Worsening traffic (1st of two-part)

Commuting and driving Dabawenyos give their insights into what causes and what could be the solution to the congested roads in Davao City, but are these doable?
Worsening traffic (1st of two-part)
Macky Lim/SunStar File Photo

DAVAO City is known for its slogan “Life is Here,” boasting as one of the safest and cleanest cities in the Philippines. Aside from that, it also highlights the discipline of its residents and the “culture of security” they adhere to. 

However, Dabawenyos and tourists alike also agree on one issue this city is facing nowadays: the ever-worsening traffic situation.

As the economy of the city grows, so does its population. The Philippine Statistics Authority-Davao Region (PSA-Davao) 2020 Census of Population and Housing said that as of May 1, 2020, the city is home to 1,776,949 individuals. Due to the city's high population density and the volume of vehicles and public transportation that pass by the main thoroughfares daily, drivers and commuters are dealing with heavy traffic situations during rush hour and with lengthy travel times.

To combat the worsening traffic, the City Government of Davao and its traffic authorities have tried multiple actions to find a solution. These include road widening and implementing the Peak Hours Augmentation Bus System (PHABS).

Mary Vic Samantha Dela Cruz, a 23-year-old dentistry student, living in Mintal, Davao City means commuting every day to school in downtown. She said that on average, her usual travel time is around 50 minutes, but if luck is not on her side, it would take about two to three hours before she reaches home.

“I have noticed the difference in today's traffic compared to before. Even with traffic, I used to travel only an hour and 30 minutes to get to my destination before but now it has become worse to the point that it somehow affects my studies,” she said.

Dela Cruz believes that some of the solutions to solve the traffic congestion in the city are to reduce the number of vehicles traversing the roads and to enhance the traffic rules and regulations.

Neil John Ang, a 23-year-old registered respiratory therapist working in the city, revealed that the traffic congestion has contributed to his stress. He said that it usually takes him about one to three hours to travel from his home to his workplace.

“I am a commuter, and in my own point of view, the status of the traffic here in Davao is in a really bad state, to a point that it contributes to the reasons for my stress daily,” he said.

Ang describes the city’s roads as congested, adding that the traffic situation has gotten worse over the years. He sees the reduction of running vehicles plying on the road would help in decongesting the roads.

Cymon Abarsolo, a 24-year-old government employee, emphasized that even his small motorcycle cannot escape the traffic. He said that even though motorcycles get to slip by through very narrow passageways in the middle of traffic, they are still affected by it.

“Supposedly, one hour ra gyud ang byahe pag Mintal to downtown pero pag-traffic gyud kaayo mokabat siyag two hours gyud ang maximum nga oras which is makasapot gyud (Supposedly, the travel time from Mintal to downtown when it is really congested is about two hours, that is the maximum, and this is so irritating),” he said.

Abarsolo stressed that he usually encounters heavy traffic on Matina Crossing, Quirino Avenue along Davao Doctors Hospital, and Quimpo Boulevard along Felcris Centrale, especially during peak hours. He suggested that it would be beneficial if employers allow their employees to adopt a Work-from-Home (WFH) setup or even adjust their work schedule to avoid the peak traffic hours.

Lea Regina Dulay, a 24-year-old employee of a big university in Davao City, drives her vehicle going to her workplace for almost a year now. She laments that regardless of the mode of transportation, one would still fall victim to traffic. 

She narrated that during peak hours, it takes her about 45 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes to travel from her home to her workplace while during non-peak hours it only takes her about 25 to 30 minutes.

Dulay said: “I would say that the traffic congestion in Davao is still inconvenient regardless of your mode of transportation and route. A lot of people would say that cars could take shortcuts, the destination takes less time to travel, but the problem here is that these 'shortcuts' are also filled with cars and other vehicles, creating traffic.”

She mentioned that these shortcuts, such as the Puan junction and the roundabout at the end of the coastal road, get congested every day from 7:30 a.m. onwards. She even tried traversing on the Diversion Road but was met with the worst traffic she had ever encountered. She revealed that she finds it ironic since the Diversion Road used to be the fastest route to take. She said these shortcuts are not made to accommodate a huge volume of cars.

However, Dulay noticed that the traffic situation has improved compared to three years ago due to the newly built roads in the city. But still, it does not make traveling any easier for most of the Dabawenyos. She suggested that the government must invest in a more comfortable public transportation system to encourage everyone to commute, efficient urban planning, creating car-free spaces, walkable spaces, and faster execution of road construction.


Government projects to reduce traffic

The ​​Davao Public Transport Modernization Project (DPTMP), formerly known as the High Priority Bus System, is designed to help alleviate the traffic situation not only in Davao City but also in the region. The project is expected to be operational by 2026, covering 29 interconnected routes spanning around 672 kilometers.

Dela Cruz, Abarsolo, and Ang shared the same sentiments and expressed that the DPTM would be an effective way to reduce traffic. That is if the number of Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) were lessened because if it not, it would only add to the traffic congestion.

Dulay stressed that a transportation system such as the DPTM would be a huge factor in easing traffic congestion. However, she is also concerned about the Public Utility Vehicles and Jeepney (PUV/PUJ) drivers losing their livelihood. She said that if only the Local Government Unit (LGU) would make use of the existing transportation, improve it, increase its capacity, and make it more comfortable for daily commuters, it would be a much more sustainable option.

National road infrastructure projects, such as the Maa Diversion Road, Ulas Viaduct Project, and Coastal Road, would significantly impact the traffic situation in Davao City, Dela Cruz shared. She said that when the coastal road opened, the traffic situation in Bangkal improved every morning, but the congestion transferred to Ecoland because that is where the cars exit from the coastal road.

Ang also mentioned that when the coastal road opened, the main roads of the city became spacious. But this did not last long. However, he is positive that when the road projects are finished, it will alleviate traffic congestion.

These national projects would be alternate routes for private car owners and motorcycle riders, Abarsolo said. He expressed that the main goal of this project is to expand the roads and improve the road networks to accommodate the increasing volumes of vehicles. These projects would reduce congestion by providing additional lanes and smoother traffic flow.

Dulay said that these national road infrastructure projects have greatly contributed to easing the traffic situation in the city.

The commuting and driving public have given their take on how to alleviate the city's traffic situation, what's the government's take on this? RGP

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