GusLagman.jpgBy Gus Lagman
AAP President

Since time immemorial, the government has always been focused on looking for ways by which it can move more vehicles and at higher speeds. To attain this, it has built more roads, bridges, and skyways where it could, allocating the necessary budget for them, or bidding out some of the projects for the private sector to develop.

However, the problem today, at least in the Metro Manila area, is that we have reached the saturation point for that approach. There’s just no more space to build more roads on. And so, the government started building down – well, a little bit – by constructing tunnels under major intersections (Shaw Blvd., Cubao, Ayala Ave.) and building up, by constructing flyovers over the other major intersections (Tramo, Magallanes, Buendia Ave., Ortigas Ave., Crame, Kamias, Quezon Ave.).

Finally, realizing that it should focus more on “moving people” than on “moving vehicles”, the government built the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and later, with the private sector, the Metro Rail Transit (MRT). But those are definitely not enough, as evidenced by the long queues of commuters at the stations, every working day. The main reason is that this overhead, light rail, mass transit systems, as the word “light” implies, have very limited capacity.

But lo and behold! The government recently announced the long-awaited plan to build a subway system in the metropolis. This heavy rail system is, without a doubt, the best solution to our traffic problems. If they do a good job of it, there will be less reasons for commuters to buy cars, or for car owners to use them. Using the subway system is a much better alternative to driving through heavy traffic around the city.

A quick comment on this plan though: The first subway line should not be the rumored Makati-to-Global City alignment; rather, it should be an alignment parallel to the EDSA route for the simple reason that the latter would have a much bigger impact on today’s commuting public.

The traffic problem in Metro-Manila is a complex one and will therefore require the implementation of a combination of many solutions. Effective as it will be, the subway system will take many years to build. Even as we should start building it now, we should also simultaneously start implementing the other solutions.

  1. Strictly enforce traffic laws. This single move will approximately halve the number of buses plying EDSA (out with the colorums). Choke points will be reduced as buses can only stay at the loading/unloading zone for the time limit (maybe just for the few seconds needed to unload and load passengers), thus there won’t be a need to overtake non-moving buses, which causes one or two lanes to be blocked.
  2. Implement the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT), or some similar variation, that has proven successful in several South American countries. To increase the chances of success, a suggestion from a transportation consultant, is to have motorcycle-riding cops escort and clear the way for each group of buses.
  3. Rationalize our public transport system. In many countries, bus companies are either run by the government or by a monopoly. In our country, there are far too many companies competing against each other. Mergers should be encouraged and exclusive lines or routes, bid out. Poor performance should mean loss of franchise.
  4. Relocate bus terminals of provincial buses outside Metro-Manila. Most of them, if not all, are inside the metropolis. This situation results in the build-up of traffic in the areas where they are located.

These are but a few of the solutions that can be implemented, even while the subway system is being constructed. But what is most important, is to ACT NOW!