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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, February 9, 2018
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Needed: Public
transport system



That's what the Joint Foreign Chambers say our cities will be if we don't solve the traffic problem that is slowly but surely degrading the quality of life for those who live in our urban centers.

Yes they were most likely referring to Metro Manila where Filipinos burn through billions of pesos worth of precious fuel and invaluable time while stuck in traffic every day but the threat is real for those of us who live in the province too. Especially for the “progressive” and “up and coming” cities in the Metro Bacolod and Dumaguete areas.

The promise of Build Build Build powered by utang utang utang of the national government should give us a few additional roads like the Economic highway that will be built at the outer reaches of our cities, maybe a coastal road/highway, and possibly even a bridge to Iloilo but if you come to think of it, these infrastructure projects or dreams will not improve the already worsening traffic situation in the hearts of our growing cities.

Notice that whatever is being built or improved in the hearts of our cities are not doing much to increase the capacities of our roads. The many flood control projects that are causing even more traffic but will hopefully minimize future flooding once they are completed do not widen our roads. Aside from that, the road-widening projects being currently undertaken inside our cities are already nearing their maximum limit. The only way to add capacity is to go under (tunnels) or over (skyways,) and practicality says those options are not yet feasible for our probinsyano roads.

If we don't want traffic to get us, our officials cannot just wait for a build build build solution. There are many practical ways we can make the most of our roads if they really wanted to maximize our already excellent road network.

The first is declogging. This means everything illegal: from structures, parking, and activities along major roads and highways have to be stopped permanently because government did spend billions to widen those roads for squatters.

Next is enforcement. In order to make sure the declogged roads are not reclogged of course. Also to drive the fear of the law into the hearts of our undisciplined and chaotic drivers who currently know they can get away with anything they want to do, especially if the hazard lights are turned on.

The first two may seem simple and straightforward solutions but our experience with our leaders and those who enforce the law tell us this will be tough. Hopefully it can be done.

The other urgent doable solution that we should start right now is to start setting up a proper public transport system because the current way jeepneys operate is not systematic. We can dream about a MRT or a subway but if you come to think of it, even Metro Manila can neither afford nor manage one properly. One look at the bad combination of its pricing structure and how badly it is being maintained tells us a lot about the Filipino's ability to run a commuter train system within our political system.

What the leaders of Metro Bacolod and Negros Island could work toward is a modern, smart and integrated public transport system. Ideally, we'd junk the concept of a jeepney and find a suitable and more efficient replacement but if we really value it as an icon, we can still use a better version of jeepneys but there has to be a system.

They can't compete with and overtake each other in a mad dog-eat-dog rush for passengers at the expense of everyone else. They can't stop anywhere they please. They should have a fixed schedule or there has to be a central dispatching system that acts on real time data to ensure that wait times are manageable for passengers and the PUV's are operating at peak efficiency, not just randomly burning fuel, emitting noxious fumes and causing traffic. There can't be tricycle and trisikad terminals within a few meters of intersections. We have to learn how to walk.

Our roads are decent, if not among the best in the country. Our current public utility vehicles may need small upgrades here and there, a rationalization of the fleet and a general overhaul of the driver's mentalities but they are also already there. Our problem stems from using the same old non-system for more than half a century while unrealistically expecting things to improve.

It is high time our leaders came up with the brains and the balls to get rid of what hasn't been working. It may be difficult to come up with a new system that works for everybody: the drivers, the passengers and the motorists; but it is not impossible.

National government may build build build but it doesn't really care about or understand our traffic problems the way our local leaders should. We have seen it in how the contractors of the DPWH and its officials simply pack up and leave when they are done with what they are supposed to do. How we end up using those roads is up to the local and provincial governments and if we want our towns and cities to be habitable we cannot continue using those new roads in the same carefree manner we have been using roads and PUV's for the past century.

So why aren't they even considering it?

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