Once again, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is going to try to decongest the main traffic battleground in the metro area—Edsa. This time, MMDA implemented two traffic schemes which started yesterday to hopefully bring some relief to our long suffering motorists.
Trouble is, before MMDA could even begin to try the two traffic plans, there was already a lot of opposition. One is the powerful chairperson of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Senator Grace Poe. Others who oppose the two plans argue that both scheme are not backed by science. Senator Poe for her part wants a dry run to test the viability of the project before making them permanent.
First, there is the prohibition of driver-only operated vehicles along Edsa. This plan will hopefully encourage carpooling, thereby reducing the number of cars plying the 24-kilometer motorway. The second is the prohibition of provincial buses coming from the north and south from traversing Edsa. Buses coming from the north will have to terminate their trips in Valenzuela City where the passengers will be picked up by other land based transportation. Those coming from the south will end their trips somewhere in Parañaque with their passengers also being picked up by other land-based transportation.
In the words of JoJo Garcia Jr., the general manager of MMDA, the bus scheme is intended to establish intermodal terminals north and south of the metro area.
The questions to be asked now is this: Is there science behind the two plans and are the two the best solutions to implement?
As for the high-occupancy vehicle plan, there is indeed proven science to its effectivity. It is very popular in California especially along the Santa Monica freeway. The left most lane is reserved for high occupancy vehicles. Single operated vehicles cannot enter this lane but are not prohibited from using the highway as opposed to the MMDA scheme which prohibits single operated vehicles from using Edsa altogether.
It does not mean, however, that just because it works in California, it will also work on Edsa. The Santa Monica freeway is different; it is basically used to go to the city and back to the residences of road users. Edsa, on the other hand, is a traffic generator in itself with so many business establishments along the road.
There is a lot of difference in the land use of both. Also, the success of any traffic scheme depends to a certain degree on the competence of traffic and transport planners.
Lastly, we have to contend with the differences of the driving cultures of Filipinos and Americans. They are poles apart. Americans routinely obey and follow traffic rules even in the absence of a traffic enforcers. For instance, American drivers would not cross a solid line in the middle of the road much less a solid yellow painted road. We Filipinos on the other hand routinely violate traffic rules. The solid yellow painted lines along Edsa are always ignored by drivers. If we cannot even solve permanently the use of the Balintawak portion of Edsa as a market place, how will MMDA implement the high-occupancy vehicle scheme with majority of cars being heavily tinted?
With regard to the bus plan, Garcia was quoted as saying that the stations to be established north and south of Metro area are intended to be intermodal.
I do not know whether he was quoted correctly but in order to be intermodal, the passengers disembarking in Valenzuela, for instance, should be picked up by rail transportation to complete the rest of their journeys. But it seems that land-based transportation will do the job which is no longer intermodal. This will create another problem. If jeepneys and other buses will be used to transport the passengers onward to the metro area, this will also congest other Metro Manila roads because of the need of plenty of buses and jeepneys to transport thousands of passengers.
The two traffic schemes may indeed solve a traffic problem but both will also create other traffic problems. MMDA therefore must have to weigh the pluses and minuses of the two traffic schemes before deciding to implement them permanently. There might be other better options that could decongest Edsa with less inconvenience to the motoring public. Transferring the routes of some city buses is one that could lessen the number of buses traversing the road. Disallowing the use of jeepneys and tricycles could also be another. Edsa is a peculiar road. There is rail, bus and jeepney transportation competing against each other when there should be only one. We know, of course, that buses and jeepneys are there because of the unreliability of MRT 3. Choosing the kind of traffic scheme to be used is understandably tricky.
My take on the two traffic plans is that both will create more problems than the problem it intends to solve. The only solution in the horizon that could lessen traffic along Edsa significantly is when the skyway project that will connect NLEX and SLEX is completed.
The other is when the maintenance of MRT 3 is improved so that train stoppages will become a thing of the past. In the meantime, MMDA should concentrate on known bottlenecks in Cubao, MRT 3 stations, and U-turn slots. It should keep traffic continuously moving at a reasonably tolerable level. This state should be acceptable to most motorists. What is not acceptable are long traffic stoppages. Yet, MMDA cannot just stop trying traffic schemes. We can only hope that the plan works.