Some people were quick to scoff at the idea of traversing Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in five minutes from Cubao to Makati.
Perhaps 25 years ago, it was possible to drive to the central business district from Diliman in 15 minutes, but today, with the volume of cars increasing by the day, it seems impossible — a very funny idea.
The efforts to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila are obvious. The evidence is everywhere.
Massive construction projects are ongoing to lengthen and strengthen the metro rail system in hopes of lessening the travails of commuters.
Roads continue to be widened to ease vehicular traffic, although in some areas, a deplorable lack of foresight has left unfinished spots because of an existing bridge or some other obstruction.
Also, the widened parts of some lengths of road remain unleveled like some forgotten slice of cake.
What we may not be thinking of is that these haphazard projects affect the populace who daily go through such ugliness.
Seeing projects left hanging, or what once were evenly paved and tree-lined avenues broken up then put together carelessly in the name speed and progress, can make one think that is how his government works.
As each week goes by without the last contractor doing anything to polish, let alone finish, the job, the citizen begins to believe his government is likely to abandon him in the end, too.
But a glimmer of hope seems imminent. Midway into his term, President Rodrigo Duterte suddenly brought up an issue he once said he had given up on.
It must be remembered that among things people applauded him for during the 2016 presidential elections was the promise to tackle EDSA traffic.
The Chief Executive did make an effort, until 2018 when he finally surrendered and said he was giving up on EDSA since Congress refused to grant him emergency powers.
Such powers, it was explained, would have sped up the process of providing solutions like the acquisition of more trains for the Metro Rail Transit system.
The President’s parting shot on the matter was that if Congress would not trust him (not to abuse the power), then they could just wallow in EDSA traffic until the next administration comes along to solve it.
Lately, though, Mr. Duterte showed that he had not completely abandoned the issue.
He brought it up again during recent speeches by making that “five minutes” remark which, of course, got the populace perking up.
And just this week, the chief of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) proclaimed that such an idea is “doable.”
Yes, indeed. By removing bus terminals off EDSA, Cubao may eventually shed its reputation as traffic hell.
Philippine National Police-HPG Director Roberto Fajardo on Monday said in Filipino, in a CNN report, that the “bus lane will be strictly enforced, while the terminals along EDSA will be removed.” He added that motorcycles will not be allowed to use the bus lane, but will be moved to the third lane.
Will EDSA traffic indeed be “smooth-sailing” come December — the heaviest in traffic in a year of already interminable traffic?
To someone who knows exactly what a little rain can do the worsen traffic, the promise to enforce traffic laws strictly and making a few relocations seems insufficient to address the problem.
There are many other issues attached to it that would need to be tackled at the same time.
Discipline is one, real enforcement of laws another. And that’s the most important — the human aspect. A solid plan and concerted implementation are needed to make the new rules work.
An alternative solution is also necessary for those who will be directly affected by plans to relocate terminals — and there are millions. Already, these proposals have raised a cry among commuters’ groups, who called these “anti-poor.”
Which follows, then, that you have the need for more and better infrastructure, which takes time and money.
Third, we have the congestion problem in which more cars are on the road nowadays because more people can now afford it. But then old vehicles continue to ply the roads because we don’t have a system where these decrepit units may be disposed of effectively without clogging the environment in the process.
One thing is true for now: the traffic problem (compounded by both excess and lack and a general sense of disarray) still feels like being trapped in Edsa during rainy season. However, the resurgence of Duterte’s interest in solving the problem is like that initial crawl in traffic, moving slowly but moving onward, as it begins to ease up ahead.