[Blueboard] The MMDA's U-Turn Schemes
gylaya at ateneo.edu
Thu Apr 15 14:41:06 PHT 2004
I reproduce below an article that appeared in the MANILA TIMES. It is
written by a real expert on transportation, Dr. Ricardo Sigua of the UP
National Center for Transportation Studies. It is a thoughtful piece,
and we who are all concerned about the Katipunan problem, should read
it, so we can bring some rationality into the discussion.
THE MMDA's U-TURN SCHEMES
I am writing regarding the clearway program (U-turn schemes) that MMDA
has been implementing in many thoroughfares in Metro Manila. I've heard
many times from their activities that they aim to promote engineering
sense in all their endeavors. But I do not see this when they started
implementing the program without engineering studies whatsoever. They
always claim they do have studies but actually all they could show were
drawing plans. I know that there are capable technical people in MMDA
and I know that they know that before coming up with any drawings for
implementation, these must be first assessed for effectiveness. These
must not be implemented just for the sake of testing whether it would
work or not. Improving mobility or lessening travel time at the expense
of road safety, I believe, is a very serious offense. Nothing can be
more irreparable than the loss of lives and limbs due to road accidents.
I cannot understand why MMDA people are bent on making U-turn as a
solution just anywhere they please. They keep on saying that 'if it
worked in one area, there is no reason why it will not work in others.'
As engineers, we cannot buy that. Our roads have different geometric
Quezon Ave used to be one of the most beautiful roads in Metro Manila.
Now it has been transformed into one of the messiest, most risky roads
to traverse. MMDA traffic czar argues that it is only a palliative
solution while waiting for the best solution which is the mass transit
system. Who knows when such a system will be a reality--10 years hence,
20 years hence? Problem along Quezon Ave existed because of the
ineffective traffic signal system. The reason why they were so was
because they were not properly maintained. About 50% of the detectors
were not functional. Yes, we often say 'garbage in garbage out (GIGO)'
in computer jargon. Our traffic signal control system, now managed and
operated by MMDA and which cost us millions to acquire, is supposed to
be a very sophisticated system. But if it keeps on getting wrong inputs
from the detectors, it will deliver what we expect- garbage! No budget
for maintenance? The cost of constructing those U-turn slots and foot
bridges could very well be used for that purpose.
I am not saying that those foot bridges have no use. But with effective
traffic signals at intersections and mid-blocks in place, pedestrians
can cross safely too, including old and disabled people who cannot
climb stairs. The solution therefore along Quezon Ave is a properly
maintained traffic signal system, not the U-turn scheme.
Interchanges have been constructed by DPWH to decongest traffic in the
NCR and other urban areas. Millions have been spent to provide flyovers
and underpasses at critical intersections. A major component of such
improvements are geometric changes at the ground level. It is
unimaginable that within just a few months after completion, drastic
changes were made with no compelling reasons. I am referring to the
EDSA-Quezon Ave Intersection, which was already performing well and
U-turns were practically unnecessary. Personally I take this as a direct
insult to the capability of our engineers at DPWH who painstakingly
studied, checked and reviewed the improvement plans prior to
implementation. This is also true for the most recent U-turn scheme
created at EDSA-Timog Intersection which forces motorists to
hazardously crisscross each other's paths and negotiate incompatible
The U-turn scheme at the Commonwealth Ave-University Ave Intersection
is another ill-designed spot. MMDA staff should try it for themselves;
it is not for the faint of heart. One has to be very aggressive to be
able to weave through 6 lanes to reach the innermost. If you look at
your rear view mirror while inching your way through, you would see
headlight beams of rushing vehicles from the Elliptical Road! A few
hundred meters away from this location, up to now, MMDA people cannot
make up their minds about the other U-turn at Philcoa-- which just
clearly demonstrates their trial-and-error approach.
The same scheme at Katipunan Ave is ineffective because it does not
consider the peculiar characteristics of the traffic flow, which is
largely influenced by high volume of cars to/from Ateneo and Miriam
campuses. U-turn is not appropriate here because the road has a very
narrow median and it only eats up 2 lanes of the opposite direction.
Moreover, in a school zone, the safety of crossing
students/pedestrians cannot be that too easily sacrificed. MMDA has even
carried its obsession too far in that even islands that are not causing
any congestion and are functioning for streetlighting and greenery have
been removed along Katipunan Ave Extension (near Corinthian Gardens).
Now that road lays so desolate, arid, and by dimension looks like a runway!
Lastly, I believe that introduction of new traffic schemes must always
be accompanied by enough well-trained traffic enforcers who maintain
by-the-hour road order and driver discipline. Otherwise, in our kind of
culture and mindset, this program only reinforces the already
undisciplined behavior of many drivers. How then can they say it is
'motorist-friendly'? With understudied and poorly implemented
programs like this, road safety and order has become almost just the
own look-out and responsibility of the driver himself. It is only in
Metro Manila where stopping at red signal has become optional or
voluntary. It is only here in Metro Manila where an internationally
recognized 'No U-turn' sign means you can U-turn. Even the standard
colors of road signs are not being followed (to think that our country
was signatory to the Vienna Convention on International Road Signs of
1968). We must be reminded that there is no room for conflicting
non-standard signs and rules on the road or the cost is too much.
This is an open appeal to MMDA: please do not take the task
single-handedly. There are many experts who are willing to help improve
road efficiency, order and safety.
Dr. Ricardo G. Sigua
Director, National Center for Transportation Studies
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