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Tackling congestion

Road reblocking, road disrepair, traffic lawbreakers. These are just some of the reasons parts of Metro Manila remain a traffic hell for many nowadays. Perhaps, however, the most obvious cause of these monstrous jams is simply congestion.

There are, in short, too many vehicles on the road today. Now whether this means we lack roads and highways is another thing as some experts argue that lessening highways can actually improve traffic congestion as proven in the city of Seoul in Korea.
Here’s the introduction of an article titled “Removing Roads and Traffic Lights Speeds Urban Travel,” taken from Urban Visions: The Future of Cities (originally titled “Detours By Design”), written by Linda Baker and reposted in “Conventional traffic engineering assumes that given no increase in vehicles, more roads mean less congestion. So when planners in Seoul tore down a six-lane highway a few years ago and replaced it with a five-mile-long park, many transportation professionals were surprised to learn that the city’s traffic flow had actually improved, instead of worsening. ‘People were freaking out,’ recalls Anna Nagurney, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who studies computer and transportation networks. ‘It was like an inverse of Braess’s paradox.’
“The brainchild of mathematician Dietrich Braess of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, the eponymous paradox unfolds as an abstraction: it states that in a network in which all the moving entities rationally seek the most efficient route, adding extra capacity can actually reduce the network’s overall efficiency. The Seoul project inverts this dynamic: closing a highway — that is, reducing network capacity — improves the system’s effectiveness.”
In essence, Baker says: “ the 21st century, economic and environmental problems are bringing new scrutiny to the idea that limiting spaces for cars may move more people more efficiently. A key to this counterintuitive approach to traffic design lies in manipulating the inherent self-interest of all drivers.”
In other words, and also in Baker’s words, “closing roads makes it more difficult for individual drivers to choose the best (and most selfish) route.”
Does this make sense in the Philippine setting? Motorists have often complained about the utter selfishness of other drivers, who ignore road rules and neglect road courtesy. However, I don’t see our government deciding to lessen public works at all for any reason, especially with the 2016 elections in the horizon.
To be fair, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) seems to be wracking its brains for possible solutions to the traffic problems in the metro. A recent post in Interaksyon, for instance, states that “two more bike lanes” would be opened in an effort to “encourage more people to use alternative modes of transportation amid worsening traffic conditions arising from the simultaneous road works on 15 projects.” The new bike lanes were opened “from Ortigas to Santolan (northbound) along Edsa and another from White Planes from Edsa to Temple Drive.” This follows the previous opening of a “bike lane from Remedios Circle to Adriatico Street and a 550-meter stretch from President Quirino Avenue to the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.” The article also states that “similar lanes have also been set up along the entire whole stretch of Marcos Highway connecting the cities of Marikina and Antipolo in Rizal province.”
Tolentino vowed to increase such lanes “to promote street and neighborhood identity, increase foot and bike traffic and reduce vehicle congestion along major roads.” Also, the bike program is planned to be linked with a “soon-to-be-revived ferry system.”
I’m just not sure if people will opt to use bikes when the weather is too hot and the air is not at all clean. Besides, if their destination is work, arriving exerted from a bike ride would require places to have decent washrooms, wouldn’t it? Not only will the use of more bikes be eco-friendly, it may someday result in cleaner air in our cities.
The MMDA is also thinking of a “bicycle-sharing scheme” where people can use MMDA bikes for free as long as they present a valid ID and return the bike at an exit area, as well as “mobile bike shelters using trailer trucks” in relation to this effort to decongest the roads.
Perhaps it should also come up with a scheme to remove ancient vehicles on the road, or at least to control the registration of cars up to a certain number. I don’t think it is not only the Napoleses of this country who keep over 10 cars in their garages.
In Japan, my father-in-law tells me, they have what is called an automobile cemetery where vehicles of a certain vintage are relegated. In our country, one can see cars over 20 years old still on the road, and people keep importing more.
In other words, there are many aspects to the traffic problem that need to be explored before we can see a smooth flow in our streets.


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