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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

More on Metro Manila’s traffic problems (Part 2)

“It might also be about time to install intelligent traffic lights along EDSA to better manage traffic flow”

Two weeks ago, an opinion writer in another paper lamented that traffic gridlock in the Metro area is forever.

We can all relate to his frustration.

Due to the way the urban sprawl has developed in the National Capital Region, traffic congestion has become a fact of life and will be that way for many more years to come.

The population density alone tells us that. About 13.6 million people are living in an area of 663 square kilometers making the NCR one of the most congested Metro areas in the world.

Include the limited road system and the increasing motorization and the future of urban life in the NCR is indeed bleak.

But let us try to leave all of that in the meantime and go back to EDSA because that road has become the traffic laboratory in the NCR.

It is also in EDSA the public is witnessing the success or failure of the government’s ability to manage the traffic.

One peculiar feature of EDSA which is not found anywhere in the world are the fences that have been installed by the MMDA in the vain attempt to control traffic flow.

Unfortunately, the benefits derived from the fences are at best minimal and is even the cause of motorists forming additional lanes when entering underpasses causing traffic gridlock like the Shaw-EDSA and the Aurora Boulevard-EDSA underpasses.

It is as if the MMDA has given up on enforcement and education and have decided on road fences hoping that motorists will follow and comply.

The other are the cement and water filled plastic barriers placed on U-turn slots to discourage motorists from also forming additional lanes.

Trouble is, motorists continue to form additional lanes especially in the evening when there are fewer or no traffic enforcement personnel around.

In both cases, aggressive and sustained enforcement is the obvious solution which could have been easily done by the use of CCTVs.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has issued a TRO on the no contact apprehension program of the MMDA which until now has not been lifted.

Another feature of EDSA are the various U-turn slots which are unlike other U-turn slots that are found in other streets.

When Bayani Fernando was MMDA Chairman, he created the U-turn slots along EDSA by diverting the entire traffic of roads that are crossing EDSA like the Congressional Avenue by requiring all vehicles to turn right and then make a U-turn on the designated EDSA U-turn slots.

As we know, many of these U-turn slots caused heavy traffic congestions along that road.

But due to the Bus Carousel, many of these U-turn slots have been closed.

Some, however, are still open like the Congressional Avenue-EDSA intersection.

All the traffic from that road must still turn right upon reaching EDSA to make a U-turn along EDSA. The problem however, is that the volume of traffic is such that motorists coming from Congressional Avenue are forced to form three or more lanes when they reach the U-turn slot.

By doing this, there are times when all the lanes are blocked making it difficult for the EDSA traffic to pass the area.

The original intention of Bayani Fernando with all the U-turn slot was to allow continuous movement of vehicles like a rotunda.

What was forgotten was that the entire traffic of a one lane road cannot be diverted to make a U-turn especially with the volume of traffic along EDSA.

It will only worsen the congestion.

Furthermore, the turning radius of the U-turn slots are not sufficient for the bigger vehicles and that is the reason why the barriers are necessary.

The barriers, however, will necessarily encroach on the other lanes causing more gridlock.

It would be a lot better to just reopen the Congressional Avenue-EDSA intersection and install a traffic light.

That way, even if vehicles on EDSA and Congressional Avenue will have to wait, traffic flow will become more orderly unlike what is happening in that area at the moment.

I do not know why MMDA has not done that already or whether they did a traffic study about the traffic situation in that area but decided to maintain the current situation.

Regardless, the congestion in that area cannot be left the way it is.

The MMDA needs to do something because the rotunda type solution introduced by Bayani Fernando years ago is not the proper engineering solution and is only worsening the traffic congestion.

The MMDA must be at its wits end trying to figure out what else it can do to improve travel time along EDSA.

Both the Skyway and the Bus Carousel projects should have improve travel time but apparently have not.

Maybe another look at the Bus Carousel project is in order to see if its original intention is being fulfilled.

This is because the Bus Carousel is a merry go round ride.

It has no origin and destination. Most of the passengers originate from somewhere to take the Bus Carousel then get off to take another ride to proceed to their final destinations.

The Bus Carousel, therefore, in itself is a traffic generator.

It is possible that because of it, EDSA is attracting more vehicles than what the Bus Carousel dislodged.

MMDA should examine whether it can be modified so that the buses can originate from somewhere then enter the Carousel to proceed to a destination and then back to the Carousel again to return from where it originated.

It might also be about time to install intelligent traffic lights along EDSA to better manage traffic flow. Even if motorists will have to wait in intersections, at least they know how long unlike what is happening now.

Lastly, MMDA should just stick on trying to improve travel time along EDSA that is after all its original mandate.

Then if successful, it can embark on nice projects like promenades.

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