The Metro Manila Development Authority will begin today (Aug. 15) the week-long dry run activity for the High Occupancy Vehicle traffic scheme aimed at reducing the volume of vehicles, especially private cars, along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue during rush hours.
“Let us see for one week how the HOV scheme will work. We are calling on the participation of the public,” said MMDA general manager Jose Arturo Garcia Jr.
Under the policy, private vehicles occupied by a single rider or a driver without companions will be totally banned from using Edsa from 7 am to 10 am in the morning and from 6 pm to 9 pm in the evening, from Monday to Friday.
In the Senate, Senator Grace Poe warned a replicate of the “horrors of Edsa traffic everywhere” if the Metro Manila Council followed the ban on single-passenger cars on traffic-laden Edsa during rush hour.
To avoid this worst scenario, Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said the MMC should ensure they could handle the affected motorists who would pass the inner city and barangay roads.
She also told the MMC to inform the public about the facts and data that led them to conclude that a ban on single-passenger vehicles in Edsa could reduce traffic all throughout Metro Manila.
“What makes them so absolutely sure that their proposal will work? What was the result of the trial conducted in December last year? Was it effective? Did it considerably reduce traffic?” asked Poe.
She also questioned where would the 70 percent of those who traverse Edsa on a daily basis be re-routed.
The new measure, which also aimed to encourage private motorists to share ride with others, was proposed last year by the MMDA to members of the Metro Manila Council, the agency’s governing board, and policy-making body after the Council rejected the suggestion of lawmakers to implement an odd-even number traffic scheme along Edsa.
The MMDA blamed the increasing number of private vehicles as the major cause of monstrous traffic along Edsa.
It also reported that about 6,000 private cars were being sold every month.
Garcia said the HOV policy would result in a remarkable decrease in travel time and increase in travel speed along the 23.8-kilometer highway.
“With the proposed policy, Edsa will have 40 percent less vehicles,” he said.
Based on Edsa’s average daily traffic in 2017, there are 367,738 vehicles traversing along the major artery daily.
From this figure, 67 percent or a total of 247,527 are private motor vehicles.
The survey also cited that 60 to 70 percent of the private motor vehicles along Edsa are single occupancy vehicles or an average of 148,516 to 185,645 in actual units per day.
Garcia admitted the ban would congest other major thoroughfares and inner roads when the ban on single occupancy vehicles take effect.
“The agency had been relentless in clearing secondary roads and alternate routes every day but we can only do so much,” said Garcia.
He said the agency would make use of the no contact apprehension policy in counting the vehicles that would comply or violate during the dry run.
The NCAP utilizes closed-circuit television cameras installed along Edsa in monitoring and catching traffic violators.
“As part of the information drive, we will just inform and warn motorists about the HOV scheme,” said Garcia.
The scheme is the agency’s short-term solution to Metro Manila’s traffic problems amid the ongoing infrastructure projects along Edsa and elsewhere.
“We will not push through if the measure would be chaotic,” said Garcia.
Should the HOV measure be fully implemented, violators would be slapped with citation ticket and corresponding penalty.
The scheme would cover the whole stretch of Edsa from Balintawak, Quezon City to Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City which has five lanes: two are designated for public utility vehicles or yellow lanes, while three are designated for HOV lanes and motorcycle riders.
The MMDA suspended the implementation of the HOV scheme last year following confusion and negative reactions from motorists.
Traffic enforcers of the agency also encountered problems as heavily-tinted vehicles used the special lane, which prevented them from apprehending possible violators.
Last time, the MMDA designated one lane only for HOV scheme, which is the innermost lane of Edsa, closest to the Metro Railway Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) wall.
In 2017, lawmakers urged the MMDA and local chief executives to consider reimplementing the odd-even traffic scheme, which they claimed, would reduce the volume of cars on on Edsa by at least 60 percent.
Quezon City (1st district) Rep. Vincent Crisologo, during a House committee hearing last year, proposed to MMDA to enforce an added odd-even policy along the highway, on top of the present Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, or the number coding scheme.
Under the present UVVRP policy, two ending plates are banned to use main roads in Metro Manila daily.
Other lawmakers are also proposing increasing the number of banned ending plates per day to three.
Study showed that for a mega-city like Metro Manila, 25 percent of the total land area should be allotted for roads.
Based on the MMDA’s records, only 5,000 kilometers of road network are in place instead of the ideal target of 8,000 kilometers.
The MMC, Poe said, should have also considered the composition of the 70 percent of Edsa motorists to be affected—they are probably the working solo parents, parents who have to drop their kids along their way to work, spouses who live in the same city but work in different cities, young professionals or workers who cannot afford to hire their own drivers and yet are required to be on time in their offices.
The senator earlier cautioned the Metro Manila Development Authority against hastily implementing the scheme.
She said the MMDA, in coordination with local governments in the metropolis, should conduct a dry run and study and publish a clear set of guidelines before implementing the plan.
“This should not be done in haste. There can perhaps be a one day to know what will happen and then conduct a hearing the following day,” said Poe as she insisted that it should not be a unilateral decision.
“Let us first have a trial period and let us see the effects,” Poe told reporters.
The MMDA said the MMC composed of metro mayors had approved the so-called high occupancy vehicle scheme to be implemented on Edsa during rush hours, wherein single-rider cars or those without passengers will not be allowed along the major thoroughfare.
Poe stressed that inner roads should also be first cleared of illegally parked vehicles and structures to ensure smoother traffic flow.
She said this was likely being done in other countries and was successful because they had other alternate routes.
But in the Philippinbes, she said, Edsa was a main thoroughfare. The other roads, she added, were not passable.
“Unless you can guarantee that you will remove all illegally parked vehicles in the Mabuhay Lanes and remove them in coordination with local governments, let us not hastily say that we can’t pass Edsa,” said Poe.
She also questioned if the side routes were already clean.
Poe noted that at least 60 percent of drivers traversing Edsa would be affected once the scheme was implemented.
While the rationale behind the plan may be good, Poe said it should not be done hastily as more than half of car owners would be affected.
MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia earlier said they were looking to implement the ban to ease traffic congestion before the end of August.
He said the policy was approved by the Metro Manila Council, composed of the metropolis’ mayors, during a meeting on Tuesday.
Automobile Association Philippines president Gus Lagman objected to the ban: private vehicles with only one person aboard.
“The problem of traffic is serious, we really have to think of drastic solutions to solve the problem. While I agree we clear some lanes, I don’t quite agree that those with only one person in the vehicle should be banned completely on Edsa,” Lagman said.
He also appealed to the MMDA to hear the public first before it would implement the said policy.
“I think the public should also be heard before that is implemented because it will affect motorists,” he said.
“Aside from having a carpool lane, if I had a good solution in mind, I would let the gov’t know. Long-term solution is an efficient public transportation system. Immediate solution could be a bus rapid transit system,” he said.