• Stupidity reigned going north on Dec 26


    December 26th traveling to North Luzon was a spectacular failure of infrastructure, planning and emergency measures. No one wants to start the New Year pointing fingers but if this is the only way for some entities and individuals to wake up and comprehend the problems that they have caused and think of solutions to them. There is no other way.

    I have tried to see silver linings in all of the human suffering and discomfort, disappointment and dismay that about hundreds of thousands traveling in 200,000 or more vehicles went through on what they expected to be the beginning of a long holiday.

    In real time, after six hours traversing so-called expressways, paying for them and then being part of a vast parking area, I veered from the madding crowd at Urdaneta on their way to another Calvary to Sison (about 5 to 6 hours more) and dashed off to Calasiao to my favorite restaurant, Dagupeña, which had its usual delicious lunch servings of sizzling bangus, pinakbet, crispy shrimp and sinigang na malaga plus their signature dessert, Queen Sirikit (take note, foodies).  Refreshed by lunch and restroom facilities, I stopped at the Calasiao church plaza to buy the famous puto and cuchinta.  Then  I proceeded to San Fabian (taking the de Venecia Highway to bypass Dagupan traffic) where we bought a masterpiece of a watermelon from the roadside.  Then in La Union preparatory to the ride up to Baguio, we bought dried fish.  Thus, we were in a better mood to take the two-hour, five-kilometer queue to get into Baguio when we got to its entrance.  In retrospect, I think of the bus riders who had no choice but to bear it all (some standing in overloaded buses just to get to their destination), the airplane travelers whose carriers cancelled on them and left them to their own devices.  I even thought in my silver lining quest that I was not on that Air Asia flight, in the snow paralysis in France, on the Greek ferry that caught fire, etc.  But enough of sliver linings, let us be realistic.

    Obviously, the tollway operators were on default mode and never envisioned the avalanche that would hit them.  And when it did, they were slow to recognize it and take the necessary emergency measures to mitigate the problem.  Everything was left to be what it became, a nightmare ride.

    The Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) was the best prepared though it was not at its best that day.  They have wide and separate toll plazas.  They have the EZ Pass which helps a lot.  But they still had vehicles accumulating into a helpless crawling army because they did not figure out what the traffic would be and did not take the emergency measures of fielding personnel beyond the tollgates to take payment and speed up the passage.

    Entering was a pain, getting out was a 3-kilometer queue of agony.  But worse was to come entering SCTEX.  Four-kilometer queue to get in, 5-kilometer queue to get out.  SCTEX is more than 5 years old, every holiday it fails to give the service for which the users pay.  You breeze through the expressway only to lose all the time you saved and more at the tollgates, designed for carabao carts at best, narrow, few and with incompetence in the air.

    Take that whoever is in charge whether the Metro Pacific group or BCDA.  Sort it out, fight it out, and get real about your service.

    The TPLEX is no better.  To get through their equally ill-designed, ill-planned toll gates is an ordeal which at the next tollgate becomes more of an ordeal after hours of crawling, wasting time, effort and holiday spirit.  They too have to re-think their toll plazas and get competent, efficient personnel who can meet emergencies, mitigate onerous conditions.

    The personnel here acted as though it was an ordinary everyday situation as far as they were concerned and to hell with the road users.

    Since there was too much indifference, incompetence, unintelligence exhibited that day, I am all for a Senate investigation.  Let see them try to pull the wool over our eyes, rationalize their stupidity. We will be ready for them.

    And let us not forget the DPWH that mindlessly and merrily (cutting trees, causing traffic snafus resulting in road rage incidents) for the past few years in widening the Manila North Road (MacArthur Highway) to four lanes but not bothering to widen the two lane bridges along the way resulting in funnels that slowed traffic too.  This is low IQ, no EQ and just plain stupidity.

    Happy New Year!



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    1. I experienced something similar on Jan. 31, 2014 due to a long weekend. It took us ten hours to reach Baguio. There was traffic at the exit of NLEX, at the entrance and exit of SCTEX and at the entrance TPLEX. Well, it just shows the INCOMPETENCE of those in charge of the expressways. I could have improved the traffic situation if I were in charge. A simple thing like adding an extra booth at the SCTEX exit could have helped a lot. Likewise, motorists could have advised to bypass the entrance to SCTEX in Dau, Mabalacat, by exiting at the end of NLEX and turning right towards Concepcion and then left to Capas, straight to Tarlac City and enter TPLEX via Victoria, Tarlac.

    2. vagoneto rieles on

      The traffic nightmares have always been there, simmering, since the early 2000s. It’s just the much vaunted ‘Filipino resilience’ that has kept them from altogether exploding…until now. Even then, the explosion had its own slow genesis. First, there was the famous truck ban which, in and of itself, neither alleviated nor exacerbated the lot of commuter and driver; it just shone the light on the problem while incrementally worsening the congestion at the piers and gradually slowing down businesses dependent on the piers. Then there was the much talked-about agony of the Senate President who got stuck in a monumental jam for eleven hours along NLEX; and, finally, this. Can ‘Filipino resilience’ take any more?
      There are other issues that grate on the nerves of the Filipino, (not to mention the tourist and the visiting foreign businessman), at a time when there has been both money and time to invest. But these might be topics for columnists to dissect in future, ‘unforeseen’ crises. These topics might include the deplorable state of airport terminals, perhaps; the lack or ‘absence’ of functioning restrooms to serve the long-distance ‘bus-cum-ferryboat’ travelers; or, the frequent incidence of inter-island shipping over-loading, as well as the lack of passenger terminals at the piers. Could problems in these areas spill over and grind into our resilience? A better question might be..”shouldn’t the Filipino taxpayer be a little less resilient”?

    3. I am one of many urba-regional planners in the Phil Institute of Environmental Planning. What you just said – limited tollgates, road-widening but unwidened bridges, incompetent/shortage of toll personnel, traffic management, etc. – is the stuff of our work. To make a constructive suggestyion, a review of the NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX plans should be made and recommendations given to the President to allocate money to improve the facilityies. A Senate investigation will help, but if PNoy doesn’e make heads roll, as is his habit (they’re his appointees), it will be a useless exercise. The better thing to do is to make noises in the media and stage demos – people power na lang!

    4. We, southeners suffers also the same traffic problems at the toll booths of SLEX & ACTEX. The management doesn’t bother to add additional temporary toll booths during the holidays. If they dont have temporary/foldable booths, an additional collectors w/ receipts should be dispatch in front of the long queue toll booths to minimize the time of paying & getting the change in front of the permanent booth.

      As a solution, I suggest that our govt. must require all tollways to expand the toll booths areas, both ways, to accommodate more temporary/permanent toll booths in time of holidays. I suggest also to have a unified card that can be used in all tollways and let this card be available anywhere like cellphone cards.

      Happy New Year to all

    5. That is how stupid our toll express operator they don’t care . There concern is only money, money and money to hell with public service. We build expressway for the wealthy but never for the poor people for mass transit system like railway system. Puro expressway puro sa expressway na saksakan ng mahal. PI PI PI.