The odd-and-even scheme

Implementing the odd and even traffic scheme to substantially reduce the number of vehicles on the road as suggested by the President is too drastic a measure especially if this is meant as a permanent solution to the traffic problem in the metro area.

President Aquino’s plan aims to take out 50 percent of vehicles off the road, which will undoubtedly reduce vehicles a lot more than the 20 percent that the current vehicle reduction program is doing, will also cause a lot of disruption to the lives of all motorists. And before the plan could go any further, there are already a lot of protests.

But is the odd and even scheme such a terrible idea? In the late 1990s when there were a lot of simultaneous construction projects going on in Metro Manila like the MRT 1 and 2 together with portions of C-5, this scheme was proposed as a temporary relief measure to the traffic congestion created by the public works projects. The plan was shelved after much objection from the public even if it was shown during the trial period that the scheme could work.

The plan is not a revolutionary measure to alleviate traffic congestion or other problems. If there is too much smog caused by vehicles, the odd and even scheme could be implemented for several days until the smog clears up. It could also be implemented in portions of the metro area where there are road projects that are going on like the international airport area.

The scheme is not, however, suggested for very long periods because the public cannot be expected to simply go along with it. If the government is bent on a more drastic reduction of vehicles, the current program could be modified and increased to 30 percent instead of the current 20 percent. But even this needs careful planning whether to implement it along certain roads or throughout the metro area.

Whatever step is taken, careful study is needed so that the public will be apprised of the rationale behind the project. Whether the President’s idea will be implemented or not, we will have to wait. A lot of consideration will have to be given to weigh all the consequences of such a radical plan.

In the meantime, our traffic authorities are shifting their attention to Edsa. As I have written in the past, Edsa is considered the main theater of operations when it comes to traffic in the metro area. Keep the vehicles moving along Edsa and the people will think that the traffic in the whole NCR has improved. The government has identified so-called choke points and the intention is to keep these choke points clear. Ergo, traffic will flow smoothly.

I doubt this.  More has to be done to improve the traffic flow along Edsa. The Highway Patrol Group has now been given the principal responsibility of enforcing traffic regulations along Edsa, with the MMDA assisting it.

Edsa on closer look, is a through-traffic road which means that since there are no traffic lights along intersections there is really no reason why traffic cannot move continuously. But the cause of much congestion along Edsa is not only the heavy volume of vehicles. It’s also driver behavior. Much of the traffic misery is self-inflicted. Jeepneys, taxi cabs and buses compete for passengers in the MRT stations, congesting the road.

The U-turn slot is also a big culprit. In traffic engineering, U-turn slots are allowed along major thoroughfares to allow a very small portion of vehicular traffic to go back. A U-turn slot is not intended to divert all the vehicles to execute a U-turn just to remove a conflict point. This is simply not done. Besides, there are a lot of other things that has to be done on Edsa which in a way has now become a traffic laboratory. It is a showcase of the inability of government to plan and implement traffic programs. There is now rail transport all along the stretch of Edsa. Yet, thousands of buses are allowed to operate like jeepneys and the number of jeepneys plying the road is also increasing.  Lately, tricycles are beginning to invade parts of Edsa, like Balintawak.

Also, we have the MMDA Chairman concentrating on his Senate run instead of burning the midnight oil to try to alleviate the traffic. Chairman Tolentino has been using the TV to advertise earthquake drills with him all over the place. Does he really think that the public is so stupid not to read his real intentions?

The traffic on Edsa also shows the lack of coordination between land transportation agencies when it comes to planning. These agencies must plan together so that public transportation along Edsa could be rationalized.

The number of buses could certainly be reduced. But this can only be done scientifically and only if MMDA can start doing an origin and destination study on Edsa. But it has never done this for reasons only known to themselves. If the MMDA does not have the technical know to do this, there are others that can be tapped to undertake the study like the UP traffic and transport center. If this is not done, traffic authorities will not be able to improve travel time no matter what they do.

Edsa will continue to be the busiest and most polluted highway in the country. There has to be a rationalization of the vehicles that will be allowed to use this highway. Unfortunately, our traffic and transport authorities do not seem to know where to begin.

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