WITH the holiday season just starting, traffic jams have become commonplace in Metro Manila everyday including the days approaching the weekend and the weekend itself. And things are expected to get worse as the month of December progresses.
Good thing the MMDA has started to take steps to help ease the traffic jams that are expected during the holidays. But much needs to be done and more government agencies must get in on the act, especially if one also takes into account that many taxi drivers become vultures during the holiday season.
On November 21, the MMDA and mall owners agreed to adjust their mall hours from the usual 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. While that has been done, traffic over the weekend still made major streets in Metro Manila look like parking lots.
To help further ease traffic in major commercial centers in Metro Manila, the MMDA should deploy more traffic personnel near and around malls. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said that the agency will deploy 10 traffic constables along malls to help ease traffic congestion during the holidays. But that may not be enough, especially during the week before December 25.
The MMDA so far has not tapped the cooperation of local government units or the National Capital Region Police Office in augmenting their traffic personnel, and this must be done before the height of the shopping and merry making starts this month. The presence of more policemen near or around malls will also help deter crimes in those areas.
The MMDA also has the option of opening “Christmas” lanes along secondary roads, which it did in the past years. In addition to the Christmas lanes, the MMDA can open “express” lanes along roads where traffic during the rush hours are contradictory, or with some roads clogged with heavy traffic and the other roads almost empty. A good example of such roads are Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon Avenue, España, Roxas Boulevard, which are all major streets. If the MMDA finds the “express lane” successful during the holidays, it can make that a permanent measure along major roads.
For its part, the Department of Public Works and Highways is ready to suspend road repair and various roadworks sometime this month, and that is a good measure to help ease the holiday traffic jams.
LTFRB must also act
The holiday season usually sees a big number of taxi drivers becoming abusive, by overcharging or selecting their passengers. In that case, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should take advantage of the holiday season to weed out abusive taxi drivers and penalize operators who tolerate abusive taxi drivers.
During the Ramos administration, then LTFRB Chairman Dante Lantin made it a point to deploy uniformed and plainclothes agency personnel during the holidays to apprehend abusive taxi drivers. Abusive taxi drivers who are caught in the act of overcharging or selecting their passengers must have their licenses revoked, and never be given the chance to acquire a professional or even non-professional license anymore. That measure will require the LTFRB coordinating with the Land Transportation Office, which should show that it is willing to crack the whip on abusive drivers.
Besides the MMDA taking more measures to help ease traffic during the holidays and the LTFRB cracking down on abusive taxi drivers, the Department of Transportation and Communications must extend the operating hours of the three intercity rail systems in the metropolis, the Light Rail Transit-1, Light Rail Transit-2, and the Metro Rail Transit-3. This is a no brainer and as to why the DOTC has not started that measure makes the public wonder if the agency really cares about the welfare of the commuting public.