TO SAY that traffic is bad in Metro Manila is an understatement. When I was with the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in the late 1980s we did a whole issue – practically cover to cover – on the worsening traffic problem. We covered everything, from traffic volume, lack of discipline and enforcement, upsurge of supply of new cars with no new infrastructure being built, poor public transport system… the works.
Things eased off in a major way with the simultaneous construction of new flyovers – Quezon Ave. Kamuning, Ortigas, Roxas Blvd, Katipunan – and for a while it was so much fun because we would take midnight runs with what we called the Metro Manila roller coaster, cruising around the metropolis in a route taking all these new flyovers.
Of course, it was too good to last, as over two decades later the demand still overtook supply with new infrastructure dwarfed by population and transport demand growth.
But while we whine about our traffic jam woes in the nation’s capital we tend to forget that in almost every urban center in the country traffic problems are starting to choke their roadways. Has the government even thought about it? Or is this purely the problem of the respective local governments?
In my travels around the country I’ve seen that all the traffic woes in the various cities around the country have common issues: lack of proper infrastructure, poor driver discipline and enforcement of rules, unmanaged increase of vehicles and poor public transport systems.
You cannot blame big businesses like malls, condominium developers or resorts and the like. It’s the government that manages their land use and hands out permits for these. Government, too, is the provider of roads and transport access. Have they even planned the growth of their community?
Cebu, Davao, Tagaytay, Cagayan de Oro… name it, they have it. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s take one of my favourite places: Baguio City.
The City of pines is a nightmare, especially when it’s local travel season. Used to be only in Holy Week and Christmas/ New Year. Then there was festival season like Panagbenga. With better access like improved NLEX and SCTEX we see record weekend travel to Baguio.
In fact, with the TPLEX nearing completion to Rosario, La Union – right on the foot of Kennon Road – Baguio will be much more accessible. At this point, with TPLEX just ending in Rosales Pangasinan travellers are happily posting on Facebook that it took them less than four hours to Baguio, a major improvement to the over five hours it used to take.
This all means that more vehicles will clog Baguio City from its indigenous population. That is a given. The question is what policies are the local government formulating and implementing to cope with it?
Take the famous Session Road: why are they allowing parking along that road? It just leaves one lane for each side, one lane which grinds to a halt whenever a taxi stops to pick up or let off passengers.
Why haven’t they built multilevel parking facilities in key areas? Why have they not resolved those parking contract issues they’ve had for years? Are private businesses taking positive initiatives to provide real parking facilities?
Has anybody made a study on the public transport system? Are all of those UVs and taxis and jeepneys running around actually helping, or is there a better transport system public transport system for this type of a city?
Have they developed other tourist areas to encourage people to keep out of the city center?
Yes, I actually agree that heavier traffic signals higher economic activity. But this is just an initial positive indicator. Any government leader worth his salt will take this a warning sign of things to come: of the major negative effects it has to the health, welfare and sanity of his community… or his nation.