Metro Manila is suffering from a chronic “clogged nose and clogged arteries”. And by that, we mean what should be moving smoothly at any time of the day is consistently stuck up. And that means traffic by foot and by wheels. When traffic is clogged up, the air quality in the Metro worsens, as well.
We’ve asked renowned urban planner Felino Palafox Jr what he thinks of the traffic mess and the solutions on top of his mind. Here was his lightning-fast reply:
1) Pedestrian and bicycle bridges crossing the Metro’s rivers every 800 meters must be built the soonest possible. Pasig River, for example, needs to have 15 more of such bridges.
2) Ferry transportation along the rivers must be increased.
3) An elevated walkway running the whole length of Edsa (both ways) must be built.
4) The carrying capacity of the light railways must be increased.
5) Use the power of monetary rewards and punishment. Charge a “congestion fee” on drivers or vehicles taking Edsa during peak hours. Double the toll fees for vehicles coming from either the north or south expressways entering Metro Manila during peak hours, but give vehicles going out of Metro Manila a free pass to the same expressways during peak hours. “Most progressive cities (around the world) enforce congestion charging. Paid on-street parking is a form of congestion charging.”
6) Edsa needs 8 parallel roads to decongest itself, and it needs is for private roads to open up. In 2016, Palafox had called on multisectoral action to open up private roads parallel to Edsa. “With all the parallel roads to Edsa inside gated military camps, government offices, subdivisions, and cemeteries, the government should start opening up these roads to the public. We from the villages should be patriotic enough to share our roads. And we should open up our gates during peak hours. We are part of the problem, we can be part of the solution.” In other countries, he said, private villages have allowed the public to access their roads to alleviate the congestion on the main roads.
7) And if TessDrive could add its own two cents’ worth: Improve mass transport systems to finally encourage private vehicle owners leave their cars at home. It can be as simple as organizing an informal carpooling system, or increasing the number, destinations, and frequencies of the P2P (point-to-point) shuttles.
Palafox, reiterated, however, that there’s no “silver bullet to solve congestion entirely,” much like cold medicines only treat the symptoms, but not the underlying cause. “A package of solutions is necessary to solve traffic congestion.” And it certainly takes much more than just one smart urban planner to make 20 million of the city’s denizens get their act together.