TRANSPORT CRISIS OR TRAFFIC CRISIS?

Route rationalization and the formulation of a point-to-point intermodal transport system is the key to maximizing road use for the greater benefit of commuters over private motorists. If there is a modern and convenient transport system in place, there would be no reason for private motorists not to consider this option as opposed to their using their motor vehicles on a daily basis. 

The never-ending debate about the traffic congestion came to a hilt again last week when Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo belied claims of the opposition that the government should act decisively to alleviate the collective plight of Metro Manila commuters whose quality of life has deteriorated due to the amount of time it takes to get from their residences to their schools or places of work. 

The situation was aggravated again with the partial shutdown of LRT-2 due to an explosion attributed to the power regulator for part of the line malfunctioning. It brought up the issue again if the line is being properly maintained or not. It came just at the time that the line extension from Santolan to Masinag is about to be completed and start serving the residents of Marikina, Antipolo and Cainta. Commuters had to wake up as early as 3:00 a.m. to ensure that they would make it to work or class on time. 

It didn't help that the Senator who is most associated with the same issue came out with a statement about the operation of business class coaches on MRT-3. Grace Poe struck again much to the consternation of harried commuters who vented their ire against her on social media. The statement smacked of an elitist mindset contrary to the image of the Senator as pro-poor just like her father had been. Poe has opposed much of the proposals of the Department of Transportation such as the request for emergency powers and transport modernization. A very public verbal tiff ensued between the Senator and Secretary Arthur Tugade over the two issues. 

As it was in the past when the debate got heated, the focus was lost on what should the solution be. The approach should be systematic and wholistic but this was again not on the minds of government officials in the transport sector. You wonder why the government doesn't hire consultants who actually have the experience in planning mass transport systems in other ASEAN countries. Instead, the government continues to rely on political appointees who don't even have the requisite qualifications let alone the experience in solving the problem. 

The first step should actually be the formation of a Greater Metropolitan Manila Transport Authority. This agency will not only have jurisdiction over the cities and municipalities which compose Metro Manila but also the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal where most of Metro Manila's labor force reside. Architect Felino Palafox Jr. has been repeatedly emphasizing this point to no avail. The root of the problem is the stop in the implementation of the master transport plan for Metro Manila which was completed in 1976. The 1986 coup which ousted President Marcos had the government bureaucracy being replaced en masse and with this went the technocrats in the various government departments and agencies who specialized in transport management. 

The crux of the problem is traffic management as anarchy and chaos reign in the roads of Metro Manila. Motorists do battle with public utility vehicles every single day. The situation is aggravated by road works which take forever to complete. Road users are at the mercy of DPWH and LGUs contractors which don't have any sense of urgency to finish road improvement or flood-control projects. Then there is the never-ending service improvements of the water utilities which dig up newly-cemented roads to lay pipes and construct sewerage systems. 

Route rationalization and the formulation of a point-to-point intermodal transport system is the key to maximizing road use for the greater benefit of commuters over private motorists. If there is a modern and convenient transport system in place, there would be no reason for private motorists not to consider this option as opposed to their using their motor vehicles on a daily basis. 

The debate continues but for so long as it doesn't include a viable solution which addresses the problem it is pointless. With an average commute and drive time of three hours one-way or six hours back and forth, the average Metro Manila resident wastes the equivalent of sixty days per annum stuck in traffic. It is no wonder then why the country is again lagging in foreign direct investments as compared to our more progressive ASEAN neighbors. 

The time to act was back in 1986.

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About the Author
RG is a seasoned international trade and sales and marketing professional who also dabbles in writing. He was a contributor to Business World in the mid-90s and is also a tech geek.
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