Baumgart: No Crisis

Elisabeth Baumgart

NO transportation crisis.”

Err, what?

I look at headlines and photos of the traffic gridlock in Metro Manila, and all I see is a sea of chaos. I read stories of people lining up for hours just to get a train ride to or from work, and my panic levels rise. “How long have they been lining up?” “How many people are there?” “How many of them are running late?” “The frustration. Oh no,” “That does not look safe. What if something happens – a stampede? Where do they run to? How many people will get hurt?”

I hear of friends and others who wake up at 4 in the morning just to make it to work on time at 9 a.m., and my heart bleeds for them. “I leave the house when its dark outside and I make it home when it’s completely dark outside. I have no time for my family,” a friend confides.

That’s close to 5 hours on the road – one way. Let’s not even talk about what it’s like going home – or worse, when it rains.

I’m not well versed with what may constitute as a “transportation crisis,” but it certainly looks like we’re teetering close to utter chaos.

I used to live in Metro Manila several years ago, and it certainly wasn’t like this. Sure, traffic was insanely bad but we didn’t spend over 4 hours struggling to find a ride and crawl through traffic just to get to work on time.

You’d think as the years go on, things would improve. But things just seem to continually go down the hill.

Earlier this year, Deutsche Bank reported that Manila ranked 54th among 56 countries in terms of quality of life. It took the 51st ranking in terms of traffic commute time.

With how much people are struggling to go to where they want to be, telling them to “leave earlier” just doesn’t seem right. Are we now telling people to leave for work at 3 in the morning?

That’s cruel. And unhealthy. And it just doesn’t seem safe – and humane.

When the Christmas shopping season rears its ugly head, traffic is just going to be worse. I wonder how things will look like then?

And this is how Metro Manila looks like. While in Cebu we may not be necessarily close to the picture Metro Manila paints, we certainly feel the chaos of traffic. And the picture is the same – as the years pass, nothing gets better, it just gets worse.

Traveling from the North of Cebu into Cebu City now takes me close to two hours. Mandaue City takes up close to an hour just to drive through. And traffic has just been crawling. I shudder to think how things will look like in the years to come if no integrated solutions will be rolled out soon.

Let’s put some dignity in commuting.

Our metros are in dire need of an integrated transportation system, and we need it fast.

For everyone’s safety and well-being.