Rene Almendras as traffic czar

September 1, 2015 at 13:29

Rene Almendras as traffic czar

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) wants P-Noy to appoint Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras as Metro Manila’s traffic czar. The MAP, it seems, has lost confidence in MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, who of late, is more interested in campaigning for senator than figuring out what to do about our worsening traffic jams.

Businessman Ed Yap, the chairman of MAP’s traffic, transportation and infrastructure committee, insisted on the need for a traffic czar even after I expressed doubt a czar would make a difference. Ed pointed out that having a traffic czar means we have an official accountable for the problem unlike today.

Ed also recalled the congestion problems at the Manila Port were resolved only after Rene Almendras stepped in. The appointment of a czar means the President is already deeply involved in solving the problem.

Ed may have a point. Not only is Rene a no nonsense kind of person, when he moves in, he carries the clout of the presidency. He is in close contact with P-Noy at all times. Thus, he can go to any government agency with the authority of P-Noy behind him.

Indeed, Rene is as good a Superman as this administration can conjure from a crop of ineffective officials. A former banker, Rene is trained to produce results. Rene’s political acumen may need improvement, but when he speaks for the President, everyone has to listen.

Rene’s preference, if you ask him, is to stay in the background. He once complained to me he has enough knives planted on his back from his Cabinet peers. But because he is rather competent compared to many of them, P-Noy listens to him and supports him.

Yes, Ed Yap is right. Rene can make things happen if he is given the traffic czar assignment. But before anything else, P-Noy must get rid of Tolentino because he will just get in the way of the traffic czar. Besides, the traffic czar needs the staff and facilities of MMDA and the agency cannot be reporting to two persons.

Anyway, Tolentino is already on campaign mode, uninterested in his job. Tolentino was in Albay donating P20 million worth of traffic lights and campaigning at a meeting of the League of Vice Mayors last Friday, a day he should have been in EDSA managing payday traffic aggravated by a rally of the INC.

The first things the traffic czar must do, according to MAP’s Ed Yap, is to go back to the three most basic elements of effective traffic management (3 Es) – road engineering, education of all stakeholders and enforcement of traffic rules. Mr. Yap thinks that even before P-Noy asks for more sacrifices from all of us like that odd-even scheme, government must show it is doing something about the 3 Es.

“Deficient road engineering prevents efficient traffic flow, essential to optimize limited road space,” the MAP paper asserts. “The deficiency allows drivers to wantonly switch or block lanes without regard for others on vital road arteries.”

The MAP continues: “Regulatory weakness has allowed the proliferation of public utility vehicles (PUVs). Lack of education contributes to diminished civic consciousness and responsible driving behavior that, coupled with ineffective enforcement, have rendered traffic rules as mere ‘suggestions’ to be ignored with impunity.”

The MAP, speaking through Mr. Yap, also pointed out that failure in the three Es is compounded by three other factors: severe deficiency in mass transit systems, unsustainable urban development practices, and an ineffective governance structure of the metropolis. Remember my proposal for an elected Metro Manila government that the parochial mayors cannot ignore.

The MAP also decried regulatory weakness for allowing the proliferation of public utility vehicles (PUVs). There are some 3,500 buses on EDSA when only half of them or even less are needed. The boundary system imposed by bus operators also contributes to traffic problems as bus drivers ignore rules and disrupt traffic flow to maximize earnings.

I watched Malou Tiquia interview DOTC Sec. Jun Abaya on CNN Philippines last week and he admitted the boundary system is a major cause of our problems. But Abaya expressed helplessness in imposing a solution that requires operators to pay their drivers a fixed salary. Helpless Jun, as always!

No wonder Sec. Abaya didn’t show up in the MAP meeting that took up the traffic problem. I earlier told Ed Yap I didn’t expect Abaya to show up because he wouldn’t want to appear inutile before such an influential group of businessmen.

I was not surprised Sec Jun sent Usec Timmy Limcaoco instead. Timmy was late because he was stuck in Ortigas and EDSA traffic. Traffic gridlock because of La Salle across the DOTC building is a constant pain our traffic officials have chosen to do nothing about.

Based on what I saw in the ANC newscast that evening, Timmy said nothing useful, as could be expected. His most memorable contribution to the discussion is that DOTC’s solution to the traffic crisis is to conduct an origin-destination survey. In short, another study!  Hay naku Timmy… you are an embarrassment to Stanford.

Going back to the traffic czar, the MAP wants this person to take overall charge of all matters related to or affecting traffic and road management. This includes the implementation of necessary road engineering refinements, on all national roads in Metro Manila.

The traffic czar should have the power to order the LTFRB to reduce the excessive number of illegally operated PUVs. These vehicles are choking national roads, including EDSA. This requires political will, specially in an election season and this will test the sincerity of P-Noy himself.

Again, the traffic czar must be able to get the relevant government agencies to institute an organized bus dispatch system for all remaining PUVs such that only an appropriate number of buses will be dispatched on the road as needed.

The MAP wants the traffic czar to have the power to call upon a specially trained Highway Patrol Group within the Philippine National Police (PNP) to impose order on our streets through strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations.

On road engineering, the traffic czar must be able to introduce refinements. “These engineering solutions include concrete lane delineators to segregate bus lanes on national roads, including EDSA… Lane delineators to efficiently channel traffic, while minimizing the need for human intervention, which on many occasions are unreliable or ineffective.”

The MAP also wants government to fast track upgrade and capacity expansion of MRT 3. “A train system is the most efficient, convenient and affordable people mover. MRT3 must be quickly and properly rehabilitated, and its passenger capacity greatly expanded.

“The MRT3 system, being in place, provides the fastest option for quickly addressing commuter capacity deficiency on EDSA. All efforts must be quickly taken to resolve any outstanding issues that stand in the way of such improvement.”

The government, the MAP thinks, should direct a campaign for private vehicle high occupancy practices. All large schools within the metropolis must discourage the use of private cars, and instead be required to provide bus service to their students. The schools must also provide adequate passenger loading and unloading spaces within school premises. Schools that allow vehicles to spill onto public streets must be sanctioned.

Express lanes for high occupancy vehicles (HOV) and cargo-carrying vehicles shall be provided on wide national roads, such as EDSA and Commonwealth.

That is pretty much what traffic expert Rene Santiago is suggesting. Rene thinks business groups like MAP should do their part to alleviate the traffic crisis.

“We cannot expect actions, much less results from the current administration. If the Makati business groups can persuade car pooling among employees in the same building, at least 50 percent of cars would disappear on Makati streets. Same with BGC and Ortigas. Let us shame this government with our own actions,” Mr. Santiago challenged.

How dare P-Noy ask us to have more patience, as if we have not been patient enough. Before government can ask us to sacrifice even more, let them show some political will to enforce laws and do what is expected of them.

Grace and INC

I was so disappointed with the stance taken by Grace regarding that INC mob rule. It was par for the course for a trapo like Jojo Binay, but I expected Grace to be more principled. That has to be the Chiz influence with her.

I am impressed with Mar Roxas’s stance. Upholding principles, that we are a government of laws and not men, is more important a trait for the next president than his current performance.

Leila de Lima did no wrong. Someone filed a complaint, she is duty bound to address it, even if it is not in the interest of INC leaders. That is true separation of Church and State. We cannot be constantly bullied and inconvenienced just because INC leaders want to show their might.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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