Sunday, August 16, 2015

Metro Manila Traffic is Just Plain Unbearable

Last week, I was invited by my college friends to attend a concert celebrating the new school year. Back then I would jump at this opportunity to get drunk off my ass with glee and excitement. But lately, the traffic situation in EDSA has really reduced the enthusiasm I have in these affairs.

I'm from south of Muntinlupa and I went to college in Quezon City. Back in 2009, I remember getting agitated in a bus because I was coming in late for an exam. The Skyway extension project from Bicutan to Alabang just got started and I failed to factor it in my travel time. Eventually, I got to that exam and was able to answer enough questions to pass. I was saved by the Nova Bus Lines plying the route of Baclaran to Fairview via ILALIM LAHAT.
Riding a Nova, Newman Goldline or Safeway made EDSA look like these five years ago

That was roughly five years ago. Traffic sucked but it was bearable with the help of a reliable MRT and a few bus companies that would rather burn more fuel than wait for passengers. Fast-forward to the present and that is no longer the case.

These days, it takes me 5 hours to get to Philcoa from our bus terminal. This is the case regardless of the time of day. A few years back it took 2 and a half hours. Nowadays, I no longer ride the MRT because I'd rather sit down in a bus than stand in line for an hour to ride a congested train that may breakdown any moment. All buses nowadays are not allowed to go Ilalim in Cubao, Crossing or Ayala giving no incentive to switch buses in Mantrade/Magallanes.You will now see private vehicles and provincial buses in the city bus lanes. City buses on the other hand have no choice but to get as many passengers in one trip as possible to make up for the time they spend in traffic. They become a bit more "gahaman" nowadays. EDSA has really made visiting my old stomping grounds look like a chore than a night of debauchery.

I know in my case, traffic in EDSA isn't a big deal. So I don't get to go to UP and get drunk as much. But how about the other people who ply through EDSA daily? How about my friend who lives in Fairview and works in Taguig? Is it ok that he has to spend 5 hours a day to go to and from work where he already spends 9 hours? It seems more practical to be a bed spacer in Makati than to go through that hell hole we call EDSA everyday in his case. It's crazy how I have a point considering Taguig and Fairview aren't as far away from each other geographically as the travel time would suggest.

The traffic in EDSA and the whole Metropolis for that matter has been a major source of irritation or in some case anger for us commuters. And the way the government handles it is pretty deplorable.

Before I start ranting about how the government sucks at traffic management, some of you may see traffic as a result of lack of discipline. If only magbibigayan ang mga motorista, we won't have this much traffic. And sure, you may have a point. But that reasoning is a result of lack of authority from the ruling body. If the government gave the people more reason to respect the traffic regulations like by being more visible and strict, maybe drivers would be more disciplined. I mean without the fear of getting caught, a lot people become douche bags..

Now, we have seen more CCTV camera out there. Catching violators has become easier and the YouScoop and Bayan Mo Ipatrol mo segments of the prime time news programs are usually packed with these stories. But catching traffic violators is just half the battle.

The elections are coming. Recently, Mar Roxas went to Cebu and addressed the crowd. Traffic eventually came up and according to him. traffic just means that the economy is booming echoing the sentiments of current President Aquino. According to him, the reason why people missed their flights was because of an influx in tourism. His allies appealed for more patience and asked us to just leave earlier. Ok, sure. It's not like traffic in this country is one of the worst in the world or anything. Oh, wait.

I'm not going to further antagonize Roxas. I mean, in GMA's version of the headline he did say that further investments in infrastructure is needed. Plus, he is with DILG and his responsibilities don't really encapsulate the traffic woes we have.

Let's look at the president. As I mentioned, Roxas only echoed Aquino's sentiments. Too bad the yahoo report with his quote won't load. Aside from his comment that I can no longer backup, there is the fact that his SONA's are not really focused on traffic. It is pretty evident if you read the last SONA. Though he did talk proudly of the Cavite Expressway and the Skyway Extension Project as he should, Be that as it may, I feel the commuter concerns are not really a priority for him. I mean, how can he applaud Jun Abaya's work on maritime concerns without reminding how inadequate he has been in dealing with the MRT? He mentioned how 2008 maintenance only covered painting. He mentioned DOTC's maintenance plans were TRO'ed by thanks to the evil corporation. Sure the MTRC is playing hardball, but how can he still be confident in Abaya? The fact of the matter is, Abaya couldn't handle his job with the MRT. Coupled with the dilapidated state of the PNR; Abaya hasn't really done much for the commuters. All Aquino did was applaud Abaya and defend him. When was the last time you were applauded by your boss when you failed to finish your paperwork? I don't know about you, but the awesomeness of my last report does not change the fact that I will get my ass handed to me if I miss my next deadline. I don't know what is it with Aquino and scolding his ineffective underlings. He bombards us with his "Daang Matuwid" slogan, yet accountability is an alien term as far as his allies are concerned.

Speaking of Aquino allies, how about the MMDA? How about Francis Tolentino? Do you remember the bus scheme that was put in place? Rappler gives us a diagram here of how it works. It's been a year now. The first few months, I noticed this. Two buses left the terminal at once and one can drop off at Ayala and the other can't. The same can be said with the rest of the stops. But for the past couple of times I went to the Metro, this is no longer being practiced. Buses will stop anywhere if you hit the metal handle bars with a coin. I guess, we can chalk this one up as a failed attempt. But an attempt nonetheless.

How about the Express Connect Bus? Remember the buses with limited drop off points from Fairview to Ayala? Well, as you can imagine, bus drivers and conductors really got the short end of that deal.

I really feel sorry for the MMDA. I mean, Tolentino tries. But he just can't help but fail. This can be attributed to the fact that the LGU's don't respect him. He may have a ton of plans that may work. But he has to compromise with several ego-driven LGU dynasties who I suspect don't respect him as much since he is not an elected official. These LGU's have their own ordinances and some don't even follow the number coding scheme. The fact that he's from Tagaytay does not help his case in talking with these mayors.

As corrupt as the MMDA was when Fernando was head of it, I really miss him. He kicked ass. His enforcers would catch buses and private vehicles alike with no qualms if they disobeyed the rules. Sure it may be driven by kotong but drivers had the fear of being caught because of these relentless kotong boys. I remember city buses being limited to the right-most lane except when they go Ilalim. Private vehicles and provincial buses couldn't cross over to those lanes. It's crazy how I'm cheering for a guy who has a few corruptionallegations.

The MMDA seems to be the hardest office to take over. You have to deal with the DOTC for transport related items. They have to deal with the DPWH who constantly construct in the most inopportune moments. The LGU's may not respect you since they are elected officials. Maybe if NCR had a governor or something. Maybe the traffic woes can be handled in a unified fashion.

Traffic in Metro Manila has been a constant source of anger, rage and profanity-laden tirades. I have mentioned accountability once or twice before. But for the case of traffic in the Metro, who should be accountable? The drivers? DOTC? MMDA? LGU's? the President?

It's really hard to pinpoint who should handle this. But if this government really planned on getting getting the economy running, shouldn't it have developed a long term plan in handling the expected influx of traffic volume like the one they had for energy consumption? Oh wait...

Sometimes it makes me think. Is the economy growing because of this government's leadership or despite of it?

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