THE government looked at the data on the EDSA monster jams and what it found unnerved even the most passionate car lovers in the Aquino administration.
EDSA, which can only accommodate 144,000 vehicles a day, is jammed with 225, 000 on a normal day. “Non-normal” days are big sales at the malls, when the EDSA vehicle traffic surges up to 260,000. Of the total, the public utility buses make up only 10 percent of the vehicle presence at the most. Seventy to eighty percent are private vehicles with an average load of one and a half passengers. The rest are either LCVs and various carriers of cargo.
The car lovers may protest. The pundits may howl in disbelief. TV bloviators will ignore the data to defend to the death their beloved cars and SUVs. But the cherished orthodoxy that trucks, LCVs and buses have been behind the monster jams at EDSA – and should be taken out of EDSA to ease the jams – has been finally shattered by the new EDSA vehicle data. Science has debunked an orthodoxy that has long been an article of faith among traffic managers.
Now, this is the question. Is the Aquino government equipped with enough spine to rein in private vehicle use, especially cars and SUVs, on EDSA? Singapore has done this. Many First World countries have done this. Can Mr. Aquino and his men toughen it up and rein in private car use?
A determined plan to decongest EDSA of at least 50,000 cars a day by offering alternative modes of transport to car users will bring instant relief to the EDSA jams. By ensuring the smooth flow of traffic at Sauyo Road and the other minor roads that channels vehicles into the NLEX and by doing the same with the minor roads that empty into the SLEX will further lighten the vehicle load at EDSA. Opening up the gates of the private subdivisions along EDSA will bring another form of relief. During the time of Oca Orbos at the DOTC, he operated by this word – doable.
There is actually a menu of “doables.” But then political will and jettisoning orthodoxy and ignoring the huge megaphones of car lovers ( who have an outsized voice in the traffic policy debates) are required to pursue the traffic relief measures that are doable.
For the medium-term traffic decongestion in Metro Manila, there are low-hanging fruits that can be literally picked, then pursed with real resolve. With political will, the implementation of these projects can start now, as in today. But sadly, there seems to be no sense of urgency in pursuing the major projects that will really ease traffic in MM in the medium-term.
The game-changer among these long-hanging infra projects is the stalled connector road that will link NLEX with the SLEX.
The NLEX – SLEX Connector Road project proposes a four-lane elevated road that will run along the railroad line in Metro Manila and would link NLEX at its end Balintawak with the SLEX at some point in the Buendia area. Instead of the usual two hour trip from Balintawak to Buendia (three hours during peak vehicle traffic), travel time would be 20 minutes at the most with the elevated road. Among the road proposals aimed at helping decongest MM, this one will have the most impact as it will even ease the congestion at the Manila ports.
You know what? The project, submitted as an unsolicited proposal by the MPIC 2010, was first green-lighted by the government if pursued as a joint venture with the state-owned PNCC. After the JV with PNCC was signed, the government changed its mind again and proposed a competitive Swiss Challenge. The private proponent agreed. But just like in Waiting for Godot, the wait for the final schedule of the Swiss Challenge, maybe a long, anguished wait. Why the NEDA can’t decide on a schedule for a Swiss Challenge is beyond those wanting a big, big push on major traffic decongestion projects.
Or, why can’t President Aquino, as NEDA head, just order his apparatchiks to just fast-track the vital project that will bypass the usual right-of-wait trouble because it will use the PNR platform and which construction can commence once green lighted ?
Why can’t the government just do away with stalling measures and choking bureaucracy to make the connector road a reality is beyond us, citizens who have been at our wits end in coping up with the monster traffic jams of the metropolis.
The stalled connector road is not only the major project frozen by a shiftless decision-making process.
The NAIA Expressway, an ongoing project that will connect all the three NAIA terminals will not meet its just-in-time-for – APEC deadline in November. It has fallen prey to the usual – shifting rules and shifting designs. The Skyway 3 will be completed in 2018, instead of the late 2017 target. The LRT 2 was delayed by an issue centered on, would you believe, traffic signal slights.
The problems faced by these medium-term relief to the traffic jams are rooted on bureaucracy-as-usual. The problems is the traffic jams get uglier by the day and only a determined government using science and equipped with political will can get the solutions moving.