Sun. Jul 25th, 2021
This intersection near the Dario Bridge along EDSA in Quezon City was once closed and opened, was twice closed and opened again, and then closed and now opened.

by Ado Paglinawan

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) appears to be slowly growing common sense as it re-opened a U-turn slot at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) near the Dario Bridge in Quezon City.

MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos said motorists traveling along EDSA northbound would no longer have to drive as far as Balintawak-Cloverleaf to take a U-turn.

This U-turn slot was closed to give way to the EDSA busway system. But now, MMDA traffic enforcers would be deployed to manage the flow of traffic in the area.

MMDA plans to install traffic lights along the intersections with U-turn slots. “Give us one month to see how it will go.

(Kung hindi umubra, OK, ituloy ang elevated bus ramp along EDSA,” he said.

The chairman, who used to be mayor of Mandal;uyong City, said the elevated ramps for the EDSA busway system, where buses would pass to allow other motorists to use U-turn slots, would cost P400 million for each intersection.

“That is too expensive,” Abalos said.)

This demonstrates the decrepit kind of planning templates ruling our government officials. Thinking on their feet. Reactionary. Devoid of strategic foresight and integrative acumen.

Left lane

When I first took over an early morning two-hour show at Radyo Pilipinas, the traffic at EDSA was a monstrosity.

My first suggestion to decongest the circumferential road that stretches from the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay to Monumento roundabout in Caloocan, was to rationalize the two orange bus lanes created by once-DOTr Secretary Oscar Orbos during the Cory Aquino presidency.

The idea has failed a long-time ago that even the genius of Abalos predecessor Bayani Fernando could not solve. (Bayani will be best remembered for installing steel pedestrian overpasses along EDSA and many busy Metro Manila intersections.)

  1. Buses did not remain within the two lanes allowed for them. Every now and then they flow over to the third lanes causing gridlocks at the left side.
  2. Buses block the exit to the side streets causing gridlocks at the right side.
  3. There was an over population of buses at Edsa and the numbers just prevented law enforcers from policing colorum buses.
  4. EDSA was available to all the buses all the time, there was no regulation of their access as to lean and rush hours.
  5. Overtaking and reckless driving was beyond control.
  6. Buses took too long loading and unloading creating jams behind them, anywhere their drivers and conductors want to stop. Bayani’s designated lanes, stops and accompanying warning signs and lights went useless.
  7. MMDA had to assign an army of traffic enforcers.
  8. Enforcers had impressive uniforms making them ape policemen, some even donned attractive berets, but they were not trained to use uniform traffic signals and drilled onto serving the public. They were often packed like ladies conversing with each other, like owls glued to their cellphones or like wolves setting up traps going after drivers “swerving” lanes or beating traffic lights.
  9. Enforcers prefer to be equipped with a black folder with traffic violation tickets rather than the most important tool of their trade – the proverbial whistle.
  10. The rule of the road was every bus to itself. So instead of an efficient traffic, Edsa became a hub for enforcers mulcting “kotongs”. I knew one MMDA enforcer once boasting that he was making up to P5,000 a day just from drivers bribing their way.

My idea was a copycat of the Bus Rapid System in other countries – a single-lane dedicated exclusively to buses and emergency vehicles, with designated strategic stops for passenger arrivals and departures.

It took four years into the Duterte administration and a Covid pandemic because the MMDA and the Department of Transportation would rather debate with Grace Poe on how to reform EDSA flow than do something on the ground.

The first question I got on the air was where would the buses load and unload at the left side when there was nothing there but a close island? How will they pass from the left side to cross to the right sidewalk?

The answer is simple. Bus stops will be designated where there are already existing pedestrian overpasses. Naturally infrastructural renovation will have to follow. A ladder from the island to the overpasses will be built. In areas where no overpasses exist, access through the MRT stations will be opened. And last but not least, simple adjustments will be made to the island to enlarge the stop area to allow waiting stations with roofs.

Think about it, a single stroke of the magic wand and all the 10 problems enumerated above have been solved.

The second question, however, came up – a problem created by the dedicated bus lane at the left of the highway. What about Bayani’s U-turn slots that had to truncate EDSA at points that former administrations did not provide over or under passes for U-turns? Most of these are in Quezon City.

It took a year and half for MMDA to solve it during the pandemic but my radio show precisely suggested this as early as 2018.

I said then, they don’t have to be closed, just regulated. The new bus lane can allow these slots to be opened because the buses don’t really need arrive at the U-turn slots every minute. Bus loading and unloading take at least two minutes during rush hours and more during lean periods. The solution is to assign traffic enforcers at the U-turn slots to regulate the stop-and-go flow interchanging between crossing buses and U-turning vehicles. Manually controlled traffic lights can support management later.

MMDA has thousands of enforcers in its ghost payroll, who can be assigned throughout the hours of bus operations throughout the day and night.

And while we are it, these bus stops and U-turn slots must be brightly lighted to minimize errors and accidents.

This is a scene in Thailand where motorcycles are not regulated, and where lane splitting is not illegal. Are we going to wait until this malady happens? The database of the Land Transportation Office reflects a population of 12.3 million motorcycles but 65% of the are unregistered.

Right lane

Municipios have already started it to enlarge their constituencies. They have assigned bike lanes, before they even rationalized the Orbos orange lanes at the right side of the highway.

The right orange lanes must be designated as “local” or “service” lanes.

Speed limit on these lanes will be limited to a maximum of 45 kph.

On the rightmost are the green bike lanes.

All vehicles due to turn right within the next 100 meters, should also use the local lane negotiating a smooth swerve, so that when they do, they don’t block other vehicles on their right.

City-buses, not using the left Rapid-Bus lanes, must use the orange lane.

The orange lanes, will now be designated as “blue” lanes for motorcycles below 400 rpm. (The LTO code regulates motorcycles of 400 rpm and above in the same manner as four-wheel vehicles. PU-Tricycles are not allowed at EDSA.)  

This means that all throughout EDSA, motorcycles below 400 rpm will not be prohibited from using middle lanes, overpasses and underpasses. The orange/blue lanes protrudes to the right side of overpasses and underpasses through the local/service lanes.

This means that above underpasses and below overpasses, whenever possible, left and U-turns must be allowed for all vehicles but regulated by traffic enforcers.

Why whenever possible? No such facility can be allowed over the Boni underpass. As exception to the rule, motorcyles below 400 rpm can also be allowed to use Tramo overpass in Pasay turning left going to the airports; the Estrella overpass going to Rockwell; and the Balintawak cloverleaf to access the Bonifacio Road below (a slight renovation of service lane may be needed from the right orange lane to serve better access to the cloverleaf on the north side).  

As many lanes as there are, the motorcycles populate each and every one of them, slowing traffic down, risking accidents everywhere.

Middle lane

The middle lane will now be known as the “Pass-Thru” lane for four-or-more wheeled vehicles, including private buses allowing the opportunity to increase speeds on the front and avoid clogging at the back. This is also meant to allow the left middle lanes to overtaking or moving faster.

These lanes will now be free from motorcycles below 400 rpm that use to serve as slowpokes on the road, often occupying both lanes when free, preventing faster vehicles from overtaking, and lane splitting between rows of vehicles even at high speeds.

Lane splitting is prohibited under the LTO code and may be classified as reckless driving. Squeezing motorcycles in between two occupied lanes is extremely dangerous. (Beside driving slow on left lanes, other bad habits of motorcycles are overtaking on your right and immediately cutting  in front of you after overtaking.

Maximum speed limit on the middle lane could be first introduced at 60 kph, growing to 80 kph when over time, motorists have adjusted to a faster flow.

Endless experiments

The MMDA and the Department of Transportation are agencies of endless experimentations. Can’t they get engineers who are capable of measured planning, design and implementation?

Solutions have been glaring at us for the longest time, but we Filipinos have a problem for every solution.

The last DOTr experiment was piloting Angkas, JoyRide and Move-On using motorcycles to transport people.

The sitting secretary of transportation graduated valedictorian of the San Beda College of Law, magna cum laude.  Note that the law (LTO code) prohibits the use of two-wheeled vehicles as public utility vehicles.

I sense some dissonance.

When Covid-19 broke out, instant geniuses devised a shield between the driver and his hitchhiker.

There is still a problem.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases has ruled a one-meter distance between individuals as social distancing standard which I think will flow onto the new normal.

Wattamadapaka!

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