Editorial: Aging lights

Editorial Cartoon by Josua Cabrera

CEBU City’s traffic lights are already “modernized,” that is if you mean the technical sophistication that animates the system.

Procured in 1990 and became operational in 1993, the city’s traffic lights were part of the comprehensive Traffic Control Center (TCC), which supposedly controlled 70 intersections, according to the Japan International Coordinating Agency report in 2017.

“Modern” because it used the Australian traffic control software SCATS, now in use for over 40 years in 27 countries. It’s an intelligent, configurable system that uses sensors and links up all traffic signal controllers. Cebu City’s SCATS had its last upgrade in 1999. Whether the updates were software or hardware, we still have to know. The SCATS system, in its best version, can manage up to 16,000 intersections of large cities or regions.

Early morning of Tuesday, Aug. 13, the traffic lights of 14 major intersections in Cebu City conked out, leaving the rush hour traffic in disarray if not for the manual takeover of our traffic enforcers.

Cebu City Transportation Office (CTTO) spokesperson Ronie Nadera said part of the digital board that synchronizes traffic lights broke down. It took the technicians until 2 p.m. to set the traffic lights back on.

Last year, the city’s traffic managers reported that most of the city’s traffic censors were already failing. The SCATS system no longer worked properly as it used to, defeating its central control system’s capabilities when the frontline censors were rendered inutile.

Meanwhile, in 2013, Mandaue City spent at least P79 million to install its now modern traffic equipment, which is embedded with high-definition security cameras and digital clocks. They are now controlling vehicular flow in 13 major intersections. Talisay City and Lapu-Lapu City also had better traffic control systems, self-timed and with clock monitors.

Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella said it is time the city upgrades its traffic signal system. The budget had been set, the city now hunts for the best equipment.

As the city’s roads get even busier by the day, the upgrade is nothing less urgent.


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