Officials of the Duterte administration believe Metro Manila’s traffic problem has reached crisis proportions. And it has.
But every time the problem is discussed, people, including those in government, seem to think that sorting out the traffic mess on Edsa will magically disentangle the Gordian knot that traffic in Metro Manila has become.
Edsa is not the only traffic problem that has to be tackled. Traffic has gotten worse in almost every major thoroughfare: Taft Avenue, Quezon Boulevard and Quezon Avenue, C5, Osmeña Highway, Quirino Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, Gil Puyat Avenue, Ayala Avenue, etc.
Everybody talks about the huge increase in the number of motor vehicles on the road, as well as the population, and the ongoing public works projects as factors contributing to the traffic problem. But I have yet to read or hear anybody mention that another factor is that most streets of Metro Manila have been turned into outdoor garages.
Motorists who get caught in traffic jams in major thoroughfares have few alternative routes to take. Many streets have been turned into private parking lots, and nobody seems to notice. Barangay officials turn a blind eye because, in many cases, they are the first to lay claim to roads as their personal parking spaces.
A four-lane street narrows down into a two-lane one when vehicles are parked on both sides of the street.
And on a two-lane street, vehicles have to use the middle, again because both sides have been claimed by residents as their parking spaces. Public utility vehicles plying a two-lane street have to load and unload passengers in the middle of the road. Aside from blocking traffic, the practice puts the passenger at risk of being hit by other vehicles.
At the corner of San Andres and Leon Guinto Streets in Manila, two cars are often parked right at the intersection. Making the situation worse is that the same intersection has become a terminal for jeepneys going to Makati.
The Estrada-Leon Guinto intersection is a terminal for jeepneys bound for Paco.
The corner of San Andres and Singalong streets is also a terminal for jeepneys going to Zobel Roxas. And that corner is just a few feet away from the barangay office.
In many places in Metro Manila, celebrations and wakes mean tents that close off large sections of streets. And after the event, the tents remain, blocking sizeable parts of roads.
People who want to play basketball have no qualms closing off roads to turn them into basketball courts, and do not even bother to warn motorists that the streets have become inaccessible.
When a parish celebrates its fiesta, people put up temporary stages that block roads without putting up signs that the streets are closed.
I have written before how Pedro Gil is now occupied by street vendors, not sidewalk vendors. The busy and narrow street has become narrower and more congested, as vendors’ stalls take up sections of the road on both sides.
When the Duterte administration considers solutions to the traffic mess, they should not just look at the Edsa situation, but rather consider a holistic approach, including giving back roads to motorists, pedestrians and every citizen whose taxes paid for those streets.
And please get barangay officials to at least enforce traffic rules. As it is, they really do not do much in between elections.
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