What’s next after Asean-induced traffic jam?


On Nov. 11, former beauty queen Maria Isabel Lopez, who was stuck in traffic along Edsa, outside the Asean lanes designated exclusively for delegates of the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila, posted a shocker on Facebook: she wrote that she removed the pylons separating the delegates’ lanes from those of regular motorists, and then drove into the Asean lanes.

She then attached pictures and a video accompanying her post showing her speeding inside the Asean lane, shouting “Woohoo, Asean, here I come!”

As expected, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) wasted no time condemning her act, threatening to revoke her driver’s license.

On social media, netizens were as unforgiving. And they had every reason to be, as they had to suffer hours upon hours of gridlock, complying—albeit grudgingly—to the MMDA’s traffic scheme prioritizing the safe and speedy passage of our most valued visitors, a scheme that not only involved setting aside two lanes of Edsa for Asean delegates, but also road closures and lockdowns of SMX-MAAX Block in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, and the Padre Burgos Avenue-Buendia Avenue stretch of Roxas Boulevard.

Which brings us to the question, what did the ordinary motorist and commuter not endowed with the brazenness of a former beauty queen do during the 31st edition of the Asean Summit to cope with the carmaggedon?

A similar query was posted on Facebook by former Top Gear Philippines’ editor-in-chief Mike Black last Sunday. “So what’s the verdict on yesterday’s (Saturday’s) carmageddon? Did it qualify as the worst MM traffic jam in history? Seems like it.”

Black’s Facebook friend Pio Gerona Fortuno Jr., a bike enthusiast, commented, “This is a sign of things to come. We don’t have an adequate and efficient mass transport, we have a very low bikability and walkability index, and car ownership and usage had increased exponentially.

“Asean has stressed the traffic system past the tipping point, though soon, the sheer number of vehicles will be the tipping point itself. With Christmas coming, car sales soaring, and mass transport solutions few in the making, massive traffic jams will be the reality.”

Upon a subsequent FB chat with Fortuno, this writer learned that he was the founder of Tiklop Society of the Philippines. Fortuno was also among those who successfully lobbied the MRT/LRT management to allow folding bikes inside the trains.

Motoring journalist Tito Hermoso also commented: “Best solution? Keep it (the Asean and Apec Summits) between Subic and Clark. Each do not have the facilities—specially a PICC-sized summit hall. But that can be arranged if both host the delegates.

“Subic and Clark hotels together could accommodate all. They can do the shuttle between Clark and Subic. Scenic too. But keep the original objective of not disrupting NAIA as it disrupts many Pacific flights. Subic can be an exclusive Asean airport, too.”

Hermoso added: “Whenever unused by official convoys, the Asean lanes must be opened to private traffic—provided they will only exit at the northernmost end—Balintawak, and for the southbound, exit only at MOA and Makati.

“That addresses MMDA Nebrija’s complaint that they closed the Asean lanes to any private traffic because of those exiting in between the ends of Edsa.”

Black added to the thread: “It seems from the stories that there was a total breakdown in traffic discipline. Perhaps MMDA put too many resources into policing the Asean lanes, and too little to manage the alternate routes.

“I’m sure there are many lessons that could be learned from yesterday’s disaster, just as long as the authorities ask themselves the right questions.”

Motoring journalist Leslie Sy posted a photo on his Facebook wall while he was having coffee at an establishment in Pasig. The caption read: “Coffee run during #ASEAN2017. Fortunately, today (Nov. 12), traffic is much better than yesterday’s carmaggedon.”

Sy told this writer that on Nov. 11, he read on his Facebook newsfeed about his friends’ “horrible experiences” getting to their destinations around Metro Manila.

“I was at the office then. I decided not to go anywhere far. I just had my cars washed at the nearby carwash. On Nov. 12, I got a bit of cabin fever so I went out for a drive around Metro Manila. Traffic was between light and normal for the most parts in Quezon City, San Juan areas.

“Areas with moving heavy traffic were Ateneo, C5, and Libis. I ended up having coffee at The Grove, Rockwell along C5. A bit of shopping at Rustan’s there before heading home,” Sy narrated.

He added that on Nov. 13, his family’s company decided to operate in the office so that most of his company’s delivery trucks could deliver goods to their customers on the same day.

“Other trucks went for some maintenance like change oil or brake checks, etc. taking advantage of the light schedule and open service garage.

“Originally, I planned to go to Baguio from Nov. 12 to 14. But when I tried to book a room, most of my preferred hotels were full, which probably meant heavy traffic in Baguio during the said dates, so I just decided for a stay-cation”, said Sy.

Like what many netizens fear about the Asean Summit carmaggedon, this isn’t the end.

Christmas season is still more than a month away, and that’s what’s putting the chills down the spine of many weary urban motorists and commuters.

Probably, the worst is yet to come.

What’s your breaking point, and what are you willing to do—and sacrifice—to avoid reaching that point of no u-turn?

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