The Metro Manila Development Authority deserves praise for doing its best to solve Metro Manila’s traffic problem. Of course, this is not to say that the MMDA has already succeeded. This is just an acknowledgment of the agency’s efforts.
What has the MMDA done so far? It has installed pink fences along major roads to designate assigned areas for private vehicles, public utility vehicles and even pedestrians. It has maintained the implementation of the number coding scheme. It has widened a number of roads. All these have proved to be effective in improving the flow of vehicles to some extent. I sincerely hope the MMDA comes out with an ultimate solution, although I seriously doubt that is possible.
Let’s also give some credit to the traffic enforcers of the various local government units. Their participation in traffic management also has some value.
Still, despite their combined efforts, Metro Manila traffic remains as chaotic as ever.
In my opinion, solving Metro Manila’s traffic problem requires more than just putting up fences, limiting the number of vehicles and building wider roads. I think the traffic problem would be best addressed with some serious legislation.
My appreciation of the traffic situation stems from having experienced moving around Metro Manila on board my own vehicle or any of the available public transportation such as the MRT, buses, FX taxis and jeepneys (I avoid riding regular taxis because I don’t like setting myself up to be robbed). Simply put, I am both a commuter and a motorist. In either case, my observation always ends with the conclusion that the root cause of the problem is the lack of discipline among PUV drivers.
Some may argue that many private motorists also lack discipline. That is true. But, as far as I’m concerned, the bigger blame for the problem goes to PUV drivers. It is my contention that many private motorists — and that includes me — are only forced to drive like undisciplined maniacs on the road because of the driving style of PUV drivers.
I did some experiments of my own to see if my hypothesis has any validity. One time while driving along Espana, Manila, I decided that I was going to stay on one lane from Welcome Rotonda all the way to Quiapo. No matter how hard I tried I always ended up switching to another lane for the simple reason that jeepneys and buses were swerving all around me, forcing me to swerve as well to avoid getting hit. I also found out that by keeping to one lane there is a big possibility that I will not make it to my destination on time because these PUV drivers have the habit of “parking” their vehicles just about anywhere they please.
As a commuter, I have also observed that PUV drivers are the most reckless of all motorists. Bus drivers are particularly notorious. They swerve and move in and out of lanes with impunity as if they were driving a Mini. No wonder accidents involving buses have become a daily occurence.
So there’s my claim. Undisciplined PUV drivers are the root cause of the traffic problem. I’m convinced that, if PUV drivers will just observe traffic rules and avoid swerving, hogging lanes, loading and unloading just about anywhere, most private motorists will find it easier to drive properly as well.
Another thing I observed that I think contributes to the problem is the selective enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. I’m sure other private motorists have noticed this as well. Traffic enforcers tend to give puv drivers more leeway. Take for instance swerving. If you regularly travel along Eliiptical Road in Quezon City you would have noticed that buses coming from Commonwealth Avenue make the approach to East Avenue starting from the innermost lanes of this particularly wide stretch of road. As such, these buses have to swerve and cross at least four lanes from across the Quezon Avenue entry point to the East Avenue exit point. Not a few accidents involving these buses have occured in this area alone. What is noticeable is that traffic enforcers manning that area don’t seem to mind these reckless drivers. What they normally concentrate on are the private motorists making the approach to the Quezon Avenue exit point. Ironically, their usual case against the private motorists they apprehend is swerving.
So what am I driving at? I contend that, for the most part, traffic enforcers are not helping at all in instilling discipline among PUV drivers. They really prefer apprehending private motorists. And, this is a fact that I can attest to because I have personally been in a situation where I was apprehended for getting stuck in the middle of an intersection while the driver of the jeepney ahead of me was allowed to go on his way without even an admonition. This selective enforcement will be discussed further in another post.
Going back to my issue against PUV drivers, I strongly believe the time is right to abandon any more attempts to discipline them. They will just continue violating traffic rules as long as their incomes are based on the number of passengers they pick up. I therefore propose a more drastic approach and this is where our lawmakers should come in. I suggest the following:
- Pass legislation to ban jeepneys from major roads. Limit jeepney routes to the smaller inner roads.
- Pass legislation to change the way PUV drivers are paid.
- Pass legislation to support the development of a more organized bus transport system whereby buses are assigned specific loading and unloading bays.
- Pass legislation for the development of a real Mass Transit System similar to those in Hong Kong, Singapore and other territories lucky enough to have such a system.
I started this piece with a reference to the MMDA. I have a reason for that. I want to call attention to the fact that, while the MMDA’s projects have their merits, it is becoming painfully clear that those fences, u-turn slots, road widening projects etcetera etcetera are nothing more than a circumvention to avoid actually putting erring PUV drivers in their proper place.
At this point I would like to clarify that these are just suggestions. As with all my other posts here, this piece is just meant to start up a brainstorming session of sorts. If you feel strongly about criticizing any of these suggestions go ahead just be sure to go about it in a constructive way.