Traffic in Metro Manila, specifically on the main thoroughfare Edsa, has become notorious over the years. There used to be a reasonable buildup only at rush hour or during Mondays or Fridays, or toward the Christmas holidays. These days, the gridlock no longer chooses a day, or a time of day.
There have been numerous proposals and actual measures to solve the problem. Among these are the number coding scheme, the prohibition of provincial buses on Edsa, the restriction of city buses to specific lanes, technology-aided enforcement of traffic rules, and the opening up of gated subdivisions so that they could be used as alternate routes.
The latest suggestion is to devote all of Edsa to southbound traffic, and C5 to those northbound, but this early motorists and commuters have scoffed at the idea as desperate, impracticable and ridiculous.
And just this week, congressional hearings have been held on whether to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers so he can act on the traffic issue more decisively.
The negative effects of heavy traffic have often been cited. Commuters and motorists alike lose precious time on the road, which they could use to do their work, rest, or spend time with their families. A Japan International Cooperation Agency study estimated productivity loss at about P3.5 billion every day; this could balloon to P5.4 billion in 16 years if traffic does not improve.
Traffic, too causes stress and affects people’s quality of life and overall temperament.
Unfortunately, there are consequences far too fatal than these. A report by Agence France Presse cited instances when ambulances carrying patients were stuck in traffic. As a result, one patient’s pulse stopped five minutes before they reached the hospital; another patient made it, but died in the hospital after a few days.
Reacting to this story, Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo suggested that drivers should use other roads with lighter traffic, as if they do not already consider that and as if they insist on taking Edsa even if they didn’t need to. Panelo also said they could opt to use choppers in emergency situations.
These, of course, are remarks one should not take seriously because they fail to grasp the importance of every minute lost or the gravity of the outcome.
It is tragic that our road problems have come to this point. We wonder if any of the immediate and long-term solutions would ever get to the heart of the issue, enough to make a dent on the current situation, and, with just a few months before Christmas, at least prevent the problem from getting worse.