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Line 2 to be transformed into a BRT? Definitely not a good idea!

There are news reports stating that the Department of Transportation (DoTr) is considering replacing the LRT Line 2 with a BRT instead. I think this is not something worth considering at this point since the construction of the Line 2 extension from Santolan to Masinag is already underway. Also, there is the fact that Line 2 is the only heavy rail system among the three LRT/MRT lines in Metro Manila. It has the potential to have the highest capacity among the three as well as the potential to have the highest ridership especially after the extension is complete and the two additional stations are operational.

With lots of people requiring public transport beyond Masinag, the question is not whether to convert Line 2 into a BRT but instead what services can be provided for a more efficient system for Rizal and Marikina. I took the following photos along my commute from Antipolo to Quezon City. Note the number of people waiting for public transport along Marcos Highway.

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These are people who would typically take jeepneys or UV Express for their commutes. It is obvious from my regular observations that jeepneys and UV Express cannot cover the demand for public transportation and my opinion is that it is high time to introduce a higher capacity and more efficient mode in order to encourage people to keep taking public transport and to encourage those taking private transport to shift to PT.

A BRT service can be connected to Line 2. Since the Line 2 extension to Masinag is scheduled to be completed next year and be operational by third quarter of 2017, a bus service can already be piloted between Santolan and several end points. Four for consideration would be Cogeo, Antipolo Simbahan, Marikina and Cainta.

  • Cogeo should be a no-brainer given that there is already demand there and this is growing rapidly with all the subdivisions being developed in this area.
  • For Antipolo Simbahan, perhaps the final stop need not be at the shrine but at Robinsons Antipolo.
  • For Marikina, there can be three lines – one branching from Ligaya where there is a major Ayala development, a second at Gil Fernando and another at Masinag. These may terminate at the city center, perhaps in the vicinity of the Rodriguez Sports Complex, which is near the Marikina City Hall and public market.
  • The last line could traverse Felix Avenue (Imelda Avenue) and may terminate at Cainta Junction where commuters can transfer to transport along Ortigas Avenue Extension.

Surely, pilot services can be provided where limited stops or express services can be experimented on to see what clicks in terms of ridership. It would be nice to get feedback about such services and hopefully there will be champions for these bus services. Note that such services terminating at Santolan means that there should be terminal facilities in that area. Former MMDA Chair and now Marikina Congressman Bayani Fernando has developed an area precisely for an eastern transport terminal and so bus services present a good opportunity for this terminal to be a busy one. Maybe BF can champion these bus services? And perhaps the Antipolo and Cainta (paging Mayors Ynares and Nieto!) can also push for these services as commuters from these would stand to benefit the most from a good transport system.

Improvements to alternative route between Rizal and Makati

I finally got another look at the conditions along the alternate road to Highway 2000 and C-6 Extension a couple of weeks ago while en route to Bonifacio Global City. Traffic along Ortigas Ave. is usually terrible these days even during the weekends due to the road and drainage works between Cainta Junction and Brookside. I am glad to say that there have been significant improvements to the section of Don Hilario Cruz Ave nearest to the Manggahan Floodway and beside the Megawide plant. There have been significant developments, too, along C-6 Extension in the Lupang Arenda area of Taytay, Rizal. Here are some photos of the area.

2015-11-14 10.18.11Don Hilario Cruz Ave., the road beside the Megawide plant and parallel to Highway 2000, is being improved with half the carriageway already prepared for paving. The other half appears to be graded is being used by vehicles.

2015-11-14 10.19.21A roller runs along the base layer of the road that’s being paved. These sections were usually muddy and full of craters during the wet season and very dusty and still full of potholes during the dry season.

2015-11-14 10.26.24Sections of C-6 Extension at the Lupang Arenda area have been widened and the expropriated lands are now being transformed into paved roads. The original sections have been overlayed with asphalt to improve their ride-ability.

2015-11-14 10.27.33Another section in Lupang Arenda shows finished PCCP for the eastbound side of C-6.

2015-11-14 10.28.26Another photo of C-6 extension. Once the finished lanes are usable, authorities will probably divert traffic there so they could also pave the rest of the road.

Travelers between Rizal and Makati/Taguig will benefit the most from the improvements along these roads. These will increase road capacity as well as travel speeds along this route. Now, if only authorities can also improve C-6 itself in Taguig…

On the severity of traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue and the necessity of a mass transit line

With the worsening congestion along Marcos Highway due to the construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension to Masinag, I have been using Ortigas Avenue as an alternate route to go home. Granted, the stretch from the Park Place gate near Cainta Junction and Brookside is currently undergoing roadworks elevating that entire section (which is prone to flooding), and this is the main cause of much congestion as fewer lanes are usable to traffic. However, what is perceived to be relief from traffic once the project is completed will eventually and surely revert to a very congested Ortigas Avenue.

Traffic congestion along Ortigas Extension is primarily due to a dependence on road transport, particularly private vehicles, by people living along Ortigas Ave. and the roads feeding into it. The Manila East Road, for example, passes through the most populous towns of Rizal outside of Antipolo City. The dependence on road transport (especially private vehicles) is due to limited options for public transport. There are buses, jeepneys and UV Express but these, too, contribute to congestion due to their increased numbers and limited capacities given the high demand for public transport. Among the infrastructure proposed along this corridor is an overpass along Ortigas Ave. at Cainta Junction. A mass transit system has also been required along this corridor for a very long time but for some reason, such infrastructure has not been provided.

2015-10-10 17.20.46Severe traffic congestion along both directions of Ortigas Avenue Extension

2015-10-10 17.23.15Congestion stretches all the way along the Manila East Road

2015-10-17 18.25.14Night-time traffic congestion at the Tikling Junction

There is a proposal for a mass transit system along this corridor. Following are references to the project:

From the PPP Centre: https://ppp.gov.ph/?ppp_projects=ortigas-taytay-lrt-line-4-project

From CNN Philippines: http://cnnphilippines.com/metro/2015/07/22/neda-approves-naia-lrt-ppp-projects.html

I found it quite odd that the stations are not referenced according to the more common place names for the locations. For example, ‘Bonifacio Avenue’ should be ‘Cainta Junction’ and ‘Leonard Wood’ should be ‘Kaytikling Junction’. Nevertheless, this is the least of our concerns pertaining to transport and traffic along this corridor.

Perhaps the conditions are ripe now to finally implement transport infrastructure projects along this corridor. The proposal and approval of a rail transit line by NEDA means the corridor has the national government’s attention. The local government leaders along this corridor are also more progressive and aggressive than their predecessors. These include a very dynamic mayor in Cainta and the former governor-turned mayor in Antipolo. A collaboration towards better transport among these two LGUs alone would be influential and instrumental to improving travel along Ortigas Avenue.

Updates on the LRT 2 Extension – no more trees!

It’s been a while since I last passed by along Marcos Highway. This morning, I was a bit surprised by what I saw (or perhaps, more appropriately, what I didn’t see). The median along the section between Imelda Avenue all the way to Santolan has been cleared of trees. This was already expected as the contractor was already clearing the median for the past weeks. The work entailed fencing off the inner lanes of Marcos Highway and has caused congestion with the highway’s capacity significantly reduced and many motorists slowing down to observe what was going on (usyoso). Following are a few photos of Marcos Highway taken this morning.

2015-11-04 09.52.45DMCI removed the barriers securing the inner 2 lanes to reveal a median clear of trees. The median will be where the columns for the elevated LRT Line 2 extension to Masinag will be constructed.

2015-11-04 09.52.49I wonder what will become of the pedestrian overpasses along Marcos Highway. These structures would have to be redesigned with respect to the elevated structure of the LRT Line 2.

2015-11-04 09.53.09Here’s the conspicuously clear median along Marcos Highway approaching Ligaya. The Ayala development can be seen on the right side along the Quezon City bound side of the highway.

2015-11-04 09.56.01Waiting – Line 2 currently terminates just after Santolan Station where trains make the switch for the return journey.

Proposals for EDSA and some alternate roads

The hellish traffic congestion along EDSA and other roads in Metro Manila spawned a bunch of ideas for alleviating congestion. Among those that were offered as solutions are the following:

  1. Odd-Even Scheme – suggested by the Philippines President himself in a speech delivered in Mandaluyong City
  2. Car-pooling (and HOV lanes) – suggested by the DPWH Secretary in another forum
  3. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and/or express bus – proposed and being studied by the DOTC

What seems to have been forgotten was a proposal to have two lanes of EDSA, one on either direction, devoted to bicycles. This proposal now seems to be the most viable compared to the above three and could have the potential for major behaviour change towards a departure from motor vehicle use. Cycling along with walking does not require fuel and these modes also promote healthy lifestyles. Also, this could become the ultimate example for road diets, which can also be applied along other roads as well. What sounds or reads like an outrageous idea (i.e., bicycle lanes along EDSA) might just be revolutionary and result in what could be a tipping point for sustainable transport in the midst of traffic mayhem.

EDSA has become the proverbial battleground representing the war with traffic congestion. However, EDSA is just one part of our arterial network comprised of circumferential and radial roads. There is also C-5 (also known for its sections – Katipunan, E. Rodriguez, C.P. Garcia), which is also a very congested road but along which there are few fixed route public transport services. It is a primary alternative route (to EDSA)for people traveling between the northern and southern halves of Metro Manila. It also serves as a collector and distributor, being connected with major radial roads like Aurora Boulevard, Ortigas Avenue and Shaw Boulevard as well as to the South Luzon Expressway. C-5 is a major truck route, however, and so carries a lot of heavy vehicles during the permitted times under the truck ban scheme being implemented in Metro Manila. C-5 is already ripe for a mass transit system and should have one along it. The quickest to put up would be a bus system on exclusive lanes. Strategically though, a rail transit line (likely elevated) should already be planned and implemented and with as seamless as possible connections to current and future lines along major corridors.

There are other routes that can be considered which I think have been overlooked (too much focus on EDSA?). C-6, for example, badly needs to be improved and this has started but is being implemented at a slow pace. This could have significant positive impacts on traffic coming from the east (towns of Rizal province) that are bound primarily for Makati and BGC. But then there also has to be a good road bypassing the narrow and already congested streets of Taguig and Pateros that are currently the only roads connecting C-5 and C-6. The roads on the Rizal side (attention: Cainta and Taytay) also need to be improved including Highway 2000 and the Barkadahan Bridge. Perhaps the Rizal Provincial Government should also get involved in this as such routes are in the best interest of Rizalenos. And then there is also the highly urbanized city of Antipolo that is a major destination and already is the 7th most populous city in the country, whose residents also use this route, which is often a faster option to Ortigas and C-5 despite the poor conditions of roads.

Causes of congestion along Ortigas Ave. Extension

I have written about the common causes of congestion along Ortigas Avenue. The past articles mentioned the undisciplined loading and unloading along the entire stretch of the road and particularly at either ends of the Manggahan Floodway bridge in Pasig City. I have also written about the congestion caused by private vehicles generated by a private school just a stone’ throw away from DOTC headquarters. This time, I focus on Ortigas Avenue Extension, particularly the stretch from Cainta Junction to Valley Golf.

The current and more critical choke points along Ortigas Ave. Ext. are along the stretch of the road between Cainta Junction and Valley Golf. These are due to the road and drainage works along that section that effectively made the westbound side of Ortigas a single lane road between Brookside and Park Place. There are also road and drainage works along the eastbound side between Brookside and Valley Golf where the entire road section is being elevated. This section is flood prone and has been problematic during the wet season when heavy rains often result in flash floods.

IMG12071-20150823-1659Counter flow along Ortigas Avenue Extension – this scheme has been the only option for the section between Valley Golf and Park Place Subdivision as the work proceeds one lane at a time. At the time, I took this photo, the counter flow lanes allowed for 2 lanes each for both the eastbound and westbound directions of this corridor. The past week, however, I noticed that during the afternoons and evenings, I noticed that two lanes were allocated for westbound traffic while only one was for the eastbound direction. This should not be the case as the peak direction in the afternoon to the evening is eastbound when people are home bound mainly from work and school.

IMG12072-20150823-1701The section across from STI is another choke point as the area is one of the ends of the project raising the elevation of the avenue as well as improving the drainage along the road. The traffic along this area has improved much though vehicles still have to slow down to transition between the old pavement and new pavement sections, as well as vehicles turning towards Hunters ROTC Road.

IMG12073-20150823-1701Unfinished sections – at the time this photo was taken, work along the site was intermittent. Commuters making the observation are often frustrated and much disappointed when they see none working along the construction site. The Mayor of Cainta did very well by talking to the contractor and apparently discussing with the latter how to improve traffic conditions as well as how to expedite the implementation of the project. My own observation was that conditions did indeed improve after that meeting (which was related by the Mayor in his Facebook page) and people could see workers busy with the project even at night time.

Traffic will continue to be bad along Ortigas Avenue Extension until this project is completed. While there should be some significant improvement in traffic flow after completion, congestion will again steadily worsen for this corridor whose private vehicle traffic continues to grow. Public transport is provided by buses, jeepneys and UV Express (whose numbers have ballooned during the last 5 years) and these have contributed a lot to congestion because of their drivers’ behavior particularly when they stop for passengers at areas like Valley Golf, Brookside, Cainta Junction, Ever, Countryside, Manggahan and Rosario.

There is hope though as news proclaim that the NEDA Board has approved the LRT 4 project along this corridor. A mass transit system is indeed necessary and this was required perhaps over a decade ago already. I do hope that this ‘LRT’ is more like the current Line 2 trains and stations than the Line 3 kind. Line 2 is a heavy rail system while Line 3 is light rail. The Ortigas corridor requires a heavy rail system considering the passenger demand in the areas that will be served by the transit system. I also hope that Line 4 is implemented like Line 2 with the government taking responsibility for constructing the system. I have maintained my view that the current administration is too fixated with Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that it had practically given up its responsibility to the general public to provide an efficient and equitable means of public transport for commuting. I just now wonder what became of the proposed BRT line along this same corridor. Perhaps the BRT option has already been abandoned by the DOTC in favor of rail?

Ortigas Avenue Extension Roadworks

Causing much traffic congestion the past weeks and especially these days are sections of Ortigas Avenue Extension. This is basically caused by roadworks between Cainta Junction and Valley Golf. The section between Brookside and Valley Golf is being raised. The section is a low portion of the road and is almost always flooded whenever there are heavy rains due also in part to the creek in the area. The westbound side of that section is completed and the contractor is now working on the eastbound side. The section is a wider segment of Ortigas and it’s possible to close one lane at a time while having 2 lanes usable for traffic along either side of the road.

The more severe congestion is along the westbound side where another contractor is working on drainage between Junction and Brookside. The section in front of the RRCG bus depot only has one lane usable by traffic and so westbound traffic is regularly backed up for hundreds of meters. How bad is it on a weekday? It took me 30 minutes to pass the area between 5:15 and 6:00 AM last Monday.

IMG11845-20150626-1806Eastbound traffic splits into two lanes separated by roadworks

IMG11846-20150626-1807The left lane is part of an already elevated westbound side of Ortigas Ave. Ext. The inner eastbound land has already been graded and ready for concrete pouring. The base course layer is visible in the photo.

IMG11847-20150626-1807Section near Hunters ROTC Road (right where the grey SUV is coming from) and STI, and approaching Valley Golf.

IMG11848-20150626-1807Past STI, the traffic lanes go back to normal just before the intersection at Valley Golf.

Traffic is so severe along Ortigas Ave. Ext. that I am sure a lot of people are looking for alternate routes. Those from Antipolo, Taytay and towns along the Manila East Road would likely take the routes utilizing the floodway including Highway 2000 and C-6. Others would find the longer route via Sumulong Highway and/or Marcos Highway to be worth the time and fuel. Hopefully, work will be continuous along Ortigas and roadworks will be completed before we are deep into the typhoon season this year.

Ortigas Ave. Extension choke points

One alternative route for my daily commute is Ortigas Avenue. While there are several choke points along this road, I will focus on those between the Ever mall and Cainta Junction. Congestion is also usually experienced between the Manggahan Bridge and Ever but these are mostly due to traffic interruptions because of vehicles turning to and from the many subdivisions whose access/egress line up along Ortigas Ave.

The Ever mall is already a given as a significant traffic generator in the area. However, there is something about its circulation particularly the flow of vehicles in and out of the complex that detrimentally affects Ortigas Ave. traffic. While through traffic along the eastbound direction should use Ortigas Ave., many opt to go through the wide driveway of Ever in order to bypass the choke point that is the exit driveway of the mall. Many of these exiting vehicles are jeepneys turning left into Ortigas westbound (their routes terminate here and make their turnaround via Ever’s driveway). These effectively block the flow of traffic along Ortigas eastbound especially in cases when the westbound direction is also congested (i.e., due to sheer volume as well as stopping vehicles across the mall).

IMG10279-20150312-1640Vehicles exiting from Ever and turning left to Ortigas westbound

Once eastbound vehicles are freed from the blockage of left-turning vehicles, they have to merge with significant right-turning traffic from Ever that includes buses and mostly through traffic vehicles whose drivers were ‘wise’ to have taken the driveway instead of Ortigas to get through the choke point. The situation results in another choke point right after the first one as the traffic along two lanes of Ortigas eastbound merge with the traffic equivalent to 2-3 lanes turning right from Ever. The total of 5 lanes of traffic squeezing into 2 lanes immediately after is a prime example of a bottleneck.

IMG10280-20150312-1641Narrow eastbound two-lane section – additional space should be expropriated to widen Ortigas at this section

Right after the short 2-lane section is a sudden widening of Ortigas Ave. in front of BF Metals. I have heard it said that this is the ideal road width for Ortigas Ave. considering the volume of traffic passing through this major corridor connecting Rizal province with Metro Manila. There are practically 4 lanes for each direction at this short section so its easy to project these lanes on maps to see what properties would need to be expropriated if the objective is road widening. (Of course, the best option should still be to pursue a mass transit system along this corridor.)

IMG10281-20150312-1641Ideal road width – Ortigas Avenue at its widest is the section across BF Metals. Vehicles here spread out along the many lanes suddenly available. But then people will eventually and immediately realize this is the mouth of a funnel. Note the sign indicating that vehicles are entering the Province of Rizal from this point.

IMG10282-20150312-1641The eastbound section in front of BF Metals is usually parking lot in the evenings. This is due mainly to the 4 lanes almost abruptly constricting into 2 lanes just past BF Metals. Compounding things is the U-turn slot located here where many jeepneys whose routes end at Cainta Junction make their turnaround. Turning vehicles are assisted by “tambays” earning their money by blocking eastbound vehicles to make way for U-turning vehicles.

Finally, there is Cainta Junction itself, which is a signalized 4-leg intersection that handles a tremendous volume of traffic all-day. I am sure that there are efforts for the traffic signal settings to be optimized but more often there is human intervention for traffic management at the intersection. Whether this causes more severe congestion is quite obvious to many travelers going through this intersection. Queues along Imelda Ave./Felix Ave., for example, can reach way past Village East even reaching Vista Verde on a bad day. This only shows that the intersection is already severely saturated and conventional traffic management or signal settings can no longer handle the traffic. Perhaps the next stage of engineering intervention for this intersection is grade separation or the construction of a flyover or two at the intersection. Notably, such a project should including strategic widening along Ortigas Ave in order to balance the number of lanes feeding into and receiving traffic from the intersection.

IMG10283-20150312-1723A view of the traffic approaching Cainta junction – there are only 2 lanes along the eastbound side of Ortigas and public utility vehicles stopping here only exacerbates the congestion along the road.

Is road widening the ultimate solution to Ortigas Ave congestion? I personally don’t think so. As I have mentioned earlier in this post and in previous posts the key is still to come up with a mass transit system to serve this eastern corridor. Yes, there will eventually be a Line 2 along Marcos Highway, the main alternate (or competing?) route to Ortigas but is is obvious that even with a railway line along Marcos Highway and connecting to Aurora Blvd., there will still be an urgent need for a similar capacity line along Ortigas. The buses and jeepneys can no longer handle the demand and their poor levels and qualities of service have given rise to a proliferation of UV Express and pushed people to purchase cars and motorcycles. Congestion can be reduced significantly with a mass transit system along Ortigas. Without this transit system, Ortigas will just continue to be congested even if the entire corridor is widened; except perhaps if it is widened like Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City. I don’t think that is possible and practical.

All roads lead to Antipolo: rerouting for the Alay Lakad

The Rizal Provincial Government and the Antipolo City Government recently posted traffic rerouting schemes on their Facebook pages. Lalawigan ng Rizal was the first to post schemes that affect traffic in at least 3 major local government jurisdictions – Antipolo, Cainta and Taytay. The schemes affect the two major corridors that basically lead to Antipolo’s National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (or Antipolo Cathedral to many) – the Ortigas Avenue corridor and the Marcos Highway-Sumulong Highway corridor. There are many major and minor routes connecting to these corridors and are clearly seen in the maps.

Within Antipolo, there are also re-routing schemes, which the Antipolo City Government posted along with a “clearer” re-posting of the maps from the Rizal FB page. The Antipolo FB page includes information/maps on the rerouting within the city center. These schemes will affect traffic circulation including public transport routes. Critical would be the permanent and temporary terminals and parking areas set-up around the city that should be able to accommodate the thousands of vehicles that are also expected to be used by people who won’t be walking or cycling.

What the maps basically say is that from 4:00 PM today, Maundy Thursday, to 6:00 AM tomorrow, Good Friday, the stretch from Cainta Junction to the Shrine will be closed to traffic. This is to allow the hundreds of thousands expected to make the trek to Antipolo to have the road for themselves. What the maps don’t say is that motorcycles and tricycles would likely be allowed, too. I can understand that motorcycles could easily squeeze into the throngs of people but then allowing tricycles to operate among the walkers and bikers would be risky given their drivers’ behavior. Add to this that they would be making a killing out of charging opportunistic fares.

Technically, the rerouting schemes don’t appear to be as well thought of as can be expected from the LGUs. Baka ito lang nakayanan ng staff o ng consultants nila, and surrender na agad ang Rizal and Antipolo with regards to the coming up with more options for people to travel to the Antipolo Shrine? Not all people can walk or cycle but are willing to an could take public transport for their pilgrimage. The maps themselves are a bit crude and the Province of Rizal and City of Antipolo could have done much better maps given the resources of these LGUs. There are open source tools now available as well as your basic software like PowerPoint or Photoshop (even Word!) that can be used to render good quality images to guide people making the Alay Lakad. This is a regular event and though it happens once a year then perhaps the LGUs could have better plans especially to transport people who cannot make the walk to Antipolo. The objective after all is to convey the masses to and from the shrine safely and efficiently – something a mass transport system can do whether via Marcos/Sumulong or Ortigas corridors.

One reminder to all doing the Alay Lakad: keep your garbage to yourselves if you cannot find a proper waste bin. Do not dispose of your waste along the route and make a dumpsite out of Ortigas Avenue, Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway or whatever roads you are taking! Kasalanan din po ang irresponsableng pagtatapon ng basura. While you might be forgiven for these “sins” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (which many will likely take at the Cathedral), nature will have a way of getting back at you for your environmental travesty. –

Tutok – tailgating

A common practice of motorists along Philippine roads is tailgating. This is not only common in congested traffic, when vehicles are practically “bumper-to-bumper,” but also in free flowing traffic where drivers or riders tailgate for a number of reasons (e.g., to put pressure on the one ahead of them, to display skills in following closely behind another vehicle, etc.), all of which are dumb. There is always the risk that the driver or rider of the vehicle in front will brake to slow down or stop and the driver/rider of the vehicle behind will not be able to brake in time to hit (rear-end) the one ahead. Both time (reaction, headway) and space (distance between vehicles) are factors here as driver or rider reaction times vary and will affect the outcome of the chain of events should the leading vehicles suddenly slow down for any reason.

IMG09158-20140815-0835A passenger can only scratch her head as she tries to get back her fare from the conductor after alighting from a jeepney involved in a collision with another vehicle. Meanwhile, the driver of an owner-type jeepney inspects the damage to his vehicle as the driver of the jeepney that hit him looks on.

I was just explaining about Stopping Sight Distance (SSD) to a class of senior students and SSD very much applies to tailgating. Given varying traffic conditions along the roads, tailgating compromises the safe distance between vehicles and therefore too often leads to situations that lead to road crashes. Rear-end collisions in turn often lead to traffic congestion and raise the costs brought about by such incidents. In most cases, this happens because authorities are unable or incapable of managing the aftermath of the incidents where parties involved often argue in the middle of the road without regard for other road users plights. These cases need to be resolved quickly and efficiently in order to remove these obstacles from the road.