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Traffic: Is there any way out?
by Teodorico Tan

Baguio City has to cope with so many problems arising from its status as a highly urbanized city. One of these are traffic-related problems brought about by the increase in the number of pedestrians and vehicles traversing the city’s various road corridors.

Evolving problem

The depth of these problems and the corresponding approaches on how to deal with it are foreign to many, since the problem is an evolution of our present generation and will continue to evolve in the coming years. The gravity of traffic problems was uncommon in the past.

If it is a consolation at all, Baguio City is not alone in facing this problem. Traffic is a concern that besets any progressing city or municipality.

In the past, Baguio implemented various traffic reduction remedies. Some of these are the product of the inputs of this writer and other volunteers. These schemes gave some relief on some areas of concern, especially the occasional gridlock at the rotunda of Session Road. But these are not enough. More concrete action by the city government is needed because as traffic problems evolve, so must be the solutions.

At present, Baguio City still needs to mitigate present and future traffic-related problems. Judging from what we see on the ground, occasional traffic congestion on Baguio’s road corridors especially at intersections and illegally parked vehicles are a common sight.

Sometimes I am asked about what could be the solution to Baguio’s traffic problems. I understand the public’s eagerness, but the answer they want to hear is like asking the Baguio Water District to fill a 20-drum water tank at one time.

4Es in traffic management

There is no simple answer on the question on how to solve traffic problems. Not a single solution will address all of these. But in general, the four pillars or the 4Es in traffic management must be adopted. These are engineering, enforcement, education, and enactment of traffic laws. The absence of one will surely have an adverse effect on traffic movement.

A broad participation of all stakeholders should contribute in addressing the problem on traffic congestion in the city. For instance, the Department of Public Works and Highways can widen and improve roads and the city government can mobilize resources for an orderly traffic, such as deploying sufficient number of traffic personnel on the field. Motorists and pedestrians, on the other hand, have to abide by traffic rules and regulations.

What is lacking

The number of commercial establishments in Baguio may be increasing but the capacity of existing roads and streets remains. Traditionally, traffic reduction in the city was limited to legisla-ting ordinances that regulate the number of vehicles on the road. In terms of infrastructure, roads were only upgraded but scant attention is given on the management side.

The proposal to build an underground road system may no longer be feasible at present. Not only is it expensive, it is not advisable to construct a tunnel in an area where buildings at the periphery already exist.

Facing reality

Baguio City should realize that its road designs and layout were not built to accommodate a far bigger population than what we have at present. Drastic measures and concrete action must be taken to address traffic problems brought about by new developments.

Traffic however, could still be managed by adopting some measures such as creation of an office that dwell solely on traffic issues, construction of a multi-level parking building at the central business district, formulation of a traffic master plan, formulation of permanent traffic reduction schemes that are presently on an experimental basis, widening at Naguilian Road, strict implementation of the Building Code and Zoning Ordinance, relocation of the Gov. Pack bus depot, and establishment of clustered jeepney terminals.

There is a need to create a Traffic and Parking Management Office (TPMO), which will take charge of all traffic concerns of Baguio. A similar proposal was lodged at the city council in the past but it remains pending because of budget constraints and overlapping of functions with that of the Land Transportation Office and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

Once established, the TPMO will set up a “traffic control center,” where traffic movement in all roads at the CBD will be monitored through the installation of closed circuit television cameras. A command center for all traffic lights and traffic personnel will also be in place. The realization of this is the direction of any city that continues to progress.

The construction of a multi-level parking building at the CBD should be considered. The building should accommodate at least 1,000 to 3,000 parking slots. If this will materialize, more road space will be made available for traffic because on-street parking is limited. Road capacity will be increased as a result of additional lanes coming from previously occupied on-street parking. Pay parking near the city center must also be institu-ted by the city government for the motorists to park their vehicles on a designated parking area and not on the road side, in order not to impede traffic flow.

The city should have a traffic master plan. This will guide city planners on what to do to all present and future traffic concerns, like the expected increase in the number of vehicles coming in and out of Baguio especially with the completion of the highway bridging Manila to Rosario, La Union.

The plan must be comprehensive, such that it can foresee traffic problems and could provide appropriate solutions to all of Baguio City’s traffic concerns.

Session Road rotunda and Naguilian/Bokawkan junction need various traffic schemes. Without formal approval through an ordinance, necessary funding for the needed infrastructure component for these traffic schemes can’t be implemented. These are very important to enhance and improve traffic climate in the affected areas. Necessary traffic facilities and geometric improvement must be put into place not only to improve traffic flow but also to provide precautionary devices for motorists and pedestrians. One planned infrastructure component is a pedestrian refuge island to be constructed at the middle of the road.

There is also a need to look for possible widening of Naguilian Road, from the Bokawkan junction to Lourdes Grotto. This is the only road corridor in the northern direction that’s why it is so congested. Widening is necessary since there are no other viable alternative roads that can accommodate the volume of vehicles passing in this direction. At present, widening the road is difficult especially with right-of-way (ROW) issues. The government agency in charge of addressing ROW matters must not be precluded from exploring solutions that could address congestion in this major artery.

The Building Code must be strictly implemented. The city government must ensure that all commercial buildings comply with the National Building Code, which prescribes a number of parking slots for every building, including schools. Absent or inadequate parking spaces contribute a lot in constricting city roads and streets which lead to traffic congestion at a certain location.

Strict implementation of the Zoning Ordinance as specified in the land use plan on the proper location of structures that will generate vehicular traffic like shopping centers, hotels, schools, restaurants, and various establishments is needed. It is important that they are in a proper location. In schools and malls, exit and entrance for vehicles must be studied carefully in order not to interfere or congest the existing traffic flow in the affected area.

The road sections that need some attention for traffic improvements are:

Harrison-Abanao intersection: This area is the heart of traffic circulation at the CBD – the busiest intersection at the CBD which I find the need to re-design the geometric infrastructure and signal time by adjusting cycle and phasing time.

Stretch of Bonifacio Street and Gen. Luna Road: A highly congested area because of the number of schools in the vicinity. The absence for loading/unloading bay and on street parking, contributed to the occasional congestion on that area, especially in the afternoon.

Magsaysay/Bonifacio (Center Mall) intersection: Review of signal timing (cycle and phasing time), geometric improvements, and installation of various traffic facilities are needed.

Magsaysay flyover: The constant congestion in this area merits a review on its design, which can be limited at the assigned traffic flow direction on the fly-over, geometric improvements, and traffic facilities.

Establishment of new bus terminal: The present terminal at Gov. Park Road once vacated, could help in decongesting traffic at the CBD in the future.

Establishment of PUJ terminals in cluster: The city must look into the possibility of consolidating overlapping routes and reduce the volume of some PUJs. Allocation of PUJ loading and unloading zone, especially for PUJs that do not have terminals, must be established.

For us to have a better traffic climate, concerted efforts by all stakeholders are needed, not only by our city officials but also of motorists, pedestrians, and other agencies like the DPWH.

In the end, we should ask ourselves, are we are part of the solution or part of the problem?

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