DAVAO City's rapid urbanization has brought great rewards and pains.
This is somewhat a reminder of Isaac Newton's Law on motion that says, “To every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction”.
Thus, we are at the crossroad of urbanization and traffic. Travel time around the city now takes much longer than it used to. The traffic situation has worsened. Blame is thrown everywhere.
Taking the brunt of all these complaints are various utilities and government agencies that undertake improvement projects in the roads.
Most visible, due to their signages and equipment are the Davao City Water District (DCWD) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
In the case of DCWD, little do people know that the company is adjusting to the demands of the society.
To ease the traffic, the water utility personnel have to be nocturnal. They schedule work when the volume of vehicles on the road are at the minimum.This is between 90 p.m. upto 5 a.m., just before the traffic builds up again.
“The whole idea here is avoid contributing to the traffic during peak hours,” DCWD spokesman lawyer Bernard Delima said.
“If we can only work straight for 24 hours, we will,” Delima added.
Maintenance teams work tediously but unnoticed. That's when most people are sleeping. Like clock work, they dig, lay the pipes, connect and cover it with dirt and/or steel plates (on unfinished excavated areas) before the day begins.
In the midst of several difficulties, from rain-caused potholes to leaking pipes, and hollow portions, they are pressured to make roads passable before the day breaks.
Hence, they go the extra mile of backfilling and cementing hollow portions.
In spite all of these, they get the ire of the travelling public.
To provide convenience to the consumers as well as the motorists, the water utility ground personnel innovate. An example to this is by burying their 500-meter pipe underground.
“Ang amo lang pud nga hangyo sa katawhan mao dyutay nga pag-antos sa nasinating kakulian tungod sa mga proyekto (Our appeal to the public is to bear with some inconveniences brought about by the projects),”Delima said.
For DPWH, they are concerned with the national roads, specifically C.M. Recto and A. Pichon Streets and R. Magsaysay Avenue, and the highway going Tagum. For the whole country, DPWH has mandate over 30,000 kilometers of road.
As the public works and infrastructure maintenance arm of the government, its function includes cleaning of dirt in the canals, bridge, roads and main thoroughfares. This government office also fixes all damaged road infrastructure that may cause the inconvenience. Their timeline would depend on the extent of the damage running from one to two weeks. At all costs, slippage is avoided so as not to reach 15 days.
The DPWH has one of the most challenging tasks of serving the country.
Last January 12, the Office of the Regional Director-Davao published on a national broadsheet an eight-page invitation to bid.
To be bidded out are various projects ranging from road widening, reconstruction of damaged paved road, road right of way [RROW], construction of drainage structures, etc. were indicated.
Based on the invitation, projects with approved budget for Davao City areas totaled P1.485 billion. And yet it has its own share of grumblings received from the constituents of the city.
Some point out uneven widths of certain roads such as the C.P. Garcia Highway or the Diversion Road that has six lanes while others only have four lanes or just two.
“It is easier said than done. We cannot expand, expanding it will cost so much. The budget is only provided by Manila. Dili ta kabuot sa budget (We do not have a say in the budget). We cannot destroy existing buildings, we cannot put infrastructures in saturated areas like Uyanguren,” DPWH Assistant District Engineer Yee said.
But with its numerous roadworks, DPWH is seen as contributory to traffic. That they are doing the projects to improve the road network is not appreciated.
As city roads are widened, public utilities like the Davao Light & Power Co. and telecommunications companies like the PLDT Inc. and the Globe Telecom are also not exempted.
They are constrained to move their electric posts as well but transferring posts require a lot of work.
For the electric distribution utility, Davao Light, the least possible service disruption must be allowed for its own consumers. Hence, careful inspection, study and planning must carried out, according to its spokesperson, Rossano Luga.
“The lines, poles, transformers and other equipment have to be ordered from suppliers abroad. The ordering process could take six months to one year,” Luga said.
According to a report from a local daily last February, City Transport and Traffic Management Office head Dionisio Abude had ordered the review of the traffic situation of the city.
Apparently, there are 169 intersections. At intersections, two or more streets meet. According to Abude, one of the causes would be the rising volume of vehicles in the city. Abude’s document from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) shows that the total number of vehicles registered in LTFRB reached 17,258 vehicles in Davao.
These are composed of 4,822 taxi cabs; 8,119 public utility jeepneys; 939 utility buses; 2,208 truck haulers; 769 UV express (passengers van); 108 tourist transport services; 4 shuttle buses; and 291 school transport services.
All trucks, SUV’s, buses, motorcycles, tricycles and trailers renewed from January to December 2015 reach a total amount of 128,926 vehicles.
Within Davao Region, the new registered vehicles amounting to 98,835 were added to the total number of vehicles. The second culprit cited by the CTTMO chief are the drivers themselves. Some are reckless and do not observe road courtesy.
These practices could lead to accidents, which causes traffic jam. It entails activities undertaken by a traffic investigator, like sketching the incident, and settling arguments of both parties. This even extends when both parties discuss about insurances.
The increase of economic activities in Davao add to the traffic congestion in the metropolis. There are so-called traffic generators, as Abude pointed out. As businesses strategically locate in high density areas, such as malls, and even night markets, people then flock to these areas.
Another traffic generator are activities related to increase in the number of vehicles plying the roads. One of these is vulcanizing services. Some drivers would just improperly park their vehicles unmindful of its effect. Also there is lack of CTTMO personnel.
“Ang importante naa gyud tao gabantay sa atong mga intersection (It's important to have at least one traffic enforcer keeping watch over intersections),” Abude said.
Road courtesy and discipline plays a lot in easing out traffic, he said. People must have respect for both traffic laws and other road users. In spite of the growing traffic, there is still hope.
Engineer Yee suggests replication of the odd and even or color scheme strategy in Manila to our city in order to reduce the number of vehicles in the road.
Councilor Conde Baluran, chairperson for Committee on Communication and Transportation, presents the idea of a truck ban. Under this program, trucks are disallowed to travel during the peak periods from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., and then from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m..
Councilor Baluran also disclosed of a multi million-infrastructure development project creating coastal passageways and mini diversion road, which will soon start this year.
The councilor also revealed a diversion route will be built from Baliok, through an old road out to Puan then turn left to Reldo Subdivision towards the San Pedro College campus in Mintal cutting through Keith Williams before hitting the Diversion Road.
Both mega projects are intended to decongest the traffic in the main thoroughfares. As the road of gain through urbanization crosses with growth pains like those cause by traffic, Dabawenyos will just have to stand tall, united, and resilient.
Jossan May Luga is a student of Ateneo de Davao University.