Ideas on easing the Metro Manila traffic

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Dec 17 2014 09:36 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2014 05:36 AM

It’s good to know there are finally developments – positive ones if I may add – about the country’s much maligned international airport. Now if we can only solve our seemingly never-ending traffic woes.

I would like to first admit that all the megapolises throughout the world have their own traffic problems. For years the Metro Manila Development Authority has sought to solve the problem that is close to grinding businesses into a maddening halt.

There has been the never-ending talk (that has been all talk for over a decade now) about how there should be provincial terminals at Balintawak and Magallanes or wherever. And up to today, it’s all talk. Take a cue from the Port Authority in the US, all out-of-state buses dock there where riders switch to the city buses or what have you.

When the flyovers were built, the government said it would ease the flow of traffic. Apparently, it didn’t.

When the train systems were put up, it was said that it would ease the traffic. It somewhat did for the line that traverses all the way to the University Belt. But along EDSA or even Taft? No, way.

Do you honestly believe a Skyway would help? Where are the exit ramps going to be? This should have been constructed a long time ago. With unchecked selling of motor cars and no schemes to phase out cars old enough to vote, what makes you think this will help? Nothing has so far.

However, as a concerned citizen who is out on the streets every single day of the week whether by car or via public transportation, here are some of my thoughts and ideas or steps if you will that could ease the pain of the daily commute.

1. Fix the peace and order situation

Not a “traffic” problem per se but it has everything to do with the problem. And this is the biggest concern that will take a lot of will power and time to solve.

It has been said that you know a country is truly progressive when the rich take public transportation. And oh, boy. In a country like ours where there is a car culture (that is also a status symbol), this isn’t going to be easy.

I asked a friend once if she ever commuted. Her answer was, “Yes, in Chicago.” It's all right to commute abroad but not in our country. But why put one’s self through all that grief when public transportation in Manila is not safe, very inconvenient, and a terrible experience all together. It sure is a blow to hear people say that they feel safer in Hong Kong, Singapore or even Japan. Imagine that!

It is not safe whether you take a cab, FX, jeep, bus, or rail transit. So if you have a car, why the hell are you going to ride something that’s deemed unsafe?

Whether it is greater police visibility and quicker responses to crises, increased camera zones, or some system to monitor and curb thieves and hold-uppers, there has to be something. Only when it is safe, convenient, and a more pleasant riding experience will more people commute.

Having said that, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board should look into the following:

* standardizing boundaries of taxi drivers as well as other public transportation vehicles
* looking into the welfare of taxi drivers as well as other public transportation drivers
* the quality of drivers on the streets. Take a cue from England where getting a badge for a cab is like going through college – they must earn it, know all the streets and even the history. Making it difficult to get a taxi driver’s badge in the UK weeds out the undeserving. The same should be done here.

Many operators are unscrupulous. They have no care in the world whether traffic is increasingly worse of there are typhoons. All they want is their money. Caught between is the taxi driver who sometimes resorts to crime to make ends meet.

It is inconvenient due to the lack of discipline. Queuing is almost unheard of. Too often you find people who rather than line up would rather flag down a cab away from the designated taxi loading areas. It is inconvenient because the rail systems only run up to certain designated areas. You are packed like sardines insides jeeps, shuttles, and rail trains. As they say, "kulang na lang magkapalitan ng mukha ang mga tao.”

Commuting is unpleasant because you have cab and FX drivers who are unkempt and have no qualms about playing their car radios at insanely loud volumes.

2. Improve public transportation

Almost concurrently to improving the peace and order situation, the government must mandate better public transportation. Public transport that has been around for more than a decade should be phased out.

Rail transits should run on time and frequently. Commuters should not be made to wait long minutes to get in. Furthermore, they should not be packed with hardly any breathing room. If there are building codes where only x number of people should be accommodated the same should apply to public transportation.

When you improve on peace and order and the condition of public transport, then more people will commute. Even theoretically, the rich. At least we hope so here. And not in Chicago.

3. Better traffic management

I constantly wonder how on Earth our government officials are unable to get things right when they have gone abroad to see how it is. The only place where the hop on, hop off is implemented is in BGC. Why not along the stretch of EDSA? As it is, buses really, really clog the main thoroughfares. Even when no one is riding, they are parked without a care in the world. Cubao and Crossing are never ending problems.

If there are re-routing schemes, road repairs, or what have you, vehicles should be warned before they enter that area so they can take alternate routes. It isn’t enough that you mention it on television or social media, with the MMDA resorting to digital signboards, then what is warning commuters ahead of time and before they enter the choke point that they might want to take an alternative route.

4. Phasing out old public transport

Lets face it, we have some of the most disgusting public transportation. It's unsanitary. Many reek of smelly socks and shoes, body odor and cigarettes. Many operators do not care about the condition of their vehicles. All they want is their share of the daily loot. LTFRB are you listening?

It sounds like a massive undertaking. But it really is one. Political will, discipline, and a watchdog system in place will help clean up Metro Manila’s streets in more ways than one.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.