July 23, 2024

As a traffic engineer with 15 years experience working with the city government of Baguio to mitigate traffic congestion, such as the Session rotunda one-way scheme, City Hall loop one-way traffic scheme, the two-to-three phasing at the Naguilian Road-Buhagan Road junction, two to three-lanes along Marcos Highway-Campo Sioco and the adjustment of median island along Magsaysay Road among other traffic schemes, I would like to express my concerns regarding the collection of congestion fee as proposed by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation in relation to the Smart Mobility program of the city
For the past 15 years, I have assisted the city in implementing effective and almost cost efficient to the government and to the motorists of Baguio by providing solutions that have demonstrably improved traffic flow.
I am deeply troubled by the potential negative and costly impacts this proposal could have on Baguio residents and tourists.
A successful public consultation requires transparency. MPTC’s withholding crucial information, such as the specific road network affected by the congestion fee, hinders meaningful public participation.
Their justification of future Swiss Challenge is insufficient reason to withhold information.
The proposal raises several concerns such as the following:
First, data authenticity and public approval.
The disapproval from Baguio citizens cast doubt about the validity of MPTC’s traffic survey data used to justify the congestion fee.
Contrary to MPTC’s findings, traffic authorities can testify that the traffic situation in the central business district is manageable.
MPTC’s claim that residents are willing to patronize improved public utility jeepneys to avoid the fee is questionable.
Uncertainties surrounding PUJ fleet ma-nagement during peak hours, exacerbated by high fuel prices, and the lack of a central PUJ terminal, render this congestion fee solution unreliable.
Addressing these transportation issues should be a prerequisite for any congestion fee proposal, not an afterthought.
Second, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board authority on mass transportation.
The LTFRB is the sole entity with the authority to oversee and introduce changes to the transportation system, which means that the local government units and private entities cannot interfere with its operations.
Third, fee collection authority.
Traffic fee collection is a government function. The inherent police power for such actions belongs solely to government personnel and cannot be delegated to private entities like MPTC.
Fourth, limitations of artificial intelligence.
While AI holds promise, it has limitations in resolving traffic congestion. Traffic gridlocks, for example, cannot be solely addressed by AI as promised by the proponent.
In conclusion, the congestion fee proposal raises serious concerns regarding transparency, data validity, regulatory authority, and AI limitations.
I urge our city officials to reconsider the proposal and work collaboratively with all key stakeholders and residents to find sustainable solutions for Baguio’s traffic issues, without burdening the general public.