What a year 2021 has been, with joyful optimism on everyone’s minds as we entered it hoping for recovery from 2020, and leaving with whatever what was left from the ups and downs of that period. These are interesting times we live in, and boy did they spice up the news and events we’ve experienced in the past 12 months. Here are 10 moments in motoring that we think have been the talk of the town this year.
EDSA Carousel and public transit in general. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While a new year has come and gone for the EDSA Carousel BRT system launched in mid-2020, the benefits we’ve reaped are still applicable for most of 2021. Private cars don’t have to deal with (most) buses, Buses get to travel unimpeded from whatever traffic we end up causing with our cars, and commuters get to have a pick between MRT-3 and the BRT.
Well, things haven’t always been fine and dandy, with the depleted Bayanihan 2 funds leading to the end of the free rides, the implementation of two competing Beep cards making cashless transactions more dizzying than carrying actual cash (which wasn’t accepted for some period either), and the finger-pointing between the LTFRB and bus operators as to who wasn’t paying drivers and conductors reaching a fever pitch toward the end of the year. All we could do was sit down and watch.
Barrier crashes. When a stoppable force meets an immovable object, it’s rather obvious who would win, right? Well, I’m guessing it’s painfully clear for the drivers of all the vehicles who managed to hit EDSA Carousel’s concrete barriers by now. Judging by MMDA’s Bong Nebrija’s constant tirade against bus drivers who keep hitting these, the agency is tired of motorists who keep running into them too. Is it the barriers at fault? The drivers? It’s an endless debate for some, but between me and these pieces of concrete, only one is capable of conscious thought to be able to steer clear.
MRT-7. Construction along Commonwealth Avenue and its surrounding appendages seems like it has been going on since dinosaurs have roamed the earth. But finally, some tangible visible progress has been made with the delivery of the new MRT-7 rolling stock. This year has been good for other rail projects as well, with the North-South Commuter Railway covering plenty of ground, the Unified Grand Central Station taking on its final shape, both Metro Manila and Makati subways receiving their tunnel boring machines, and the MRT-4 project being revived from dormancy.
The inner railfan in me is excited for what the new year has in store, but the seeming dormancy of the Metro Manila Subway and the LRT-2’s maintenance and rolling stock issues hounding the opening of their new extension line remind me to temper my optimism with caution.
Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers. As if the world was not confusing enough this year, the back-and-forth adoption of Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers just added to the confusion of many of us seeking to renew our motor-vehicle registrations. In July, a new Memorandum Order from the Land Transportation Office made visiting a PMVIC a requirement for renewing our vehicle registration. This was met with backlash from motorists dealing with PMVIC availability issues and mounting concerns from reports of damaged vehicles, with LTO being ordered to suspend the requirement barely a month in.
The saga doesn’t stop there, though, with LTO later clarifying that you can still go to a PMVIC for your renewal as their operation has not been suspended, and the Vehicle Inspection Center Operators Association of the Philippines later firing off at criticisms and complaints against them.
No-contact apprehension. Everything’s been made contactless given the changing times we’re in, and the LGUs ran with it and applied it to apprehensions as well. Commit a traffic violation in Manila, Parañaque, Quezon City, Valenzuela or Mandaue City, and you may get your ticket in the mail a few days after. It’s not a new scheme, with MMDA implementing it some years prior, but the widespread adoption is reminding us to behave on the road not knowing when someone could be watching.
Fuel prices. We’ve all been riding on the bliss of low fuel prices from 2020 as we entered the year. But as the year draws to a close, we’ve all been left scrambling and longing for a time when fuel prices weren’t back to its usual astronomical rates. Well, all good things must come to an end, and the resumption of the changing normal of today means demand is back for the dinosaur juice that runs our motor vehicles.
Skyway Stage 3. Skyway Stage 3 was officially launched in all its glory in the first month of 2021. While portions were slowly opened to the public pending works on the rest of the segment in 2020, the full length was opened in January 2021 with some ramps gradually tacked on throughout the year. Touted as one of the main projects to help decongest EDSA, that title was soon no longer applicable to many as the free passage ran out and the new toll fees imposed in July meant a great big reunion for most of us on EDSA once again.
Ten-year license and LTMS portal. The idea for a license valid for 10 years has been tossed around for a while now, but it’s been finally put to reality alongside the slow-but-sure adoption of LTO’s new Land Transportation Management System portal. Drivers who don’t have any violations can avail of the reward, and everyone seeking to renew their license now has to refresh and prove their competency by means of a Comprehensive Drivers Education program. This was taken well by a lot of people, only to have lukewarm feelings for the new TDC and PDC requirements for new applicants, and mixed reactions to the regular medical-certificate requirement for both 5-year and 10-year licensees.
Bike lanes. The explosion in bicycle use last 2020 not only made the powers that be rethink how we’re approaching transportation in the city, but actually legitimize its place on our roads by quickly allocating budgets for and constructing bike lanes up and down the country. DOTr launched their network by announcing its completion this mid-July, with other cities mounting up their own plans and bike lanes more or less within this year as well.
It’s a welcome change as we shift our mindset on how we should be moving people, but the issue of keeping bike lanes up long-term starts to rear its ugly head with many painted-on bike lanes slowly fading away to encroachment from cars and motorcycles alike, with Pasig City going so far as throwing segregation out the window by allowing motor vehicles to use these bike lanes. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot more to cover for the new year if we don’t want to return to our stuck-in-traffic habits.
PAREX. The hot topic of the year, spurring many debates from multiple sectors. San Miguel Corporation bared plans for the Pasig River Expressway mid-2021 shortly before gaining approval from the government. While a lot of motorists saw a new route from the east to the city center, a chord seems to have struck with a diverse range of sectors—from commuters and urban planners to conservationists (both historical and environmental) all oppose the plans to build an expressway over the storied river. Even the very architecture group mentioned in the project’s press releases distanced themselves from it at some point.
News about PAREX seems to have died down after being the talk of the town for a while, making me curious yet cautious for the project’s future.
And I think this issue sums up most of the year in mobility, really. We all just want to get to where we have to go, but we’re finally rethinking how we’re going about it. Nobody wants to get stuck in traffic nor bureaucracy, and may you and I be spared from both for the new year ahead.
Libre lang naman mangarap.