Rhona Canoy .
SO… One of the hottest topics during the most recent campaign here in Cagayan de Oro was the current traffic situation. Almost everyone put in their two centavos worth to appease the angry hordes and gain a few votes in the process. Some of the suggestions were downright one French fry short of a happy meal. And there doesn’t seem to be any traffic relief in sight for those of us whose daily commute is laden with stress and frustration.
This is not the first time that I have written about our growing traffic snarls. And I don’t think this will be my last. But for now, let’s stick to the realities that no one seems to be willing to take into account. I don’t care what anyone says, our traffic isn’t going to get better. And I don’t care what mayor gets elected now and in the next 10 mayoralty races, that misguided fool isn’t going to find a solution for it either.
Sure, it’s easy for us to point fingers at ourselves and each other to say that it’s the next idiot multiplied exponentially who is the major cause of traffic. Blame it on the motorcycle Knievels, the ignorant jeepney drivers, the timid ladies behind the wheels of their brand new toy cars, the errant pedestrians who cross the street any which way, the poorly trained and confused RTA officers. Blame it on God, if you want. But even if all those things were fixed through some miracle from above, we still would have traffic.
The most obvious factor is that we have only one major artery through which all vehicles traverse our city from east to west and vice versa. Claro M. Recto, CM Recto, the highway—call it what you will. The only major road crossing our city. To get from Iponan to SM Downtown Premier or Gaisano (and all points in between), the only major road. To get from Bugo to the Provincial hospital, the only major road. To get from Gusa to S&R, the only major road. And to add to the havoc, most jeepney routes ply this roadway, whether on all of it or selected stretcheds. Our one major vehicular artery. Our Edsa.
The usefulness of a wide road traversing our city was already foreseen by the local government of 1972. I’m not going to name-drop as to who that visionary mayor was since it would be too self-serving. And that vision was falsely predicated on the assumption that subsequent administrations would have foresight as well.
Going from north to south is only slightly better, but still the source of much drama. Don Apolinar Velez, our main street. From Rodelsa Circle to Macabalan. Four lanes at some stretches, but since cars park on either side, still only two navigable lanes. Capistrano Street. From the Cathedral to Maharlika Bridge. Still only two navigable lanes. Corrales Street, all the way to Corrales Extension, not much better. And all these main city roads feed into CM Recto at one point or another.
I suppose if one were a creative driver and don’t want to travel in a straight line, there would be alternate routes available. Actually, some are already being established even as we speak. To get to Maria Reyna Hospital from Balulang already presents several options, albeit through really narrow streets, and lots of perpendicular turns. Maybe this is why we have to learn geometry in high school.
The solution is simple, actually. But execution of said solution is a major infrastructure and logistical nightmare. Because we are trapped in a city where no foresight was given to urban planning, we built as we grew, and still do. But for us to evolve from this nightmare, a major redesign of our city’s commercial, industrial and residential centers must happen. If people think that the Divisoria area can still be improved, think again. Those streets are about the same width as they were more than one hundred years ago, if not more. That part of town would have to be razed to the ground, street widths and city blocks redesigned, for that situation to get better. An alternative option is to designate it a historical landmark, but too many of the old buildings in the area have been destroyed to make way for poorly designed “modern” commercial buildings.
So we are going to have to live with our Edsa Too. And waste time and gasoline getting to places which used to take much less time to travel. Twenty years ago, it only took me between 15 to 20 minutes to commute from Malasag to my school in Kauswagan. On a good day, it took 10 to 15. And that’s without speeding. To quote Paul McCartney, “Oh, how I long for yesterday…”