February 1, 2023

CARMAGEDDON, A PRICE BAGUIO HAS TO PAY ON FESTIVE SEASON

It’s that time of the year again – that time in Baguio City’s coldest months when the festive fever comes to a peak and when tourism and business must run into a frenzy before the season of rains douse the economic opportunity the season brings.
But it comes with a heavy price though – such as the horrendous traffic now being experienced in Baguio which also dampens the most exciting part of the Yuletide season.
Baguio residents and tourists are now suffering from the traffic gridlock which becomes unbearable by the weekend when all major routes within the central business district and roads leading to tourism sites turn literally into wide parking spaces, as private and public vehicles are barely moving.
The usual 15 to 20-minute travel time of residents from the various loading stations in the barangays toward the CBD now takes more than an hour, or in worst case scenario – close to two hours.
Increase in private vehicles and tourists coming up to Baguio and the resumption of face-to-face classes when thousands of college students enrolled in various institutions have greatly contributed to the worsening traffic situation in the city.
Traffic obstructions, which include illegally parked vehicles in city roads and streets in nearby barangays which serve as alternate routes, also contribute to the problem.
In spite of the horrendous traffic at the CBD, the city government still chooses to close both lanes of Session Road on Sundays purposely for the public to enjoy outdoor spaces in the city and to cater to the micro, small and medium entrepreneurs and other community events.
We do not question the wisdom or intent of closing Session Road on Sundays but it might also consider studying the possibility of reopening both lanes during the peak season.
Yes, Baguio residents must brace themselves for a hellish traffic situation towards the Yuletide season up to the first quarter of 2023 when this city resumes the full-blown celebration of the annual Panagbenga Festival.
Previous surveys show that close to 50,000 vehicles come in and out of Baguio daily. Traffic thus becomes inevitable and road expansion in the densely populated barangays might no longer be feasible.
Mobilizing all deputized traffic auxiliaries to serve citation tickets to all vehicles obstructing any public road and street even in the barangay level day and night is one of the short-term solutions seen by concerned quarters.
Delegating traffic management to the police is not a solution, as the job is limited to enforcement and confiscation of license plates and not traffic engineering. What the city needs are experts with firsthand experience in traffic and transportation management.
We understand the city has its own Traffic and Transportation Management Division under the City Engineering Office but it can only do so much, owing to its limited number of personnel deployed in strategic sites within the CBD and tourism sites.
It is our hope that the completion of the outer ring of the BLISTT circumferential road projects and the sustained government’s efforts to decongest traffic flow within the CBD and other tourism sites will ease traffic and propel socio-economic activities from Baguio to the outlying towns of Benguet.
Meantime, we appeal to Baguio residents to stretch their patience and extend the warmest hospitality to the countless domestic and foreign visitors, as tourism and education are among the economic drivers of this highly-urbanized city, the former being at its peak this festive season.
We also pray that city officials can find the balance between tourism and carrying capacity in this city designed for a 25,000 population.

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