MAKING MOTORING FUN: Some good news on road safety and the transport sector

GusLagman.jpgBy Gus Lagman
AAP President

Despite our skepticism, there is, in fact, some good news about road safety and the transport sector that is worth talking about.

First, there are the new laws that came into effect in the not-too-distant past: the “Seat Belts Use Act of 1999 (R.A. 8750), the “Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009” (R.A. 10054), the “Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013” (R.A. 10586), the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (R.A. 10913). Still in the works is the child restraint law. The fines specified in the laws and/or Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) are heavy enough to discourage violations of these laws.

And then, quite noticeable are the seemingly serious efforts to construct sidewalks and footpaths -- definitely a welcome development for pedestrians. I had written before how hazardous it is to walk on the roadway, especially along major highways where vehicles run at higher speeds. My favorite example is the Aguinaldo Highway in Cavite, along which I pass almost every week. Well, the last time I traveled along that road, I saw footpaths under construction. Hurray!

Together with pedestrian overpasses and pedestrian shelters (those middle islands where pedestrians cross to and take “shelter” before continuing on to the other side of the road), these footpaths should help in reducing road crashes involving pedestrians.

But the best news yet is that the mention of plans to construct a subway system in Metro-Manila has become more frequent. It seems that our dream just might finally come true.  

Rail is still the most efficient way of travelling on land. For one, it has priority when it meets with other road vehicles at “points of conflict” (intersections with vehicular traffic). Put rail underground and travel becomes even more efficient. No intersections to avoid. Less right of way problems, if at all. The environment on-ground is not destroyed, like overhead rail does. And since it’s on heavy rail, it can pull more coaches - a lot more than overhead light rail. Using modern tunnel boring machines (TBMs), it can go many levels underground.

I read an article recently where a lady who has just moved to the United Kingdom said that she’s selling her car because she won’t need one in London anyway. There is in that city the very reliable “tube” (as they call their subway system). The same efficient transport system is commonplace in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other heavily populated metropolises. 

We had rail in the city before World War II. It was referred to as the “tramvia”. Meralco (Manila Electric Rail and Light Company) was its operator. Johnny Angeles, AAP Vice-President, who was about 10 years old in the mid-30s, explained to me that it was very efficient. He further said that the “one-way” fare then was three centavos (P0.03). The “round-trip” fare, on the other hand, was five centavos (P0.05), but one must use the return ride on the same day. The route he used to frequent started from the church in Pasig, crossed the river, passed Tejeron, Herran, Taft Avenue, then went all the way to the Post Office in Manila.

The second world war destroyed Manila’s in-city rail system, but that war ended seventy-two years ago. Isn’t it about time we revived it?

Today, there’s a pretty good chance of this plan materializing because it falls within the administration’s battle cry of Build! Build! Build! And because it has the longest project duration, we hope that it gets started soon.

Again, despite our skepticism, I would wager that by 2025, we would have a modern, efficient, and comfortable transport system. At least in Metro-Manila.