Throw it out! PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 January 2016 14:55

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

 

Los Angeles, CA. — For being conspicuously irrelevant, the Traffic Code of Zamboanga should be tossed out of the city council window and straight to the garbage bin. Whoever in that legislative body is in-charge of reviewing the ordinances that have outlived their usefulness should get his committee working to seriously consider amending or abolishing, all together, this piece of useless legislation based on present settings.

For years, we have not shaped an efficient traffic ordinance even as the city started to grow and more space was needed for cars, tricycles, motorcycles, pushcarts (madre de cacao), bicycles, jeepneys, delivery trucks and pedicabs. As lanes for all these automobiles grew intensively necessary, space for pedestrians simply shrank. Sidewalks got narrower that morning joggers and brisk-walkers my age use the street to help bring down blood sugar, putting them in immediate danger from rushing and reckless drivers taking their children to school.

Congressman Celso L. Lobregat imposed a 30-year old ordinance when he was mayor (frowned upon by angry, discontented negotiantes) known as the five-meter setback rule to make room for parking and other uses, thus widening the sidewalks. Even with that, pedestrian lanes don’t exist anymore as these have become street bazaars for peddlers. Over time, it has become unpleasant for pedestrians because they have to negotiate a narrow walk with vehicular traffic on one side and ambulant vendors on the other. And pedestrians must be careful not to get a citation for jaywalking.

We honestly need a new traffic framework. But having such plan is almost an impossibility considering that the mighty city council is made up of politicians sensitive only to their future but not their constituents’ feelings and frustrations. They need to think (and go to school, if necessary) like engineers, architects and urban designers and listen, not hear, to public opinion. Come to think of it, did not the mayor send all of them to the Development Academy of the Philippines to study budgeting? Madam Mayor, send them back to the DAP for a seminar/training on Management by Objectives and Cost Benefit.

I wrote that City Hall should save some space for pedestrian mobility downtown and to widen more roads within the city limits for the raid of motorcycles and cars that can easily be owned with a down payment of only P15,000. Our interior make-up must be redesigned by our planners (my goodness, we have good thinking people at the city planning and development office). There’s always a way for everything to grow. A “Mobility Plan” for the city is in order, nay, overdue.

Who will oppose this plan? Building owners, because their structures will have to be setback some more to give way to the widening of the streets. The reality is this: we need every bit of public transportation for students, office and store employees, market-goers, people carrying heavy grocery items and retirees (they hate to be called senior citizens). The ever eternal and irritating traffic congestion can’t be addressed unless our caretakers come up with a mobility plan that blends with urbanization. We don’t need magical thinkers to develop this plan, only people with common sense. I just hope that the new comprehensive development plan that was presented to the mayor two weeks ago has this factored in, otherwise this kind of social re-engineering will never come about.

People — and they comprise the majority — who live in the barrios have lesser problems than the urbanites. Everything there is a stone’s throw away: schools, wet market for food supplies, etc. They need not go to KCC, Mindpro, LB or Budget Wise to buy food. People living within the seven kilometer radius of the city know that Zamboanga is steadfastly growing because they can see and feel it. Everybody desires novelties as the demands for social and economic clout rise as automatically demanded by a growing metropolis (as envisioned by Joaquin Enriquez, Jr., Cesar C. Climaco and Mrs. Maria Clara L. Lobregat).

This is why I maintain that the traffic code, good as it was meant to be, must be redesigned, re-evaluated and redefined by the city council.

For years, our elected officials, so-called traffic and transportation experts mandated for shaping our roads and streets did not anticipate future traffic congestion. The signs that this problem would come about was staring in their faces. They didn’t see it coming? Salamabit. Driving to town from Baliwasan, Pasonanca, Tumaga or Tetuan is a nightmare (SOAB is implied). Five years ago, everything in Zamboanga was five minutes away. Now, it’s  five minutes and one hour.

Yes, the price we have to pay and live with for urbanization is high, extremely high. Our land-use decisions emanating from the city council did not consider the flow of traffic, present and future. The KCC experience is one example. If rumors are true that SM will build a mall along Nunez Ext. and Puregold will rise beside it, City Hall and the city council (now politically divided) should start projecting steps to prevent traffic as is the case of KCC.

Our planners should not only be anxious but compelled and fixated about congestion and redesign the city’s traffic scheme. We are desperate to see policy vacuum filled with a host of social changes.

 

Urban vitality is what we need. We are paying good, hard-earned money to see it flourish.