By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Classes were suspended in the city from pre-school to highschool on November 14 to 15 due to heavy traffic caused by the influx of tourists following the declaration of holiday in the Metro Manila area to give way to the ASEAN summit.
“Considering the unexpected arrival of visitors in our city, we have no recourse but to suspend classes in the elementary up to high school on Tuesday (Nov. 14) up to Wednesday (Nov. 15) in Baguio City,” Mayor Mauricio Domogan said.
According to PCI Oliver Panabang, head of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Traffic Management Group (TMG) the suspension of classes is very welcome as it would keep school services and other private vehicles bringing children to and from school of the roads. “It would mean lesser vehicles to manage,” he said.
Yesterday (Nov. 13) afternoon until almost midnight, there were long lines at jeepney terminals and more people waiting on cabs while vehicles were bumper to bumper along the city’s main roads. Some residents who were nearer to the central business district already opted to walk home. But those living farther had no choice but to wait.
Panabang said that some public utility vehicles really opted not to ply their routes because of the traffic. He said that it also meant lesser vehicles to manage. “We noticed there were fewer taxi cabs last night, we could not blame them, it would be a waste of fuel getting stuck in traffic ,” he said.
Panabang said that the horrendous traffic yesterday lasted until 10:00PM. “We were on rush hour status the whole day yesterday as the volume of vehicles in the city doubled,” he said.
The TMG head could not give the exact number of vehicles but said that “we felt like the volume of vehicles that we used to manage on normal days doubled yesterday”.
Panabang said that on normal days, rush hour is from 6:00AM to 8:00AM and 4:00PM to 8:00PM. “At about 10:00PM most of the tourists have settled down and Baguio residents were able to reach their homes because the traffic eased up,” he said.
Panabang said the worst traffic jam was experienced along the Pacdal-Mines View area. He said there are parks and restaurants that tourists frequent in the area. The Pacdal-Mines View route leads to the Botanical Garden, Wright Park, Mansion House and Mines View Park. He added that another tourist favorite destination that had to be managed was the Lourdes Grotto area.
Panabang explained that the central business area traffic was not as bad as the tourist destination areas. “What we did was to draw out as much vehicles from the gridlocks and distribute them to other alternate roads,” he said.
Panabang also said that they tolerated illegal parking last night. He said that the city has very limitted parking area which adds to the traffic problem. “So what we did was to allow parking in areas possible last night, bawas sa umiikot na sasakyan kasi kapag nakapark na,” he said.
“The city government has to seriously address the lack of parking areas in the city and building a multi-level parking could be a solution,” Panabang said. He added that building more overpasses should also be considered to keep off pedestrians from the roads which will help ease out traffic.
Panabang said the traffic this Wednesday morning was light because the tourists are most probably still asleep after spending time at the Baguio night market last night. He said that based on their monitoring there were only a few who left the city last night compared to the volume of vehicles that came in.
“We have anticipated the influx of tourists but we could only do so much, the city roads are really too small and could not accomodate the volume of vehicles,” Panabang said.
Panabang added that unlike Panagbenga and other big events in the city where tourists and locals themselves take precautionary measures to adapt to traffic woes, this time was different because tourists did not factor in the fact there was no holiday in the city.
The TMG head also said that more tourists are expected to come up tonight. “Most probably those who passed by the low lands like the La Union would come up to the city before they go back to work on Thursday,” he said.
Panabang said there was a bit of good news yesterday because there were lesser traffic related accidents. He said that on normal days they receive more than 10 traffic accident reports, most of which are collisions but yesterday they only received about eight. # nordis.net