Sleeping railway system

Published by rudy Date posted on April 21, 2009

More than 10 years since the Skyway opened in the late 90s, the second segment of the Skyway that will connect Bicutan to Alabang started this year. This was the original design of the Skyway system to connect Makati to Alabang, which is the segment with the heaviest volume of vehicles during rush hour. Given however the current volume passing the South Luzon Expressway, the Skyway system is needed as a maximal flow intervention not only until Alabang but also all the way to Calamba, to help alleviate the really bad traffic situation in that stretch.

Building roads is one effective way to manage traffic and ease the flow of vehicles, people, goods and services. Building roads help address mobility concerns of people, improving the quality of life of the citizens so they can spend more time relaxing at home, working in the office, studying in schools, having fun playing sports, watching movies or simply hanging out with friends. Time cooped up inside motor vehicles, hemmed in traffic on streets jammed by cars, buses, taxis and jeepneys is unproductive time since hardly any productive pursuit can be done inside these sheets of metals.

Building roads also help in lessening consumption of nonrenewable fossil fuel as well as help in lessening the pollution spewed from engines of motor vehicles. Building roads also create projects and jobs for contractors, the engineers and the other road workers who toil under the heat of the sun and the pouring rain, to complete needed road systems.

But alas, building roads and managing the demand side of traffic will not solve the traffic mess in Metro Manila. For as soon as you build a road network, it will only take a short while for the efficient supply side of motor vehicle production, sales and marketing to pour in a lot more cars, buses, taxis and jeepneys in the metropolis. And the efficient supply side of motor vehicle production, exacerbated by the ever increasing population and the abject lack of discipline among drivers, motorists and pedestrians, result in one gargantuan traffic mess which turns the metropolis’ road system on a given work day to a big messy parking lot.

The decision makers might have wrongly prioritized motor vehicle owners over the convenience of the greater number of commuters who travel daily from Makati to points south of the metropolis by building the Skyway first instead of rehabilitating and modernizing the train system to serve the area. The train system is an efficient form of mass transport, which can move more people faster without being jammed in traffic mess. It also consumes a lot less energy and contributes less as well to generation of pollutants.

The existing railroad tracks have been cleared of informal settlers for some time now. This is the initial step in its rehabilitation. But one wonders why not much work has been done to fast track the completion of both the North and South Rails Systems to serve the metropolis and the locales adjacent to it. The second segment of the Skyway has started but the rail system is stuck, seemingly with nowhere to go. For all the benefits of the Skyway, it will not have the grass roots impact that an efficient and well-functioning rail system can provide majority of the population.

If funding and wherewithal can be provided the Skyway project, it behooves the decision makers to provide much more impetus to the railway system since it will benefit the common good a lot more and provide the hapless commuters a little more quality time when they commute as well as add more quality to their life by easing the ignominy of daily traffic grinds.

The author teaches at the Ramon V. del Rosario Sr., Graduate School of Business of the De La Salle University. He welcomes comments at berinod@dlsu.edu.ph. –Dennis L. Berino, Manila Times

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