The Open Village

The Open Village image

Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Google Street View | posted September 02, 2016 17:09

Opening up or closing gated communites to traffic

We live in a time when everything is open. Information is open to all (mostly), markets have been opened via free-trade agreements, social media has opened up communication between people all around the world, and now anyone can develop apps and software through open-sourcing. This phenomenon is what we call progress.

Despite all that (and more), there are still many things that remain closed, and most of them — at least in the case of Metro Manila traffic — are the gated communities. You know them; private villages with high walls, well-maintained streets, big houses, residents of affluence and influence, and (of course) the big main gates with plenty of armed security guards at the ready 24/7.

Recently the Department of Transportation (DOTr) proposed an idea that these villages be opened up to allow motorists other than residents to pass through, providing more alternate routes, and absorbing some of the traffic. Such a suggestion from none other than Sec. Tugade during the Senate hearing dedicated to addressing transport and traffic prompted a bit of an uproar, especially from those living in the gated communities.

Many of these private villages are situated in what was considered the periphery of Manila three or even just two decades ago, such as Makati, Taguig, Pasig and Quezon City. The rapid expansion of Metro Manila into the Greater Manila Area (or Mega Manila, however you prefer), resulted in the urbanization of the many locations that were previously considered provincial. Areas such as Cainta, Antipolo, Laguna, and Cavite have developed into urban areas as well, deviating from their suburb origins of past. Case in point, the Rizal Provincial Capitol was still in Pasig (where Capitol Commons is now) up until 2008, 33 years after the province's borders were moved to make way for the formation of the National Capital Region in 1975.

The aforementioned privately-owned subdivisions however remained closed to outsider traffic, and that's their prerogative considering that the roads within the villages are also privately-owned and maintained. But it takes only one glance at a map to realize that opening up some roads in strategically-located subdivisions can do a lot to alleviate traffic, at least in short term.

For instance, opening up a few streets in Urdaneta can provide a key alternate route for those trying to get onto Buendia/Gil Puyat Avenue coming from Makati Avenue. If a few roads were opened in Valle Verde 1, motorists can bypass the traffic at the intersection of Lanuza and C-5 and make it onto the flyover going to Makati. Opening some streets in villages and subdivisions such as San Lorenzo, Dasmariñas, North and South Forbes Park, and even Ayala Alabang can do wonders to help traffic along.

Again, it's all about options; being able to go through and not around these villages will be a welcome alternate route for motorists, but not for the residents. Apart from the fact that the roads themselves are private and not owned by the government, implementing this is tricky, even if the Senate grants the DOTr emergency powers to address traffic.

Such a proposal still hinges on the cooperation of the village administration offices and/or homeowners associations. One such example would be the case of Barangay Kapitolyo. While they are technically not a private gated community (their gates are open most of the day until 10PM), residents are resisting a proposal to have a bridge built across the Pasig River and with good reason: it would directly connect their main roads to J.P. Rizal Street in Makati, significantly increasing traffic along West Capitol Drive, among other roads.

The DOTr has given three key assurances during the Senate meeting to make it more feasible for the villages to accept such an idea: (1) added security measures will be put in place and shouldered by the government, (2) the opening of roads will not be 24/7 but during designated rush hours, and (3) the opening of the roads will be a short term solution. The last one is interesting, as it means the agency only wants to buy time to allow more infrastructure projects to come into play and alleviate traffic in the long term.

Where you stand on the idea depends on whether you actually live inside one of these communites or not. Increased noise, increased road maintenance, and increased traffic within the villages will likely become issues should these roads be used.

The key concern really is security, as opening up subdivisions will bypass many of their security protocols at the gates. In previous administrations, perhaps the idea of opening up villages would have been kicked out the door right away, given how lax previous administrations were about internal security. This time however, with an administration that is dead serious (no pun intended) about maintaining order, the idea of passing through villages might gain traction.

Personally, I'm all for it. Some subdivisions have actually already been opened, and some even charge a toll fee for passing through for their trouble. I actually pass through one such village on a fairly regular basis, especially when Waze says I can shave 15-30 minutes off my travel time by paying a 10 peso toll fee. But that's just me.

Many out there will be apprehensive towards such a measure, and that's perfectly fine. But with an idea that could potentially help alleviate a bit of traffic in the short term, especially with Jose Mari Chan season coming up, let's turn to the wise words from a very wise man.

“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Yes, he's fictional and yes, he's half Vulcan. But Spock has a point.