POSTSCRIPT / June 25, 2013 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Flooding hopeless; traffic manageable

HELPLESS: Let us admit it: In the remaining three years of President Noynoy Aquino, there is not much he can do to prevent flash floods submerging low-lying sections of Metro Manila. In this regard, we seem to be helpless!

The Aquino administration has neither the acumen nor the will – not to mention the time and resources — to plan, move and make up for the past three years of neglect and dilly-dallying on the flooding problem.

Go over the disjointed flood-mitigation measures that Malacañang and the Metro Manila Development Authority announced after rainwaters swamped the metropolis and tied up traffic the other Monday – and you will note that none of them can provide short-term relief.

The major measures include: the cleaning of the clogged drains, plucking out of muck and garbage from esteros, upgrading of the pumping stations, threatening squatters with removal from waterways, and shopping for better weather-forecasting equipment.

We have already tried some of these measures some of the time. Will this sudden spurt of new activity after three years of watching the flood rise and recede by itself work now?

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TORTURE TEST: But if we are doomed to live with recurring floods, maybe we can do something about the traffic gridlock that comes with or without a downpour.

A total daytime truck ban to ease traffic has come out of a brainstorm of MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, local mayors and their bright boys.

In our desperation, we are ready to try anything, just to find deliverance from horrendous traffic that wastes our time and fuel, spoil our social and professional life, and ruin our bladder and general health.

The time it takes to drive from Quezon City to Makati used to be just one Rosary. Now it takes all the four (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Light) mysteries. After squeezing through EDSA during rush hours, my dashboard computer says my average speed is just 23 kph.

At the end of the day, when I finally return home, I thank all the saints if my car emerges with no new scratch or dent after the bruising torture test.

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TRUCK BAN: But if the proposed daytime truck ban mentioned by Tolentino still fails, as I think it will, do not blame him. This was a brainchild of the Metro Manila Council headed by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.

Huge trucks hobnob with smaller passenger vehicles, because the behemoths have to deliver their cargo from the Port of Manila through narrow streets and sometimes travel to the north or south of the national capital.

There is the added presence of cargo trucks from the expressways in the north and the south crossing the metropolis (usually through EDSA) to their final delivery destinations.

The trucks and vans do not only worsen the perpetually bad traffic. They also contribute to the fast destruction of city roads, resulting in frequent repair and reblocking. Repairs add to the traffic problem and the cost of road maintenance.

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MANHATTAN IDEA: It might be too much to expect Tolentino – or even the Aquino cabinet — to present a master traffic management plan for the nation’s capital. We just have to make do with sporadic bursts of bright ideas from their occasional brainstorming under pressure.

One idea being floated is the “Manhattan truck route” which must have been picked up by an official on a visit to New York. The MMDA chief sounded amenable to the idea that calls, he said, for a daytime ban on trucks coming from the Port Area.

Tolentino said the ban was effective in easing traffic during the recent Board of Governors meeting of the Asian Development Bank at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Then why was the scheme dropped as soon as the ADB meeting adjourned? Trucks and trailers are now back with a vengeance on Roxas Blvd. (Who pockets the tongfor allowing the use of this route that had always been off-limits to big and heavy vehicles?)

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LIFEBLOOD: A serious truck ban in the metropolis, particularly on EDSA, may be modified to accommodate the interests of commerce. That we understand.

Not only people, but also goods must be moved within and beyond Metro Manila to keep the commercial lifeblood of the region circulating. Until alternative ports elsewhere can be opened full-blown, we have to live with the reality of the port of Manila being where it is.

This is where the “Manhattan” traffic scheduling idea comes in. Let us try it.

As for the other trucks, vans and trailers carrying heavy goods through the metropolis in the absence of an efficient link between the North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway, there must be adjustments.

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SPREAD LOAD: Planners should consider banning from the metropolis all super long and heavy trailers and trucks, even at night.

These vehicles not only clog traffic as they straddle two lanes because of their size but also pose a threat to commuters. Besides, they contribute heavily to the destruction of roads, which is one of the reasons for the frequent reblocking on EDSA.

Single hauling using one big vehicle is more economical to the trucker, but injurious and costly to taxpayers and other road users. There are many kinds of cargo that can be moved using two trucks instead of one big truck. Why not distribute the load?

A super heavy loaded truck exerts a bigger and more destructive vertical pressure on the road than if the cargo were spread out on two smaller vehicles.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 25, 2013)

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