At 7:30 am during school days, try positioning your vehicle at any of two locations that are not even three kilometers from Katipunan Road in Quezon City. The first is Luzon Road and the other is C. P. Garcia Avenue, which is within the UP campus. Then move with the traffic flow into Katipunan, if the traffic moves at all.
You will find out that the less than three-kilometer stretch of road will take you anywhere from 45 minutes if you are lucky, and over one hour, if luck deserts you. The monstrous jams, of course, will make you observant and these are all plain to the naked eye. The private cars going to Katipunan mostly have three passengers each: a school kid, a driver and a yaya. You will also take note of the fact that there are no buses there. And light commercial vehicles are few and far between. Jeepneys, too, are not really the problem.
What causes the monstrous jams in that slice of the metropolis? That are definitely worse than the daily EDSA traffic. The answer is straightforward.
The answer is the one car-per child whimsy of the elite that send their kids to the Jesuit school along Katipunan. (It can’t be that other school, the jams started August.) One kid of school age, one service car (sometimes a Prado, LC 200, or a Range Rover). For one who walked six kilometers a day going to and from my public elementary school in Lubao (mostly barefoot), I have no words to describe the way the kids of the elite move to and from school. And mind you, the parents of these kids are often referred to as the “conscience” of our society, the most vocal ones in denouncing the “corrupt pols” who they feel do not belong to the same class as themselves.
Maybe these elite families are really upright. Maybe, they are really predisposed to denounce “corruption” and demand for “integrity” from our public leaders. But what I really cannot square off is this. If they are really that conscious and vigilant about things that physically and morally impair the broader society, why would they lead off in the area of fossil-fuel wastage and jamming the congested roads with their one child-per car predisposition?
Car sales grew by 87 percent from 2012 to 2014 and the bigger share of the purchases were made not by the young call center workers who buy those cheap and dangerous sub-compacts but by the elite that buy full-blown sedans and SUVs for their school-age kids. Or for their kids just graduated from college.
Is there a solution to these daily monstrous jams which make EDSA jams look like walks in the park? And jams that tie up traffic up to White Plains in the south and Congressional Avenue Extension/Visayas/Mindanao up north? None. Many reasons for this.
Polite society in the country, or what passes for it, does not even recognize the brutal reality that it is private vehicles (with the amo and the driver at the most) that are clogging the streets and jamming the roads. A car/SUV travels with an average of two passengers and a half. A bus along EDSA carries anywhere from 35 to 60 people per trip. But those stats are useless in the blame-game over the Metro Manila traffic jams.
The scapegoats are the following: buses, trucks, jeepneys etc. Anything that concerns the mode of transport of smelly cargoes and smelly people has always been the convenient excuse for the traffic jams. People conveniently forget that the grant of new bus franchises has been frozen since the 90s. Except for the AUVs, there has been no substantial franchise grant for PUVs over the past three decades.
So the policies to decongest traffic are re-arranged to suit the anti-people, anti-poor policies and PUVs are the ones restricted from road use. Like the ill-advised policy that compelled provincial buses to use C-5.
The pundits, or those with megaphones, sustain this twisted narrative. During the papal visit here, not one of the esteemed commentators ever pointed out that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, rode the bus everyday to the archbishop’s palace. No fuss, no gofer, no alalay. Just by himself and eschewing priestly pomp. The underlying reason is that the Filipino pundit sticks to the conventional thinking that it is public transport and cargo trucks that are unworthy of road use. And that the roads should be for cars and not public transport. Even our more popular TV/radio bloviators sustain this false narrative.
The end-result is that policy makers are forced to pander to this false and twisted narrative. Transport policies are about keeping trucks and buses and other PUVs off the roads, which the media support. This has been the consensus of the body politics. There are two multi-million peso PPP projects whose intent is to restrict the entry of provincial buses into Metro Manila by constructing so-called “integrated transport terminals.”
We are the global outlier in traffic management because we are doing it wrong.
The convoy of the prime minister of Singapore routinely gives way to public transport. All modes of public transport are the kings of the road there. The prime minister is a polymath who makes his decisions based on data. He simply knows that all means of public transport are more efficient carriers than his car.
More, the standing policy of the Singaporean government is this: restrict private vehicles and give way to the PUVs.
In Germany, the cities once called the “Car Capitals of the World” are now discouraging car ownership via high taxes and parking restrictions. They are data and math driven cities and they have been encouraging public transport.
Here, in a country that can’t even count straight, it is cars/SUVs – and the owners who control the national megaphone – that are King.