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MMDA’s plan on traffic

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By Andrew James Masigan

Metro Manila’s traffic situation  has affected us  all in profound ways. On a personal level, it has eaten away at our quality of life  and deprived us of time with  friends and family.  It has made life a daily grind  of stress,  anxiety and rage, all of which negatively affect our health.   Economically,  traffic causes productivity loss of  some P2.4 billion a day, equivalent to .06% of GDP.

Unfortunately,  there is no quick fix to the traffic crisis. Relief will  only be realized when vital infrastructure projects come online.  These are the high-impact  projects in the pipeline and  their  expected dates of completion:  NAIA Skyway – December, 2016;   SLEX-NLEX Connector Skyway – January, 2019;  MRT3 Capacity Expansion – 2018;    MRT2 Extension from Santolan to Sumulong– 2017;     MRT 1 Extension from Baclaran to Bacoor–September, 2021; MRT 7 from North Edsa to San Jose Bulacan – 2020;   BRT1 from Commonwealth to Manila City Hall –  March, 2018;Southwest Integrated Transport Terminal (central  transport depot servicing Cavite) –  June, 2017;   South Integrated Transport Terminal (central transport depot servicing Laguna &Batangas) – March, 2018.

Until these projects become operational, we have no choice but to make the  most of our limited road network.  At present,  Metro Manila has  5,221 kilometers of  national roads,   3,074 kilometers short of what is required  of a 636 square kilometer city, hosting 12.9 million people.  The situation is  exacerbated by more than 100,000  new vehicles adding to Metro Manila’s  density every year.

Adding further injury is the presence of provincial bus stations along the stretch of EDSA. There are 46 of them in total,  27 located in Cubao and 19 in Pasay.

I had an earnest talk with Thomas Orbos, the newly installed chief  of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to find out their short and medium term plans on traffic. Orbos  struck me as a man on top of the situation and in complete control.  Within his first 100 days,  a  multi-faceted plan has already been put together for which implementation is being  done on stages.

According to the MMDA,  the  no-window policy on the number coding system   imposed on EDSA has accelerated movement by an average of 19 minutes for those travelling EDSA’s entire stretch, from Caloocan to Roxas Boulevard.  Orbos says the  no window policy will also be imposed on C5, Commonwealth and the NAIA area in the coming weeks.   In addition,  delivery vans will only be allowed to utilize national roads from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., a move that is seen to reduce road jamming by 10%. The delivery van restriction went on a trial run from Nov. 1 to Nov 7 but was put on hold for further tweaking.

The assault on colorumb uses and PUVs   has been intensified  with 15 arrests made every day.  Too, malls are now disallowed from   having mall-wide sales  on weekdays.  Certain malls, like the Ayala’s UP Town Center, were made to move their parking ticketing stalls from the  mall entrance (causing street cueing) to inside their property.

The campaign to clear roads and sidewalks from vendors and illegally parked buses and jeeps continues.

Orbos says  that just as important  to MMDA’s initiatives   is  the public’s adherence to traffic regulations.   Metro Manila drivers are one of the most chronic  offenders in the world.  From January to October alone, 19,782 citations were made for disobeying traffic signs;  9,046 citations for illegal parking;  and 5776 citations for illegal loading of passengers by jeeps and buses.

To better manage the traffic situation,  the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) was established under Orbos’ baton, along with that of  Brig.  Gen Manuel Gonzales.   I-ACT is a consortium of the DOTr, the DPWH, the PNP, the Highway Patrol Group, the LTO and the LTFRB.  It is a “supergroup”mandated to quickly and decisively  implement traffic solutions, whilst bypassing bureaucratic  red tape.

If and when emergency powers are granted to this administration,   I-ACT will supersede the authority of the Metro Manila’s  17 cities and municipalities in as far as traffic management is concerned.   This will make  I-ACT the over-arching agency for all matters relating to  traffic.  Indeed, there is a need to unify the traffic regulations across  Metro Manila’s  17 administrative regions.

While we wait for relief,  however, the MMDA must make  the traffic situation more bearable for the citizenry.  Foremost,  I strongly recommended that  the building code on billboards be strictly imposed. Billboards are visual trash  that compound road stress.   I also recommend a ban on excessive blowing of horns, especially from buses who do so to signal their arrival at bus stops. Greening of our highways with trees and vertical gardens must continue as well.

While traffic remains the burden of every  resident of the Metro,  the one consolation we have is that there are  solutions in the works.

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Andrew is an economist, political analyst, and businessman. He is a 20-year veteran in the hospitality and tourism industry. For comments and reactions, e-mail andrew_rs6@yahoo.com. More of his business updates are available via his Facebook page (Andrew J. Masigan). Follow Andrew on Twitter @aj_masigan.

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