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Baguio traffic situation, updates, and suggestion
by Ted Tan

Before the recent election, Baguio residents overwhelmingly voiced out road traffic as the top problem of the city: the long lines of commuters in public utility vehicles’ stations, the lingering traffic congestion on all major roads, and the limited parking spaces. Even in the previous administration, executive and legislative meetings then revealed traffic as the number one problem of the city.

Proper traffic management in Baguio should be a priority of our elected officials.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong in his earlier 10-point core agenda for good governance included aggressive traffic management in solving traffic problems of the city. The city council also showed the same interest during recent executive and legislative meetings. Are these enough for us, for the people of Baguio?

Harley F. Palangchao

Continuing public monitoring and participation is being encouraged in achieving this vision of a better and acceptable traffic situation for Baguio. With our new mayor’s exceptional service track record in the government and in the private sector, Baguio residents are in high spirits for the improvements of traffic in the months or years to come.

Years passed, Baguio is still experiencing heavy traffic in almost all road networks of the city even with the implementation of some traffic-alleviating projects by the past administrations. Some of these were the “traffic scheme” at Session Road rotunda area. Kudos to former mayor Peter Rey Bautista for implementing the said scheme, designed by this writer 10 years ago, that addresses the lingering gridlocks in the said area, and the construction of various traffic facilities (pedestrian overpasses, pedestrian barriers, etc.) during the time of former mayor Mauricio Domogan.

But those weren’t enough. Baguio residents still clamor for more actions to be done.

In addition to the present traffic problems, the current leadership also has to address the influx of tourists, wherein most residents prefer to stay at home during tourist arrivals than be caught on heavy traffic.

I enumerated these problems five years ago, when I wrote a special report for Baguio Midland Courier. I narrated various traffic issues that needed to be solved. As part of it, I mentioned that Baguio must be prepared for the impact on traffic of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), which extends its services near Baguio. The present travel time for private vehicles from Manila to Baguio is already reduced by half or less than four hours sans traffic, reason why we now have big volumes of tourists in the city.

To have a clearer picture of Baguio traffic, we have to know first who are in charge of traffic management in the city.

The Traffic Management Unit (TMU) of the Baguio City Police Office is in-charge of the traffic enforcement aspect. Members of the city council legislate traffic ordinances while the City Engineering Office Traffic Division manages traffic engineering and administrative control of traffic enforcers.

The mayor promulgates traffic administrative/executive orders. The Transportation and Traffic Management Committee (TTMC) chaired by the mayor is in charge of disposition of traffic decisions on various issues that convey to the city.

To bring the traffic situation of Baguio to acceptable levels is a challenging task to the present administration to accomplish, considering the lack of actions and traffic projects in the past. There is no single traffic solution for Baguio. Multiple actions are necessary to address the problems, not only by the city government but also with the complementing road projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways. Complexities of the traffic problems contribute a lot in addressing various issues in the city.

One case is the lack of appropriate space for roads and sidewalks, especially at highly congested communities, that widening or conversion of one road facility, like sidewalks or vehicular lanes, will constrict the other one and cause congestion to the one affected.

A good traffic management plan needs a good balancing act of all existing traffic problems in the city. In some areas for example, the absence of properly identified loading and unloading areas, parking spaces, competent traffic enforcers on the field, road signs, pavement markings, pedestrians barriers, and other important traffic facilities, contributes to the worsening traffic in the city.

The present traffic management set-up in the city is difficult. The city needs a fully functional traffic office (a department in size and not a division only) in order to have regular funding and enough number of competent personnel to cover all concerns on traffic.

For an effective traffic management, it is recommended that a single office entity must be established to handle all traffic management responsibilities, to be called the Baguio Traffic and Parking Management (BTAPM) under the Office of the City Mayor.

Once established, the BTAPM will recommend and implement traffic mitigating solutions and play a major role in the implementation of internationally accepted traffic solutions, the 4Es – engineering, enforcement, education, and enactment of proper traffic laws.

The 4Es must be adopted and adhered to, and each of these is defined by the following: there must be enough number of competent traffic enforcers to cover all areas of concern; traffic engineering solutions must form part of mitigating the problems; traffic education on pedestrians/commuters/motorists for them to follow traffic rules and regulations; and enactment of traffic laws that will truly respond to proper traffic management for the city, including the creation of BTAPM, which is now at the hands of our present city officials.

We heard and read many suggestions, recommendations, and proposals for an effective traffic and transportation solution for Baguio. The city government can collate these good or informative suggestions for future use.

Among the suggestions is the pedestrianization of Session Road. A noble idea but is not feasible for now considering the present traffic situation at the vicinity. The suggestion can only be realized above ground, like skywalks (elevated walkway), connecting all pedestrian overpasses at the central business district and to all major pedestrians destinations. This setup will encourage more people to walk.

Road congestion is still a problem. This is why it is not recommended for now to convert any vehicular lane for pedestrian use, not unless a viable traffic alleviating measures is introduced at affected areas.

Solving traffic issues is always a big problem, not only in Baguio but also in many parts of the country. The lack of understanding surrounding the modern-day road traffic situations contributes to compounding traffic problems. The causes of traffic problems are sometimes similar and different from each location and place.

We describe the traffic problem of Baguio as distinctive than in Metro Manila major roads network. At EDSA for example, vehicles only pass its thoroughfares, but it’s different in Baguio City since the city is their final point of destination. Tourist vehicles will not only roam around but they also need to park in the city.

To better understand the various traffic issues, it is best to solicit information from traffic experts and competent professionals to come up with proper traffic design, planning, and management. Oftentimes, a number of people who lack the knowledge and experience in addressing a traffic problem view it to be simple to handle, because they are not able to see and grasp the technicality and complexity of road traffic.

Solving traffic problems at present is one of the most challenging and problematic issues to be addressed by any city in the country today. They have to seek the services of traffic experts and professionals like traffic engineers and managers, urban planners, and transportation engineers in order to come up with a good traffic plan. Unfortunately, it seems that only a few people know the existence of the said professionals.

Compared to other issues the city is addressing, like solid waste disposal and the lack of potable water supply, coming up with solutions for traffic is more difficult. It is common knowledge that establishing an engineered sanitary landfill is one of the solutions for garbage disposal, and bulk water supply to increase sources of potable water supply. Here, the only problem lies on the financial aspect and implementation of the identified solution.

On the other hand, it’s different when people talk of traffic problems. It needs to find out first what the available traffic solutions are, which only experts on the field can provide the best recommendations. An example of multiple traffic solutions is resolving mass transport, a good zoning plan, effective traffic control, appropriate traffic/geometric designs, etc.

Providing these traffic solutions are highly technical to design and analyze. Only an expert can come out with the appropriate traffic plan and design.

The two main factors that compound traffic in the city are community-induced and the tourist-induced. These must be resolved distinctively at the same time.

Addressing the tourist-induced traffic problem will take time to permanently address, considering the big volume of vehicles that need to park when they visit (25,000 cars for a single day was recorded before).

It is also the same in barangays where there is lack of parking space.

The acquisition of land and financial requirements for the construction of parking slots will take time to accomplish. That is why the government must not waste time and start taking steps to speed up and institutionalize traffic solutions.

However, limitations and feasibility must be considered, given the city’s topography. It has winding roads, constricted thoroughfares, mountainous slopes, and lack of open space for traffic facilities.

On the other hand, Baguio is blessed with numerous connecting roads that can be maximized for new traffic schemes. All of these must be considered in plotting a feasible traffic solution.

Here are unsolicited suggestions as a course of action by the city in responding to its present and future traffic situation:

1) The immediate creation of a BTAPM department under the City Mayor’s Office responsible for managing and controlling all traffic concerns in the city;

2) The establishment/construction of central transportation terminals (northbound and southbound) and parking buildings, which have to be established outside the city proper (located beside central transportation terminals, minimum of 3,000 parking slots capacity), all tourist destination areas, CBD and barangays).

3) Establishment of proper loading and unloading areas for PUJs/taxis, in all major thoroughfares of the city, especially near churches, schools, markets, and big establishments.

4) Implementation of new traffic schemes on road networks that experience constant congestion;

5) Immediate upgrade/signal timing calibrations of all traffic signals (one brand of traffic controller is being recommended for easy operation and maintenance);

6) Stricter implementation of zoning plans and building code requirements (which include adherence to the required parking slot requirements for all completed buildings, schools, establishments, etc.). The city government must penalize/sanction establishments and buildings that converted their parking spaces into other purposes and others that did not comply with parking requirements;

7) Proper widening of the three major thoroughfares of Baguio City, which are the Palispis Highway (Marcos Highway), Quirino Highway (Naguilian Road), and Kennon Road by the DPWH. The widening of road and sidewalks near the city proper must be given priority for greater benefit are recommended;

8) Strengthening the role of the TTMC as a policymaking body in all traffic actions and decisions, with a broad membership composed of representatives from different government agencies and private professionals, until the creation of a fully functional traffic department;

9) In view of the lack of parking space in the city, it is recommended that the city government encourage anyone to invest on building parking spaces and provide them with incentives; and

10) A traffic design/scheme/project must be provided in the following traffic chokepoints: Baguio General Hospital area (including Kennon and Palispis Highway), Session rotunda area (including the Baguio Cathedral), Gen. Luna Road, Magsaysay/ Bonifacio (at the Baguio Center Mall) signalized junction, Magsaysay flyover (congestion below the flyover), Naguilian Road congestion (from Bokawkan-Lourdes grotto), and the hearth of city traffic, Harrison/Abanao/Magsaysay signalized intersection.

The city government must work double time and aggressively in order to solve its traffic problems. It is a daunting task to overcome, like the remote possibilities in the widening of roads and sidewalks at the CBD in order to increase its capacity and the difficulties of finding an open space for parking and transportation terminals.

Harley F. Palangchao

Anyone who wants to provide suggestions for the city government must come out with a real, doable, and feasible solution.

The present and future fates of Baguio’s traffic are in the hands of our elected officials and other government agencies such as the DPWH. They have the means to solicit solutions and the authority to lay down the traffic direction for the city, as to whether we are heading to a dead end or a light at the end of the tunnel.
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Philippine National Police – Police Regional Office – CAR
R.A Gapuz Review Center

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Kings’ College of the Philippines
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Social Security System
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Albergo Hotel and Residences
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Mother Earth Deli Basket
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