Caught (up) in traffic

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Daily Archives: September 2, 2011

Bottlenecks along Marcos Highway

Motorists and commuters using Marcos Highway which connects towns in the Province of Rizal to Metro Manila (particularly Marikina, Pasig and Quezon City) typically experience severe congestion due to two bottlenecks. These are at Santolan in the general area of the LRT 2 Station and near the junction with Evangelista Street, and at Ligaya near the junction with Amang Rodriguez/J.P. Rizal Avenues (note that the road intersecting with Marcos Highway is known as Amang Rodriguez on the Pasig side and J.P. Rizal in Marikina). Even without the current road and drainage projects being implemented on both sides of the highway, severe congestion is experienced in these areas.

There are mainly two reasons for congestion. The first is the operation of public utility vehicles, particularly jeepneys, in these areas. The second is the traffic flow characteristics, particularly merging and weaving activities, along Marcos Highway. Undisciplined operations of jeepneys in both areas have always led to congestion as they have tended to occupy significant road space (say 2 or 3 lanes) as they compete among themselves for space and for passengers. This generally results in the reduction of road capacity as there are less lanes available for all other vehicles traversing the highway. Chaotic loading and unloading have also influenced commuters to also compete for their rides with people often found advancing to meet up with the approaching jeepneys, and occupying road space in the process.

In the case of Santolan, people occupy 2 lanes just after the junction with Evangelista street right after the bridge. Such results in usually 2 to 3 lanes available to motor vehicles. Combined with jeepneys stopped across the LRT2 station, only 2 to 3 lanes are effectively available to traffic along a stretch of the highway. I always wonder why the MMDA and Pasig City enforcers are always appear to be helpless against these people when the former should be preventing the latter from occupying road space and causing congestion that can reach as far as Aurora Boulevard along and also fill up the bridge from C5.  The situation is very similar for Ligaya where Pasig-Marikina jeepneys tend to establish informal, on-road terminals at the intersection itself and clogging both sides of Marcos Highway. Again, people are everywhere and occupy road space, ensuring that only a couple of lanes are usable for general through traffic. Here also, there seems to be enough enforcers from the MMDA and Pasig City but I always observe them not doing their jobs of managing the traffic and preventing mayhem in the area.

From the perspective of traffic flow, these two areas also have weaknesses. Santolan is already located in the vicinity of an LRT2 station so it is a natural stop for both public and private vehicles. Complicating its situation is the fact that for the eastbound side of the highway, two major streams merge. One comes from the highway bridge fed by both Aurora Boulevard and Maj. Dizon (Industrial Valley), and another comes the Macapagal Bridge that connects to C5. Since the general direction of most vehicles are towards Rizal, there is tremendous weaving activity in the area causing much friction among motor vehicles. On the westbound side of Marcos Highway, there is the tendency for divergence of traffic flow again due to the two bridges plus the presence of an SM Mall whose access road is to the right of the ramp leading to Macapagal Bridge. Again there is weaving activity here that has caused not a few road crashes.

The Ligaya junction used to be a signalized intersection that was closed and replaced by a pair of U-turn slots sometime during the past dispensation at MMDA. Thus, vehicles that used to go through Rodriguez/J.P. Rizal are now required to take a right turn and weave towards the U-turn slots a few meters downstream and weave again to take a right to Rodriguez or J.P. Rizal. Many of these are public utility jeepneys, the same ones that have informal terminals at the intersection itself. Vehicles negotiating the U-turn slots tend to block through traffic as they maneuver towards the outer lanes of the highway and head for the intersection, resulting in daily congestion at the already widened section of the highway in the vicinity of the U-turn slots. The morning case is usually the more severe one and there are usually no traffic enforcers in the area between 5:30 and 6:30 AM. If there happens to be a few early birds from the MMDA and Pasig, these seem to be more concerned with setting up the barriers for the counterflow scheme they implement in relation to the road and drainage project along the highway. Pasig enforcers do not manage the traffic but seem to be engrossed in apprehending those violating the number coding scheme. During the evenings, they are unmindful of the congestion and the people spilled out and occupying the traffic lanes seemingly content on watching vehicles crawling by.

These bottlenecks along Marcos Highway are examples of situations where simple traffic management in the form of active enforcement would be enough to alleviate congestion and perhaps help reduce the potential for road crashes (that may also result in more congestion). The enforcers’ presence and absence in these cases seem to add insult to the injury that is already caused by congestion that can be solved if the enforcers were doing their jobs in the first place. I would not even consider the relocation of the U-turn slots or the criticize the flaws of the design of the bridges’ ramps because the weaving behavior of vehicles may be effectively addressed by proper traffic management. And there are many similar cases throughout Metro Manila and other Philippine cities where this is happening. Hopefully, the agencies or local governments can address such concerns and with urgency considering the time and fuel wasted due to such bottlenecks.