Senators hit DOTr’s lack of plans to ease traffic

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    SENATORS yesterday grumbled about what the government’s lack of a clear plan to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila even while the region is under general community quarantine status.

    Sen. Nancy Binay said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) have been negligent in coming up with solutions to address the worsening traffic situation in the metropolis despite the limited number of vehicles and people on the streets due to the observance of health protocols.

    Binay said the DOTr should find ways on how to entice people leaving their houses to take public transport like in Hong Kong and Japan, which she said rely heavily on mass transits but “have already managed the risks of infection in public transport.”

    “But we have not yet moved on – we’re still stuck in experimenting on different solutions on EDSA,” Binay said.

    She complained that it has been nine months since the country has been placed under different community quarantine status but up to now, the DOTr “has fell short to the plate of taking reasonable actions to make public transport system attractive to private car owners.”

    “Up to now we have not used the Dalian train coaches. Loading and off-loading stations are exposed to the elements. Route linkages and inter-connections have not been looped. Most PUVS (public utility vehicles) are yet to be compliant to public health protocols, etc.,” she said.

    Sen. Imee Marcos said the lack of mass public transport is one of the reasons why traffic jams occur in Metro Manila.

    “The bad traffic is predictable – the limited availability of public transportation has forced people to use their cars, resulting in higher traffic volume,” Marcos said.

    She said that while Transport Network Vehicle Services are now allowed, public mass transport vehicles are better to decongest the roads.

    “They (government) need to open more routes and add more units. Take the EDSA (bus) Carousel for example. Ever since they implemented it, were there any capacity improvements done, or are they even monitoring the performance of the system? They seem content to just launch implementation and watch, with no committed effort to evaluate and improve the entire network,” she said.

    “That’s where I think DOTr needs to focus: there should be a clear monitoring and feedback system so that their projects are more responsive. Also, the EDSA Carousel began as a stopgap measure – when and how will they convert it into a long- awaited, full-blown BRT (bus rapid transit) system?” she added.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said countryside development could be one solution to decongest the population in Metro Manila.

    “The best reform is to develop the countryside economically and proceed with a Balik Probinsiya Program. The engineers and leaders of the past had a very short foresight. At the moment, the additional highways and super highways will do but not in the long run. It will not suffice unless we move out of the metropolis,” Sotto said.

    Sen. Joel Villanueva said improvement in the country’s mass public transport system must be included in the government’s COVID recovery plan.

    He said the government must thoroughly study the use of bicycles as alternative public transportation since mass public transportations are still limited due to the observance of health protocols.