Malilong: What’s the plan?

The Other Side
Malilong.
Malilong.SunStar file

A friend left her Citadines office on Juana Osmeña St. at 5 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. At 6:40 p.m., she was still cooling her heels along the old Mango Avenue across the store of a giant restaurant chain that serves fried chicken. Only 500 meters traveled after one hour and 40 minutes of driving? Hello, Singapore clone!

“Hayyy Balentong day,” she wrote on Facebook in obvious frustration while cooped up in her car. “Happy traffic day diay.”

We found ourselves trapped in the same traffic jam an hour later. Fuente Osmeña was a veritable war zone, the wheels of stranded vehicles under the command of frazzled men—and women—trying to outflank each other and win every inch of drivable space.

Clearing Fuente took some really skillful, if tense, maneuvering by our driver. (I was driven away from driving, if you will pardon the pun, by the pressure that traffic situations like the one on Valentine’s night carried. After angioplasty and with blood pressure hovering in the 150/90 range, I decided I could not afford any more aggravation).

I had hoped that after clearing Fuente, the downtown ride along Osmeña Blvd. would be a more pleasant experience. But I was wrong. It was better, compared to traversing Fuente, yes, but only because Fuente was really terrible. The big jeepneys a.k.a. the small buses, mostly imported from China, that were supposed to ease traffic congestion were, ironically, mostly responsible for the mayhem, bullying their way along the old Jones Avenue.

Happily, we survived the nightmarish ride, riled but otherwise unscathed. Throughout the experience, I kept asking myself, where were the traffic policemen, the traffic enforcers, the barangay tanods, even the traffic aides? To bastardize a line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Wednesday night was “traffic, traffic everywhere but not a cop to find.”

Okay, Valentine’s Day is notoriously traffic challenging especially in the evening when men, women and everyone go out to dinner and/or a few drinks to demontrate their love for and loyalty to their partners. But that is precisely the issue. The administration knew that a traffic situation would inevitably occur on Valentine’s night, why haven’t they devised a plan to address it?

They also knew from experience where the chokepoints would be and that erratic traffic flow was a perennial problem at Fuente Osmeña even on ordinary days from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Why didn’t they assign some people in authority to enforce and maintain some semblance of discipline in Fuente as well as in the other traffic-prone areas?

I do not begrudge the Cebu City mayor for dreaming big for Cebu City. On the contrary, I applaud him for believing that under his guiding hands, we can be like Singapore. But shouldn’t big things begin with little steps?

I say enough of the talking and the singing about a Singapore-like Cebu with Melbourne influence. Where is the mayor’s roadmap? What is his strategy, his key performance indicators and his timelines? Where does addressing the traffic problem lie in his order of priorities? If he has not prepared a comprehensive traffic alleviation plan yet, can he at least assure us that his traffic officers will not go missing in action, like they were on Wednesday, the next time a gridlock occurs?

For his sake and considering the fast approaching elections, I hope that he can provide the answers to the above questions soon. Many of them have, to quote the late Sonny Osmeña, the memory of an elephant.

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