According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Olongapo City doubled in population from 1970 to 2010, reaching 221,178 people. That doesn’t count Subic City, which is included in the “metro” population figure along with Olongapo City. There are too many people and too much traffic in Olongapo City and it’s not just the population at fault here. The roadways need a lot of improvement and unfortunately, it’s doesn’t seem to be happening.
I wasn’t living in Olongapo City when the automobile boom took place. When I was here in the 80s, the only privately owned vehicles seen on the streets were those owned by military servicemen. Now it seems like every other family owns one. I wasn’t living here during the commercial transportation boom either. There are far too many jeepneys and far too many trikes on the road. The way I understand it, the city stopped issuing body tags for those vehicles before I got here in 2006 but I don’t know exactly when. Now, the only way a new jeepney or trike can be operated legally is if the body tag from an old one is transferred to it, putting the old one out of commission.
There are certain routes that don’t bother me at all and then there are routes I loathe to follow. Unfortunately, I have to go into the downtown area once a month whether I want to or not. I collect my monthly pay from one bank in the downtown area and then I have to deposit money in another bank in the downtown area (where they deduct my car loan payment each month).
Traveling to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone is relatively painless. I just drive down the hill on the street I live on, make a right and a quick left, then another right at the highway that goes past the Freeport zone, and then a left at the only stoplight I’ve seen outside of the Freeport zone. Although I’ve never measured it, I’m sure the total distance is less than five kilometers.
Traveling into downtown Olongapo City can be a nightmare. Stop signs are treated as suggestions and there are no stop lights. Drivers have no concept of the right of way. People cross at crosswalks only when middle-of-the-road barriers are present. My wife, Josie, and I went downtown this morning and we could have run over dozens of people if we didn’t pay close attention to them as they crossed in front of us (while we were moving).
The mayor we have now is the first mayor who isn’t part of the “Gordon dynasty” who ran the city until he was elected. Except for the very first mayor, this mayor has done more for the city than any other. Unfortunately, he has too much to get done during his short tenure. With our luck, another Gordon will get elected to replace him.
The two rotundas need to be replaced by stop lights and stop lights are needed in other high traffic areas. More pedestrian overpasses need to be placed where heavy foot traffic exists. There’s only one in existence now and it’s near the high school.
It seems like nothing can fix the parking problems, which contribute to the traffic problems. Two-lane roads are effectively one-lane roads (for both directions) and four-lane roads are effectively two-lane roads (one in each direction). The parking lots within the SM City Olongapo mall are almost always full and there are no other public parking areas in the downtown area, unless you count the side of the street (but not the whole street).
By: RT Cunningham
January 3, 2016
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