Eyes on the road

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Monday, February 3, 2014


THE Puentevella administration started really slow, but it’s getting somewhere. Finally, it’s moving along the highway. Mayor Monico Puentevella plans to install about 10-15 closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) to monitor the traffic situation in Bacolod’s major streets.

It’s about time. Traffic jams are getting horrendous to the commuting if not the driving public, especially during peak hours at the Burgos Street, Circumferential Road, Libertad-Araneta streets, along La Salle Avenue, and Araneta Street in front of City Hall. He forgot to add the Ramos junction.

Furthermore, the administration wants to get new traffic lights or to fix those already in place to untangle the worsening traffic jams in Bacolod. It’s about time.

Bacolod City is no longer the sleepy city it used to be. With new commercial centers sprouting all over the place, the provincial capital is poised to join the big league of cities like those in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. We can expect more people to buy cars to congest the city streets.

According to NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, “If time is money, then the Philippines is losing P2.4 billion daily in potential income due to traffic congestion that eats up time that could have been used for productive pursuits.” I agree. Time is golden.

“It’s a no-brainer that we need to boost infrastructure. We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure,” Balisacan said, adding that the government intends to invest in more roads, bridges, railways, airports, and sea ports.

Even the Japan International Cooperation Agency recommended that the government come up with a transportation development road map for the country.

Compared with neighboring countries, the Philippines spends significantly less on public infrastructure at only 2.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2012, against the five percent average spending in other Southeast Asian countries.

But if Bacolod — and Negros Occidental — is preparing for increased traffic jams, NEDA and our local government officials are missing the train, literally and figuratively.

Where are the mass transit systems in the masterplan blueprint? Do our government executives think Bacolod, the province and the whole country for that matter have enough side streets to use as alternative routes?

Singapore, Hong Kong, even Metro Manila conceded that relying on city streets and highways are insufficient to ease the traffic congestion. Even fly-overs are no solution because they simply encourage people to buy more cars.

With their eyes seeing beyond their noses or their terms, their political leaders realized that the installation of mass transport systems enhances the mobility of the poor, and can ease the housing congestion in the main city centers.

My brother Ramón and his family live as expats in Hong Kong. There, they call home in Heng Fa Chuen suburbia. Daily, Ramón take the crowded Hong Kong MTR Island Line and gets off at the Central and Western district for a travel time of 14 minutes even at peak hours — a distance of 11.3 kilometers. Compare that with the 30-45 minute commute from Sum-ag to Bacolod Plaza, a distance of 7 kilometers.

Hong Kong’s MTR is one of the most profitable mass transit systems in the world, with a high farebox recovery ratio of 186 percent. Opened in 1979, the system now includes 218.2 kilometers of rail with 152 stations, including 84 railway stations and 68 light rail stops.

Can our political leaders afford to lose more production hours in the years to come by relying purely on our existing road network? Or down the road, they see not the railroads and metro tracks streets but the same roads because our traffic is still relatively light?

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 03, 2014.

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