Baguio’s time has not yet come to suffer the same fate of Metro Manila’s “carmaggedon,” but the clear signs are in the offing.

It’s very timely and important to discuss this issue in the wake of the City Council’s invitation to petitioners opposed to a measure to transfer jeepney staging areas that begun last September 14.

There’s a wealth of data and insights that can be gained from a paper presented in November 2017 by Mr. Mark De Guzman of the Saint Louis University; and Ms. Lovely Rañosa and Mr. Alexis Fillone, both of the De La Salle University during the 12th Eastern Asia for Transportation Studies at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The paper is titled “Jeepney Service Operation and Demand in Baguio City, Philippines.”

According to the paper, the total number of registered vehicles in Baguio City as of the second quarter of 2016 was 11,672, a 15.9% increase from a total of 9,815 of the same quarter of 2015. Of that registration data of the second quarter of 2016, 45% of the total, or 2,870, comprises private vehicles; 806 (12%), taxis; 834 (13%), public utility jeepneys; 1,919 (30%), motorcycles; and 20 (0.31%), buses.

The paper also added that from 52,302 total number of households in 2000, it rose to 78,313 in 2010, which is a 50 percent surge over a period of one decade or 5 percent annual growth. The average car ownership in the second quarter of 2016 was 1.3 for every 5 households, whereas as of 2012 the total road system of Baguio city was at 320.924 kilometers.

Let’s lay the data on the roads.

Assuming that the figures will remain constant while deducting the motorcycles and buses from the equation, all of the existing road systems of Baguio City would probably be filled up—bumper to bumper—with more than 160,000 city registered motor vehicles, regardless of class, by the year 2035 of 15 years from today.

This is assuming that the road system remains the same, holding a total estimated linear space of 641,848 meters (both lanes of the roads considered) and assigning an average four-meter length for every vehicle.

And if the assumption would consider the large population of the motorcycles and its lion’s share in the total, the projection of the “carmaggedon” may be much earlier. Also, the assumption does not include the transient vehicles of tourists, traders, passers, and 16 bus lines that serve multi-routes to and from Baguio City.

And this is where the City Council’s statesmanship emanates. It is tasked to not just primarily enact a stop-gap solution, but to find an equitable and sustainable policy. And to add to the current discussion at the City Council, the following questions may be added to positivize the Herculean task at hand:

1. Since the Baguio City public market is the single biggest traffic magnet, is it possible to have a public market at some of the 129 barangays? These markets shall be owned, operated, and patronized by the members of the communities duly formed as cooperatives, which have the capacity to produce organic food out composting their waste. This is where the city’s community development and empowerment mandate could play a crucial role.

2. Is it possible to ask the national government to help in the establishment of both elementary and high schools in some more barangays? That the students therein are bona fide residents.

3. Is it possible for the city to mandate the walkability of most major centers of commerce?

4. And where it is convenient and conducive, is it possible to designate exclusive bicycle lanes alongside cars and other vehicles?

Given the unique character of Baguio citizens as being persevering, loving, loyal, and patriotic, the daunting task confronting them maybe just a walk in the park. Rene Pineda

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Rene D. Pineda, Jr., a long-time member of the EcoWaste Coalition, is president of the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) and the Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF)