The unveiling last week by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) of its P296-million Traffic Signalization System (TSS) is a step in the right direction in restoring sanity in the streets of the metropolis.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said the TSS can manage 85 priority intersections and 25 traffic control/video surveillance locations around Metro Manila using a new software system.
Tolentino said the intelligent real-time system will help improve the safety of pedestrians, commuters and vehicles through well-coordinated signal routes that would result in faster travel time and reduction of traffic congestion.
He added that the system can manage up to 500 intersections in the future. The project is a partnership of MMDA and the Spain-based technology firm Indra in a consortium with Meralco Industrial Engineering Services Corp.
The unveiling last Thursday of the TSS by President Benigno Aquino 3rd shows that the government is serious in improving traffic conditions in Metro Manila.
Foreign investors looking at the Philippines will definitely take into account the traffic conditions in Metro Manila, where a lot of domestic and foreign firms have their headquarters.
“We can now respond faster in any road situations and problems,” said Aquino his speech during the inauguration of the TSS, adding that, “We should not wait for us to be caught by authorities and camera before we obey traffic rules.”
Even with the claims and pronouncements made by President Aquino and Tolentino, the public should not expect instant results. The TSS will be useless if the other two “Es” of traffic management are ignored: enforcement and education. The TSS helps address the engineering aspect of traffic management.
Its high-definition closed circuit television (CCTV) system can record the plate number of vehicles violating rules at intersections, especially those with traffic lights.
In the United States, authorities mail to the owners of vehicles that violate rules at intersections, particularly those breaking the red light, their traffic violation ticket. Failure to settle the traffic fine will mean the non-renewal of their driver’s licenses.
The Land Transportation Office and the MMDA have already made one step toward that direction, because drivers who have failed to settle traffic fines at the MMDA cannot renew their licenses at the LTO. This was made possible via computer link between the databases of the LTO and MMDA on traffic violators.
With the TSS in place, the MMDA can start apprehending traffic violators at intersections using the CCTV network to record evidence. Because a traffic law enforcer is not the one who will apprehend and issue the traffic ticket to the violator, corruption could be minimized.
The MMDA can also enter into an agreement with banks and credit card companies, so the fines imposed on traffic law violators are automatically charged to them. This is done also in the US.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) can also help in the effort by keeping a database of transport operators, especially bus lines, and connect it with the MMDA and LTO’s. Through this, the LTFRB can identify transport operators who continue to employ drivers who repeatedly violate traffic rules. The franchise of transport operators who continually employ drivers who violate traffic rules must be revoked for good.
The LTO should be more strict in issuing driver’s licenses, and start revoking the licenses of those who are not fit to drive, especially those driving public utility vehicles.
If the Aquino administration can effectively utilize the TSS to improve traffic in Metro Manila, it will help make the metropolis more livable and more attractive to tourists and investors.