Vehicles lined up ferociously in the intersecting streets of Davao City. It’s traffic, once again. For many Davaoeños, traffic is a huge cause of concern in daily life, however, some people would consider it a sign of progress. Roadways and bridges are continuously being fixed by the local government, while more skyscrapers continue to rise and give way to industrialization. Some would call these things as one huge step into urban development. But, is it really the case when ordinary citizens and students stress their voices out every day for actual change?
Thousands of people in Davao rely on public transportation as their form of daily commute. Not everyone could afford the luxuries of having a personal car, so they are forced to extend their patience whenever they have to find a jeepney, multicab, van, or even a taxi. Even a multitude of students from the Ateneo have in one way or another experienced the growing traffic problem.
Davao’s worsening traffic
Over the years, Davao’s very own City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO) has worked hard to control the worsening traffic all around the metropolis. With the traffic officers dressed in the signature yellow-and-black garments on the streets, people would be quick enough to recognize the presence of the organization exhausting day-and-night to quell the vehicular chaos.
“Since naging presidente si Duterte, umiba talaga ang traffic situation sa Davao. For one thing, there’s the emergence of developments of road constructions. Another, there’s the influx of tourists and business investors. Meron pa nga lack of discipline from some car owners. All of those have contributed sa worsening of traffic sa city,” stated Charlotte Parba, a CTTMO Executive Service Officer.
Parba finds herself in a small and crowded office working with her fellow colleagues. It was a busy-as-usual afternoon in the CTTMO as officers consulted with people who have committed offenses in their fake licenses or other employees would deal with stacks of paperwork involving traffic cases from both drivers and passengers. Currently, Parba is working hand-in-hand with her team to improve the traffic situation in Davao.
Aside from the aforementioned factors of citywide traffic, the worsening vehicular congestion has also been blamed on Davaoeños getting too many cars of their own, rivaling the total number of public vehicles, not limited to jeepneys, buses, and taxis. Furthermore, the CTTMO even considers overpopulation, the lack of carpooling habits from citizens, and vehicular drivers, be it public or private, competing on the road as other major causes of concern.
The struggles of commuting
On the other side of the coin is Brian Joseph Unabia, an AB Political Science student from AdDU, who expresses his grievances of how traffic has affected his life as a student. Hailing from Sarangani, Brian has moved to Davao ever since 2018 for his college education. He believes the current traffic situation has taken a toll on his personal well-being, productivity, and time spent with loved ones.
“The traffic situation in Davao is getting worse every day, and is slowly becoming like Metro Manila. More and more people buy private vehicles because of the bad public transportation system. And on top of that, the thin roads in urban centers are not even built for large volumes of vehicles. There has been a lack of strict traffic regulations as well. It has become hell for everyone,” said Unabia.
Commuting for Brian is a daily struggle. He is currently living in Catalunan Pequeño which is about 12 kilometers away from the Ateneo. Every day, he has to wake up at five in the morning, wait for a jeepney at 6, and travel for 40 minutes to an hour, so that he would not be late for his 7:40AM class. In most days, he even has to compete with other desperate commuters, thus delaying his time of arrival. The same scenario happens every night as well with him reaching home at either 8 or 9 PM before he could even start with his school work. As a result, he is forced to sleep at midnight, and repeats the 5 AM waking cycle over and over again.
“College life in Ateneo forced me to be more responsible with my time management. It has also taught me to be disciplined enough in maximizing my productivity as a student, but there really are days wherein I have to face the consequences of failing to take action with this traffic problem. I missed two quizzes last semester because of it, thereby affecting my grades and jeopardizing my academic standing. I just get tired of it. This city-wide situation is nothing to be proud of,” cried Unabia.
Traffic mitigation measures
The CTTMO lists certain projects like the repairs on Talomo Bridge affecting the McArthur highway causing a domino effect over connected roads in Mintal. Traffic even extends in Matina, Ulas, Bangkal, Bajada. As a result, the CTTMO has its own board that reviews city developments that would allow them to perform traffic mitigation measures. Peak hour augmentation of buses has been implemented around the metropolis, while the construction of a coastal road is well underway in Talomo.
In addition to these, CTTMO has enforced strict regulation of loading and unloading areas and the anti-jaywalking ordinance to minimize traffic problems. Parba believes that “even regular people should have a role in maintaining their responsibilities as law-abiding citizens outside of public and private drivers.”
With the upcoming High Priority Bus System (HPBS), the CTTMO hopes that the evolution from the present mode of transport to a mass transport system would finally solve the city-wide traffic problem. This plan, as initiated by Mayor Sara Dutere-Carpio, would replace 7000 public utility jeepneys (PUJs) with 1000 buses.
This plan, however, has caused doubts on several jeepney drivers throughout Davao. As modernization rapidly and continuously expands in Davao City, it may also have its fair share of consequences for numerous ordinary residents.
According to Larry Arguelles from Transmission Pinag-isang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide-Southern Mindanao Region (PISTON-SMR), around 10,000 jeepney drivers will be affected in Davao City alone. Since a single bus would cost Php 11 Million to Php 13 million, drivers are alarmed at how this would affect their primary source of income.
Davaoeños are no stranger to voicing out their cries for change. So many who have first-handedly seen and experienced the worsening traffic have grown tired of sitting idly by while the traffic problem grows extremely intolerable each day. Once again, students are on the forefront exerting every ounce of their voice to souls who would lend their ears for a greater cause.
“I think the LGU should put as much focus and budget on improving the public transportation system. Traffic rules and enforcement should also be improved, such as that of a proper dispatch system (drop-off and pick-up points) for public utility vehicles,” said Unabia.
Widespread traffic continues to affect the lives of so many people in Davao City. With increasing urban development and vehicles multiplying each day, traffic could continue to be a hellish experience for Davaoeños. Industrialization is not an entirely negative thing when it could also ease traffic in the long-run, but the issue now is the sluggish nature of Davao’s urban development. Unless there are proactive changes done to better the traffic situation in Davao City, outcries from people like Brian Unabia will continue to persist for many more years to come.