Traffic on ‘daang matuwid’

Traffic has become a political issue.

Personally, my mobility is severely limited by the daily horrendous traffic in Metro Manila. I have become quite choosy in the events that I go to, and there are places I like but no longer visit. I dread the hours that I will most probably waste in traffic.

When I can, I forego having meetings in Makati and only go there when absolutely necessary. I kid people that it is a foreign territory and I need a visa to enter. Seeing friends is always a lengthy negotiation for venue because we come from different areas. I go to Batangas almost weekly and more than half of the three- to four-hour trip is spent along EDSA or C5.

I know, however, that mine is not as bad as others’ experience. I live and work in Quezon City and I do not keep regular hours so I am not as harassed when I do not have commitments outside.

But if one is a regular worker or employee, it must be very different. Imagine spending four to five hours a day just for travel to and from work. Just thinking of the long lines one has to endure under the sun or rain to take the few running MRT coaches, or standing for a long time in a bus after a hard day’s work to be able to go home, already makes me feel sick. Sure, one can take a taxi, if the driver agrees to take you, or if a negotiated amount is agreed upon. But whether one is in a bus, a taxi, a jeepney, or a private vehicle, you would still be subjected to the very heavy traffic.

CNN Philippines in a recent report said that there are no longer peak hours for traffic. It remains quite bad even during the so-called non-peak hours. And it is no longer limited to main thoroughfares as even alternate routes are regularly full of vehicles. The report warned that things will even worsen if authorities fail to address present problems.

Studies conclude that we lose billions of pesos in terms of productivity due to traffic. This is not surprising as employees are already exhausted when they reach their workplaces at the day’s beginning.

Traffic also has social costs. Apart from productivity loss, many of our workers are parents as well.

If a father or mother, or in the case of many families, both have to leave home very early and come back quite tired and irritable late at nights because of traffic, I wonder how they fulfill their parental obligations. How much quality time do they still spend with their children? How do kids cope? Do they grow up having more interaction with nannies or extended family members? And how do daily stress and exhaustion affect the couples’ relationships? These are unchartered territories as of now as there are no known studies on these in the country.

Road accidents are not rare. Apart from collisions, buses exploding, and vehicles falling off the Skyway have become ordinary that no one keeps tabs on lives lost on the road.

And speaking of deaths, I have lost count of the number of times when while stuck in unmoving traffic, I see ambulances with sirens blaring trying to weave through other vehicles in the attempt to save the lives of patients they carry. I wonder how many lives have been lost (because they arrived at the hospital too late) which could have been otherwise saved if our roads were not as clogged. Times like this, a few minutes can make a big difference in losing or saving a life.

Numbeo, a Seria-based research firm said that the Philippines is 9th in the world, and 4th in Asia in its report on countries with the worst traffic. We are world-class.

As expected, not a few are complaining. People vent on social media and rant against government, particularly the Department of Transportation and Communications for its inability to deal with this terrible traffic situation.

Coincidentally, for the 2016 elections, the ruling party’s mantra is “daang matuwid”, or “the right, moral road”. Also, Mar Roxas, administration’s presidential candidate, was DOTC secretary for years. Roxas is touted as the person who will continue “daang matuwid” if he wins.

Some quarters are blaming Roxas for the traffic mess because he did not do anything significant when he headed DOTC. After all, the problem has been identified and ongoing for years now.

It appears that “daang matuwid” is heavily congested and traffic is at a standstill. Moreover, the one leading the pack is someone who miserably failed to address this road congestion. Worse, the promise is to continue with the way things are done, or not being done.

If this is so, how will the country have real progress?

Stress levels because of traffic are high and people want both immediate and lasting solutions. They are looking for someone to address this. While the country has a lot of problems, heavy traffic stares them in the face on a daily basis. This angers the people. Thus, traffic is now a political and electoral issue.

As far as Metro Manila is concerned, the number of people stuck in traffic without seeing a reprieve may be inversely proportional to the number of people who will vote for Roxas come 2016. As early as now not a few are saying that if “daang matuwid” means more traffic, they’d rather choose a different way.

Just like traffic reports, I hope that from “heavy traffic on daang matuwid”, this administration will do miracles to solve the problem, and will report “light traffic on daang matuwid” instead.


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