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Road rage

Road rage is no longer just about hot-headed people pulling a trigger with little provocation. It is also about people cursing, cussing and swearing because of horrendous traffic jams.

This administration should know by now that Metro Manila residents are angry because of traffic.  This week, social media exploded with furious posts of people who were paralyzed for many hours because of monstrous traffic jams on main thoroughfares.

A friend posted expletives because her young kids suffered six hours on the road to go home from school, and the following day was another school day.

Tired and hungry, many also wet because of the rains, thousands, after hours of waiting for a ride, resorted to walking to reach their homes.

Those with vehicles had no other option but to endure being caught in the gridlock.

People got home past midnight and most had to be back at their work stations by eight or nine the following morning. To do this, they needed to be up very, very early because they again had to brave morning traffic.

Edsa became the world’s biggest parking lot. Tough luck that there were no representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records to monitor the event.

As it is, the Philippines now holds the “honor” of being the country with the fifth worst traffic in the world. This week’s experience was not a fluke. This kind of horrendous traffic has become our daily struggle.

And Metro Manilans have the right to be angry. If no significant change happens (and I doubt that there would be) this anger can even escalate and traffic would be on top of people’s minds as they vote in 2016.

Definitely, traffic has become an electoral issue.

To be fair, this administration did not create the problem. We have had bad traffic during past administrations. We also complained.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was recently quoted to have said that there are no quick fixes to traffic problems. I agree. However, the present batch of public officials, including Abad, have had more than five years to make sure that at least, the problem does not get worse. Five years is not a short time. Obviously, they failed. Traffic has never been this bad.

As if to add insult to injury, we hear of band-aid solutions being proposed by this administration. The President himself said that an odd-even scheme may be considered wherein vehicles will only have designated days when they will be allowed on the road. There is also this proposal to ban private vehicles with less than four people during rush hours. The main objective of these proposals is to drastically decrease the number of vehicles on the road.

I understand why government is coming out with these “solutions.” Given the shortness of time, a little over half a year, before the next elections, they need to implement measures that will be immediately felt by the people. Government knows that it does not have the time anymore for real solutions but if it does not do anything that will yield results, people will be more furious and Mar Roxas, as this administration’s bet, will surely suffer the consequences in the 2016 elections.

Government does not or refuses to understand that nobody in his or her right mind would like to drive a car especially during rush hours if a better alternative is there. Where public transportation system is efficient and reliable, people take the buses or trains rather than bring their cars. This is what happens in countries where such mass transport system exists.

Can this still be done before 2016? I do not think so. However, this does not mean that government, if it puts its resources where needed, is helpless. I am no expert but as a regular road user, I know that there are things that it can still do.

With its remaining months in office, this administration can focus on fixing the Metro Rail Transit, something it promised to do for sometime now, fast-tracking road repairs in the evenings, and, strictly implementing traffic rules.

I believe that having new coaches for the MRT (as mentioned by PNoy during his State of the Nation Address) will solve some of the traffic problems on Edsa. This can still be achieved if there is truth to what the President said that new coaches would be arriving soon. MRT can then accommodate more passengers that will reduce road traffic.

The dismal condition of our roads contributes much to the traffic since vehicles are not able to travel faster. Road repairs must be fast-tracked in the evenings when vehicle volume is less so as not to complicate matters during busy hours. If this is done, we would have at least some better roads, in a matter of weeks. I have seen this done on the Magallanes flyover in the recent months. The same can be done in other areas.

Better traffic discipline is another area that can be focused on. There has been some improvement because of the recent deployment of the Highway Patrol Group to manage traffic. This should continue. If people know that the law would be strictly enforced, they would follow.

There are long-term solutions to traffic that can be advanced. However, this administration no longer has the luxury of time for their implementation. Metro Manila voters, however, must keenly follow what candidates propose to do on this problem and factor this in deciding whether to vote for them or not.

Government must exert all efforts to abate road rage due to traffic. That is, if it does not want such rage brought to the voting precincts in 2016 when Metro Manila commuters and motorists can take revenge by not voting for this administration’s candidates.


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