FLYING CARPET

THINKING out of the box or out of the window?

This poser comes to mind after Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade obviously desperate to solve Metro Manila’s terrible traffic crisis revealed during an interview that they are seriously (emphasis ours) studying the possibility of putting up cable cars to solve the problem.

Seriously is the operative word here since Tugade seems determined to put up the cable car system which he said would traverse from Makati all the way to Sta. Rosa in Laguna and vice versa.

Also, to further prove that he was serious with his proposal, he averred that the cable car system could be built in one-and-a-half year based on previous studies conducted relative to the proposal.

SIGHTSEEING

Tugade explained that the result of the studies also showed that one cable car can carry up to 35 passengers adding that aside from being a transportation mode, the system could also serve as a vehicle for sightseeing.

The transport chief was candid in admitting that he borrowed the idea from Bolivia experience that uses cable car system to help reduce road traffic and speed up travel time for commuters.

"I'm borrowing from the Bolivia experience where they use cable cars. We can start in the Pasig area and then move on to EDSA, use gondolas that can carry 35 passengers," he was quoted as saying.

Bolivia launched in 2014 the world's largest cable car system, an 11-kilometer gondola system that ferried passengers from the city of La Paz to the neighboring El Alto.

Apparently impressed by the success of Bolivia, Tugade insisted that going airborne could be an alternative solution to ease traffic jams on the street level.

LAUGHING MATTER

Despite Tugade’s serious view on the proposal, transport observers however could not help but laugh because they know that Bolivia and the Philippines are two different worlds literally and figuratively.

Transportation experts in fact view Tugade’s proposal as nothing more than a band aid solution to the Metro Manila’s traffic woes.

Rene Santiago, president of infrastructure consultancy Bellwether Advisory Incorporated said it merely replaces road-based trips, typically borne by jeepneys or tricycles.

He added it is not suitable for corridors where Light Rail Transit (LRT) or Philippine National Railway lines are more efficient. Cable car is an answer, but not the answer for mass transit needs," he noted.

For his part, Jose Regin Regidor, a research fellow at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines said so many factors are needed to be considered before such plan is implemented.

“What would be the capacity for such a system and what could be the demand given that you would have to determine where stations would be?" Regidor asked.

WORSE THAN ABAYA

The general sentiment over Tugade’s cable car solution is unhidden sarcasm where many suggest he might as well use flying carpets as people urge him to wake up from dreamland.

Barely few days from enthronement, Tugade is already earning doubts and ridicule from the public that was already fed-up after being taken for a ride for six long years by the previous administration.

Tugade is easily turning out to be worse than Abaya should President Digong allow him to do it his way and live out his fantasies.

The traffic problem is real and is literally killing people aside from murdering our economy. The transport chief should be reminded that it was the country’s traffic crisis that carried Digong to victory.

The government should therefore waste no time in solving the traffic woes and refrain from coming up with useless solutions such as cable cars.

Pres. Digong assigned Tugade to do the mission impossible. That Tugade is thinking of doing the impossible is really of no surprise.

Impossible projects mean mega budget that only few corporate giants can fund. It is of no surprise that his generals in the field come from a giant corporation that almost has a monopoly of government mega projects.

From the way things are happening at the DOTC under Tugade, it looks like the President’s promise will not happen anytime soon.

And, if ever, traffic solutions are in place, a giant favored corporation will win the contracts for most of the big ticket projects.

Should that happen, then Tugade indeed could even be worse than Abaya.

NOT ADVISABLE

It was gathered that prior to Tugade’s announcement, the Pasig City government has already inquired about the possibility of installing cable car system to solve the traffic problem at least in their area .

But initial observations indicated that the cable car system is more suitable to Baguio City and Trinidad Valley because of the terrain.

Santiago said a cable car system would help for short trips within the Pasig-Makati central business districts, because it would require very little right of way and can be built within two years.

But for a cable system for Metro Manila all the way to Laguna, transport experts are one in opinion that it was not advisable as there is huge likelihood that it would encounter assorted problems during its construction and commuters are not expected to immediately patronize the same.

REALISTIC SOLUTIONS

Transport experts are saying that instead of wasting their time on the planned cable cars, Tugade and his team should focus on looking for more realistic solutions to Metro Manila’s traffic woes.

One such solution is the full utilization of 80 train coaches that the previous administration had procured but was yet to be installed because of some legal issues hurled by Robert Sobrepeña group. Many of the coaches will be delivered this year and next year.

Tugade’s proposal to bring back Sumitomo as the maintenance provider of the MRT lines also makes a lot of sense because the company did its job well during its engagement but for some controversial reasons was unceremoniously removed by the past administration.

The grapevine was ripe with rumors that big bucks had changed hands to the detriment of the riding public because the chosen contractor that replaced Sumitomo had failed to do its job.

As a result, news of MRT coaches bogging down and becoming unserviceable due to poor or lack of maintenance became a daily news fare.

The Transport Secretary’s plan to build rail systems in the Bicol region that may connect all the way to Visayas and Mindanao regions also deserves serious consideration for its viability and potentials to help speed up economic growth in the countryside.

NOT INTO BLAME GAME

One of the most commendable things about the Duterte administration however, is that unlike the previous government it does not waste time blaming its predecessor.

Instead, officials of the current regime acknowledge that there are problems and they work their butts out to solve these problems.

This attitude speaks volume on their commitment to really serve the people something that the Aquino government had failed to do.

JICA PROPOSALS

As early as 2014, a JICA study revealed that the country is losing around P2.4 billion a day or more than P800 billion a year in productivity from the daily traffic jams and if unsolved, the cost would rise to P6 billion a day or P180 billion a month by 2030.

The JICA study contains five tough proposals as medium-term solutions to decongest roads in the metropolis.

The proposals included a restudy of the gateway airport options for Metro Manila, the feasibility of a mega-Manila Subway System, reform of the road-based public-transport system, feasibility of secondary mass-transport system lines and a redevelopment of the congested North Harbor.

As a mid-term solution to the traffic problem, JICA had proposed finding a replacement for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) within a short radius of 50 kilometers and to “examine the full range of costs.”

“Redeveloping Sangley [a former US air base in Cavite] combined with an access system or expropriating land to create a second runway on Naia may turn out to be cheaper,” the JICA study said in relation to a proposal to transfer the main gateway to Clark in Pampanga.

It classified the CBDs to be connected through a subway system the Manila Bay area, Makati City, Bonifacio Global City, Ortigas, North Triangle, and the Food Terminal Inc. complex in Alabang.

Outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon has submitted a bill called “Transportation Crisis Act of 2016” that seeks to grant Duterte special powers to address the traffic crisis.

SOCIAL COSTS

It is good that our government officials are joining hands to find solutions to the lingering congestion problems.

And Tugade it appears is dead serious in solving the traffic menace as he also weighed on not only the economic costs but more so the social costs of the problem on families and their quality of life.

“Children are waiting for their parents after work. But they are stuck in traffic, instead of being with their family. Our quality of life has drastically changed from bad to worst. That has to be addressed,” he said.

FLYING CARPET

It can be recalled that barely a few days after he assumed his post, Tugade has dared Duterte to kick him out of his office if he fails to solve Metro Manila’s traffic gridlock within two years.

“If I fail after two years, you kick me out because I’m useless,” Tugade was quoted in an interview over ABS-CBN.

He says his priorities include eradicating corruption within his department, prohibiting tardiness and glum demeanor.

This explains why there was a sense of urgency on Tugade’s part to end the traffic woes in Metro Manila which also prompted him to look to cable cars as one of probable solutions to the problem.

As good and sincere as Tugade is in solving the traffic crisis, we believe that he is doomed to be kicked out if he persists in using cable cars as his solution.

And in the event that he gets thrown out by Duterte from his office because of his failed cable car experiment, he might as well as borrow the Flying Carpet from Aladdin to transport him to fantasy land.

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