EDSA traffic

Traffic Under the Rug

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Monday, 19 October 2015 - Last Updated on October 19, 2015
EDSA traffic

What kind of intelligence is there in assigning responsibilities to tackle the problem of traffic enforcement, by tasking a notoriously discredited police unit on one end and a serially unproductive factotum on another?

EDSA traffic

It is a cliche sight along our roadways. A street sweeper gingerly collects road debris from carelessly strewn garbage that range from wrappers and paper bags, to leaves and foliage, to indestructible plastic bags and the other filth illegal squatters pile on sidewalk and center islands. The street sweeper then sweeps these into manhole and gutters, drainpipes and any, and all other holes and crevices designed to re-channel floodwaters. Successfully hiding both the garbage and his own incompetence, he feels that his job is finished once the unsightly is out of sight, and subsequently, he thinks that the job is done as ordered, and the product if his efforts worthy of accolades.

Lets extrapolate such idiocy to the national level. Let us apply it to the traffic problem that has somehow escalated from a substantially local problem to a national electoral issue reflecting as it does governance skills, or the abject lack of it.

READ : Decongesting Traffic and Metro Manila: The Obvious Solution

Within 24 hours from appointing the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) to take the traffic reins from the Manila Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA) as the latter seemed to have grown not simply a dysfunctional familiarity with the thousands that comprise the criminals who create traffic gridlocks from illegal squatters, to rampaging buses, to complicit traffic enforcers, Malacanang had immediately patted itself on the back and prematurely declared the experiment a success.

But of course. The suggestion to transfer control from the MMDA to the HPG was the brilliant brainchild of the highest leader of the land whose intellectual capacities, profound discernment of the problem, and whose critical analysis of the country’s ills are par non. Congestion was right up his alley. As Holmes is wont to exclaim, “It’s elementary”.

The president identified EDSA chokepoints and it was simply elementary that relieving the gridlock at those specific corners would be the measure of success. As is typical and characteristic of governance under the Aquino administration and the upcoming coterie should Aquino’s anointed successor win the 2016 presidency, for areas, streets and alternate routes that are likewise victimized with gridlocks, “Bahala kayo sa buhay ninyo!”.

To some degree the choke points were indeed relieved of some congestion depending on the time of the day, the number of policemen on their lunch break, the seasonality of the fruit and vegetables sold on the sidewalk, the rains and floodwaters that occasionally pass the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PIR), jewish, christian and moslem holidays and mall sales. Given the variables we might as well factor in moon phases, solar flares, passing comets and the seasons of Jupiter.

What seasonality now rules those chokepoints is offset by eternal, perpetual, 24/7 traffic simply swept aside, blindly shoved out of sight and transferred to the side streets, alternate routes and the circumferential roads without any substantive improvements in those smaller streets.

We profess neither expertise nor experience in traffic management save for the painful education borne out of the daily three to four hour one-way commutes, frayed nerves, fender scrapes and the disgust from witnessing traffic enforcement dereliction by those motivated more by mulcting and monetary inducements than by discipline and order.

manila traffic jam

Indeed, what kind of intelligence is there in assigning responsibilities to tackle the problem of traffic enforcement, by tasking a notoriously discredited police unit on one end and a serially unproductive factotum on another? Fortunately, the problem was simply one of traffic management and does not involve the lives of 44 galant police officers assigned to serve a warrant of arrest in a remote field far south. Trusting discredited officials and the similarly incompetent can lead to massacres.

READ: Hopes and dreams for a pro-people mass transport system

Discern the inanities that congest the official rhetoric surrounding the traffic problem. First, the president hails gridlocks as signs of economic growth. Then his anointed, forgetting to count the yearly Php 876 billion (Php 2.4 billion daily) lost to traffic mindlessly parrots the same. This is not a gridlock. More likely a brain-freeze.

If any thinking was at all applied to the decision to have these characters take the steering wheel it fell short of exacting accountability from those who’ve previously failed their mandates. Accountability and paying the price for dereliction and failure are requisite in any comprehensive solution lest we repeat and perpetuate predicate folly and sweep gross ineptitude under a manhole with default “noynoying”. Which is exactly what the authorities have done by sweeping the choke point congestion into the side streets, or the under the rug as it were.

A cabinet-level problem-solver then added his knee-jerk and instant analysis by pointing out that traffic violators on those side streets were privately-owned vehicles, contrary to the public transport buses and jeepneys commuters see brazenly violating the law every minute. With his cursory analysis he virtually parried all accusations of government ineptitude and effectively justified shoveling all prospective enforcement burdens on the private sector.

Let’s validate or invalidate such analysis.

On the front pages of almost every paper photographs particularly illustrative of the true causes traffic bannered diametrically against the inane pronouncements of economic growth, vehicle volume ratios and blame placed on private motorists.

Pick any scene on a typical day.

manila survival guide traffic

All depict illegal structures on a sidewalk. These force pedestrians unto the street.

All show trucks occupying the outer lanes all the way to the inner lanes blocking buses access to the curb. Buses then occupy the middle to center lanes to take in and discharged passengers in the middle of the street as in-between lanes motorcycles squeezed through.

On the center island uncollected garbage is strewn.

Overcrowded tricycles and jeepneys with commuters precariously hanging on make illegal U-turns.

Vehicles without license plates ply the streets and make-shift vulcanizing shops occupy not just the sidewalk but extended way over to any avenue’s second lane from the curb.

What is really wrong with this picture is that there are no traffic enforcers serving arrests. It is as if a modus vivendi had been cut. That’s understandable. It is after all the election season and huge sums have exchanged hands. None of these reflect vehicle volume to roadway ratios. On the contrary. They reflect incompetence.

POC/BlogWatch stock photos. Some rights reserved.

Dean de la Paz (78 Posts)

Dean dela Paz is an investment banker. He is a consultant in the fields of finance and banking and has packaged some of the most prolific public offerings in the Exchanges. He is a member of the Executive Committee and sits in the Board of one of the oldest financial institutions in the country. He is likewise an energy consultant having served on the Boards of several foreign-owned independent power producers and as CEO of a local energy provider. He is currently the Program Director for Finance in a UK-based educational institution where he also teaches Finance, Business Policy and Strategic Management. A business columnist for the last fifteen years, he first wrote for BusinessWorld under the late-Raul Locsin and then as a regular columnist for the Business Mirror and GMANews TV. He also co-authored a book and policy paper on energy toolkits for a Washington- based non-government organization. He likewise co-authored and edited a book on management.


About Dean de la Paz

Dean dela Paz is an investment banker. He is a consultant in the fields of finance and banking and has packaged some of the most prolific public offerings in the Exchanges. He is a member of the Executive Committee and sits in the Board of one of the oldest financial institutions in the country. He is likewise an energy consultant having served on the Boards of several foreign-owned independent power producers and as CEO of a local energy provider. He is currently the Program Director for Finance in a UK-based educational institution where he also teaches Finance, Business Policy and Strategic Management. A business columnist for the last fifteen years, he first wrote for BusinessWorld under the late-Raul Locsin and then as a regular columnist for the Business Mirror and GMANews TV. He also co-authored a book and policy paper on energy toolkits for a Washington- based non-government organization. He likewise co-authored and edited a book on management.

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