IT is quite apparent that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, and specifically the Department of Transportation (DOTr) under Secretary Arthur Tugade, is aware that traffic congestion in and around Metro Manila is a huge, costly problem that should be addressed immediately. The DOTr and its associated agencies like the Metro Manila Development Authority have proposed a number of actions intended to help ease congestion, particularly as the busy holiday season approaches.
There is a growing sense of frustration, however, that the simple, obvious solutions to the traffic mess are being overlooked in favor of lesser measures, such as adjusting the “number coding” rules or adopting a uniform scheme of fines for traffic violations, which do not clearly lead to the rapid, significant improvements the public urgently needs.
The Duterte administration has shown a capacity for bold action, and we believe that is what is needed to resolve the traffic mess once and for all. The actions that need to be taken are simple:
– Ban all colorum buses and other forms of public transport operating illegally anywhere in Metro Manila. This is a problem that has been tolerated for far too long, and flies in the face of President Duterte’s “law and order” orientation.
– Hasten the establishment of transit terminals at the edges of the Metro area. Three are planned, only one is operating, and that is only partly effective. Much more are needed.
– Once properly useful transit terminals are established, ban all provincial buses from entering Metro Manila.
– Ban all tricycles and pedicabs from all main thoroughfares.
– Fix the MRT and LRT, and accelerate the development of additional light rail lines.
– Enforce regular stops along bus and jeepney routes in the city. This is done along some major streets already (such as Taft Avenue in Manila), and when consistently monitored, it significantly improves traffic flow. But like all good ideas, it suffers from a lack of attention – a problem that should be very easy to correct.
– Put a stop to illegal parking. In a recent roundtable meeting with editors and reporters from The Manila Times, officials from the MMDA pointed out that this is already a key initiative, but the pursuit of it has to be done aggressively.
– Along the same lines, implement the “no garage, no car” rule. This proposal has been bitterly resisted when it has been raised in the past, but is the most sensible way to remove unnecessary clutter from the city’s roadways.
– Improve the discipline and competence of traffic enforcers, which in turn will lead to more disciplined drivers.
None of these proposals are a new idea, which in a sense contributes to the continuing frustration of motorists and businesses at the mercy of traffic congestion. The answers have been obvious for a long time; what has been lacking is the firm implementation, the discipline to carry them out, and follow through on them in a sustained manner.
The problem we are facing, despite its scale, is a relatively simple one. But solutions have been held captive by too many vested interests for too long: Local politicians and government units who consider traffic enforcement a revenue source rather than a management tool, bus operators who complain that imposing any order on their operations will cut into earnings, jeepney and tricycle operators whose cries of “livelihood” prevent anyone from curbing their excess numbers or behavior.
We believe the current administration has both the capacity and the desire to fix the city’s traffic mess, and should be encouraged to do what we all have known for some time needs to be done. It may cause some inconvenience and hardship at first for some people, but it will benefit everyone in the long run.