The Asian Voice

How to slay the Edsa-traffic dragon? Philippine Daily Inquirer

Rush-hour traffic crawls in Metro Manila’s main Edsa highway.
Rush-hour traffic crawls in Metro Manila’s main Edsa highway.ST PHOTO: RAUL DANCEL

With 300,000 vehicles on a highway that can carry only 100,000, there will be chaos.

By Mart del Rosario

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

The monster that's the horrendous traffic on Edsa (a freeway in Manila) looks like it's beyond taming.

The government has thrown everything at it to chain it, including not just the proverbial kitchen sink but in fact the entire house plumbing, but the beast remains unchecked, spewing the fire of defiance at a collection of traffic enforcers, highway storm troopers and Cabinet-rank traffic managers.

Where is the problem? Why are those charged with the task of slaying the Edsa-traffic dragon hard put to do the job?

The problem, folks, lies in the lack of gumption of the assigned traffic-solvers to think laterally, to come up with a problem-solving proposal that's reflective of a correct reading of the situation, never mind if their out-of-the-box proposal would bring upon their heads a cascade of criticism laced with unprintable epithets.

The Edsa-traffic mess is easy enough to read.

It is caused by the sheer number of vehicles that traverse the darned highway-nearly triple the number, we are told, that it can accommodate.

It's plain common sense. You try to squeeze 300,000 vehicles onto a road that can only carry 100,000 max, and what do you get? Chaos!

So how do you solve a problem like the gridlock-afflicted Edsa?

To me, the plain and simple solution to the daily war zone on that historic highway is: Ban all private vehicles-sedans, vans, AUVs, etc.-during the morning and evening rush hours.

Declare the entire length of Edsa from Monumento to Ayala a freeway to be traversed only by economy-class buses from 5.00 am to 8.00 am in the morning southbound, and 5.00am to 9.00 am in the evening northbound, and by executive-class tourist buses from 8.00am to 10.00am in the morning southbound, and from 9.00 am to 11.00am in the evening northbound.

Why the two types of buses, economy-class and executive-class?

The economy rides are for the hoi polloi, those who do not own cars and who commute to and from work on a tight budget, taking public transport. The executive rides are for executive types who prefer the comforts and appointments of tourist buses and can afford and are willing to pay the required price.

Of course, if anyone from the hoi polloi is feeling privileged and desires to hop into an executive-class bus, he or she doesn't need to seek permission from Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, the traffic czar except in name; he or she can go right ahead and board the bus-and pay the assigned stiff fare.

What will be done with the private cars?

If you insist on using your car to travel from Quezon City to Makati, by all means do so - but not through Edsa. Make your way through the side streets, byways and short cuts clogged with all manner of vehicles, trucks, tricycles and jeeps, to speak nothing of all sorts of vendors, and arrive at your destination sweating like a horse and your bladder close to bursting, two hours after heading out from Cubao toward Ayala.

But if you want to zoom in 30-40 minutes flat from Quezon Avenue to Buendia, the sensible thing to do is leave your car at home or at a parking lot nearest the bus station and commute in comfort via the Edsa bus express.

Now, is all that I am saying just a pipe dream? Can the concept be done?

Of course it can be done. Will it be done? I have my doubts.

Once it is announced that the Edsa-traffic task force is considering implementing a ban on private vehicles on Edsa, you can be sure that the fingers in both your hands will not be enough to count the lawyers running to the court to seek a temporary restraining order on the proposal.

Let's face it: We are not in short supply of morons and dunderheads who'd rather fry for hours in their vehicles trapped in the middle of the Edsa gridlock than ride in relative comfort in buses traversing a highway freed of thousands of private cars.

But will a car ban on Edsa work?

The only way to find out is to try it, say for a week.

Let's give the experiment a name "Bigayan"- give and take, a trait that has all but disappeared.