GrabTaxi, a digital taxi booking service, has apologized to its customers amid complaints about its drivers who reject booking requests on Tuesday when heavy rains and flooding paralyzed Metro Manila.
“We would like to apologize to commuters as not everyone was able to get a ride home via our service during the downpour last Tuesday,” GrabTaxi said in a statement posted on its social media account on Thursday.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Winston Ginez on Wednesday directed GrabTaxi to answer the complaints and summoned its officials to a meeting on Wednesday, September 16.
GrabTaxi admitted that its drivers could not accept passengers as they too were stranded in the traffic gridlock.
“Many of our drivers were affected and got stranded, like the rest of Metro Manila, and were not able to accept bookings as they were caught in the gridlock,” it said.
“The flooded road conditions also meant that they would have risked passenger safety and their cars breaking down,” GrabTaxi added.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Friday admitted that Tuesday night’s so-called “carmaggedon” exposed the inadequacy of Metro Manila’s road and flood control infrastructure.
“The severe traffic congestion that was triggered by heavy rains and flash floods clearly showed the inadequacy of existing road and flood control infrastructure that will take time to be scaled up,” he said.
Coloma at the same time defended the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from its critics, stressing that officials of the agency led by Chairman Francis Tolentino have “carried out [their]responsibilities in terms of flood control and drainage in collaboration with DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways].”
The DPWH, he explained, is the lead agency in implementing the 20-year flood control master plan.
“The MMDA has also been working with LGUs [local government units] in clearing road obstructions. The severe traffic congestion that was triggered by heavy rains and flash floods clearly showed the inadequacy of existing road and flood control infrastructure that will take time to be scaled up,” Coloma said.
This flaw, he added, necessitates the need for traffic constables to work harder to make sure traffic will continue to flow.
“Traffic enforcers will also have to work doubly hard to improve their responsiveness such that, if last Tuesday’s situation recurs, normal traffic flow may be restored more expeditiously,” Coloma said.
The Highway Patrol Group (HPG), which had been deployed to EDSA, has apprehended 271 traffic violators during the first four days its personnel were ordered to man traffic on EDSA.
Chief Supt. Arnold Gunnacao, chief of the HPG, said violators were flagged for obstructing traffic, changing lanes and entering illegal lanes on EDSA.
Most of the violators drove private vehicles.
Gunnacao said the number of violators has dwindled as motorists are now following traffic rules and regulations.
Holiday rush congestion
Malacañang said the government is expecting traffic to worsen in the run-up to the Christmas season.
Its deputy spokesman Abigail Valte also on Friday said the DPWH was directed to clear main and alternate roads of obstructions in anticipation of heavier vehicle volume during the holiday rush.
“All concerned agencies are hopeful that these steps, including the deployment of HPG on EDSA,will help in this situation,” Valte added.
EDSA speed limit
There is an existing 40 kilometers per hour (kph) speed limit along EDSA based on a 51-year-old law that Congress has failed to amend until now, according to LTFRB board member Ariel Inton.
Inton said traffic along the country’s major thoroughfares has long been ignored and that it is high time that the law be made to adjust to the times.
“I was going through old news reports and I chanced upon this editorial in a newspaper that tackles the Traffic Code or RA [Republic Act] 4136 that sets the maximum speed on different roads. How come this skipped the attention of Congress? No vehicle can barely run the speed limit set as traffic continues to worsen,” Inton told The Manila Times.
The official was referring to the Traffic Code that took effect on June 20, 1964 or during the time of President Diosdado Macapagal.
RA 4136, also known as An Act to Compile the Laws Relative to Land Transportation and Traffic Rules, To Create a Land Transportation Commission and For Other Purposes, sets the speed limits on various roads and highways.
Under the old law, the maximum speed set for passengers cars, trucks and motorcycles and buses are the following: on open country roads, with no “blinds corners” not closely bordered by habitations, 80 kph; on “through streets” or boulevards, clear of traffic, with no ” blind corners,” when so designated, 40 kph; on city and municipal streets, with light traffic, when not designated “through streets,” 30 kph; and through crowded streets, approaching intersections at “blind corners,” passing school zones, passing other vehicles which are stationary, 20 kph.
According to Inton, a lawyer and former councilor of Quezon City, had Congress moved to amend the law, lawmakers would have tackled the then worsening traffic on EDSA and other thoroughfares.
“For the longest time, any vehicle could hardly run at 40 kph during rush hour along EDSA. If the law is yet to be amended, it could mean that all of us could be violating the law because we could not even reach the minimum speed which the law sets at 30 kph,” the LTFRB official explained.
At the same time, Inton twitted MMDA Chairman Tolentino, who is being asked to resign by many motorists for his failure to effectively manage traffic on EDSA.
Although Inton claimed he does not support calls for Tolentino’s resignation, he said the latter would “boost his chances in the Senate if he indeed leaves the MMDA.”
“I believe many motorists and commuters will feel real good once he resigned. Many would be happy. However, it is not the solution to the traffic problem,” he pointed out.
According to him, the government must set its sight on another “looming EDSA”– Commonwealth Avenue, where traffic gridlocks are beginning to develop.
Inton said while the existing 60 kph speed limit actually helps, he noted that sidewalk vendors and other obstructions are again beginning to sprout along the busy avenue, giving rise to suspicions that traffic managers there are again “on the take.”
“Commonwealth Avenue should be our case study. We should not wait for another eight years for it to become the next EDSA. When the Traffic Code was written, traffic was not a problem. The times are different now. History should be our best teacher,” the official said.