The Metro Manila Development Authority recently proposed a revised number coding scheme to help curb traffic during rush hours in hopes of reducing traffic volume by 40 percent. If implemented, vehicles will be barred from plying major roads twice a week. The proposed scheme enraged the online community—with several netizens criticizing the plan, calling out the agency for producing an illogical, and groundless solution.
The existing Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program was first introduced back in the mid-90s as a means to restrict car volume and to help with the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila. However, 20 years later, it still has not solved the ever-growing volume of vehicles in the metro.
Given the state of our public transportation, the number coding scheme does not incentivize motorists to commute during days when their vehicles are banned. Instead, by adding additional days, the government is actually incentivizing motorists to purchase more vehicles in order to circumvent the ban. Thus, little to no reduction in traffic volume actually takes place.
Policies such as this have proven the current administration’s—even previous ones’—car-centric approach to the traffic problem. While the government has ramped up its infrastructure initiatives by building more elevated highways and tolled roads and carrying out road-widening projects around the metro, this is only a band-aid fix to a worsening crisis. In 2021 alone, over 268,400 vehicle purchases were made around the country. With this, the number of private vehicles will soon outnumber the operational capacity of roads regardless of the projects currently in progress.
Building more toll roads will only provide relief to the few who can afford it. As long as we continue to tackle this in a car-centric mindset, we are merely delaying the decay of the country’s transportation system.
Just recently, the MRT Line 3—the rail system traversing Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA)—suspended its operations due to its yearly scheduled maintenance works on the last working day of this year’s Holy Week. Many had to endure queuing for hours as the EDSA bus carousel struggled to keep up with the staggering number of passengers. With the sudden hike in fuel prices, many bus operators opted to forgo operations even with the discretion from the transportation department to continue conducting its services. Many commuters resorted to habal-habals—illegal motorcycle taxis—as a means of alternative transport, while others opted to walk the stretch of EDSA just to get home during the said period.
Majority of the Philippine population—especially in Metro Manila—still relies heavily on public transportation as means of getting to their destination. It is a given that the focus must be shifted to providing commuters safe and reliable transport instead of building more roads and tolled highways that will only benefit the few and privileged. By shifting to a more people-centric approach, the policies and projects would be focused on effectively transporting the most number of people at a given time to their destination, rather than more vehicles.
With our new leaders set to be inaugurated this June 30, the future of our country’s transportation system is in their hands. Their policies and plans for the next six years will dictate where the state of our transportation is headed. They must be aware of the needs of both motorists and commuters. There should be a shift in focus, especially when it comes to formulating new policies—from car-use policies to more accessible and efficient public transportation—to improve the current transport system.
Small immediate steps can be made. For instance, more employers can allow and incentivize hybrid work setups to help minimize movement and vehicle volume while allowing employees to work in the comfort of their homes. More long-term goals such as improving current public transport infrastructures and expanding the transport network to reach far-flung areas that are only accessible through private transport should also be in the pipeline.
With the rise in fuel prices brought on by the Russo-Ukrainian war, it is high time for the government to take drastic action to switch to more inclusive transportation that will benefit all. And even after this transport crisis and fuel price hike’s effects are mitigated, the focus on improved human mobility through transportation must still be held.
The transport crisis cannot be solved overnight. There is no miracle answer to the problem. However, substantial changes by the government have to be made to ensure the provision of a modern, safe, and sustainable transport solution that the Filipino commuters have long deserved.