Search con­tin­ues for traf­fic so­lu­tions

Tempo - - Editorial -

AT the start of the “ber” months this year, the Metro Manila Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (MMDA) ad­vised mo­torists to plan their trips in the com­ing weeks and months lead­ing to Christ­mas in De­cem­ber, so as to avoid adding to the traf­fic on Epi­fanio de los San­tos Ave. (EDSA). Traf­fic is usu­ally heavy at this time of the year be­cause of sales held by gi­ant malls, 16 which are along EDSA, the MMDA said.

Early this week, hun­dreds of commuters were stranded in Que­zon City and Manila when jeep­ney driv­ers be­long­ing to the Stop & Go Transport Coali­tion staged a strike to demon­strate their op­po­si­tion to the govern­ment’s jeep­ney mod­ern­iza­tion plan. This plan seeks to re­place the old slow-mov­ing and highly pol­lut­ing jeep­neys with newer ones, but many jeep­ney oper­a­tors said they can­not af­ford to pay for the new ve­hi­cles, even with the easy loan terms of­fered by the govern­ment.

On the same day, Sen. Grace Poe, chair­man of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ser­vices, said she may call for an­other hear­ing on the fre­quent break­downs of the Metro Rail Tran­sit (MRT), cit­ing a re­port of the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion that from Jan­uary, 2016, to July, 2017, there were 3,824 train re­movals, 833 un­load­ing in­ci­dents, 98 ser­vice in­ter­rup­tions, and six de­rail­ments.

These separate news re­ports are all tied to­gether in what has come to be known as Metro Manila’s great­est prob­lem – its traf­fic grid­lock at all hours of the day and night. A study by the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) has es­ti­mated that three bil­lion pe­sos a day are lost be­cause of the traf­fic grid­lock.

The prob­lem is one shared by many of­fi­cials and agen­cies of the govern­ment, but the big­gest part of the load lies on the shoul­ders of new MMDA Chair­man Danny Lim who, in a re­cent in­ter­view, said, “It is re­ally very hard to find a so­lu­tion to the traf­fic prob­lem when your cars are mul­ti­ply­ing but the roads aren’t.” Ve­hi­cle sales hit a record 420,000 units last year and 65 per­cent of the ve­hi­cles found their way into Metro Manila.

The long-range so­lu­tion is to build more roads, bridges, el­e­vated and by­pass high­ways, and sub­ways, and the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to do this with its na­tion­wide “Build, Build, Build” pro­gram. Chair­man Lim also called for ex­pan­sion of devel­op­ment to a Mega Manila “from Calamba to An­ge­les and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.”

But this will be years in the fu­ture. In the mean­time, Chair­man Lim said, the MMDA is study­ing more im­me­di­ate pro­pos­als, such as lim­it­ing the num­ber of ve­hi­cles on the roads by re­tir­ing the older ones, ex­pand­ing the num­ber cod­ing scheme, and re­lo­cat­ing bus ter­mi­nals. He in­vited peo­ple to sug­gest pos­si­ble plans that can be stud­ied and, af­ter due study, im­ple­mented.

There are also other im­me­di­ate so­lu­tions out­side the realm of the MMDA, no­tably the im­prove­ment of the op­er­a­tions of the MRT so that it can ac­com­mo­date more of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who need to go to work or to school ev­ery morn­ing and then go home in the afternoon.

We wish Chair­man Lim all the best in this most dif­fi­cult task which has frus­trated so many of­fi­cials be­fore him. We ap­pre­ci­ate his readi­ness to con­sider pro­pos­als from or­di­nary peo­ple as well as their op­po­si­tion to some spe­cially prej­u­di­cial ones. We and ev­ery­one else will know when the so­lu­tions start work­ing and we hope it will be soon.

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