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Traffic? First aid!

Everyone you know has a pretty solid idea of what causes traffic jams. But when Senator Grace Poe’s committee on public order invited resource persons and the Department of Transportation to articulate the “emergency powers” needed to solve the traffic crisis, DoTr staff present looked positively shellshocked.

First, they could not specify what sort of powers were wanted or needed for DoTr and DU30. They admitted they had no draft, not even a rough sketch, although they could come up with one in “two weeks” – maybe Filipino time?

Undersecretary Noel Kintanar could only go as far as calculating for Sen. Ralph Recto the “initial requirements” in billion-peso terms: aviation sector, P2B; land, P55B; etc., total, P150B.

The simple act of following the hearing live on TV was in itself a big headache for me, so I don’t blame Mr. Kintanar, Usec Annie Lontoc, and their assistants if they seemed to be in urgent need of emergency first-aid powers.

Still, the traffic phenomenon has been with us for ages, unless DoTr people live in a secret paradise on our islands where there are no jams, no “tiwangwang” roadworks, no drug-crazed drivers, no ignorant or enterprising enforcers, no narrow streets pretending to be highways, etc.

Among the dozen or so personalities summoned to the hearing was Amando Ali, an urban planner, whose presentation should be plain enough for DoTr to duplicate – easy to visualize, easy to understand. Mr. Ali divided the problem into three columns – what we had, what we missed/failed to do, what we should do now. Before the war, we had tramcars, PNR trains, and waterborne vessels. In the ‘60s and up to the ‘80s, you could do 100 kph on EDSA. In those days, he added, “drivers were courteous.”

Not only have we junked the code of courtesy on the road, we’ve had a surfeit of plans and solutions that cost big sums but went nowhere. Mr. Ali said it’s not too late to start teaching the young how to cross the street. We should also give drivers a real test before they harm us, slowly or recklessly. (Jullie Y. Daza)