I was mired in traffic along Shaw Boulevard last Wednesday (Dec. 16) and it took me two-and-a-half hours to go from Jose Rizal University to Puregold, or less than two kilometers. I got off at the Archbishop Street and walked all the way to Lee Street. At first, I wasn’t minding it and charging the humongous traffic to the Christmas rush. So I just played Words Crush on my IPhone. And then, it became uneasy and tiresome to sit on my butt for more than one hour. I noticed, though, that some passengers in the jeepney I was riding were talking to each other, seemingly getting to know each other amid the uncertainty of ever reaching their destination. Some were already snoring, tired perhaps from their day’s work and dreaming of a peaceful slumber in their own bed. Some were bent over their gadgets, entertaining themselves.
Then, I decided to investigate. I hopped off and on the jeepney, walked about the vicinity and talked to people. And here are what I observed and gathered:
1. Traffic is man-made: Motorists wanting to get ahead of others, thereby, causing gridlock. Lack of respect for one another. Lack of discipline. Lack of regard for the law (keep intersections open). Pure and simple selfishness and egotism.
2. Traffic is man-made: There are many big vehicles (SUVs, pick-ups, vans) with only one or two (one is a driver) passengers, while jeepneys are full-packed or even overloaded, with some hanging on to the back door.
3. Traffic is man-made: Pedestrians walk on the street lanes intended for passing vehicles given the many obstructions on the sidewalks. Permanent structures/extensions of buildings. Sidewalk vendors. Utility posts. Tire-fixing and car washing enterprises. Business signages. People just standing by and hanging around.
4. Traffic is man-made. Some streets have been widened, only to be used as parking
spaces, or terminals for jeepneys and buses or extension space for stores, carinderias, gardens, kennels and many others.
5. Traffic is man-made. Malls along busy thoroughfares. No zoning. Greed. Perhaps, graft and corruption?
6. Traffic is man-made. There are simply too many vehicles, especially private vehicles, on the roads. Add to that the thousands of Uber and Grab cars plying the streets 24/7.
7. Traffic is government-made. There was only one traffic enforcer at that time and, most of the time, he was just there standing, frustrated. Where are the others—afraid of the rain? Aren’t tax money paying a big number of people—MMDA, local government traffic and parking enforcement groups, baranggay traffic enforcers, etc.—to put peace and order back on the streets?
8. Traffic is government-and-man-made. What are those tricycles doing on the busy main roads? Passenger tricycles. Delivery tricycles. Padyak or motorized. They are clueless about traffic rules and courtesy, and just go about their driving mindlessly. Don’t we require some kind of license or permit for these tricycle drivers? Some, they say, are even high on drugs or are intoxicated.
9. Traffic is government-made. We have all kinds of laws, rules and regulations, but we do not implement or they are implemented to harass motorists (kotong!!!)?
10. Traffic is government-made. Why build more roads, why cater to car-loving people?
11. Maybe there are more reasons for this worsening traffic situation. Add them here.
Now, let’s be part of the solution, instead of the problem.
1. Let’s take public transport whenever we can. I am reading a lot of good reviews for the Express/Premium buses now plying EDSA.
2. Shop online. Patronize shops/stores in your community. Buy local. Contribute to your local economy.
3. Let’s know and follow traffic rules and regulations.
4. Let’s practice road courtesy.
5. Let those traffic enforcers earn their keep; make them work!
6. Phase out jeepneys—they have outlived their usefulness. Now they belong only to the museum. To that end, encourage and help jeepney drivers and their families engage in other livelihood or enterprising activities.
7. Improve our mass transit system, have more trains and public buses. Stop building more roads that benefit mostly private vehicle owners. The present road system should be able to take in transport requirements of business and commercial vehicles.
There is practically no traffic in Prague, Athens, Turin, Frankfurt where I visited recently, because they have efficient and effective mass transit systems—trains, buses, trams. Taxis are a luxury there. They have trains that go directly to their airports. There is also a well-managed zoning of areas for residences, business, commerce, government offices, etc.
8. Taxis and Uber and Grab cars should not be allowed to roam the streets looking for passengers. They should only be on the road to pick up pre-contracted passengers. That’s the idea for the franchise—they are only on call, not polluting and crowding the streets, adding to the mayhem.
They say that traffic is a sign of progress, that people are having more money and are buying more cars. I say, traffic is bad for business. Take Davao—there is an ordinance or something mandating very low speed limits, especially on inner city roads. Hellish! It takes long hours to travel between home and the place of work, and vice versa. And, according to some people I talked to in Davao, the rate of road accidents has not really gone down because there are still no pedestrian lanes or proper sidewalks. The only thing that is instilled is fear.
So, if you have nothing to do, stay home or take public transport. Help yourself and help our country. It is useless to rant and blame government—they are a formidable wall.
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