Traffic mess: a congestion of logic

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The metro roads look like a filled-up parking lot.

The metro roads look like a filled-up parking lot.

While it’s finally been scientifically proven at long last that it was actually the egg that came before the chicken, that piece of long-awaited information doesn’t really seem to have any practical use—nor can it do anyone any good.

It’s pretty much like trying to pinpoint the real root of the monstrous traffic we’re burdened with on a daily basis, except that it leads to much finger pointing, and that makes it akin to the “chicken and egg” dilemma. Except that that’s been solved, and well, our traffic problem is way more complicated than mere eggs and chickens.

Culprits

The obvious culprits would be the very poor or close to non-existent planning of the metropolis’ infrastructure needs from generations back that’s basically boxing us in toward the mother of all monumental bottlenecks; the rapid increase of new vehicles being added onto our roads and highways on a regular basis, coupled with the absence of real measures to regulate the number of ageing vehicles that stay on the road; the tragically flawed test system of the Land Transportation Office that’d qualify nearly anyone to get a driver’s license; the failure of our traffic enforcers to actually implement and enforce the law due in a big part to their own incompetence and compromised integrity; a mostly jaded, undisciplined and perennially pissed-off driving population; and, well, corruption in the government, past and present that basically gives all of the above a warm blanket of inclusion.

No chickens and eggs there, but a gang of rabid roosters going for each other’s throats in one big tangled mess.

It’d be pointless and mind-numbing to sit back and baste in analysis paralysis regarding this, much like being caught in the middle of Edsa on a Friday rush hour, long weekend traffic jam.

Admittedly, it is very difficult to just be compliant to all the rules of the road in an environment where nice guys don’t just finish last, but are also sideswiped, bullied to the curb, cut into, blocked out and well, virtually eaten alive.

Road survival

So the prevailing tendency for road survival, or at least to arrive at work at a decent time, is to toughen up as well, don the double standards, breathe fire through the car window, and suck in the stress levels to live and drive another day—in the same kind of traffic. Tragic.

In some other countries where the traffic situation is as bad as ours, or even worse, it’s been observed that gridlocks do look like filled-up parking lot.

But at least, their traffic is  orderly where the cars remain in their lanes, patiently in line, and trusting that somewhere a few kilometers ahead, the authorities in charge are working as fast as they can on a solution to bring things to nominal flow again.

You see, when the system is respected and trusted, discipline happens without much enforcement.

Unbending enforcement

Of course, for a system to work and gain that kind of trust (and therefore compliance), it must first utilize an unbending and harsh kind of enforcement that applies to all.

In fact, penalties and punishment must be harsher for the enforcers and those in the government, for them to be more careful about imposing their authority—and that requires a much more stringent criteria to filter out those not fit or qualified for the posts.

Initially, it could be baffling how those who behave like hooligans on Manila roads are suddenly so well behaved in every respect (speed limit, right of way, obeying every traffic sign) at the Subic Bay Freeport, which is just roughly two hours up North.

But come to think of it, drivers comply because if they’re caught violating, there are no ifs and buts.

Bribery will only worsen the situation, and it’d be a major hassle having to go out of town later to claim your license on top of paying a steep fine.

Well, of course, there are no hoards of buses, Jeeps, UV Express vans and tricycles that are either subscribed to protection rackets or just happily wreaking havoc on the road in the absence of or even amidst ineffective and/or apathetic enforcers.

You realize that the system in Subic could be a scaled-down role model of what we should have in Manila.

Undeniable truth

Again, it would be so easy to say it’s a lot more complicated than that, even if the undeniable truth is that no one just gets properly pinned down with the consequences.

There are factors in our current traffic situation that belong to the “grit your teeth and bear it” inbox; fixing them would require an upheaval of gargantuan proportions.

But then, there are factors that we can do something about, even just to get started with.

While seemingly simplistic, idealistic, even laughable, I’d narrow remedies to much stiffer penalties for traffic violations; getting rid of half-witted traffic enforcement authorities (through aptitude tests); slapping penalties that are twice what a civilian would be meted on traffic enforcers caught erring or taking bribes; and rewarding enforcers who qualify with proper wages and benefits.

Then, let the government and the private sector try to sort out the more chaotic issues that essentially affect governance on a street level.

Want something more simplistic still? Ready your air sickness bag, and just say “I’ll start with myself.”



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