Thanks for not hitting on us singles

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I’m single (but unavailable), and unmarried with no children. I’ve devoted my time at home to taking care of my elderly parents, both of whom are facing their own health challenges bravely.

I could say I am a doting daughter, and it’s the least I can do for those who had spent much of their lives setting me straight and true as I grew. And in a way, I am a parent, too, to my own parents and to a dozen or so semi-stray cats and three dogs, beneficiaries of my vegan heart.

So, this explains why I drive around in a van, in case my “children” get into emergencies and need to be transported. But these are emergencies, and they’re not everyday occurrences.

That means, I often drive alone in my van. That’s quite some space occupied by just one person in our congested streets, I admit. Which also explains why I don’t go to my physical office everyday. In my line of work, e-mails are the fastest chauffeurs.

But on occasions that I am on actual media coverage, I have no choice but to drive my van. Alone.

When the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced the ban on driver-only vehicles on Edsa, it felt like a drunken neighborhood toughie hit on me and fenced me in, breathing down my neck and whispering, “Hey, babe, are you lonesome tonight?”

In short, I felt harassed. There were so many other pasa-way motorists who didn’t deserve to drive on Edsa, much more flaunt their driver’s licenses, but the Authority decided instead to pick on us singles.

I could understand the logic behind it: Encourage carpooling among those who use the country’s busiest thoroughfare. But the key word there is encourage, not punish.

And there are a lot of other more sensible ways to address the traffic problem. For starters, how about clearing out and opening up the public parallel roads to Edsa?

I was a bit relieved when some Senators intervened and ordered the suspension of the high occupancy only vehicle (HOV) policy on Edsa.

But I also commiserate with the MMDA in their sincere but oftentimes frustrating efforts to do something, anything, to keep us moving along on the maddening city’s roads.

So, instead of useless rants, here are some suggestions by yours truly and my associates who all have a stake in this country.

What can be a more effective means of solving the traffic on Edsa?

1. Ban multiple traffic violators.

Auto expert Alexander Loinaz quipped: “Has the MMDA done a survey of how many drivers have received a moving traffic ticket for more than three times? RA 4136, the Land Transportation and Traffic Act, states in Section 27, suspension, revocation of driver’s license: The Commissioner may, in his discretion, revoke or suspend the license of such driver for a period not exceeding two years.

“It’s been known that most public utility drivers have more than three violation tickets. Why not start from there to lessen perennial traffic violators.”

2. Congestion charging on peak hours at the toll areas.

Urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. first mentioned this to me in 2016. When I asked him again this Monday, he suggested: “Congestion charging during peak hours, so unnecessary trips are postponed. Double or increase the toll fees when entering Metro Manila during peak hours, toll-free when getting out of Metro Manila.”

Congestion charging was, in fact, proposed by Palafox as early as 1976 when he was the team leader of the World Bank-funded MMetroPlan (Metro Manila Transport Land Use Development Planning Project).

“Most progressive cities enforce congestion charging. Paid parking on streets is a form of congestion charging.”

3. Limit the use of cars during peak hours in congested areas.

“You can’t limit the ownership of cars, but limit car usage during peak hours,” said Palafox.

4. Open up roads parallel to Edsa.

Palafox, apparently, has a lot to say about Metro traffic. “Edsa is functioning as a major arterial road, minor artery, major collector road, minor collector, shopping center access road, access to gated residential villages, gated military camps, government offices and schools, feeder road to the MRT and LRT, connects central business districts, etc. Edsa needs ideally eight parallel roads to function more efficiently.”

In 2016, he told me that he had called on multisectoral action to open up 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 these roads. 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, posh villages opened up their roads to the public.

“Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana agreed to open up the military camp roads during peak hours with security measures and stickers. The government will be the good exemplars for gated communities to follow for the good of the majority.”

He added, “Private road Rockwell Drive is shared with the public, and so is Orbit street of Bel Air. All gated communities in Los Angeles and elsewhere in more progressive cities opened their gates since the Opec oil crisis of 1973. Metro Manila is 45 years behind”.

5. A respectable, reliable, and safe public transport system should be in place so people would not have to totally depend on cars.

In emerging markets all over the world where the public transport system and infrastructure improvements do not keep apace with the burgeoning public demand, a greater tendency is created for people to acquire their own vehicles.

Alberto Suansing, former Land Transportation Office chief and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chair, told me in 2015: “Because of our situation where we don’t have a respectable public transport system in place, Filipinos will purchase their own vehicles right away.

He also told me that the number coding scheme is also pushing those living in Metro Manila to buy a second car.

The problem of traffic in Metro Manila is “It’s complicated,” not “single,” if you really have to summarize things into a tacky marital status thing.

There’s no one magic pill to cure this ill. It’s going to take all of us to literally get things going in Metro Manila’s roads.

Inquirer Motoring starts this week with Road Talk, a column devoted to issues that Filipino motorist and commuters face while on the road.



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