No Free Lunch (or stop in the name of progress)

In the capitalist world there is no free lunch. Was that Friedman? I forgot. Personally, regardless of what ist and ism you believe in, there is no such thing that is truly “FREE.” Yes, there’s always a trade-off. If there weren’t trade-offs, economists, sociologists; a whole lot of ists and ologists would not exist today. In today’s consume or be consumed world, and working hard for that privilege to consume, I feel we’re heading towards a disastrous ending if do not realize the trade-offs. Wow. that sounds so bleak. I just wanted it to sound…deadly. (insert evil laugh here)

How does one define or qualify what progress and advancement in a country? If economic progress is measured by traffic jams, then the Philippines is truly an economic miracle. We’re supposed to be an emerging tiger. Right now, I hate to imagine the traffic jams when this country declares itself as a true economic success. Success at what cost? From what I read at the New York Times, the country loses about 20-billion dollars annually because of these traffic jams. Is the Philippines that rich, that it can afford to throw away all that lost opportunity?

Traffic, it gets the best of us. Just a week ago, there was a report of a cabby with a knife versus a driver with a gun at EDSA. That was probably one of the stupidest incidents I’ve seen in a long time. I mean, why one earth would you want to hurt someone because of a vehicle? Now that cooler heads prevailed after a week of news coverage, the two have made up and dropped charges against each other. Still, damaged reputations stay damaged. In this kind of incident, I still think that if you cram people into tight spaces, there’s bound to be some trouble as they compete for room. I guess some mindful meditation or prayer can help them keep their cool. And why the heck was there a gun and a knife? Are those things part of traffic survival gear now?

Yesterday, a truck lost control and blocked the C5 road until after the morning rush hour. With that level of major mess, fingers started to point to a regulatory body, the LTFRB. Senator Santiago even wants an investigation on what the agency did. I guess those in charge really have to experience it so they’ll react. I also read from a friend’s Facebook post that there were even images of Mar Roxas directing traffic. Like, whaaaat? I don’t know if that one’s true, though.

We all have theories on why the traffic is so bad in Metro Manila; when it rains, there’s flooding in some areas; when it rains, there’s usually a road accident, like yesterday’s standstill; after the rains, the roads are riddled with potholes; there are too many buses, jeeps, cars, uncivilized drivers, walking pedestrians, unruly motorcycles, and sometimes suicidal bicyclists. Some say it’s because of poor traffic law enforcement. What’s clear in my head is this: everyone who uses or is involved with the road network is part of the problem and can collectively work towards a solution. I mean, that’s much better than hoping for a miracle from government to solve it.

Just raising a few points and questions:

  1. Whenever people drive and use the road are they aware of other vehicles or try to anticipate their movements or do they simply just drive and treat their vehicles as a mobile kingdom with a space that cannot be invaded? I think people can learn to accept that other motorists won’t behave in the way they want them to. They can learn to accept that other people, of varying intellect, can afford to purchase vehicles, too.
  2. The same is true for people riding motorcycles. Do they anticipate? Do they think they are immortal whenever weaving through traffic? Do all of them know that sidewalks are for people?
  3. When people buy a car, do they bother to think where they will park it? Sidewalks are for pedestrians and it is a hassle for other motorists to have to adjust just so they can accommodate a parked metal beast.
  4. When people are driving alone and they’re stuck in traffic, do they also look at other vehicles with lone occupants? I mean, what if they just compressed into one vehicle, I mean, if it was possible.
  5. Some people say jeepneys should be phased out in favor of buses. Why not enforce a rule to have bigger capacity jeepneys with an organized dispatching system? I mean, buses aren’t as nimble as jeepneys. Also, why should speed limiters be enforced only at the level of bus companies? Why not jeepneys, too?
  6. Does the regulatory body even bother with service levels when it approves a franchise for public vehicles?
  7. Ordinary pedestrians have it the worst. Limited resources, limited time, limited vehicles to cram themselves into during rush hour?  If drivers think they’re stressed out, imagine the predicament of the pedestrian. Most of them are probably tired and hungry from a day’s work and they have to deal with another round of stress before they get home. Cut them some slack and stop at the pedestrian crosswalks. Let them pass.
  8. With the limited space available, why not provide an incentive for those driving smaller cars? I mean, they pollute less and occupy a smaller portion of the road. If something’s bound to be parked by the roadside, let it be a smaller vehicle.

Anyway, I’ve said too much and I think I’ve almost diluted the point I was trying to raise. It’s there is no free lunch. You want vehicles? Live with the consequences. You know that there’s limited space. Adapt. Suck it in or spit it out, imho. In any case, a question for everyone should be “What are you prepared to give up in order to free up the roads?”


As an aside, I think the only entities happy with these traffic jams and consumerist behavior are banks. That money has to go somewhere. 😀



    1. Jeepneys, for me, are an example of why planning is essential in gov’t. Looking at them plainly, it’s as if gov’t did not expect these vehicles wouldn’t grow in number and add to street congestion. Now, because of their number, solving or improving the situation for jeepneys is now a political issue.

  1. Brian, may I say something? I think common, basic road courtesy is non-existent in the Philippines. No matter how much traffic planning is implemented, if it isn’t enforced seriously, nothing will come out of it. The only way is to hit drivers where it hurts most… their pocketbooks. But then, there is police corruption. It’s such a dilemma. And there’s dog eat dog mentality in Filipino drivers’ psyches. My mother would always tell our driver there… ” let him pass, let him pass. ” OMG.

    1. Hello, Ms. Iglesias!

      No, you may not say anything. Kidding. I do agree that road manners are sometimes, okay, most of the time, lacking on Metro Manila roads. However, it’s come to this: too little space and too many vehicles. With that in mind, it’s pretty much a free-for-all. Hitting their wallets might have an effect, but it’s also a way for corruption to get back in. If the fines are too high, the enforcer has an incentive in “selling” the ticket.


  2. Well, you make some good points about the failure of some road warriors to be considerate of others. But if it is any consolation, the same thing happens in Los Angeles. Put a little rain on the road and a car or two slips on the residue of oil, crashes, and the freeway goes into gridlock. The highway people have big electronic signs on the road to warn people of jams so they can find an alternative route, but it doesn’t help much. An hour’s drive can become a four-hour drive. I think the only thing that will help is Google’s automatic car that does a better job than we humans of squeezing a lot of metal into limited road space. Or economic collapse. That would help, too.

    1. Hey, Uncle Joe!

      I wanted to point out that road courtesy is also a factor. I do think that one wrong action by one driver can cause a chain reaction in traffic flow. Road conditions also play a part in creating traffic jams. As for the issue like the truck that stalled and flipped on the C5 road the other day, we can always expect that the driver “lost control” of the vehicle. That could be a function of maintenance or just poor driving. I mean, if the guy was sincere that he lost control, why the heck did he even go missing. This may sound cliche. People can try to be a little conscious of how their actions affect their environment and other people.


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