By: Modesto P. Sa-ono
We cannot compare the roads of Bacolod with those of New York but with New Jersey whose roads are as wide as Bacolod’s, mainly, four lanes. Parking is allowed in the two outer lanes in most places as in Bacolod but the flow of vehicles is smooth. Again, the reason is that people here have the use of the sidewalks; in Bacolod most sidewalks are illegally occupied by structures and parked cars thus pedestrians become traffic blockers.
There are no tricycles and pedicabs here but public transports that are the main modes of moving people from one place to another. The trains in subways bring thousands of people from New Jersey to New York and back daily while buses bring them from the underground passages out to the suburbs or city centers. Thus despite the human flow there are no traffic snarls that Bacolod has. The commuters move underground, the trains moving in a web of interconnecting tunnels.
Because of this orderly movement of vehicles, there are practically no traffic policemen directing traffic flow. That is the function of signal lights in every intersection. There are few police officers but people obey the traffic rules because when they get caught the fines are high, the police are impartial and strict. Of course there are violators and in New York there are plenty of them, but to reiterate, the policemen, though few know the law, efficient and uncompromising.
I researched in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, the New York Public Library and the Museum of Natural History, all huge buildings of stone and concrete with thousands of people from many nations converging daily. Their collections are huge but orderly. I will write about them later. I commuted by train from New Jersey, took the buses in New York and most often I walked to get to these centers of collected information. Walking through the streets was very informative on the behavior of vehicles and people and of course, traffic.
The buses stop to take or discharge passengers at designated places and this makes order in the streets. Passengers cannot hail a bus or ask to stop anywhere. This system of designating jeepney stops is not new. We had it during the 1970s when then City Police Chief Arcadio Lozada implemented the jeepney stop system. At the time there were few people and vehicles and without the traffic snarls we have today. But the police and City Mayor Romeo Guanzon were sticklers for public orderliness.
But Bacolod’s traffic control system simply faded away for lack (or fear or inefficiency) of enforcement and the jeeps turned Bacolod’s traffic into mayhem. They stop anywhere, including the middle of the street to take or let off passengers even in front of a traffic enforcer who probably is uninformed and untrained about traffic rules and regulations or simply lazy.
Even if traffic violators here were present or not (as in illegal parking) they get the ticket and the order for them to pay the fine sent by mail. No confrontation, no bargaining, no excuses. And the fines for illegal parking can be heavy running to $200 or to over P10,000. One morning, I passed by a woman standing in front of her house. She looked grim indeed because the tow truck was attaching her pick-up for its removal.
Parking overnight in front of one’s house is allowed because most houses have no garage. However, the car owner must have a government permit. I see them from our balcony, lined up some fenders almost touching for lack of parking space. Parking is not allowed at the corner of a street intersection but for lack of space many are tempted to violate.
We passed one example when we visited Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, New York. This fort was built by the British in late 18th century to guard the entrance to the port of New York just like Corregidor and Cavite guarding Manila Bay. The driver was not there but a police car and the policeman writing the citation for violation. People do try to skip complying with traffic laws but police cars go on patrol, sometimes in regular sized cars or this latest small electric one with only the driver and one passenger. Drivers dread the traffic violation citation and the waiting for the mails with the amount of the fine.