Accuracy of experimental PUJ terminal move asked
Some members of the city council have asked the city’s traffic divisions to review the implementation of the experimental transfer of jeepney staging areas to Gov. Pack Road following several petitions from PUJ operators, commuters, and business establishment owners.
During the regular council session on Sept. 8, Engr. Januario S. Borillo of the Traffic and Transportation Management Division of the City Engineer’s Office reported the implementation of the traffic scheme has improved the situation in locations where staging areas of PUJs are located near main intersections and business establishments at the central business district.
The one-month experiment, pursuant to Executive Order 114, s. 2020 of Mayor Benjamin Magalong in July, aims to reduce the number of vehicles going to the city center and improve pedestrian traffic by transferring the terminals of several PUJ associations from their current locations to Gov. Pack Road, which limits its entry to the city center.
Borillo recommended to the council to make the scheme permanent.
The findings of the evaluation report were confirmed by Baguio City Police Office Traffic Enforcement Unit chief, Lt/Col. Oliver Panabang.
The councilors, however, were not convinced of the accuracy of the findings, since the experiment was done when mobility is limited, business transactions are not operating full-time, and there are currently no students and tourists in the city due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councilor Lourdes Tabanda asked if the transfer of loading and unloading areas to Gov. Pack Road had considered the plight of residents, especially senior citizens, who have to walk far from the city public market as well as the issuance of citation tickets to PUJ drivers/operators who still stage in their original assigned areas.
She also asked to be furnished a copy of a study showing that the traffic situation at the Gov. Pack Road indeed improved and that it will be tolerable once the buses returned, as she pointed out that the area is known to be chaotic even pre-Covid-19.
Councilor Michael Lawana questioned the timing of the implementation of the scheme.
“It is common sense that we are under pandemic. If you look at business establishments, they are just operating on 50 percent capacity. Students are not around, tourists are not here and then you came up with this experiment, so definitely the result is good,” Lawana said.
“So will you still confirm that your experiment is successful considering the situation? The data presented is based on pre-Covid-19 situation, but the actual experiment was conducted during the Covid period, so parang hindi accurate. Wala naman problema sa concept, but the timing needs to be checked,” he said.
Lawana also raised the sentiments of establishment owners who claimed the transfer of staging areas is detrimental to their business and it greatly inconveniences commuters who take advantage of the proximity of shops to the jeep terminals.
Councilor Arthur Allad-iw said it is not appropriate to say the experiment scheme is effective and recommended going back to the previous setup.
“Ang mas nahihirapan sa ngayon sa layo ng jeepney (terminal) ay mga tao. We sympathize with them because ang layo, lalo na kung mabigat ang aming mga dala, unless magdalawang sakayan. Hindi kaya magandang ibalik na lang natin sa dati?” Allad-iw said.
Borillo and Panabang said these concerns were all considered in the planning of the traffic scheme.
“Right now, maybe we could not see the effect of this adjustment due to the pandemic but we assure that after this pandemic when the normal volume of people comes to the area, we assume that somehow business will be lesser, but it will make them survive,” Borillo said.
He added he is optimistic that having PUJ terminal at the Gov. Pack Road once the buses return will be plausible.
On the walking distance to the new terminal, Borillo, in his report, said one disadvantage of the terminal relocation is having to walk to a distance, but based on their studies, the distance pedestrians or commuters have to walk from the city market to Gov. Pack Road is within the walkable distance of 750 meters.
Panabang said what they are trying to address is not only the problem of the pedestrians and motor vehicles because in the area where the PUJs used to stage, a high activity of pedestrians can be observed.
“Now we need to open streets and convert it into walkable streets. Sidewalks right now cannot be expanded and we can no longer widen them. We transferred the PUJ terminals because we want to help these PUJs. Before Covid, as I have observed, ang dahilan kung bakit naiipon ang pasahero is there was long queuing because passengers cannot go easily to the loading areas,” Panabang said.
He said they planned and discussed to transfer the jeepney staging areas in an advantageous and strategic location so that they can easily come and exit. Based on their observation, the turnover of jeepneys at Gov. Pack is faster, and they plan to look for other strategic locations for other jeepney routes so they would have one main area for loading and unloading and they need not go to the city center.
“We planned this to be implemented before the pandemic. Nagkataon lang, so we started doing it dahil matagal na ito. 1986 pa nila ginagawang loading area ‘yan. Kung pabayaan natin na ganoon ang mangyayari then wala pong pagbabago at wala na rin pong gustong gumawa ng trabahong ito na mag-ayos kung hindi po tayo magtulungan,” Panabang said.
The city council will continue the discussions in its next session on Sept. 14 to allow the PUJ groups, business owners, and other stakeholders to air their side, which the council will consider in their resolution of the issue. – Hanna C. Lacsamana