THE traffic situation as the holiday season approaches has reached critical levels of dysfunction. With the large number of vehicles, commuters and infrastructure defects that are part and parcel of Metro Manila, it comes as no surprise. And it will not be solved overnight.
The Metro Manila Development Authority is valiantly trying to mitigate the traffic problem just as it has its hands full with all the other urbanization messes in this metropolis. It is just undermanned, underfunded and undersupported by the government and the public. My sympathies are with Francis Tolention and company, they do what they can with what they have and everyone still picks on them for the inadequacies and problems that Manila is mired in. It took a number of decades to reach this nadir so let’s not put the blame on the present MMDA.
I have been observing traffic conditions in the long hours sitting in it. It is quite obvious that there are too many cars, too few roads and very little efficiency and discipline in them. EDSA has long been inadequate to give motorists a highway around the city to get on and off. It was meant that way probably but subsequent conditions like free and untrammeled entry and exit points have just brought the traffic in narrow streets to the highway. We need more highways that encircle the city with limited entry and exit points, true expressways that at least will get you around in decent time even though the inner city is bogged in traffic.
There is very little discipline or enforcement of rules in traffic conditions. Motorists switch lanes in highways opening them to accidents, friction from bothered motorists and actually slowing down traffic. No one in authority addresses this problem. Moreover, beating traffic lights, discourtesy and real rudeness derived from bad driving manners is not sanctioned. Most of these erring drivers get away with it because there are not personnel motivated enough to apply the law. Naturally, these benign conditions for erring drivers multiplies them. Note how unused to obey traffic enforcers are most people – they slap traffic aides, practically run them down, or just drive away from their summons.
Public vehciles like buses and jeepneys and let us not forget taxis with criminal drivers are the first violators. Good manners are not in their universe once they get behind the wheel. Neither are rules to be obeyed. And they get away with it with the excuse that they are making a living and everyone else is doing it. So stopping in the middle of the street to load or unload passengers is par for the course. Bullying smaller vehicles is another. Isn’t there an ordinance regarding buses having doors? If so, they must always be open from the number of passengers who get on or off in the middle of traffic. Overloading is common with passengers hanging out on fenders and steps, even sitting on roofs.
Meanwhile motorcycles are the new peril, to themselves and to other, from the way they switch lanes with abandon, mount sidewalks, overtake from the right and believe that traffic lights are not for them. Even one-way streets or the direction of traffic as mandated is not for them to mind. As long there is space they will use it whether available or not by rules of the road. It is do as you please, take what you can from the public and the other motorists to get to your destination.
I think I have said enough regarding the chaos among our driving and riding public. Now for the infrastructure which consists of roads with potholes, roads with no one watcthing to enforce the rules. And the lack of sidewalks.
Sidewalks when available, spacious and in place encourage people to walk. If more walking was done in this city there may be less mayhem in the vehicles negotiating the city streets. People should be encouraged to walk even for long distances. But the lack of sidewalks or the misuse of the sidewalks that are present i.e. taken over by stores, vendors, parked cars and abandoned debris is discouraging walking.
A friend was near the Cultural Center of the Philippines one afternoon last week, a typical Roxas Boulevard traffic mess in action while he looked for a taxi. No taxi would take him to Makati near Sn Antonio Village for some excuse or other (car barn, opposite dirction to the taxi’s way, unpleasant traffic along the rout), so much so that he stopped looking and started walking. It was good exercise, an accomplishment in itself for having arrived at his destination and therefore, a happy ending. But he said it was hard going because there were no hospitable sidewalks. If they were there, they were not welcoming from the clutter of shops, vendors, and parked cars on them. Most of the time, they did not exist at all so that a pedestrian had to take his chances on the street competing with vehicles. This is obviously a bummer for any pedestrian. Pedestrians are considered a lower form of life by vehicle drivers.
Suggestion to MMDA: When thinking of alternative traffic routes, think too of pedestrian routes for the same destination. Provide sidewalks, get rid of smoke belchers on the street and on sidewalks, other obstructions. People now appreciate the value of exercise, they are ready to walk but please provide sidewalks that can be walked on with safe routes across streets. If more people walked, there will be less need of vehicles which should lighten traffic somehow.