THE traffic signal light system of Davao City started as a dream for former mayor Rodrigo Duterte. In his inaugural speech as mayor last June 30, 2004, Duterte said that this project would be achieved before his term would ends. True enough, before his term ended, the city implemented its traffic system with road sensors and CCTV cameras.
According to the City Information Office, the implementation of the traffic light system has undergone three phases. Phase 1, which costs P140 million, was the signalization of 29 intersections including civil works and cable layout. This phase also included the widening and pavement marking and installation of traffic regulatory, warning and guide signs.
The Phase 2 of the project involved signalization of 15 intersections and installation of cat’s eye pavement studs and reflective signs. This phase summed up to P126 million.
The last phase, and the most expensive stage with P705 million, involved the signalization of 21 intersections with sensors and CCTV at 16 undisclosed areas. It also covered the expenses used for the construction of the traffic operation center and renovation of the Traffic Management Center office.
Years after its implementation, some traffic lights in the city do not operate and instead appear to be blinking. This has been the case since the city’s celebration of Kadayawan last August of 2012 when major roads have been closed to accommodate events.
It then takes a long time before the traffic lights restored to its usual function. With the large amount of money spent in its implementation, one might ask the reason why this is happening to the city’s traffic light.
Why do traffic lights in the city blink?
According to the Traffic Management Center, blinking traffic lights are mainly due to events in the city, presidential visits and heavy traffic congestion.
First, events such as Araw ng Dabaw and Kadayawan affect the traffic lights because they require major roads to be closed and need rerouting of traffic flow. Second, the recent Philippines Development summit of 2013 held last February 5, 2013 in the city also affected the system because of the attendance of the president whose safety cannot be risked. Lastly, manual traffic control would deem best for heavy traffic areas.
Out of 169 intersections in the city, only 69 intersections are centralized with the system. The system is computer simulated and embedded with sensors that give command depending on the traffic congestion in the area.
For example in Gaisano Mall intersection, the minimum time for a go signal is 20 seconds with increment of 4 seconds for the sensor to pick up the signal of the vehicle. The maximum time for a go signal is only 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Furthermore, the control over the traffic light system is not done by the TMC but rather by a private firm, Abratique and Associates, Inc., the US-based firm specializes in the design, deployment and maintenance of advance traffic control technologies and emerging transportation management system solutions. This also revealed that the traffic lights system uses computer simulation and when interrupted, traffic flow has to be studied in order to make another simulation. It would take some time because the simulation is not made in the country but in the US.
This is where the role of the Traffic Management Center comes in. The TMC is in charge of conducting traffic direction and control the vehicular and pedestrian traffic. In this case, when traffic lights do not function, the TMC dispatches officers way before the system goes off in order to control the traffic manually. It reinforces the work of Abratique and Associates, Inc. in guiding traffic flow.
Whether it’s an event in the city or heavy traffic flow, turning off the traffic lights are for the improvement of the traffic light’s system in order to strike a balance between the real traffic flow and the computer simulation. Accordingly, this is done to improve the city’s services despite it being handled by a private firm.
Sunday Essays are articles written by college students of Ateneo de Davao University for their journalism class. (Perry Cathrene R. Sandoval)