So while we grin and bear the traffic hardships that will ensue as Citra-SMC Infra builds the Skyway Stage 3, San Miguel Infra starts the NAIA Expressway and Metro Pacific tollways builds the NLEX Metro Expressway, what are our hopes and expectations when it all ends?
No 'coding' on expressways
Think of these as express lanes for North-South freight/commercial and inter-provincial passenger traffic transiting the Metro. Which should, in turn, free-up EDSA and other Metro C [circumferential] and R [radial] roads, ease access to the port of Manila and the commute from outlying bedroom communities/suburbs to the various CBD's of the Metro's towns and cities. Obviously, for this to work, 'coding' and truck bans, should not apply to the two crosstown expressways. With this, it may perhaps be the time to lift both UVRRP better known as 'coding', and the truck ban, if possible, in perpetua, never to be imposed again?
The 'it' dependency
But as any two handed economist will tell you, it depends. First, it depends on how soon the these crosstown expressways are up and running. If SMC Infra succeeds in the accelerated/simultaneous building of all the segment phases of Skyway Stage 3, truncating the construction schedule by nearly half, the amount of transit traffic it may carry sooner rather than later may just about deliver that much of the dreamed of traffic relief, but only in the short term. Now if either expressway gets delayed, the rate of vehicle sales growth or surge in new vehicle purchases in the NCR may just about negate the alleviation of traffic that is hoped for.
It is a given that for as long as zero interest financing deals on new cars continue, resulting in increased volume, Skyway Stage 3 will be even more crucial in reducing surface transport traffic in the Metro, distributing South bound motorists to the SLEX beyond Alabang and the CAVITEX, via the NAIA Expressway. The NLEX Metro expressway, on the other hand, will not only ease access to the North but also hopefully relieve the free flow of commerce to port and warehouse from outlying provincial manufactory because it is directly linked to the Harbor Link expressway.
Return to the 80's?
Presently, the motive to violate the 'coding' ban is altogether muted, after several years of motorist acclimatization. Hence, it is rare you see 'coding' openly violated every rush hour. For our purposes, let's assume that EDSA is somewhat relieved, which we define as a return to average end to end rush hour speeds of 19km/h that prevailed in the Eighties. If this happens, it presents an opportunity to City Bus operators to resume or ramp up its competition to the MRT-LRT system, which should have expanded its passenger throughput capacity, by enabling the new one-card fare collection system and by coupling more coaches per train.
Emerging traffic pattern
For the sake of any discussion, both anti and pro 'coding'/truck ban camps can surely agree that with the operation of the two crosstown tollways, there will definitely be a change in traffic patterns. But as to justify the lifting of 'coding' and truck ban altogether, is not moot and academic.
On ramps/off ramps
The new traffic bottlenecks will be the approaches of the on-ramps and off-ramps of the two new crosstown tollways. The NLEX connector's limited number of exits/entries as dictated by the PNR right-of-way, its narrower carriageway, a parallel commuter rail guideway and its focus on relief for truckers taking the NLEX harbor link, will create its own unique traffic patterns and its own traffic easing plans. NLEX is batting for an 'open' toll collection regime. Under an open toll collection system, motorists pays the fixed amount of toll for the relevant segment or zone upon entry, whether or not he or she travels the entire length of the zone. The example for this is Balintawak to Bocaue of the NLEX; upon entry at Balintawak, you pay the toll immediately, whether you exit in Valenzuela, Meycauayan, Marilao or Bocaue. Hence there will be no toll collection gate at the exits and toll payment queues will form only on entry to the expressway itself and not on the off ramps.
Coordinated traffic management
Since Skyway Stage 3 has more exits within the its path through the city, forecasting toll gate payment queues on the off ramps/on ramps will be particularly tricky. The present toll queue situation at both the at-grade and elevated Skyway Stage 1 & 2 could be a harbinger of the future. Since Skyway entry requires the motorist to claim a toll card, queuing should be at the minimum on any on ramp. The queues will happen at the payment or exit end, before descending into the off ramps leading to Quirino Ave., Osmeña Ave., Araneta Ave. or A. Bonifacio Ave., so that any toll queues will form on the elevated Skyway Stage 3. There will be some difference in traffic management on the city streets under the Skyway Stage 3 because, like the toll free Osmeña Ave. at-grade section under the Skyway in Makati, SOMCo, the Skyway O&M, has no traffic jurisdiction. Contrast this to the at-grade Skyway section between Magallanes and Alabang where traffic control is efficiently coordinated with the elevated section by SOMCo.
Resisting resistance to change
We suppose that even if overall traffic is somewhat relieved, regulatory authorities, being usually somewhat wedded to exercising existing agency powers, like 'coding', may not be amenable to the lifting of the 'coding' and truck ban. What is important is to maximize the two elevated expressways. To do this would mean that motorists transiting through the Metro via these two expressways, should be exempted from 'coding'. For as long as one is traveling from Balintawak to Nichols/Entertainment City and tollways beyond, one should be safe from 'coding'. Exiting through junctions in between the two ends of the tollways, including the NAIA Expressway, outside of the 'coding' window would mean a violation. But since the supreme objective is to relieve traffic on surface streets, perhaps, vehicles headed for Skyway or Connector entries should be exempted, simply by not posting any arresting officers at the on ramps.
Buses: no fly zone
Finally, as for bus drivers who turn the Skyway or any elevated expressway into a 'flyway', the two elevated expressways, like the existing Skyway Stages 1 & 2, and like elevated expressways of their ilk in Thailand, China, Japan, U.S.A. and Europe, will have the same international standard of high curbs and parapets in reinforced concrete and crash deflecting metal guard rails. Just goes to show that if buses fly off skyways, its not the fault of the bus nor the road. It's the driver's.
Ultimately, we wish we can totally do away with 'coding'. It's an infringement on our democratic rights. Such band-aid solutions are more an admission of failure. It only serves the purpose that for appearance's sake, something is being done by the authorities we voted and paid to do something, anything, even if it means making things worse. So as the LTO starts refusing our requests to choose the ending number for the new license plates of that rare and cherished opportunity to buy a new car, we can only dream about the day when we no longer worry about getting arrested for violation of 'coding', just like most of the rest of the country.