"The city administration should seek help from other sources."
About three weeks ago, there was a media report that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority had volunteered its traffic expertise to solve the worsening traffic problem of Baguio City. It is a generous offer on the part of MMDA—but why would MMDA like to take added work when it cannot make a dent solving Metro Manila’s traffic? It cannot even decongest one stretch of road like EDSA in spite of many attempts by the agency to do so.
Not much was mentioned about the scope of work to be done. If the incoming new Baguio City Mayor PMaj General Benjie Magalong (Ret) will agree to the offer of help, it will actually be the second time that MMDA tries its hand at solving the city’s traffic problems.
The existing problematic traffic flow in the central business district was the work of MMDA. This came about due to a request of former Mayor Bernie Vergara 11 years ago. Some traffic people from MMDA came to Baguio and made changes by making a lot of roads one way when such is not suited in Baguio’s road system. One-way traffic is all right in a grid-type road system. The changes was supposed to be on a trial basis but were never changed. They have become permanent.
When Bong Nebrija, the traffic chief of MMDA was interviewed on TV, he talked about second-hand traffic lights that MMDA is no longer using that could be used by Baguio City. Other than the traffic lights, Nebrija did not mention any specifics on the extent of assistance that will be provided.
Will there be a memorandum of agreement between the Baguio City and MMDA detailing exactly the scope of work to be done, the financing of the project and responsibilities of both agencies? During that TV interview, he gave the impression that the installation of second-hand traffic lights is enough to solve Baguio’s traffic problems. If this is the case, surely, Nebrija must know that using old pre-calibrated traffic lights or doing another rerouting is no longer enough to solve Baguio’s traffic problems. A lot more will have to be done. Besides, the traffic lights to be used should be the intelligent, meaning self-adjusting kind.
If MMDA is simply thinking of doing traffic work based solely on observations, the MMDA might end up making the problem worse like the way it did the first time when it implemented the rerouting scheme that is now currently in place.
I do not know if Nebrija is aware of the first traffic study done on Baguio’s traffic and transportation by DOTr way back in 1980. The project took over six months to complete and some of the recommendations in that study formed the basis of later traffic projects implemented the city government. It has been almost 40 years since that study and the situation now is altogether vastly different. There are a lot more people and vehicles in the city and the length of the road system has also increased. There are now approximately 380,000 people, almost 60,000 vehicles and about 400 kilometers both national and city. Today, there is a move toward including adjacent towns like La Trinidad, Itogon, Tuba, and Sablan in what is called the BLIST planning process. Baguio can no longer be taken in isolation because the outlying towns affect the daily economic life of Baguio. This move makes a lot of sense.
We do not know whether MMDA has factored this in when it volunteered its expertise to solve Baguio’s traffic problem because if it has, MMDA should have realized the scope of what it was getting itself into and should have thought twice before jumping into the lake. With BLIST, all available traffic data on Baguio are now out and new traffic data like origin and destination must be gathered. New data on population, vehicles, and road length must now be factored in planning the future traffic of Metro Baguio.
Taken together, the economy of scales can now come into play especially in planning to revolutionize public transport for the expanded area. Rail transportation could now be viable with the addition of La Trinidad. Doing away with the jeepneys that are responsible for much of Baguio’s traffic problems can now be realistically considered. Congestion in the central business district which is caused by public transport on street parking could be eased considerably by the removal of jeepneys and traffic flow within the CBD improved immensely.
The key to solving the city’s traffic and transportation problems is to have a reliable traffic and transportation study done by a competent group to map out any future government action that will be implemented. This is a necessary step for the city to take instead of jumping into the lake with the MMDA proposal because this will only worsen the problem instead of solving it.
If the incoming city administration is serious in addressing the traffic problems, it should seek help from other sources. There are international agencies like the Japan International Cooperation Agency or USAID that can be tapped by the City to provide competent studies on what to do. With all due respect to MMDA, it should concentrate on trying to solve Metro Manila’s traffic problems because the task is gigantic as it is instead of taking more difficult tasks. It also simply lacks the necessary competence to do it. Baguio could also run to the University of the Philippines Traffic and Transport School, Department of Science and Technology or outsource the study to professional consulting groups for a thorough, professional and reliable study.