX-MAAX Block in Pasay City, the Cul­tural Cen­ter of the Philip­pines Com­plex, and the Padre Bur­gos Av­enue-Buen­dia Av­enue stretch of Roxas Boule­vard.

Which brings us to the ques­tion, what did the or­di­nary mo­torist and com­muter not en­dowed with the brazen­ness of a for­mer beauty queen do dur­ing the 31st edi­tion of the Asean Sum­mit to cope with the car­magge­don?

A sim­i­lar query was posted on Face­book by for­mer Top Gear Philip­pines’ ed­i­tor-inchief Mike Black last Sun­day. “So what's the ver­dict on yes­ter­day's (Satur­day's) car­maged­don? Did it qual­ify as the worst MM traf­fic jam in his­tory? Seems like it.”

Black’s Face­book friend Pio Gerona For­tuno Jr., a bike en­thu­si­ast, com­mented, “This is a sign of things to come. We don't have an ad­e­quate and ef­fi­cient mass trans­port, we have a very low bik­a­bil­ity and walk­a­bil­ity in­dex, and car own­er­ship and us­age had in­creased ex­po­nen­tially.

"Asean has stressed the traf­fic sys­tem past the tip­ping point, though soon, the sheer num­ber of ve­hi­cles will be the tip­ping point it­self. With Christ­mas com­ing, car sales soar­ing, and mass trans­port so­lu­tions few in the mak­ing, mas­sive traf­fic jams will be the re­al­ity.”

Upon a sub­se­quent FB chat with

For­tuno, this writer learned that he was the founder of Tik­lop So­ci­ety of the Philip­pines. For­tuno was also among those who suc­cess­fully lob­bied the MRT/LRT man­age­ment to al­low fold­ing bikes in­side the trains.

Mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist Tito Her­moso also com­mented: “Best solution? Keep it (the Asean and Apec Sum­mits) be­tween Su­bic and Clark. Each do not have the fa­cil­i­ties—spe­cially a PICC-sized sum­mit hall. But that can be ar­ranged if both host the del­e­gates.

"Su­bic and Clark ho­tels to­gether could ac­com­mo­date all. They can do the shut­tle be­tween Clark and Su­bic. Scenic too. But keep the orig­i­nal ob­jec­tive of not dis­rupt­ing NAIA as it disrupts many Pa­cific flights. Su­bic can be an ex­clu­sive Asean air­port, too."

Her­moso added: “When­ever un­used by of­fi­cial con­voys, the Asean lanes must be opened to pri­vate traf­fic—pro­vided they will only exit at the north­ern­most end—Bal­intawak, and for the south­bound, exit only at MOAand Makati.

"That ad­dresses MMDA Ne­brija's com­plaint that they closed the Asean lanes to any pri­vate traf­fic be­cause of those ex­it­ing in be­tween the ends of Edsa."

Black added to the thread: “It seems from the sto­ries that there was a to­tal break­down in traf­fic dis­ci­pline. Per­haps MMDA put too many re­sources into polic­ing the Asean lanes, and too lit­tle to man­age the al­ter­nate routes.

"I'm sure there are many les­sons that could be learned from yes­ter­day's dis­as­ter, just as long as the au­thor­i­ties ask them­selves the right ques­tions.”

Mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist Les­lie Sy posted a photo on his Face­book wall while he was hav­ing cof­fee at an es­tab­lish­ment in Pasig. The cap­tion read: “Cof­fee run dur­ing #ASEAN2017. Fortu- nately, to­day (Nov. 12), traf­fic is much bet­ter than yes­ter­day's car­magge­don.”

Sy told this writer that on Nov. 11, he read on his Face­book news­feed about his friends’ “hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ences” get­ting to their destinations around Metro Manila.

“I was at the of­fice then. I de­cided not to go any­where far. I just had my cars washed at the nearby car­wash. On Nov. 12, I got a bit of cabin fever so I went out for a drive around Metro Manila. Traf­fic was be­tween light and nor­mal for the most parts in Que­zon City, San Juan ar­eas.

"Ar­eas with mov­ing heavy traf­fic were Ate­neo, C5, and Libis. I ended up hav­ing cof­fee at The Grove, Rock­well along C5. A bit of shop­ping at Rus­tan’s there be­fore head­ing home,” Sy nar­rated.

He added that on Nov. 13, his fam­ily’s com­pany de­cided to op­er­ate in the of­fice so that most of his com­pany’s de­liv­ery trucks could de­liver goods to their cus­tomers on the same day.

“Other trucks went for some main­te­nance like change oil or brake checks, etc. tak­ing ad­van­tage of the light sched­ule and open ser­vice garage.

“Orig­i­nally, I planned to go to Baguio from Nov. 12 to 14. But when I tried to book a room, most of my pre­ferred ho­tels were full, which prob­a­bly meant heavy traf­fic in Baguio dur­ing the said dates, so I just de­cided for a stay­ca­tion”, said Sy.

Like what many ne­ti­zens fear about the Asean Sum­mit car­magge­don, this isn’t the end.

Christ­mas sea­son is still more than a month away, and that’s what’s putting the chills down the spine of many weary ur­ban mo­torists and com­muters.

Prob­a­bly, the worst is yet to come.

What’s your break­ing point, and what are you will­ing to do—and sac­ri­fice—to avoid reach­ing that point of no uturn?

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