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Search continues for traffic solutions

AT the start of the “ber” months this year, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) advised motorists to plan their trips in the coming weeks and months leading to Christmas in December, so as to avoid adding to the traffic on Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA). Traffic is usually heavy at this time of the year because of sales held by giant malls, 16 which are along EDSA, the MMDA said.

Early this week, hundreds of commuters were stranded in Quezon City and Manila when jeepney drivers belonging to the Stop & Go Transport Coalition staged a strike to demonstrate their opposition to the government’s jeepney modernization plan. This plan seeks to replace the old slow-moving and highly polluting jeepneys with newer ones, but many jeepney operators said they cannot afford to pay for the new vehicles, even with the easy loan terms offered by the government.

On the same day, Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said she may call for another hearing on the frequent breakdowns of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), citing a report of the Department of Transportation that from January, 2016, to July, 2017, there were 3,824 train removals, 833 unloading incidents, 98 service interruptions, and six derailments.

These separate news reports are all tied together in what has come to be known as Metro Manila’s greatest problem – its traffic gridlock at all hours of the day and night. A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has estimated that three billion pesos a day are lost because of the traffic gridlock.

The problem is one shared by many officials and agencies of the government, but the biggest part of the load lies on the shoulders of new MMDA Chairman Danny Lim who, in a recent interview, said, “It is really very hard to find a solution to the traffic problem when your cars are multiplying but the roads aren’t.” Vehicle sales hit a record 420,000 units last year and 65 percent of the vehicles found their way into Metro Manila.

The long-range solution is to build more roads, bridges, elevated and bypass highways, and subways, and the Duterte administration plans to do this with its nationwide “Build, Build, Build” program. Chairman Lim also called for expansion of development to a Mega Manila “from Calamba to Angeles and everything in between.”

But this will be years in the future. In the meantime, Chairman Lim said, the MMDA is studying more immediate proposals, such as limiting the number of vehicles on the roads by retiring the older ones, expanding the number coding scheme, and relocating bus terminals. He invited people to suggest possible plans that can be studied and, after due study, implemented.

There are also other immediate solutions outside the realm of the MMDA, notably the improvement of the operations of the MRT so that it can accommodate more of the hundreds of thousands of people who need to go to work or to school every morning and then go home in the afternoon.

We wish Chairman Lim all the best in this most difficult task which has frustrated so many officials before him. We appreciate his readiness to consider proposals from ordinary people as well as their opposition to some specially prejudicial ones. We and everyone else will know when the solutions start working and we hope it will be soon.

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