THE last time commuters had little or no complaints about Cebu’s traffic despite the volume of vehicles was probably when the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) was held here last January.
Thousands of people attended congress activities held at different locations around the city. There was road congestion, huge buses were used to ferry delegates, and people walked for several kilometers to get to venues that were closed to vehicles. But there was little or no complaint about how traffic was managed.
It must be the religious nature of the event where people joined others as a community in a solemn procession or in walking to the venue of the closing mass. Cebuanos showed patience for the road blocks and traffic rerouting, and understanding for the necessary inconvenience.
But what really helped make the traffic bearable were early planning and the widespread presence of police personnel and enforcers on the streets directing vehicles and securing the public, including the IEC delegates. They were there from early morning until evening. Road directions in huge signs were visible to everybody. There was logic to the flow of vehicles.
Weeks before the congress, organizers warned the public of what to expect in terms of road congestion and closures to allow delegates to move freely from one venue to another and to allow the faithful to attend the procession and masses. As the event drew closer, more reminders and rerouting maps were distributed through newspapers, radio, television and on social media.
At the closing mass at the South Road Properties, about 2,500 police personnel secured the area and 200 traffic enforcers and 200 more parking aides were deployed by the Cebu City Transportation Office.
What became palpable was that, a day or two after the congress ended, the police personnel and traffic enforcers were no longer to be seen. Just the usual one or two enforcers at an intersection, not even at every junction. Commuters went back to fighting for the chance to take a turn on busy intersections or to evade jeepneys that pick up or drop off passengers in the middle of the road.
Now, with the call for emergency powers to solve Cebu’s road problems, planners should look back to how Cebu was able to make it some 10 months ago when it played host to the IEC. Solutions can be immediate or long-term and, if we were to consider the traffic problem as urgent, then measures that can be taken now should be discussed.
Fielding police personnel, traffic enforcers and parking aides would help greatly at instilling reason on the streets. Having alternate routes and visible road signs also contribute to a comprehensive solution.
The business leaders were right to call for other solutions when they attended last Saturday the House committee on transportation hearing a proposal to give President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers for two years to fix traffic in Metro Cebu and Metro Manila. While infrastructure and mass transit systems are for the long-term, some of Cebu’s business officers said, implementation of traffic laws and driver discipline are immediate. We saw that happen during the IEC.