November 30, 2022

BETTER TRAFFIC PLAN NEEDED POST COMMUNITY QUARANTINE

Before public transportation fully resumes after the Covid-19 restrictions, stakeholders should first come up with a more organized traffic and transportation plan so that as more people return to their places of work, mobility in both people and vehicles would be more efficient and convenient.
If there is one thing good that happened when governments all over the world-imposed restrictions on mobility was our streets were cleared of vehicles, the air became “breathable” again, and the public, even for a few months experienced what it is like to travel hassle-free.
But as land traffic is slowly resuming as shown by the increase in the volume of vehicles on our roads, a traffic and transportation plan, especially in urban areas such as Baguio City should be in place so we do not go back to pre-pandemic scenarios of constant traffic jams, inconsistent rerouting schemes, inefficient traffic signal system, uncoordinated reporting and apprehension system, temporary traffic reduction schemes, lacking or missing facilities for pedestrians, misplaced loading and unloading areas, and traffic-related accidents, among others.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has recently reported that with the lifting of community quarantine and the transitioning into an alert level system, traffic movement in the metro is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels. Closer to home, the partial resumption of tourism and operation of south and north-bound buses have already resulted traffic build-up in major arteries leading to Baguio and Benguet.
The MMDA has recently announced that it will dialogue with Metro Manila mayors for the reimplementation of the provincial buses ban on EDSA to ease the gridlock on the 23.8-kilometer highway, including alternate routes. The court has stopped the ban, which was supposed to be implemented in 2019, but as remedy, the plan is to ask Metro Manila cities to pass ordinances that would ban the entry of provincial buses in their localities at certain hours of the day.
In Baguio and Benguet – the two localities most affected by traffic and transportation issues in the Cordillera, we hope that plans are already in place so that when inter-regional travel is allowed to fully resume, we will not experience the “carmageddon” that happened several years back when the TPLEX opened.
In Baguio, the route rationalization plan is already in its final stages, jeepney staging areas have been relocated, an odd-even scheme is being implemented on taxis, pavements and cross walks have been repainted, islands and rotunda have either been demolished or resized to make the roads wider, signal lights are being upgraded, and bike lanes have been added to make road usage friendly to both pedestrian and motorist.
We do not see the same in Benguet, especially in the local governments traversed by the Halsema Highway. Last week, our team experienced the still unresolved traffic system when they visited Tublay. For a 15-kilometer distance, which is estimated to take only 45 minutes to one hour travel time from Km. 0 in Baguio took 1.5 hours.
Being needlessly stocked on the road for hours, the stress, economic loss, and its effect on ambient air are scenarios that no one wants to experience again, hence the need to come up with a traffic and transportation master plan that will consider the concerns not just of the localities but of neighboring areas as well.
The BLISTT and the Region 1 cluster of LGUs should begin discussing a transportation system especially on roads leading to the north. Highways and roads were made to make transportation seamless and fast but without an efficient traffic and transportation system, a road’s purpose of connecting areas is lessened and funds used to build them are put to waste.