the edsa skyway: if you will build it they will come (aka throwing away money to make things worse)

A Small pothole

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TANAUAN, Philippines – At the Congressional hearing on next year’s budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Secretary Rogelio Singson bared plans for building a 6-lane elevated highway on top of EDSA. Total cost (not including cost overruns,  presume), P50 billion.

Singson was quoted as saying that – “Edsa is already very congested, and its expansion capacity has already been exhausted to its limits.”

First, there are many things that can be done to at least reduce congestion on EDSA. First, it is obvious to many that a lot of the congestion is caused by the excessive number of buses on this thoroughfare. Study upon study points to this fact. We have not even tried to rationalize the bus transit system wherein scheduled service will be the norm and designated bus stops will serve to eliminate the indiscriminate violation of traffic rules by buses who stop to drop off and pick up passengers wherever they damn please.

We have also not even allowed the willing private sector to take over the rail systems. Companies have lined up and stated their intention of expanding and improving services on our rail systems.

How about rationalizing public transport routes so that not all buses have to traverse EDSA?

Logic and experience dictate that reducing congestion on EDSA calls for reducing the number of vehicles travelling on it and not increasing it by building a monstrosity on top of it. Bear in mind that it is not only EDSA that is being choked by traffic, most of our peripheral streets also suffer the same daily hell. If you build this EDSA Skyway, you attract more vehicular traffic to Manila which will have to come down somewhere. Yes – EDSA may feel less congested initially but watch all other streets come to a standstill which at some point will back up into EDSA and the EDSA Skyway. Yes – if you build it, they will come.

In many places in the world, ill conceived elevated highways are coming down. I was in Boston when the so-called “Big Dig” was at its height. That was when elevated highways in Boston which had blighted and separated communities started coming down. Why do we insist on trying for ourselves and finding out what others have already found out does not work? It becomes even more maddening to know we will be spending P50 billion to do it.

We have many laws, ordinances and other regulations making traffic obstruction a violation. It is what traffic enforcers often fall back on when they cannot think of anything else to accost you with to part with some pampadulas. If you were to just religiously enforce this, every bus on EDSA would probably eventually be kicked out but then again, EDSA would relatively be less congested when they start learning it becomes an expensive proposition to break traffic laws.

We have to stop thinking of the relief of traffic congestion on EDSA as the problem that needs to be resolved. If you think about it, it seems stupid that we let an inanimate object like our vehicles control our lives and worse, a P50 billion decision. Yes – it may be that building a new highway will get the person from one place to another faster but how long do you think that will last. At the end of the day, the laws of physics dictate that you can only squeeze a certain number of people and other objects within a defined physical space.

Metro Manila is dying from the fact that it can only accommodate so many people. Its physical infrastructure is decaying, the quality of public services is laughable and the quality of life is declining.

Our country is not Metro Manila. The key to helping the metropolis is to decongest it by focusing development elsewhere. It is not by attracting more people into it. I am sure there are now many people who would rather not traverse EDSA because of what they will experience. That in a sense, already helps those who have no choice but to go through EDSA. Building the Skyway will help these people but it will also attract those who have stayed away. When that happens, we will be back to square one and will have been P50 billion poorer for it.

This rambling blog does have a point. Development ultimately should be aimed at improving the over-all quality of life of communities and the individual. There is only so much development that one place can take before it starts to become suffocating.

Plans like the EDSA Skyway are not the solution. They will only serve to make things worse. It is very disappointing that our public officials continue to lack the imagination and the courage to make tough decisions now instead of kicking the can forward, so to speak.

Sana hindi dumating ang ating inis sa punto na wala nang susunod sa daang matuwid dahil masyado palang malubak ang daang ito.

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