"The traffic problem is the end-result of government mismanagement, bad planning and perhaps even gross stupidity. "
In tackling the issue of horrendous traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other key urban centers, government officials almost always tend to blame the public, rather than themselves, for their rank failure to solve it.
We're often told by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that traffic along the major thoroughfare that is EDSA is caused by the sheer volume of private vehicles. The solution they came up with is the number-coding scheme, which in theory sounds good as it would supposedly reduce the volume of vehicles by half on a daily basis. But they did not consider that those who can afford it would simply buy another vehicle so they wouldn't be inconvenienced by the coding scheme. Result: no easing of traffic congestion at all.
Another MMDA scheme was to conduct on an experimental basis a ban on driver-only private vehicles. The plan backfired because of too much resistance on the part of private motorists who stood to be highly inconvenienced by another hare-brained, not to mention anti-democratic and anti-poor, traffic scheme.
I imagine the MMDA must be at their wit's end thinking of more ways to ease vehicular traffic. Invariably, I'm afraid, it's going to be more of the same schemes that will punish the public for government's failings.
When pushed to the wall by criticisms that horrible traffic has not abated but even worsened, public officials earning hefty salaries from people's taxes will not hesitate to turn the screws on those whose interests they're supposed to serve, first and foremost.
Take the recent proposal to ban provincial buses and terminals from EDSA. The brilliant proposal was roundly thumbed down by commuters who stood to be greatly inconvenienced, and more than this, would have been made to cough up more money so they could go home to their respective provinces.
The same wanton disregard for public welfare is evident in the other proposal to make UV Express vehicles render point-to-point services instead of allowing passengers to alight where they have to, just like regular taxis and jeepneys.
And there's more. In the Senate, there's the proposed bill seeking to prohibit purchases of vehicles by those who cannot prove that they have garages where they can properly park their car. This is another patently anti-poor proposal that we hope doesn't pass the legislative mill.
My own conclusion is that the traffic problem is the end-result of government mismanagement, bad planning and perhaps even gross stupidity.
Mismanagement is plain to see when the right hand does not know what the left is doing.
The government, for instance, encourages the car assembly industry to produce as many units as they can so it can raise more taxes, we're told, for vital infrastructure and social development projects. The Buy, Buy, Buy objective is a noble one, from where we sit, but a disastrous one from the perspective of Metro Manila's already bad traffic situation.
If car distributors encourage the public to buy more cars with low down payments and affordable monthly terms, then we're likely to see no end to our traffic woes.
But that's neither here nor there. An even greater problem is bad planning.
A white elephant, definitely, is the Parañaque Integrated Transport Terminal that was touted to be a "landport" with amenities akin to those found in airports. Last we looked, the few souls inhabiting its cavernous interior looked like a scene from a B horror movie.
The LRT 2 that runs from somewhere in Antipolo and traverses Aurora Boulevard to the University Belt along Claro M. Recto—Azcarraga, as I like to call it by its old name—stops abruptly about a hundred or so meters from Divisoria, the poor man's shopping center.
My question: Why didn't planners make the rail network extend up to the North Harbor, its natural end-point that would make it convenient for those taking inter-island ships to points south?
The traffic problem in Metro Manila is rooted in government's failure to put in place an adequate, safe and reliable mass transportation system yesterday.
In the city of Manila, it's pure bedlam in Quiapo, Sta. Cruz, Binondo and the Divisoria area where tricycles, pedicabs, jeepneys, private vehicles, pedestrians and vendors of all kinds of merchandise compete for limited road space on a daily basis.
The long-term solution, it seems to me, is an extensive subway system that would cover the whole of Metro Manila. But in the meantime, the existing light rail networks should be upgraded and extended, and the dilapidated jeepneys emitting toxic fumes still operating in main routes in Metro Manila replaced by modern ones that are eco-friendly yet affordable by students and the masses. This should be part of a comprehensive plan to rationalize a fragmented transport system that has failed to keep in step with rapid population growth.
We recognize that upgrading and modernizing Metro Manila's mass transport system will take time and require trillions of pesos in resources. But the first steps should be taken now, before it's too late.