• Data and political will are keys to untangling ‘carmageddon’

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    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.

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    12 Comments

    1. Nidor Valenciana on

      May pagasa pa ang traffic situation natin! may oras pa PNoy! Simulan na natin yung NLEX-SLEX connector road para sa ikakaginhawa ng lahat. buwan ka na lang sa serbisyo para tuloy tuloy na.

    2. For one thing, the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road was submitted during the GMA administration and so, as far as Noynoy is concerned, did not exist. He only approved it last February after Drilon had his own 11 hour Carmageddon. But now thanks to the delay, a new delay of right of way issues has arisen. Now we know that Noynoy could have started the project anytime and avoided delays, but no-o-o…
      Instead he tries to gain last gasp pogi points by approving NEW projects when most of the other 20 PPP infra projects he approved back then are delayed for different reasons. So he doesn’t know where to start. Well, start with the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road! Twenty minutes from Buendia to Balintawak on ane levated highway! Handa na ito noon pa!

    3. The government is a captive of many forces, and one of these forces is the foreign car manufacturing sector. One immediate solution is to ban cars during rush hours, but of course the government has to grow the balls for this move first. What are the chances of this idea to take off? What are the chances of this president to make Kate Upton pregnant? There is no solution to the traffic as long as the yellows are in power.

    4. victor m. hernandez on

      Come to think of it, the gap that needs to be connected along EDSA MRT, i.e., North EDSA to Monumento has not been done for almost 6 years already because the government, and some smart aleckyy DOTC Secretary ignores the commitment to SM North EDSA for a common terminal/station, and opt to implement a new common terminal/station at Trinoma site. Some traffic problem like this is self inflicted. Almost 6 years, and we are still on a talking stage! Why doesn’t the government and just honor its commitment and go on build the railway to connect the gap up to Monumento? That will be a big relief to commuters. Delay in project implementation, and throwing a money wrench on implementation is one big obstacle to getting things done.

    5. There are 3doables to solve this problem which is quite normal in relation to our very big uncontainable population.
      1. Quick fix.
      Number coding not once but twice a week.
      Accidents must be cleared in 5 minutes because at 6 minutes creates buildup
      No terminal parking for bus tricycle in edsa and connecting roads.
      Do not let MDMA help in traffic because they are so corrupt.

      These are quick fix because this can be done ASAP

      2. Midterm solution this solution is harder to do

      La salle green hills should not park double in front of the school
      Sm and various malls have longer hours and scheduled sales
      Markets like balintawak must look for another location because vendors were driven but is here again next day
      Loading and unloading on only 1to2 lanes in edsa 10seconds interval

      3. Long term

      Mass transport mrt tax on cars using edsa like a toll booth per entry
      No more commercial establishment in edsa go south mountain lupa or north panpanga

      • Just follow the Singapore and Japan blueprints in mass transportation and you could do no wrong…. just copy them for God’s sake…

      • Banong, you are comparing apples and oranges. Singaporians and japanese are law abiding , disciplined people, most Pilipinos are not. You cannot use their system in EDSA.

    6. Why is increasing the number of MRT lines serving Metro Manila not included in the solutions suggested? Singapore has 9 subway lines, Shanghai has 14, Seoul has 17 while Metro Manila has only 3 lines. While it is easy to get rides in these 3 neighboring cities, it takes an hour to get into our MRT during rush hours.

      If we are to decongest traffic in Metro Manila, more MRT lines, preferably subway, should be built to serve our millions of commuters.

      • If you use subway in metro manila, you will drown when baha comes in. That is why most mrt lrt are above ground.

    7. If Filipinos want solutions to the traffic jams in the metro Manila area, the government must hire the best urban planners of California or Japan to do the job. Forget kickbacks for a moment and be serious about results because taxpayers deserve the best. Secondly, let’s be honest and acknowledge that Filipinos lack of knowledge and experience is the problem.

      Lastly, I don’t think bureaucracy, political will or a government not having enough spine as this author had suggested, has anything to do about the traffic problem. The thought process of the Filipino is the problem. Government must stop making excuses and make sure the traffic problem is not passed on to the next generation.

      • victor m. hernandez on

        The traffic problem in Metro Manila will definitely be passed on to the next administration. And the next administration, if it falters on the initiatives to solve the problem, will pass the problem on to the next. A medium to long term solution will take at least 3 years to take effect, i.e., good and wide roads, and other control measures. And more cars will be added every year, and more roads will be built to accomodate the incresing number of cars on the road. Yes if this goes go, the problem will definitely be passed on to the next generation. I guess I will not be around by that time. I hope some genius with big guts and balls will be able to solve the problem by then.