by Rimaliza A. Opiña
The heavy volume of traffic experienced during the holidays could be an everyday occurrence if long-term plans are not drawn up to adjust to the increasing number of vehicles coming to Baguio.
With the near completion of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway and the discovery of new tourist sites around Baguio, Engr. Teodorico Tan, a traffic engineer and consultant of the city’s Traffic and Transportation Management Committee, said the gridlock experienced last December might no longer be seasonal.
“Even I was surprised by the volume of vehicles that time,” Tan said during a strategic meeting of the TTMC last Tuesday. He was referring to the third and fourth weeks of December when gridlock occurred even on roads that were previously classified as having only light to moderate traffic movement, such as in Leonard Wood and Loakan roads.
Police attribute the gridlock on various factors such as shortage of parking spaces; a concentration of vehicles in tourist spots; undisciplined motorists and pedestrians; multiplication of traffic hotspots; shortage of directional signs; irresponsible parking; slow transition on stop/load/unload and go; inconvenience of parking, proliferation of business activities specifically at Sitio Kabuyao, Tuba, Benguet, Lion’s Head, Kennon Road, and the Camp 7 talipapa.
Based also on the report of the Sison and La Union police, Degay said the gridlock in Baguio started at the Camp 1, Kennon Road toll gate all the way to Urdaneta City. He said out of the four-lane TPLEX, vehicles going up occupied three lanes.
Several proposals have been lodged in a bid to decongest traffic. One is to make Kennon Road and Marcos Highway one-way either going up or going down.
Eleazar Tejada, a City Hall employee and a resident of Gibraltar suggested one-way traffic at South Drive going to Camp John Hay, Baguio Country Club, Wright Park, The Mansion, Mines View Park, Good Shepherd Convent, and Botanical Garden. When going to the CBD, one way scheme should be implemented along Leonard Wood Road.
Tejada also suggested a parking ban along South Drive, Leonard Wood Road, Gibraltar Road and Romulo Drive. He said Outlook Drive, Villamor Street, Claro M. Recto Road, Arellano, and Julian Felipe streets may be used as one lane parking spaces.
He said loading and unloading areas should also be designated far from the entrance of tourist spots and buses must be denied entry at tourist spots with narrow roads.
For retired police general Villamor Bumanglag, he said a one-way traffic system at Kennon and Marcos Highway will not ease congestion. He said police only have to identify where the bottlenecks are so more traffic personnel could be deployed there.
The TMB, on the other hand, suggested for a control point system where traffic personnel will be deployed at entry points to the city and tourists will be guided where they could park and alternate routes to take. They also suggested adoption of the Oplan Kaluluwa traffic scheme along Naguilian Road, which allows use of Queen of Peace and Queen of Apostles roads for inbound vehicles, among others.
Tan said most of the suggestions are doable such as the one-way going up scheme for Kennon Road. But he said this should be on specific times only. He added some of the suggestions have adverse effects on traffic movement in the peripheries.
Tan said the city’s traffic planners should consider two points when coming up with policies that address congestion. These are how to increase Baguio’s holding capacity by increasing of turnover vehicles coming from the city to other parts of the region and where to accommodate the big volume of vehicles that are in the city.
Data from the TMB showed parking spaces in the city could only accommodate 2,000 vehicles at a given time. The volume of vehicles that needed to be accommodated in various parking spaces reached 35,000.
“Compared to Manila, Baguio’s situation is different and more difficult to solve. Sa Manila, dadaan lang ang mga motorist papunta sa iba’t ibang destinasyon. In Baguio, they stay here. They roam around before visiting other parts of the region,” Tan said.
“We have no other choice but go multi-level. We are headed in that direction,” Tan said.
During the meeting, mass transportation was also suggested with the city government or other stakeholders providing a shuttle service to bring tourists around the city and even to its neighboring towns.
Domogan said this is also possible but shuttles should be designed to suit the varying tastes of visitors.
In the meantime, he created a technical working group to come up with their recommendations before this is discussed with other stakeholders.