Curbing traffic PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 April 2017 12:12

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose, CA. — I live in the middle part of a street titled to my grandfather, Manuel Dagalea-Jaldon, the last appointed mayor of Zamboanga city. When I go shopping for food supplies or run errands, it’s either I take a passenger jeep to La Purisima, alight in front of Mercury drugstore and walk towards Mindpro, or go northward to KCC (sometimes) either by jeepney or tricycle. This way, I don’t have to worry where to park my car or getting a parking ticket. And much, much cheaper. You just have to bear inhaling carbon monoxide from smoke-belching vehicles, tricycles most especially.

It could be that Rep. Celso L. Lobregat is correct. He could also be wrong in assessing that traffic congestion is the problem in Zamboanga city and that a traffic experimental strategy isn’t the solution to it. The fact is we have narrow streets and roads built by the Spaniards and left alone as is, where is, by the Japanese and Americans and Zamboanguenos. Convincing the well-offs to use public transportation instead of their big automobiles is not an easy role for Mayor Maria Isabel G. Climaco-Salazar and whoever is responsible for improving our bad traffic condition. I’ve done some calculations myself based on available figures. People + Vehicles + Narrow Roads + Abusive Drivers +    Indolent Traffic Officers = bottleneck, gridlock, overcrowding, jam.

For sure, there won’t be one-lane bike trails or motorcycle lanes because we can’t widen the streets within city limits. If the city could, such a project would cost millions of pesos and create construction disarray.

Zamboanga has come a long way (or retrogressed) since tricycles, motorcycles and express PUVs became a fad. Our population — now somewhere between 800,000 and 900,000 — is expected to grow even more, and faster, based on the number of marriages there have been the last five years, not to mention regional migration. Demographers just can’t figure out how to house these migrants because housing has become an acute problem.

Figuring out how to get these people to and from work without the main thoroughfares getting clogged at peak times is a headache, close to migraine, for the city’s traffic planners who, incidentally, do not have the proper knowledge or training to come up with a comprehensive traffic plan. Our leaders should observe commuting alternatives in foreign countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

While it’s still early, Zamboanga can reboot its transportation infrastructure that will regulate the operation of tricycles in major streets and confine public transportation to smaller, seldom-used roads. The next best thing is to open up new roads. It may be costly, but absolutely rewarding. We are not lucky enough to have wide roads and blocks. We cannot redesign our main commercial center (Guardia Nacional) because the blocks are too small. Meaning, multiple forms of transportation using these narrow streets is an impossibility.

Officials, then and now, expect growth in the suburbs. Retirees who have lands in barangays farther than Divisoria in the east and Calarian in the west may move to these places, thus depopulating the city proper and reducing the use of public transportation. A Zamboangueno residing in Los Angeles observed, and truly so, that Zamboanga will always be a motorist-driven metropolis (it used to be Calesa), particularly with the young generation, because it is cheaper and faster to reach a destination.

Some things are worth the drive. We have to sacrifice a few things to attain big things. The city is prepared to meet these challenges, I guess, without paying attention to some recalcitrants who could have fixed the traffic problem when they had the chance.

By the way, when was the traffic code of Zamboanga city enacted into law? Just asking.