"Is it any wonder that we have such a huge traffic problem?"
What does one do about a problem like EDSA? It seems that nothing works at all.
In a recent interview, MMDA Traffic Chief Bong Nebrija expressed his frustration about the traffic congestion on the main thoroughfare. His frustration is perfectly understandable—but he cannot afford to be showing that in public because MMDA’s mandate is to manage traffic in the Metro area and the agency must continue to try to find solutions regardless of setbacks. MMDA’s traffic and transport planners must realize that even the best of plans do not end up being implemented.
In many cases, the plan that will be adopted is the one that can be allowed under certain circumstances because of politics and other reasons that will prevent the best-laid plans from being implemented.
The MMDA effort to decongest EDSA by transferring all provincial bus stations out of the road continues to meet with a lot opposition, the latest being a TRO from a Regional Trial Court in Quezon City. The transfer of the bus station out of EDSA is a correct move. It is not only the estimated 3,500 buses that will be taken off the road—it will also eliminate at least 160,000 trips going to and coming from EDSA which is substantial. The MMDA solution of requiring provincial buses to dislodge passengers only in Valenzuela and Santa Rosa, Laguna, however, is not the best solution. Although it will solve a problem, it will also create another problem—in this case, a much bigger problem than the one it is trying to solve. To transfer passengers from a land transport mode to another land transport will require the same number of vehicles to move the people, which will simply add more vehicles to the metro road network. Surely, the MMDA planners must realize this. In addition, it will add two or more trips for provincial bus passengers which will cause a lot of inconvenience to them.
We do not know whether MMDA has a Plan B or whether the agency is insisting on this move because of what President Duterte said about the five-minute travel time between Makati and Quezon City. This cannot be achieved now or in the foreseeable future and traffic and transport agencies should refrain from trying to make this happen simply because the President said it.
This plan of MMDA is not new. Some people came out with this plan more than 20 years ago but was never implemented because a passenger transfer using the same mode of transport is not going to solve the problem. If it were a sound plan, the so-called integrated terminal in Parañaque should already be very busy and being used by bus companies even without MMDA doing anything. The fact that it has remained idle shows the weakness of the plan.
What can MMDA do in the meantime to decongest EDSA? Unfortunately, not very much. The agency can wait until the Skyway connecting NLEX and SLEX is completed sometime next year and then transfer the bus stations along EDSA out to other parts of the metropolitan area. By then it will be easier for the provincial bus companies to comply because there will be more exit and entry points to the metro area.
MMDA planners must be sensitive to the problems experienced by the public every time the agency wants to implement a traffic plan. The Skyway will also be able to provide relief to EDSA because motorists can now have a choice on whether to use EDSA or the Skyway.
There are also other actions that the MMDA can take to make driving along EDSA more bearable. One is to try to rationalize the operation of the city buses along EDSA. Right now, city buses along EDSA are operated as jeepneys and this is worsening the congestion. And because of the size of the buses, the effect on travel time is enormous. The MMDA, for instance, could assign specific bus stops so that buses cannot load and discharge passengers anywhere. Requiring bus companies to schedule trips rather than allowing non-stop operation the whole day will allow units to be taken off the roads at certain times of day which will decrease the number of buses using the road. Another is controlling the use of EDSA by jeepneys. Still another is selling road space to single occupancy private vehicles like Singapore. This will require more CCTVs on the roads entering EDSA but this should be all right because more CCTVs are needed for enforcement anyway.
Metro Manila unfortunately is characterized by a motoring public with very little or no driving discipline at all and a road system that that is not sufficient to accommodate the ever-increasing number of vehicles. Everybody complains but no one wants to be the first to give way. A good 20 percent of the traffic problems in Metro Manila could easily be mitigated if only the motoring public is a bit more patient and try to observe traffic rules even in the absence of traffic enforcers. We have to realize that the government cannot put a traffic enforcer in every road intersection. As I have written before, the Metro area is the only urban center in the world that fences its roads to force motorists to observe traffic rules. It is also the only one that allows its roads and sidewalks to be used for dwellings, businesses and recreation.
With that kind of situation, is it any wonder that we have such a huge traffic problem? Provincial buses are not only the culprits when it comes to the EDSA congestion.