MMDA sets weeklong test for Edsa ban on ‘singles’
Despite the public sentiment against the plan to ban “singles,” or “driver-only vehicles,” during rush hours on the country’s busiest highway, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is pushing through with a weeklong dry run of the proposed high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) traffic scheme.
Starting Aug. 15, driver-only vehicles are banned from Edsa from 7 to 10 a.m., and from 6 to 9 p.m., with affected motorists encouraged to look for alternate routes during these hours, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said on Saturday.
This is the second time that the MMDA would attempt to implement the HOV lane policy in a bid to encourage carpooling and reduce the number of cars on Edsa.
But public reaction has been lukewarm at best as citizens assailed the scheme for being inequitable.
Most private vehicle owners cannot afford to have drivers but are also deprived of viable options in public transport, critics said on social media.
Transportation expert Primitivo Cal, executive director of the University of the Philippines Planning and Development Research Foundation, warned that while it was a good measure to encourage carpooling, it could also be prone to traffic abuses.
Cal cited the case of Jakarta, where the scheme led to the rise of “passengers-for-hire” or ‘’car jockeys” who are paid by drivers to ride in vehicles, so that those vehicles can use HOV lanes.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima also weighed in, warning that the MMDA’s plan could give rise to “paid car jockeys [who are] more than willing to risk their own safety by getting into the cars of strangers just to earn money.”
Also citing Jakarta as an example, De Lima said children left school to be car jockeys and even worsened traffic.
“This instance should remind our government to rethink its plan before fully implementing [it] because aside from possibly worsening the traffic in Edsa, they might put the safety of the Filipino people, especially those from the poor sectors of society, in great peril,” she said in a statement.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate social justice, welfare and rural development committee, asked the MMDA to reconsider the proposal, saying it should not resort to the trial and error approach when it comes to addressing traffic woes.
Sen. Grace Poe also cautioned the agency from implementing the traffic scheme without further consultation.
Before banning certain vehicles from Edsa, the MMDA must make sure motorists have obstruction-free, alternative routes, especially via the Mabuhay lanes, said Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee.
The scheme, said Garcia, could reduce by 40 percent the number of vehicles on Edsa during rush hour.
Of the 360,000 vehicles that pass through the highway daily, around 247,000 are private vehicles, of which up to 70 percent are driver-only cars, according to MMDA data. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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