Wednesday, January 29, 2020

EDSA 2020

There are two topics that I can think of with very strong staying power in the media—the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and the discussions on public transportation coupled with the EDSA traffic.

Another story that has stayed in the news is the traffic mess, particularly in EDSA and in the entire Metro Manila, in general. The traffic situation is tightly related to the various issues of public transportation.

A famous line in movies is the outburst of Albert Finney’s character in “Network”—“I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Being stuck in Edsa’s horrendous traffic jam tempts one to burst into an Albert Finney moment.

Edsa is one reason Metro Manila is the ugly duckling of Asia and a blot in urban management over the decades since its completion in the early 80s.

This 23.8-kilometer long circumferential road, albeit the most important of the capital, is one of its most congested, chaotic, noisy, ugly and polluted in the Philippines that contributes to immense economic and social cost.

Completed 50 years after it was started in the 1930s as a highway, Edsa links the NLEx and SLEx (North and South Luzon expressways) and traverses five cities. Following rapid and uncontrolled urbanization, Edsa has evolved into an avenue with high density establishments along its route.

With the management of Edsa following the car-centric American model instead of mass transit-oriented European model, about 370,000 vehicles, two-thirds of which are private, use it daily. With its design capacity overwhelmed, Edsa has become a very inefficient traffic corridor despite almost the entire right-of-way being allocated for motorized traffic and engineering refinements introduced in late 1980s.

The EDSA Revolution certainly did not set out to be a revolution. As is well known, some military officers tried to pre-empt their arrest by the regime by occupying Camp Aguinaldo and then Camp Crame and appealed for public support. It became revolutionary in its execution through a mustering of the people by the hundreds of thousands in a popular and peaceful protest.

The outcome was less revolutionary. The dictator was overthrown and his regime met its ignominious end. However, the same extractive and suppressive institutions were maintained. The powers-that-be simply ensured that their class interests prevailed. A rare historical opportunity was squandered in transforming the existing social order toward a more equitable society. When the heady afterglow of EDSA faded many of the corrupt officials of the previous regime were rehabilitated and oligopolies restored and the oligarchic structure was maintained. There would also be a new group of favored businessmen and politicians that essentially maintained the system of vested political interests, dynasties, and powerful clans. There had been no structural transformation of the Philippine economy to empower ordinary citizens to participate actively and benefit equitably from the fruits of development.

When it took interminable hours to untangle traffic gridlock on Edsa and elsewhere, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) unveiled a holistic traffic and transportation plan for Metro Manila.

Included in the plan was the “Edsa Dream Plan” to address the dysfunctional mass transportation system, severe traffic congestion, air pollution, lack of pedestrian space and greeneries. This dream plan applied universal practices in urban road space planning and mass transportation system.The plan calls for a paradigm shift in urban street engineering and transportation planning. Decongestion through efficient and space-saving mass transit system coupled with more equitable sharing of the Edsa road space to satisfy community rights are the key strategies of the plan. Edsa is a vital community resource that must be used efficiently and shared in an inclusive manner with road space distributed among stakeholders to achieve urban justice where both mobility and community rights are well served.The main strategy is to optimize use of the Edsa road space to open up space for pedestrians and the greening of Edsa. Optimization is sought to be achieved by employing high capacity transit systems to efficiently move commuters with the least number of vehicles, to minimize the use of road space. Arguably, a rail-based train with multiple coaches is the most efficient people mover used by cities the world over.The MAP plan calls for maintaining the existing overhead MRT 3 light train line and complementing it with a high-capacity subway line with heavy trains. These two train lines are envisioned to form the backbone of the transportation system on Edsa that could accommodate passenger demand well into the future. This system may be complemented with park-and-ride facilities for motorists to leave their vehicle and take public transit to the inner city. With this mass transit system in place, less road space will be needed and the excess space can be made available for nontransport use such as sidewalk widening and bicycle lane at the ground level.

At the policy level, he suggests car-pooling during rush hour, continuing with the jeepney modernization, re-rationalizing franchises of all public utility vehicles, and even the relocation of government agencies to Clark.

But there are other things to consider, such as the financing of these infrastructures. While it is relatively easier to borrow money, we also need to worry about repaying those loans. Certainly, we do not want the economy saddled with debt servicing in the future.

For all its challenges, the Philippines is well past the major governance upheavals of the past decades that hobbled economic growth then. Stability and good governance are vital in fostering conditions conducive to respectable and sustainable economic growth of the country. The nation though needs to be vigilant in voting wisely as retrogression in good governance can easily plunge again the country in a renewed crisis – just look at Thailand. Memories are frail while a new generation has no memory at all of the Martial Law years. It is vital to remind people of the gains that had been made- but also to be critically aware of the arduous tasks that still lay ahead especially in resolving poverty and unequal income distribution.

No comments:

Post a Comment