I was stuck in traffic the other day, and another day, and another day. It’s the norm now, although unacceptable. It won’t do. And it needn’t do, if there’s one simple thing: ACTION, instead of talk. What is needed is control—control that would cost nothing except firm political will to enforce sensible traffic rules.
We’re stuck with the inadequate roads that are there, and the older ones that are acceptable. What aren’t, and what I’m very angry about, are the new cities (past 20 years is new) that were blank pieces of ground where anything could have been done—but wasn’t. Roads are narrow and there are intersections. Roads should be eight, even 10, lanes wide with over- or underpasses on all major intersections, or roundabouts in some cases. Traffic lights should be at a minimum, as unnecessary; malls and popular areas should have LARGE off-road areas for loading and unloading so normal traffic is not affected in any way.
The so-called “city planners” and government officials should suffer Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s solution. Greed has dominated decisions. Sadly, what’s done is done. But over- and underpasses can still be built at some critical intersections—if the political will is there. I wish to devote this column to some simple, quick solutions that can help right now.
The first is to hire hundreds of traffic aides, and TRAIN them in the art of keeping traffic flowing, with the power to enforce their directives. Given the ill-discipline and ignorance (how many drivers have actually passed a license exam?) of too many drivers, external control is essential until disciplined driving is second nature. Station 100, 200—whatever is needed—traffic aides and cops all along Edsa to ensure that buses stay ONLY in the curbside lane and stop at designated bus stops. Take away the license of any bus driver outside the curbside lane, and ensure that intersections don’t get blocked so cross traffic can flow and drivers don’t cross lanes and push in for selfish advantage. All it needs is disciplined driving. It can be done. At peak hours, turn off the traffic lights, have INTELLIGENT (I have to stress that) cops maximizing intersection flow.
So, top of the list: Keep intersections open. If you can’t get through to the other side, you can’t enter the box. The delays that a blocked intersection causes are horrific. Corollary to this is, let left-turning traffic through if your side is moving slowly so the other side can maintain a smooth flow. A block on the road doesn’t just affect those nearby, it also has a strong cumulative affect that builds up. The other day we wanted to cross over SLEx from the airport to Bonifacio Global City—a couple of hundred meters, and it took 45 minutes. The problem was, cars entering into SLEx blocked the crossover; they couldn’t clear the crossing but entered anyway. Beyond that the road was clear, and we were in BGC in 10 minutes. A perfect example of mindless selfishness, a perfect example of the need for a cop, or two. Or 10.
Parking outside malls and schools should not be allowed, not even to drop off or pick up. That minute or so is enough to create substantial delays. The Virgin Mary Immaculate School in Alabang has cars two, sometimes three, lanes deep (leaving but one) as parents and drivers wait for the kids to emerge. Parking must be off-road; walking is good for kids (adults, too) anyway.
In Australia, when there’s an accident the vehicles must be immediately moved out of the traffic if possible. A picture is taken to provide needed detail. The other day a bus (of course) and an SUV had a minor bump coming down the ramp from the Skyway onto SLEx. The traffic buildup was over a kilometer because the vehicles stayed there while the drivers argued with the cops. Both vehicles were perfectly drivable.
On that SLEx exit ramp that leads to Edsa, one thing I’d do is put up a large live screen sufficiently ahead of the exit showing the traffic flow, or lack of it, on Edsa so you can choose to exit there or proceed further down. You don’t have to add to the chaos. And that happens wherever a choice can’t be made before entering a blind intersection.
A reason for the chaos there, incidentally, is the lower gate to Dasma. Cars from the boulevard cross from the far left lane to get to it, stopping traffic flow. The solution is simple: Close that gate at peak hours. The few cars taking kids to school or whatever can drive an extra 200 meters to the main gate so thousands of other motorists aren’t disadvantaged.
And now that we’re on Edsa, everyone agrees: TAKE HALF THE BUSES OFF IT. A study by the University of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has confirmed it. Why on earth hasn’t it been done? The buses are half or less full, so half of them gone will disadvantage no commuter. I challenge our transport officials to take half the buses off Edsa before Holy Week.
Who are we trying to look after, the public in millions or the bus owners in tens? And don’t give me nonsense about franchises and things, I’m sure it can be done. Half of the buses were probably fraudulently acquired anyway. And police them to stay only in the curbside at all times, absolutely no overtaking. And for the buses left, pay drivers a fixed salary so there’s no temptation to rush for the next passenger. Bus service is a public service, not a profit-maximizing venture.
As to trucks, get Subic and Batangas operating as planned, as alternate international ports.
A successful city is where you take public transport by choice, where the system is so good you don’t need, or even want, to use your car. We are far, far from that. So cars have to remain part of our city life, but let’s get them moving.
It’s time we demanded one simple thing from government: ACTION. Just do it. Now.
MMDA: Traffic woes require lifestyle change for Metro folk
By Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer
11:45 pm | Friday, January 24th, 2014
MANILA, Philippines – With the construction of Skyway Stage 3 and several other major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila getting under way, a lifestyle change may be in order for the millions of motorists and commuters who will be enduring heavy traffic due to the roadworks in the next two years.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino on Friday asked the riding public to adopt what he called the “Roadways Construction Lifestyle Adjustment.”
Tolentino said Metro Manila residents should consider limiting their trips to within their respective localities to minimize vehicular and pedestrian volume on the roads.
“If you’re a Pasay City resident, don’t go to Quezon City just to watch movies. We should plan our trips ahead so as not to contribute to traffic congestion and also for our own convenience,” Tolentino said in a statement.
Tolentino also suggested that private companies, especially those along the route of construction projects, implement “flexitime” working hours for their employees.
“This is a construction of massive proportions that would last 32 months,” he said, referring to Skyway Stage 3 project whose groundbreaking rites were held Wednesday. “Building this alternative highway is expected to create traffic problems so everyone should make adjustments.”
Appealing for “patience and understanding,” Tolentino stressed that the MMDA would lead a traffic summit on the first week of February to draft a comprehensive traffic management plan for the entire metropolis.
MANILA, Philippines—Are you ready for some truly monstrous traffic jams and “bear with the short-term inconvenience,” as Malacañang pleaded Sunday?
Construction of two major government infrastructure projects starts Monday night, and it is expected to worsen metropolitan traffic throughout the remainder of the Aquino administration.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier projected that on Edsa alone, vehicular traffic could slow down to only 1 to 9 kilometers per hour.
Roadwork on the six-lane expressway being built by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) connecting South Luzon Expressway from Buendia in Makati to North Luzon Expressway on Balintawak in Quezon City will start at 10 p.m.
That’s on top of the project connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to the seaside Entertainment City.
Malacañang spokesman Herminio Coloma on Sunday sought understanding from the public, citing in particular the traffic congestion that would be caused by the construction of the 14.8-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project.
“We call on our people to share in the burden of sacrifice and bear with the short-term inconvenience so we can build better roads that will ensure faster travel and more productive living in our highly congested National Capital Region,” Coloma said on Radyo ng Bayan.
“For the benefit of the people and to avoid adding to the traffic problem on Edsa,” the main rites marking the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution would be held at the Palace grounds—not on the historic thoroughfare—on Feb. 25, he said.
But has the government, particularly the MMDA, sufficiently prepared for the heavy traffic?
Quoting MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, Coloma cited the two-day Metro Traffic Management Summit at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati that closed on Friday—just three days before all hell is expected to break loose.
The summit involved “all stakeholders” and was “well-covered by trimedia,” Tolentino said in a text message forwarded by Coloma.
As of Sunday afternoon, the website that the MMDA put up to update the public on the status of all 15 infrastructure projects to be implemented this year went kaput.
Launched during the traffic summit, the website (www.mmroadway.com) was supposed to provide traffic situation in areas to be affected by the projects.
In the agency’s official website (www.mmda.gov.ph), there’s a Jan. 23 press release wherein Tolentino asked the public “to make adjustments in their work and travel schedules and personal lifestyles to cope with the expected traffic congestion in Metro Manila to be brought about by the impending construction of Skyway Stage 3 project.”
“What we need is extra huge-amount of patience and understanding and cooperation but once Skyway 3 is completed, it will result in faster and more convenient travel within the metropolis,” he said.
Also contained in the website was its latest “traffic advisory” dated Oct. 24 last year. It was about the “road reblocking and repair” to be done by the DPWH from Oct. 26 to 29, 2013.
Another traffic advisory, dated Oct. 7, 2013, was about the closing of three U-turn slots in Quezon City.
The MMDA supposedly has a separate “traffic navigator” showing real-time traffic situation in 10 major thoroughfares.
Last week, the MMDA went on a last-minute brainstorming.
It raised the possibility of a four-day school week to help minimize traffic congestion, especially since the Skyway project would affect 23 schools. This was roundly nixed by private schools. Another suggestion was to hold classes on campuses outside of Metro Manila.
On the MMDA website, Tolentino asked private companies to adopt a flexible work schedule—“flexitime”—“for their employees, especially those located along the route of the construction projects.”
And yet another bright idea popped up: Resume operation of the Pasig ferry boat.
All of these measures were announced a few days before the expected massive gridlock, indicating that the MMDA was totally unprepared to deal with the problem that, according to a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, was causing losses amounting to P2.4 billion a day in potential income.
Tolentino said nothing about getting “colorum buses” off the roads, enforcing strictly traffic rules, especially on yellow blocks in key intersections, loading and unloading zones, conducting an honest-to-goodness examination of car license applicants and preventing morons on the loose in the streets, and expanding the capacity of the woefully crammed mass transit systems.
“It’s a no brainer that we need to boost infrastructure,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan in July 2013. “We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure.”
In what officials themselves describes as the “last two minutes” of the Aquino administration, the government intends to build more roads, bridges, railways, airports and seaports.
That the DOTC and the DPWH announced that work would be done “24/7” nevertheless elated Tolentino.
He also talked about participants in the summit last week—representatives of the DPWH and the DOTC, local government units, and stakeholders from the academe, transport and business sectors—agreeing to map out “a unified traffic management plan” for Metro Manila, in preparation for the 15 projects some of which could take up to 2018 to complete.
Also discussed were other traffic alleviation measures such as the revival of the Pasig ferry service and additional bike lanes; Tolentino’s proposed four-day work and schools weeks, the lifting of window hours for the number-coding scheme, and “car-less” days at least once a week on Edsa.
When the unified traffic management plan will be unveiled to the public remained unclear on the eve of the expected start of gridlock.
We are glad to read in Sunday’s Inquirer that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will revive the Pasig River ferry as suggested in a recent column. As it will supply a new fleet of boats, the MMDA should make sure that the cabins are closed and air-conditioned so that passengers will not smell the stink of the river. It was this stink that, in the past, discouraged commuters from taking the ferry. So the new boats should be shallow draft so that they will not touch the bottom of the now shallow Pasig River. I rode many times in such a type of ferryboats at the Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Maybe MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino can send somebody, or go there himself, to take a look.
Another factor that discouraged commuters from taking the ferry was the long wait at the river terminals, so there should be enough boats for more frequent trips. While the boat trip itself was short, the long wait at the terminals made the passengers lose precious time.
The ferry won’t make much money at first—maybe even lose some—but the number of passengers will increase as commuters discover the fast, comfortable, cool trip up and down the Pasig River a much better alternative to riding in crowded buses and jeepneys crawling through traffic jams on land. For added comfort, the ferry can sell soft drinks and snacks on board.
On weekends, the ferry may extend its service to the lakeshore towns around Laguna Lake for holiday trippers. Better access to them will hasten the development of the lakeshore towns which are isolated most of the time in spite of their closeness to Metro Manila. Restaurants serving fish caught in the lake and other Rizal-Laguna delicacies will sprout. Soon souvenir shops selling, for instance, woodcarvings from Paete and lanzones during the lanzones season will follow. Los Baños has its famous buko pie and fresh carabao milk.
We used to drive around the lakeshore towns of Rizal to visit the old churches and eat kanduli, hito, plapla, and “usa” and “baboy damo”—although I know that hardly any deer or wild pigs can now be caught in the surrounding hills. What they are serving now are probably beef and pork from native black pigs. But no matter, the trips will still be enjoyable because of the beautiful, rustic countryside.
That’s another thing: Metro Manilans, trapped in the concrete jungle, long for the rustic countryside with the open space, wide fields, and bamboo-and-nipa houses. But they are fast disappearing in the Bulacan-Pampanga towns and in the Laguna-Cavite-Batangas towns traversed by the NLEx and SLEx, respectively. You see the fields as you speed along the highways, but you can’t get down there. When you stop in the towns, you are met by a concrete jungle similar to the one you fled from.
We also used to ride the Manila-Cavite ferry—when it was still operating—in the late afternoon or early evening just to savor fresh sea breeze while having ice-cold beer on board, and to look around Cavite City. We would take the same ferry on its trip back to Manila.
That ferry also ceased operations because of financial losses. But the government should revive and subsidize it because it would take a big load off the crowded Manila-Cavite highway—at least until MRT 3 is completed and goes operational.
In fact, traffic congestion to and from the towns along Manila Bay would ease if there were ferry services to these towns. For the same reason, traffic on MacArthur Highway would lessen if ferry services were made available to transport passengers between Bulacan-Pampanga and Metro Manila. Our old folk used the river and the sea to ship cargo and people from these provinces to Manila and its suburbs. Flat-bottomed boats called “casco” were poled down the river with loads of rice, salt, nipa shingles, bamboo and other products. Residents of river towns waited on the riverbanks to buy the goods from them.
We should continue to use our waterways to ease the traffic load on our few and narrow roads. We are an archipelago and we should use the water highways which need no periodic repairs like the streets. What’s more, because the sea is so big, there would be no traffic congestion on it as happens on land.
For this reason, the government should encourage a boatbuilding-and-repairing industry. Most of the boats we have now are small they could easily sink in rough seas. Provide boat builders with the knowhow and capital to build bigger boats.
Together with the ferryboats, we should increase the number of commuter trains around Metro Manila and suburbs. Let the Philippine National Railways earn more so it can improve the Luzon train system. In other countries, the railroad is the most important and cheapest means of transportation. We have neglected our railroad because we were seduced by the American car manufacturers to put our money in motor vehicles. Now we are reaping the whirlwind of that mistake.
Until the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal, the railroad operated efficiently from San Fernando, La Union, in the north to Legazpi, Albay, in the south. The Bicol Express, which took you in first-class coaches overnight from Manila to Legazpi, was famous then. When you woke up in the morning, Mayon Volcano greeted you through the train windows.
The trip to Pangasinan, Baguio and the Ilocos provinces was also fast and pleasant on board the train. It stopped at Damortis, La Union, where first-class buses were waiting to take passengers up Kennon Road to Baguio.
Now a car trip to Baguio takes at least five hours (it took only four hours or less in the old days). After you leave NLEx, the traffic jams begin.
Rerouting options laid out due to Skyway 3 construction
By Kristine Angeli Sabillo
8:34 am | Monday, February 17th, 2014
MANILA, Philippines – The Skyway O & M Corporation (Somco) on Monday released its rerouting options for motorists avoiding the Skyway Stage 3 construction works.
“Motorists who want to avoid the stretch of Osmeña Highway (in straight line) between Quirino Ave. and Buendia-end of Skyway-Slex may use the various alternate routes shown in broken lines,” Somco’s posted image over Twitter said.
The image showed nearby roads such as Edsa, Quirino Ave., Taft Ave., Roxas Blvd., Macapagal, and Ayala Ave., among others, as alternate routes.
The Skyway Stage 3 construction will start Monday night, coinciding with the construction of another roadwork connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the seaside Entertainment City.
The 14.8-kilometer, six-lane expressway launched Jan. 22 was supposed to reduce travel time from Buendia to Balintawak from two hours to 20 minutes or less.
Its construction, however, was expected to cause heavy traffic in the area.
The project, worth P26.7 billion, will complete the Skyway system from Alabang to Balintawak and will connect the South Luzon Expressway (Slex) and the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex).
It connects Skyway Stage 1 at Buendia, runs along Osmeña Highway, Quirino Ave. towards Plaza Dilao, continues crossing Pasig River, then cuts through at the back of SM Sta. Mesa towards G. Araneta Ave., crosses Aurora Blvd., E. Rodriguez and Quezon Ave. towards Sgt. E. Rivera then along A. Bonifacio towards Balintawak.
SC petitioners fed up with traffic jams, air and noise pollution
By Maricar B. Brizuela, Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
3:21 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
MANILA, Philippines—A group of Filipinos, including children and students, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to compel the government to implement a road-sharing scheme, saying that practically all the roads in the country are given to just less than 2 percent of the population that owns motor vehicles.
“The 98 percent of Filipinos are not even given proper space for them to walk or bike,” the group said.
It is demanding that half of the roads be set aside for nonmotorized transportation, safe and covered sidewalks, edible gardens and all-weather bike lanes, and the other half for an organized transport system.
Valerie Cruz, one of the convenors of the Share the Road Movement, said the group was also asking the high court to reduce the gas allowance of Cabinet officials and to require them to take public transport.
Cruz said this was the only way for officials to understand the experience of a daily commuter taking public transport.
Carless residents and car owners alike walked for 30 minutes from Rizal Park to the Supreme Court building in Manila to ask for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan. Others rode bikes.
A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for parties who believe that their “constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened with violation.” Its issuance leads to protection orders and mandates court hearings on environment and health matters.
“All (petitioners) stand to be injured by respondents’ unlawful neglect of the principle that those who have less in wheels must have more in the road (road-sharing principle) as directed by law,” said the petition, which held as respondents several government agencies and President Aquino, chair of the Climate Change Commission.
Four-year-old Maria Paulina Castañeda, a daughter of a participant in the “Walk for WoK (writ of kalikasan),” handed the copy of the petition to the docket section of the Supreme Court.
Castañeda was assisted by 80-year-old Commissioner Elsie de Veyra of the Philippine Commission on Women, who said that she attended the event to represent the elderly.
The petitioners asked the high court to require the government to implement certain environmental laws “to mitigate the ill effects of the crisis of climate change, reduce air pollution and improve air quality by adopting the road-sharing principle.”
The environmental laws include Administrative Order No. 171, which created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change; Executive Order No. 774, which reorganized the Presidential Task force on Climate Change; Administrative Order No. 254, which mandates the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to formulate a national environmentally sustainable transport for the Philippines; and Republic Act No. 9729, which established the framework strategy and program on climate change, and created the Climate Change Commission.
The petitioners said the government had been building more and more roads to accommodate more and more private vehicles.
“This car-centric transportation policy is the result of the Philippines trying to ape the transportation model of Los Angeles, a model we see in American movies,” they said.
They noted that the proliferation of private cars and vehicles has poisoned the air and that the government has failed to implement environment laws.
The petitioners asked the court to direct the DOTC, Department of Public Works and Highways and Department of the Interior and Local Government to immediately implement the road-sharing principle by, among other ways:
– Dividing all the roads by at least one half, lengthwise. One-half of the road shall be used for all-weather sidewalks and bicycle lanes as well as for urban edible gardens pursuant to Section 12b of Executive Order No. 774.
The other half of the road space may be used for motorized vehicles, preferably for safe, efficient, convenient and inexpensive collective or mass Filipino-made transportation systems.
– For the Department of Budget and Management to make available funds for the road-sharing principle.
– For the executive branch to reduce its fuel consumption by 50 percent starting from the date the case was filed, and for employees and officials to take public transportation for 50 percent of the time.
Those who joined the Walk for WoK included some 80 law students from Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College.
Carrying papers with the statement “I support road-sharing,” the participants included women, children, doctors, elderly and persons with disabilities.
Some biking enthusiasts “fed up with the country’s traffic congestion, high cost of transportation, noise and air pollution” also joined the activity. A wheelchair-bound elderly man, who carried his dog, took part in the walk.
Ateneo law student Clariesse Chan, one of the convenors of the Share the Road Movement, said that the “time for talk is over.”
Before they filed the petition, the walkers were blocked by police officers who had set up barricades on Padre Faura Street. But the walkers showed the police that what they were waging was a “peaceful revolution.”
The group quietly proceeded to the Supreme Court and waited for the flag-raising ceremony to end before some representatives entered the building and filed the petition.
Asked how he saw the implementation of the road-sharing principle in the country, San Beda law student Paolo Burro told the Inquirer that the group was targeting a “slow implementation” of the scheme.
“We can start by giving wide, safe and clean walkways for pedestrians,” he said.
With these “simple projects,” people will realize the impact that these can do to the streets, Burro said.
Ateneo law student Det Eugenio said it was time to show to the people that road-sharing was possible.
“We can start this road revolution in small towns and eventually cover a bigger scale,” Eugenio told the Inquirer.
After submitting the petition to the Supreme Court, the participants proceeded to the Senate in Pasay City and filed the people’s initiative to pass the proposed share the roads law.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje welcomed the filing in the Supreme Court of the writ of kalikasan on road-sharing.
Although he was among the respondents, Paje said the petition was a “golden opportunity” to help boost efforts to achieve the best air quality possible.
In a statement, Paje expressed gratitude to the petitioners for “potentially opening a new chapter in Philippine environmentalism.”
He said, “Rest assured that whatever the outcome of the petition, the DENR will continue to strive to attain the best air quality achievable with the help of all the stakeholders, including the petitioners.” — With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade
MANILA, Philippines—The prospect of hellish traffic jams in Metro Manila with two major road projects beginning simultaneously on Monday night has prompted a Quezon City lawmaker to revive his push for a four-day work week for government employees to help ease the anticipated gridlock.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, who chairs the House committee on Metro Manila development, said his proposal would reduce the commuting time for state employees and provide a measure of comfort by giving them an extra day off.
This is especially important now in light of the looming traffic jams expected to result from the construction of the Skyway project to connect South Luzon Expressway on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City to the North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City, and the construction of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the Entertainment City gambling hub.
To make up for the extra nonworking day, government workers would have to work for 10 hours a day instead of the usual eight hours, according to Castelo.
The 10-hour, four-day work week complements a recent proposal from traffic officials to limit school days from five to four days a week as well.
“Our workers serve as our economic backbone. We should not close our eyes to their difficulties, especially now that major infrastructure projects are on their way for their construction,” Castelo told reporters on Monday.
“At no better time than now when megaroad projects in Metro Manila have gotten under way that proactive experimentation should take place,” he added.
The House has long been observing the four-day work week, Castelo said, and this has resulted in government savings, among other things. He said the cutback had not compromised service or productivity.
The lawmaker said his bill, if approved, could lead to 20-percent in savings in work expenses, such as transportation fare and food for the state employees. Employers, on the other hand, could save on maintenance costs and overtime pay for workers.
The shortened work week could also lead to better productivity because it would help workers to be more focused on their tasks, he said.
The extra rest day would give government workers more time to spend with their families or pursue leisure activities, and this could make them more revitalized and motivated, Castelo said.
They could even use the additional day off to hone their skills so that they would be more competitive in the labor market, he added.
Castelo said he decided to refile his bill in the 16th Congress even before the megaroad projects took off because he had observed that many workers were being stressed out by worsening daily traffic and becoming less productive.
Members of the House independent bloc said they would invite public works, traffic and other officials involved in the 14.8-kilometer Skyway project to a hearing to provide details of the impending road works.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said having more in-depth data about the major road projects would help Congress come up with ways to mitigate the effects of the road works.
Romualdez said this should not be taken as opposition to progress. “We wish it would’ve come earlier… so we’re stuck with a much delayed and last-minute project,” he said.
He also said the public should know how much the toll would be once the Skyway extension is completed because this could also lead to increased fares and trigger a demand for higher salaries.
Brace for the worst
Residents of the capital went through the usual traffic snarls that would likely worsen in the coming years as the Aquino administration belatedly implements 15 infrastructure projects.
“We are informing the general public to brace for the traffic situation that we will be encountering for the next four years,” Francisco Manalo, executive director of the capital’s traffic office, said as angry commuters took to social media to vent their frustrations.
Manalo warned that once construction begins, travel on the city’s main roads will be reduced to a crawling speed of 1 to 9 kilometers per hour, compared to the already slow, normal 20 kph.
Motorists and commuters fearful of getting stuck on the roads left home earlier than usual on Monday. But with so many vehicles on the road as the day began, traffic in and around Manila was snarled for hours in the morning.
“Traffic armageddon begins in Manila!!” tweeted San Crisselle Tiu, while Chay1007 said she had to bring an “extra [supply] of patience.”
Once actual construction begins, it can take a vehicle at least two hours to travel the 19-km stretch of the city’s main thoroughfare, warned Vicente Lizada, spokesman for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s traffic monitoring office. The authority has asked contractors to provide staff to help direct traffic. — With a report from AFP
MMDA suggests alternative routes for Metro motorists
By Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer
3:17 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
MANILA, Philippines—The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has suggested alternative routes in Manila and Makati cities following the closure of two of five southbound lanes of Osmeña Highway on Monday night at the start of the construction of the 14.8-kilometer Skyway project linking the north and south expressways.
The Department of Transportation and Communications was to begin erecting posts on Osmeña Highway from the corner of San Andres Street, Manila, to Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati.
The two inner southbound lanes of the highway connected to South Luzon Expressway will be closed from the corner of Zobel Roxas Avenue to San Andres Street, but the three outer southbound lanes and three northbound lanes will remain open.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino estimated that with the closure of the two lanes on Osmeña Highway, travel on the road may slow down from 30 to 39 kilometers per hour, to 10 to 19 kph.
To avoid the constricted traffic flow on the southbound route of Osmeña Highway, those coming from Quirino Avenue may take the following alternative routes to get to their destinations:
Turn left to Roxas Boulevard, right to Gil Puyat Avenue, left to Macapagal Boulevard, left to A. Mabini, go straight to FB Harrison Street, turn right to Edsa, turn left to Leon Guinto Street and go straight to P. Zamora Street.
Those coming from Pedro Gil are advised to take the following alternative routes:
Turn right to Tejeron, go straight to JP Rizal to take Makati Avenue, or make a right at Chino Roces Avenue, or turn right to Onyx, left to Zobel Roxas, right to Kalayaan Avenue, then right to Chino Roces Avenue.
The Department of Public Works and Highways was also set to begin construction on the Naia Expressway II project in Pasay City on Monday night.
Skyway Stage 3 and Naia Expressway II are the first of 15 major road projects in Metro Manila up for construction in the next four years.
The MMDA has set up a website (MMRoadway.com) in which the public can learn about the 15 projects, the status of their construction and corresponding traffic advisories and alternate routes.
A chart detailing the timetable of the infrastructure projects has already been posted there. During the website’s launch last week, Tolentino said the contact information of the contractors and a feedback forum would be posted on the website soon. The complaints—and the contractors’ responses—will also be posted.
The website will be updated twice a week and contractors are expected to cooperate by providing correct information. The MMDA will also work on a mobile application, Tolentino added.
In a traffic management summit last week, contractors proposed that the construction be done 24/7, a move welcomed by Tolentino, who has been slammed by commentators for his failure to prepare well in advance for the anticipated monster traffic jams.
Tolentino has so far failed to get rid of “colorum” buses or enforce basic traffic rules.
MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is pressing the government to revive a ferry service on the Pasig River to decongest Metro Manila as two major road projects get under way.
Relaunching the boats to ferry thousands of commuters on the 27-kilometer waterway could be a good solution to the impending “carmageddon” in the capital, the senator said on Monday.
Recto said the government should not wait for the private sector and tap into the P1-billion contingent fund and the P140-billion unprogrammed fund in the 2014 budget to reactivate the ferry service.
He said the government could buy or rent the boats from the previous operator.
“We should now utilize this nautical road. It’s toll-free and ready to use,” he said of the Pasig River. “Any monstrous traffic which inconveniences millions fits the definition of an emergency. If you’ll steam inside your car which moves in mere meters in hours, then in any book, that is a calamity.”
Roadwork on the six-lane expressway connecting South Luzon Expressway from Buendia in Makati to North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak in Quezon City was scheduled to begin Monday night.
This was on top of the project connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the seaside Entertainment City.
Both projects are expected to cause traffic jams in the metropolis.
Recto said that if the government could subsidize commuters of the Metro Rail Transit and Light Railway Transit systems at P40 per trip, there was no reason it could not subsidize ferry commuters at a lower amount.
“It must be viewed as a public service in response to an emergency, which in this case is the traffic gridlock,” he said.
“Billions of pesos will be lost due to the projected traffic. So whatever amount that will be invested by the government in the ferry, the people will reap economic benefits even if the actual operating cost is not recouped from fare box collections,” he added.
Before it shut down in 2011, the ferry service transported commuters to 17 stations along a 15-km route from Plaza Mexico in Intramuros, Manila, to Nagpayong in Pasig City, Recto said.
The last operator deployed twin-hulled boats that could seat 150 passengers in air-conditioned cabins, he said.
It was discontinued due to the dwindling number of passengers, and navigational hazards such as the proliferation of water lilies and the foul smell emanating from the polluted river.
“It’s better to invest in the Pasig River ferry because it’s not as complicated as the MRT,” he said, referring to the transportation department’s award of a contract to a Chinese firm for the expansion of MRT 3 that has run into legal challenges.
By Leila B. Salaverria, Michael Lim Ubac, Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:29 am | Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang, inundated with appeals from motorists and commuters to address the looming monstrous traffic jams, is looking at schemes that will free up roads of obstructions such as parked vehicles, basketball courts and ambulant vendors during the duration of the construction of two major road projects in Metro Manila.
At a briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma also called on private companies and government offices to devise a “flexitime” policy, a drastic but necessary solution that could decongest the metropolis’ thoroughfares during rush hours as employees would have different work schedules.
“To address the citizens’ concerns arising from the start of construction of the Skyway 3 project, the Naia (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Expressway project, and other projects in Metro Manila, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have prepared traffic management plans, including rerouting and road widening,” Coloma said.
Coloma said voluntary remedial measures such as community carpooling and company-initiated flexitime and home office arrangements for affected employees could contribute in easing traffic congestion.
“We renew our call that we share in the burden of sacrifice, and bear with the short-term inconvenience, so we can reap the benefits of faster travel and higher productivity,” he said.
Coloma renewed this call as residents of the capital felt what presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda described as “birth pangs” on Monday, when the Aquino administration—after three years of delay due to a snail-paced bidding process—belatedly started implementing 15 major infrastructure projects.
Traffic snarls are expected to be triggered by two major road projects beginning simultaneously on Monday—the Skyway project to connect South Luzon Expressway on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City to North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City, and the construction of Naia Expressway Phase 2, which will connect the airport to the Entertainment City gambling hub.
Maybe people should wait for the monster traffic jams to materialize before taking drastic steps to change people’s work schedules, according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
Belmonte on Tuesday said the predicted horrendous traffic gridlock resulting from two major road projects was yet to be felt, which was why he cautioned against immediately implementing a proposal to limit to four days the workweek of government employees.
“First of all, let’s try to see if there would really be great traffic difficulty. Everybody is talking doomsday now,” Belmonte told reporters when sought for comment on recent proposals to address traffic woes.
Four-day work, school week
The Palace was skeptical about the four-day workweek and shortened weekdays for classes.
“Those kinds of proposals were simply offered as options and suggestions, and were not intended to be presented as imperatives, precisely because there is a need for all the affected stakeholders to vet the idea, to review the possible ramifications and consequences,” Coloma said.
He said these proposals were not being dangled as “must-do” alternatives.
“To begin with, the school year is about to end, right? The regular school calendar will be ending in about a month. So we have time through the summer vacation to plan until the reopening of classes,” Coloma said.
“We would rather focus, for now, on the voluntary measures because these are more effective and involve what the concerned parties want to do,” he added.
Some teachers also found “unnecessary” the MMDA suggestion to shorten classes to four days a week to ease traffic congestion.
Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said most elementary and high school students were living near their schools anyway so they would not contribute to easing the traffic situation.
Compressing school days might only hamper learning, according to TDC chair Benjo Basas.
Two class shifts
Basas pointed out that shortening school days would further put pressure on schools that already have two class shifts in order to accommodate all students despite the limited classrooms.
He said “many schools in Metro Manila practice the two-shift policy” to accommodate enrollees.
“That would mean that for the morning session, some students would wake up very early for classes that would start at dawn, while the classes in the afternoon would end as late as 8 p.m.,” Basas said.
In Metro Manila, he added, the average school time in each shift was seven hours. A single-shift class usually starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., he said.
The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) also questioned the proposed four-day workweek.
“The proposal to cut the workers’ volume on a particular day of a week, however, is based on the plain assumption that no work would mean less vehicles on the streets, which is wishful thinking when the city is ruled by private vehicles,” PM spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza said in a statement.
He said that based on available data, private vehicles outnumbered public utility vehicles in Metro Manila but public utility vehicles transport about 70 percent of commuters.
“Another concern will be the impact of this proposal on small-scale and micro enterprises (SMEs), particularly those in the wholesale and retail industry, which comprise more than 90 percent of establishments and which employ the biggest number of workers in Metro Manila,” Fortaleza added.
The proposed four-day workweek could reduce traffic congestion if the workers are allowed to take a day off in specific areas at the same time, a lawyer suggested yesterday.
Romulo Macalintal proposed that one to three cities enforce a common no-work day for workers who will be opting for the four-day workweek.
“A four-day workweek may be experimented in Metro Manila for government offices wherein a one-day workday off shall be made on a staggered system or implemented alternatively in the various areas in Metro Manila.
No monster traffic jam
Despite expectations of a “monster traffic jam” once construction of the Skyway Stage 3 is under way, traffic flow has remained relatively smooth.
Advance works on the Skyway Stage 3, an elevated highway that will connect the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway, began on Monday night, with two southbound lanes on Osmeña Highway requiring closure.
But on Tuesday, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino noted that traffic flow on Osmeña Highway remained “OK” and “without problems.”
“My only worry was ambulances—that they will all pass on the northbound lanes going to hospitals, but there were no problems. The southbound lanes were OK as well,” Tolentino said.
He, however, acknowledged that alternate routes around the highway were experiencing the congested traffic. “The vehicles transferred there. That was expected,” he said. The MMDA chair assured obstructions on the inner streets would be cleared.
Ben Ola, a taxi driver, made the same observation when interviewed by the Inquirer. “The southbound route on Osmeña is really wide, even with two closed lanes. I had no problem there today. I passed there twice,” Ola said in Filipino.
But Ola noted that traffic was heavier in inner streets in Makati City, though he said it was an everyday occurrence.
Ola also said he was expecting the traffic jam on Osmeña Highway to start once trucks start coming out, mostly from the Manila port area. “Osmeña is really their road,” the driver said.—With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jerome Aning and Tina G. Santos