On September 8, a sudden downpour occurred in Metro Manila, affecting the entire metropolitan area in what was a real life nightmare for the millions of commuters and private vehicle owners presumably on their way home that evening. Although the downpour lasted for just a little over an hour, vehicles were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and commuters were left stranded on the streets for hours.
That particular evening, along with countless other regular traffic jams experienced in the metro, begs the question: Why has the traffic situation in the Philippines, specifically in Metro Manila, become this bad, and, seemingly spiralling to an all-time low?
Analyzing the situation
The Manila Standard Today reported in July that the main reason for the worsening traffic in the National Capital Region is the ever growing number of motor vehicles in the area. Around 2.5 million motor vehicles are registered in Metro Manila alone, and there is an estimated 14 million daytime road population in the area.
The traffic situation in Metro Manila is costing the country at least Php 3 billion a day. This covers the time lost by people due to heavy traffic, as well as the additional costs of operating vehicles in gridlock not just in Metro Manila, but also in nearby areas. A study conducted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) emphasized that if the traffic condition in Metro Manila will not improve, this number might increase to Php 6 billion a day by the year 2030.
In a report by The Daily Inquirer this month, users of traffic and navigation app Waze rated Metro Manila traffic as the worst in the world. This was based on the Global Driver Satisfaction Index (GDSI), which was developed by Waze. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Jakarta followed close behind.
Manila scored 0.4 in the said traffic index, with a scale designating 1 as “miserable” and 10 as “satisfying.” The GDSI was based on factors such as severity and frequency of traffic jams, quality of road and infrastructure, and safety of drivers, among others.
It was also found that the average commute time in Metro Manila could last up to 45.5 minutes, the longest time compared to that of 18 other
cities in the world.
Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino has been quoted saying, “Other metro cities in the world have efficient mass transit systems, like the London Tube and the New York Subway System. Subways will solve our problems.” Tolentino, who has already filed his certificate of candidacy for senator, resigned from his post as MMDA chair on October 7.
Last month, The Philippine Star reported that the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) has been tapped by President Benigno Aquino III to lead in implementing traffic rules and regulations in Metro Manila and clear the six “choke points” along EDSA. The choke points are Balintawak, Cubao, Ortigas, Shaw Boulevard, Guadalupe, and Taft Avenue.
The HPG will be assisted by the MMDA, the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
The President also proposed the implementation of the odd-even scheme, wherein license plates that end with odd numbers will not be allowed on the roads on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while those that end with even numbers will not be permitted on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This scheme is partially implemented by the MMDA during Holy Week and/or Christmas holidays to prevent traffic congestion.
In a separate article, the Philippine Star also reported that Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV filed a resolution for the inquiry on the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, as well as its economic implications. He emphasized the fact that the MMDA cannot solve the problem alone. As such, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) should also be of assistance regarding this matter.
“The relevant government agencies, together with the local government units, should be able to provide effective transportation planning strategies and traffic management system in order to improve the traffic conditions in Metro Manila,” the senator said.
The LTFRB has since imposed a ban on provincial buses passing through EDSA southbound during the morning rush hour, which is from 6:00 am to 9:00 am from Monday to Friday. They are advised to take P. Tuazon, C-5, and then continue on to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). They can only take EDSA after 9:00 am.
Taft Avenue has not been spared from the horrible traffic situation. In light of this, a new traffic re-routing scheme has been implemented by Barangay 709 starting October 12, according to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration.
Castro Street, perpendicular to Taft Avenue, will have a one way flow towards Taft Avenue. There will be no right turn (southbound) and left turn (northbound).
Access to DLSU parking buildings shall only be through Quirino Avenue via Fidel Reyes Street. There will be a one way flow towards Castro Street from Quirino Avenue.
Only a right turn will be permitted from Calle Agno going to Castro Street.
This traffic scheme will be effective only from Monday to Thursday, 6:00 to 10:00 am and 4:00 to 8:00 pm.