Monorail to connect Baguio, Benguet towns

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY –From a quaint, little town designed for 25,000 people by American architect Daniel Burnham, this summer capital has grown by leaps and bounds.
Burnham (who was named after the most popular park) here, if he were alive today, would be at a loss on why things didn’t turn out the way he envisioned this city, now populated by around 300,000 people.
Over the years, problems of urbanization have reared their ugly heads. Now, the city is grappling with population control, building frenzy, squatting, lack of water, waste and yes, traffic.
Since I live in the nearby capital town of La Trinidad, Benguet, I always allot an hour to reach Baguio due to heavy traffic anytime of the day. Most Baguio and nearby Benguet residents, share the same predicament and frustration on how to move faster considering huge volume of vehicles plying streets, particularly public utility vehicles like taxis whose drivers could come straight out from hell.
I was coming out from the road near the Eso-nice Terminal along Otek St. last week and was right at the exit bound for the main road’s left lane. Traffic was heavy and I was waiting for the chance to squeeze to the other side.
         But then, this sanamagan taxi driver at my back unceasingly pressed on his horn like there was an emergency. There was no such thing. He just wanted to get ahead. He wanted me to move, even if he saw there was no space for me to get in. I felt the urge to get down and confront him, but then, I just had surgery for my tooth implant. So I kept my peace. Seeing the situation, the driver of a private car gave space for me to get in. Since I was “high blood” at that time, in my exasperation, I forgot to get the taxi driver’s plate number.
This is one situation which sober drivers experience on a daily basis from rude PUV drivers like taxis who cut without blinking signal lights and stop even at the center of the road to get passengers. Mayhem is too timid a word to describe these occurrences. Some lawshave to be implemented or made to make these types of drivers less hazardous on the road.
Anyhow, there would be less hot-headed and stupid drivers if traffic is not that heavy. Lessening vehicles along Baguio streets, even with the coding system, is still a problem which authorities have not found the solution to.
It is a wonder why motorists are not allowed to park along most city roads when vehicles could pass by even if cars could be parked on roadsides.
Take MabiniSt. as example. Except for a small stretch (beside Hamada and GP buildings) which could accommodate only six cars, parking along the area is banned anytime of the day. Since it is a one-way street, vehicles could actually park on both sides of the road without creating traffic.
Along Session Road, one cannot park there from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. daily. Again, even if vehicles park on roadsides, traffic is manageable until one reaches the police outpost below SM where it could take an eternity to park in the giant mall since there is no parking spacealong Session, Harrison, Calderon, Diego Silang or roads along Burnham.
An exasperated tourist once asked me along Session where they could park since in almost all roads where they tried to park, police shoed them away. I told them, they could go to SM or the Catholic Cathedral grounds but have to pay parking fees.
I remember an old time Baguio cop who told me traffic would ease if parking is allowed on roadsides where traffic is manageable. If vehicles are running on the street and are not parked, they contribute to traffic, he said.
The city government is targeting the ground underneath Melvin Jones football ground and both sides of the area to build a parking lot which has taken a lot of flak from environmentalists and concerned residents. They said the area should be left alone to preserve its natural state considering the city doesn’t have ample open space.
Others are suggesting a huge parking building could be built instead at the site of the old city library (which is now a pay-parking area.) 
Compounding the traffic and parking problem is the perennial digging of good roads and drainage canals by incompetent contractors (supposedly to upgrade these) mostly along the central business district.
Sources say some “favored” contractors awarded by the local Dept. of Public works and Highways offices are not fast enough in finishing projects because they don’t have funds and equipment. These contractors have been observed not to have deployed flagmen in choke points,
According to Mayor Mauricio Domogan, the city government had always been appealing to regional and district offices of the DPWH for close coordination in implementation of public works projects along national roads so concerned departments of the city could also plan ahead of time on how to mitigate effects of projects to traffic and mobility of vehicles and people.
Appeals for coordination were not reportedly heeded. 
With the impending change in government, maybe the city government could hold a public hearing on the matter to discuss this crucial issue since it affects everyone.
It is good that the Regional Development Council, taking stock of the situation, is planning a monorail system for a mass public transport system linking this summer capital and nearby Benguet towns.
First is the 5.2-km La Trinidad-to-city-limit component costing around P4 billion and the 2.1-km Baguio section from Slaughterhouse Compound up to Luneta Hill costing P3 billion.
A report by Dexter See of the city mayor’s office said the Cordillera Dept. of Science and Technology had certified the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable transport technology that could significantly reduce air pollution and traffic congestion between Baguio and La Trinidad and provide an integrated and efficient transport network between nearby Benguet municipalities.
The Cordillera RDC approved a resolution endorsing funding of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) AGT system feasibility study  from  National Economic Development Authority central office funds.
The region’s policy-making body cited need for feasibility study to show the AGT system in the BLISTT growth area is a viable investment for potential investors.
Earlier, the Cordillera DOST requested NEDA regional office to conduct an evaluation of the pre-feasibility study on the AGT for Baguio and La Trinidad which revealed that in-depth financial and economic analysis and detailed engineering design were needed.
                “The proposed feasibility will now include the whole BLISTT area instead of just Baguio and La Trinidad,” the RDC resolution stated.
Traffic and Transport Planners, Inc. completed the pre-feasibility study of the AGT system in October 2015 which was also funded by the DOST-CAR.
The study, entitled “Study on feasibility of deploying DOST-developed mass transport transportation technologies in Baguio City and Benguet (La Trinidad)” looked into the possibility of deploying the AGT system.
The AGT project has been included as a priority development project under the revalidated Regional Development Investment Plan (RDIP) for 2014-2016, thus, it could quality for feasibility study funding from the NEDA central office, among other funding agencies.
The BLISTT town governments recently agreed to have common projects to address common problems such as garbage disposal, traffic congestion, tourism development, environmental preservation and protection, infrastructure development, among other concerns.


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