Tito F. Hermoso / Chokdee.info Team | March 02, 2015 14:04
Caution, slow down. School zone
Caution. Slow down. Children crossing. Prepare to stop. It's a rule, almost instinctive, anywhere one sees those fluorescent pentagonal signs that warn of a public school zone. Besides, there's no mistaking the approach of such zones; the chicanes and traffic aides in high-visibility vests in rural areas, etc. Then there are the numerous parked vehicles with drivers waiting for their wards. In the cities, university belts, like that in Manila, are known to be an all day vehicular and pedestrian traffic bottleneck. Hence the flight of schools to the suburbs. But since yesterday's suburbs have now turned into urban centers themselves, traffic congestion followed. The wealthier neighborhoods and gated communities, are not exempt from traffic congestion as students of the more exclusive and pricier name brand Catholic Schools commute by private car or school bus.
Historically, the location of the pricier schools in gated communities was part of the master plan of such privately funded communities. Subdivisions, as they were once called, were not just blocks upon blocks of detached housing. In order to attract a stable and complete suburban experience/existence and enhance asset value, the planners provided space for parks, leisure [country clubs, golf clubs, polo clubs], schools, groceries, sports facilities, events places and the all important village association and security offices. Through the years, the schools were part of the community and with it came the necessary expansion in enrollment to keep the business side viable. Moreover non-resident students from outside of the community provided the necessary diversity for interaction that is healthy for socio-economic growth. Symbolized nowadays by the inter-village courtesy for co-member village resident car stickers.
Downside of success
Unfortunately, the schools and the communities became a victim of their success. Take the case of Greenhills and its main school, the all male [at least back in the 70s] LSGH or La Salle Green Hills. Because of economic growth and the attendant expansion of nearby road networks, the whole community, residential and commercial, became a magnet for more people, increasing the area's daytime population by easily 20 times the design projection in 1951. Naturally, congestion ensued. Greenhills' prosperity had knock on effects to the surrounding metropolitan area too, spreading its wealth and enhanced economic activity. With the growth of the Greater Manila Area, Greenhills' roads became major metro thoroughfares for transit traffic, increasing its traffic throughput.
Congestion and conflict
As in all kinds of crowding, the moment elbows start scraping, friction ensues. This congestion produces two kinds of us vs. them conflicts 1. ] rich/privileged vs. poor/commoner divide whenever motorists get stuck in Ortigas Ave. traffic where LSGH students come and go. 2.] residents vs. non-residents; as non-resident's vehicles outnumber resident's vehicle traffic within Greenhills itself. It didn't have to be this way but this adversarial atmosphere smothers the healthy social interaction that did not exist before the whole community package of Greenhills – Shopping center, Ortigas Ave, LSGH, etc. - grew. It maybe naïve to say that we should live together and give way to each other, but its too simple to ask of folk who only see their narrow selfish point of view.
So whether by survival or cooperation, all the parties involved have been trying to live with each other through compromised solutions that softens the daily nuisance. Although not ideally friendly, the relationship between school and residents in Greenhills can be likened to an entente cordial, so at least some positive results were achieved. The parents and the school have expanded parking buildings in the school premises, sacrificing trees and open space for sports activities. They have also added wider access gates to Ortigas. Sometimes, during homecoming events, there are shuttles between school and the parking lots of Greenhills shopping center. MMDA always has traffic aides assisting the traffic flow on Ortigas. During the Bayani era, they used to deploy orange “toblerone” traffic barriers and there is one solitary footbridge leading to the Wack Wack side. The village allows access to LSGH to stickered vehicles, at set times, to debark and fetch students via the school gates within the village, greatly alleviating the traffic on Ortigas and Connecticut. No longer do LSGH bound non-resident vehicles linger or overstay in the residential streets. That Ortigas still continues to congest during school arrival and departure means two things; 1.] Ortigas, like MRT-3, is beyond design maximum capacity and 2.] the municipal authorities should exempt LSGH to allow taller steel parking buildings and allow more Ortigas side entry/exit gates to accommodate more vehicles.
Wrong problem, wrong solution
Until C-5 became half the ring road it wants to serve, there were no problems with Ateneo and Miriam school traffic access to Katipunan. When populations and zoning grew congested with growth, the traffic naturally worsened. Widening and U-turn systems during the MMDA Bayani era helped manage the problem, but the recent unfortunate return to left turns and traffic lights have spread the tailback traffic all the way to Aurora Blvd. and Marcos Highway. Some media quarters have demanded that “moneyed” Ateneo foot the bill for a left turn flyover into the Loyola premises. Why Miriam isn't demanded the same “rich man's” solution beats me. But this assumes that the traffic in the area is the “fault” of school goers to Ateneo. Which is not what actual traffic flow prove.
Prefab or a return to status quo ante
The traffic flow when the U-turns were operational showed that most of the volume of vehicles going through C-5/Katipunan were transit traffic and not Ateneo/Miriam destined. Hence, the cure is via a through traffic flyover on C-5/Katipunan, but not a left turn flyover to Ateneo. In fact MMDA proposed a steel prefab flyover for CP Garcia. These flyovers are UK made and can be up in 90 days. The GMA era built 2 of these; one in San Fernando, Pampanga, the other in Bocaue, Bulacan. Besides restoration of the U-turns and closure of the left turns, the near term solution to the current problem is to open more access gates to Ateneo that connect to a segregated merging lane within Loyola to organize queueing of vehicles rejoining Katipunan at several points.
DLSZ vs. AAVA
Recently, the traffic and access problems conflict between DLSZ [De La Salle Zobel] and the AAVA [Ayala Alabang Village Association] have reached the public sphere and has been elevated to the courts. There are conflicting claims on the number of bona-fide DLSZ stickered cars and the cause of traffic around DLSZ, a matter that should be studied scientifically instead of seat-of-the-pants judgement. A pity as such a space allocation problem has mutated into an resident individual rights-collective residents corporate rights legal problem. We sincerely hope that the coding like ban on DLSZ stickered cars was imposed not by imperial edict and there was at least some kind of prior consultation. Or if there were, the inputs may have been too raw to come to such a drastic decision. Bro. Bernie OCA, now with DLSZ, formerly with LSGH, is no stranger to dealing with prickly and testy village associations. The conflict continues.....
As armchair analysts, its easy for us to opine solutions. Afterall, all it takes is common sense. The Greenhills East Association-LSGH solution of increasing space in such cramped quarters seems to work as this is a space allocation problem. Conflicts like Alabang's, where DLSZ is a resident too, calls to question the role of village associations as some of these associations do overstep their function to serve the residents. Maybe something in their charter says that to “serve the residents” the Association has to behave combatively, liberally using security forces and maximizing legal counsel retainers against the residents just to show who's boss. Should village associations behave like exclusive insular clubs who can choose not to care about outside elements, like bona fide guests of members? Does this insular dogma prohibit coordination with the greater neighboring community/city or society as a whole? Is being a responsible and cooperative member of society at large against village rules?
Compromise still works
There is no contest to the fact that the schools were there before the traffic came: build it and they will come, so they say. The schools enhance overall village property value, although those who live next to the congestion of the school will vehemently, and rightly, object to this statement. But solutions can be found. Though it has been similarly prickly, the Dasmarinas Village Association has been handling such problems for years, and to think there was at one time, several other kindergarten schools in the village apart from the huge Collegio de San Agustin. Yet it didn't need to adapt extremely drastic and anti-student vehicle bans as AAVA.