POSTSCRIPT / February 20, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Traffic doctors better agree on common cure

CONGESTION: The road network of the metropolis can be likened to the plumbing of a building and the circulatory system of the body.

At some point and for various reasons, the flow of vehicles, of water and of blood could be impeded, causing traffic or flow problems of varying degrees and consequences.

Sometimes the obstruction could be fatal. Chronic traffic congestion could lead to the slow death of a city in the same way that clogged plumbing could stop water service altogether or atherosclerosis could cause a stroke or a heart attack.

To some extent, the analogous situations can give traffic managers, plumbers and heart doctors a hint of what emergency and long-term measures can ease or solve flow problems.

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FOUR E’S: The arteries, veins and capillaries of the body run to something like 100,00 kilometers of blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues.

Similarly, the 3,450-km metropolitan road system carries workers and goods vital to the life and commerce of the nation’s capital and areas beyond. This is one of the reasons why the daytime truck ban in Manila, for instance, needs to be reviewed and revised.

A ban is a copout. It gives the impression that the traffic manager has given up on other possible remedies.

Faulty road design, improper use of space and lack of discipline contribute to the clogging of streets, reducing the usable space left for normal traffic. Actually, road obstructions can be cleared using the four E’s of Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Electronic aids.

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BYPASS PRESCRIBED: Metro Manila traffic managers have resorted to what heart specialists might call a P26-billion bypass — the Skyway-3 project to link the South Luzon Expressway to the North Luzon Expressway with a 14.8-km elevated road flying over the metropolis.

It offers a long-term relief by cutting travel time from two hours to just 20 minutes from Buendía to Balintawak. But in the meantime everybody must bear with the inconvenience and cooperate, not add to the expected congestion in the construction area.

With work on it already begun by Citra Central Expressway Corp., two southbound lanes on Osmeña Highway connecting to the SLEx were closed Monday night for the erection of columns for the elevated road.

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DAYTIME BAN: From nowhere, City Hall banned effective Feb. 24 all eight-wheel trucks and vehicles with gross weight above 4,500 kilograms from Manila roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. That is 16 hours, or seven hours longer than the previous ban.

Trucks may operate only from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and only on designated routes. On Sundays and holidays, they can take these routes any time. If it is any consolation, trucks carrying perishable goods and oil products — as well as vehicles used for government projects — are exempted.

Vehicles delivering construction materials outside the truck routes must get permission from the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau. Violators pay a P5,000 fine or their vehicles will be impounded.

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COORDINATION: Too many specialists separately sticking their fingers into the congested heart of the patient might just kill him.

There must be consultation and coordination before officials decide to tinker with traffic flow in the national capital teeming with 15 million residents and 20 percent of its households owning some kind of motor or motorized vehicle.

A local government insisting on its own traffic scheme that severely restricts private companies’ ability to move manpower and merchandise is bad for business, bad for government and bad for the people – even if some motorists and commuters happen to like it.

A middle ground should be explored and the truck ban under City Ordinance 7570 revised. If smoother traffic is the main objective, there are many other ways of making vehicles move more efficiently, but which have not been adequately tried.

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TRUCK BAN: No wonder the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Metro Manila Council, which is composed of all Metro Manila mayors, are looking for ways to convince Manila to do away with or ease its daytime truck ban.

Among the others complaining are truckers, including those ferrying goods to and from the Port Area. They are afraid that raw materials may not be delivered on time or that exporters might miss deadlines and may even lose their contracts.

The MMDA and the MMC aired misgivings in the light of road projects lined up this year aside from Skyway-3: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport elevated expressway, the Sta. Monica-Lawton Bridge in Manila, the Makati Avenue underpass, and the Pasay-Taft flyover.

Since President Noynoy Aquino must leave some kind of legacy, they want the “concrete achievements” completed before his term ends in 2016.

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TRY THESE: In addition to easing the crippling truck ban, officials may want to consider other partial remedies that, taken together, can contribute to easing traffic flow:

• Businesses should consider staggered working hours so their personnel do not commute at common busy hours.

• Employees whose work is computer-based and output-measured can be allowed to work at home to save on office space, electricity and commuting time.

• More schools should adopt distance-education using the Internet. Carpooling with safeguards should be adopted for school children coming from a common area.

• Reviving the Pasig river ferry should be considered, with trips made more predictable and rates reasonable. Government should consider subsidizing it.

• Selected thoroughfares should be made strictly no-parking-tow-away zones during rush hours.

• The right engineering and maintenance of roads, including side streets, should be pressed.

• Sidewalks should be cleared and upgraded so pedestrians do not spill onto the streets. Doing business on busy sidewalks should be prohibited.

• Colorum buses and utility vehicles found not roadworthy or in repeated violation should be grounded.

• Upgrading of capacity and efficiency of the light rail system must be rushed and integrated into a mass transport system.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 20, 2014)

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