17 August 2016

Improved Traffic Management in Lipa; but Foresight Also Needed for the Future


I have complained about the adverse traffic situation in Lipa City before, and now that it has perceptibly improved, I believe that it is merely fair to write about the improvements as well. I still see the occasional bitching about traffic on social media, so before anyone can consider trolling this article, let me immediately set its context.

I say “improved” traffic from my own observations. I live on the western outskirts of the city and normally go to the city proper for my groceries between 9 and 10 in the morning. This window is basically my reference point for this article.

It is fair to say that in the last two or three months – perhaps even more – there has not been a really bad traffic jam heading into the STAR exit in Tambo during my sorties uptown. Gridlocked, barely moving jams that snaked all the way to Baseview Subdivision – and occasionally all the way to San Vicente – used to occur so frequently that I actually avoided going to the city unless I absolutely had to.

When the jams started to slowly disappear, initially I used to think that I was just being lucky each time I went uptown. When I started to notice that I was being lucky too often, I realised that it was not a matter of luck anymore and started to sit up and take notice of the changes local government had implemented.

First, the buses bound for Batangas City are no longer allowed to U-turn at the STAR to return to the expressway and are sent into the J.P. Laurel Highway to continue their trips. I used to think of this as odd because the buses crossing into the highway do cause delays. After I gave it some thought, I realised that they used to make a bus stop at the mouth of the toll gates; and passengers egressing from jeepneys to take their rides were among the factors that held up traffic along the highway. The loss of a quick 15-minute ride to Batangas City along the STAR is something of an inconvenience; but as my late father used to say, governance always has to serve the greater majority.

Second, the highway from the air base to Tambo, or so I started to notice, now seem “cleaner.” That is, there are less vehicles who make private parking lots of the shoulders of the highway. There must be a towing policy being enforced. One morning after having had breakfast at the Jollibee store in Tambo, I saw workmen attaching chains from a tow truck to a vehicle that must have been parked there for far too long.

If at all I see build-ups along this same stretch of road, it is usually when I return from my sorties uptown between 10:30 to 11:30 in the mornings. Even these seldom go beyond the front gate of Catalina Village, which is bearable compared to what it used to be not too far back.

Coincidental to these changes is also the likelihood that more and more travellers have realised that the confusing Marawoy exit (caused by the signage) at the STAR is actually a shorter route into the city proper. My own niece initially refused to exit there because she did not know to where it led, until I reassured her that it leads to the city.

I used to wonder if the reasonable traffic flow was in part due to De La Salle Lipa’s delayed school opening. But no; even now that the school has started its school year, whatever delays there are in front of it continues to be bearable. Not that the school was ever solely the reason for the traffic; and I indeed I pointed out in a separate article that traffic management at the rotunda was often more culpable than the pedestrians crossing in front of the school. This is even more evident now that DLSL’s students finally put to good use the overpass in front of the St. La Salle Building. Change has, indeed, come. Smiley.

Just a quick word about TMD personnel, and I am not about to roast them as theirs is a thankless enough job. But any job that requires decision-making also needs adequate information for any decision to be rational. This is one area where traffic enforcers probably need better support to further improve traffic management, as obviously information is available to them only visually.

For instance, I do not see the point in stopping traffic along the highway just to allow two cars to exit from the STAR in Tambo. In some cases I have personally observed, the enforcer on the road kept doing this whilst obviously oblivious to the fact that the vehicle build-up snaked all the way back to the front gate of Fernando Air Base.

There was also this instance some months back when the enforcer at the rotunda in front of Robinson’s Place kept favouring traffic to flow from Mataas-na-Lupa, because this he could see. All the while, he was blissfully ignorant of the fact that his frequent interruption of vehicles from the west had caused traffic to build up from as far back as the old church in Tambo.

By and large, however, the easing of traffic jams in the city has been a real breath of fresh air. Even up in the city proper itself with its narrow early twentieth century roads and all, traffic flows along reasonably well. I used to dread going uptown because from La Salle to the junction in front of UCPB could take as long 30 minutes, with M.K. Lina street virtually this massive parking lot. These days, it takes just five to seven minutes, almost just like it used to be in the old days.

I was out Friday afternoon with a friend and the traffic from the rotunda in Sabang to the street corner leading into Fiesta Mall was heavy. Yesterday afternoon, there was also a slight build-up in front of Robinson’s Place to Lorenzo Ruiz Road leading to Canossa Academy. I seldom go uptown in the afternoon, but even these two instances were nothing compared to how horrible traffic used to be just a few months back.

These days, whatever complaints I see on social media about traffic tend to invariably be during rush hour. If it is any consolation, it is the same everywhere. That is why it is called rush hour.

While I wish to commend local government for these changes, I also hope it stays proactive in the matter of traffic management. Not only is Lipa City’s population now greater than that of Batangas city; by 2020, another 56,506 people are expected to be added to the 2015 population. Investments in infrastructure and equipment are a necessity.

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