The Rehabilitation of EDSA

edsaTwo days ago, my cousin who returned from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia decided to take transit here in Singapore to visit us, before she flies back to the Philippines. I promised that I will fetch her at the airport. So, around forty minutes before she arrived, I drove my car out of the parking lot and headed to Changi Terminal 2. The airport is 32 kilometers away from our place and I have to traverse two major highways: the BKE, (Bukit Timah Expressway), and the PIE (Pan Island Expressway). I have to travel 3 kilometers of BKE and 24 kilometers of PIE. The remaining distance of the 32 kilometers covers inland roads and the airport boulevard. I left our place at exactly 12:10 noontime, and arrived at Changi Terminal 2 at around 12:35. Travel time was only 25 minutes for a 32-kilometer distance during the peak of the day.

I tried to compare the driving time if I were to travel the whole length of EDSA via car at  same time from Monumento to Pasay City on a regular weekday. By the way, the distance from Monumento EDSA to Pasay EDSA (corner of Roxas Boulevard) is only 23 kilometers. It will be a miracle if I reach the other end within 25 minutes.

I read today that PNoy suspended the planned rehabilitation of EDSA because he was not satisfied with the proposal made by a combined group of government agencies. The proponents were given a second chance to further develop and revise, if possible, their hasty act.

I believe that there are only three basic ingredients needed to change EDSA. The first is to build a wider, durable and safer roads; second is to reduce traffic, and third is to discipline motorists. In simpler language, make the roads wider, limit the vehicles that pass through, and kick the hell out of unruly commuters. It seems easy, but it is not. It takes a lot of political will to do it.

First

The present EDSA is never symmetrical in all its length. There are segments or portions of the avenue that are wide, while others are very narrow. These disproportionate widths cause bottlenecks, which in turn cause heavy traffic during rush hours. It is thus better to widen those parts that are narrow so as to attain a symmetrical width. If it started in Monumento as a six-lane road in both directions, it should end as such in Pasay City. I know the act of widening is a bloody exercise because several business establishments will be affected. If the stalls are merely squatters occupying the sidewalks with no legal papers to show, kick them out of the way. If they have good legal documents to show, and they are indeed owners of the place they occupy, expropriate part of their properties. There is no better reason for expropriation of property than its use for the common good.

I likewise see that everything is wrong with the way the MRT was constructed in EDSA. It has a very large base that occupies a larger width of the road. And worse, it only carries small-width carriages that can, the most, accommodate two persons standing between the two seats. I think the design of LRT 2 (Recto-Santolan) is way better than the MRT. This is beyond the fact that the road it occupies is a four-lane street.

With regard to a durable and safer road, it is all technical, and the absence of corruption.

Second

It is not because a new road is renovated or built, everyone can already use it. Hell, no. Careful planning should be made on how many buses should ply the EDSA route. It is not because a bus company is granted franchise to service EDSA, it has already the liberty to provide unlimited number of buses. The DOTC should conduct bids to transportation companies, and select only those transport corporations that can provide good service. Two bus companies servicing EDSA or only one may be feasible.

Moreover, the winning bus company/ies should not be given a free hand on what design the buses should look like. It should be the DOTC that should provide for the design and make of the buses. To make it easier for the DOTC, it can copy and specify in the scope of works the designs of the buses in Singapore or in Washington D.C. Lowered steps, with digital signage of its route (so as to easily change them) complete with CCTV cameras monitoring the inside, larger aisles, and wider windows. The cost of buying these buses will easily be offset by revenues for an number of years. The location of bus stations must be carefully planned. Information [encased in glass] of the route of the buses as well as the fares must be placed conspicuously in  each station. Maintenance of the bus stations may be left to the bus company. Bus drivers must be salaried and fares must be paid via cards. A tie-up between the MRT and the selected bus company to share the same card for the fares is not difficult.

Third

Discipline is one of the most important ingredient to stabilize EDSA. It may be solved partly because as of present the most undisciplined motorists in this road are the buses. The main concern of this third ingredient is how to discipline private motorists. First, a no-contact policy must be strictly implemented with respect to apprehension of unruly vehicles. Personal apprehensions by MMDA traffic enforcers may be made only on jaywalking and other non-vehicle related traffic offenses. Cameras must be mounted on all possible “violation” spots. I believe the MMDA has been doing this exercise a few years now. The use of lanes and primary-secondary intersections must be strictly observed as their misuse often lead to accidents and traffic.

I believe that in solving problems, one must simplify the problem first, then give practical, simple, and direct solutions. It is actually we that make everything complicated.

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