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Phenomenal

A phenomenon, no less, no more.

Not anything extra-extraordinary, but what’s happened to EDSA and other problematic routes?

Suddenly last Saturday EDSA looked like Good Friday. In the days following, travel time was shortened by 40 to 50 percent: one hour from Caloocan to Makati, 35 minutes from Malate to Buendia, one hour from Batasan to Ayala.

But those of us in Manila had to pay for the sins of others. On Friday, from Malate to Diliman, three and a half freaking hours (6:45 to 9:30 p.m.)! Sure, it was Friday and the day after pay day and Balck Nazarene novena day – the seasonal explanation being that traffic enforcers were so busy and so many that they overlooked, strategically or casually, what road conditions were prevailing elsewhere. Quiapo to España being an old-fashioned route – so far no great walls of malls there – it was every driver for himself.

Still, who can complain now that school’s out, office parties are a thing of the recent past, and most shopping is confined to last-minute missions of mercy. Perfectly okay for MMDA to keep frightening people and their cars away from EDSA, as long as the unfrightened refuse to be cowed and are rewarded with moderate to moderately heavy traffic.

As to what will happen after New Year’s Day, it’s everyones’s guess. MMDA chief Tim Orbos is hopeful that in two to three years road travel will be smooth sailing. (I wonder, did he factor in the booming car population between 2017 and 2020?) Without those new cars, here’s what he is up against, by his own accounting: 3,500 provincial (not counting city) buses, 45 bus terminals (11 of them cheek-by-jowl on the north-bound lane in Cubao, by the way), 40,000 Uber taxis, a road network of 5,000 km in Metro Manila with 1,000 intersections.

He was too polite to blame boors and brutes and jerks who create kilometers-long gridlock – all it takes is one man, one mistakes! – by their clumsiness or selfishness. As an American traffic expert noted years ago, how remarkable that given the volume of cars and the limited road space, we don’t incur or cause more mishaps. It’s gotta be your nimbleness, he smiled in admiration, you’re such great dancers! (Jullie Y. Daza)

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