Traffic in Metro Manila has become a gut issue, because it affects—no, defines—the quality of life of residents.
Whereas travel should only be a means to get from one place to another, it now eats up a considerable portion of motorists’ and commuters’ time such that their well-being, productivity and the quality of their relationships are compromised.
It would be good if there were an efficient public transportation system to serve the public’s needs. But the trains are a mess—there is no telling, for instance, when the MRT 3 would break down and stop, or when the LRT 1’s roofs would leak and cause people to open their umbrellas while the train is running.
Meanwhile, bus drivers are notorious for their lack of discipline and their penchant to break traffic regulation.
Amid all these, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is hard pressed for solutions on how best to minimize the traffic mess that plagues its residents not only during the start and the end of the week, or during rush hours, but every day and at practically any hour.
It has, for instance, come up with the High-Occupancy Vehicle scheme, which had its dry run Wednesday.
The scheme bans on Edsa, Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare, vehicles with just the driver occupying them. The prohibition holds during rush hours.
On the first day, some 3,000 motorists were caught for not having companions in their vehicles. MMDA general manager Jose Arturo Garcia insists there was an improvement in traffic.
But motorists are up in arms, saying the proposal is impractical, discriminatory and hardly a solution to the real problem. We agree. Over social media it has inspired widely circulated jokes and memes.
The Senate denounced the scheme and said no consultations were done before it was implemented. Senator Ralph Recto said the scheme merely “shoo[ed] cars from the main artery to minor roads not wide enough to handle the surge in volume.”
Many other suggestions to ease traffic have been made, in varying degrees of practicability and sense. The MMDA cannot act on its own, however. Its proposals must be done in consultation and planning with local governments and with other agencies whose scope covers the roots of the problem—poor public transportation, high volume of new vehicles sold every year, poor road quality and the lack of good alternate routes.
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation,” said Colombian politician Gustavo Petro. We agree, but we also acknowledge such a thing is not close to happening where we are. In the meantime, we struggle to have a respectable quality of life, not because of, but despite, the traffic situation that has confounded our leaders across several administrations.
Then again, the desperation does not give the MMDA license to come up with just any solution—especially silly ones like the HOV scheme.