By Andrew James Masigan
Metro Manila’s traffic situation has affected us all in profound ways. On a personal level, it has eaten away at our quality of life and deprived us of time with friends and family. It has made life a daily grind of stress, anxiety and rage, all of which negatively affect our health. Economically, traffic causes productivity loss of some P2.4 billion a day, equivalent to .06% of GDP.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the traffic crisis. Relief will only be realized when vital infrastructure projects come online. These are the high-impact projects in the pipeline and their expected dates of completion: NAIA Skyway – December, 2016; SLEX-NLEX Connector Skyway – January, 2019; MRT3 Capacity Expansion – 2018; MRT2 Extension from Santolan to Sumulong– 2017; MRT 1 Extension from Baclaran to Bacoor–September, 2021; MRT 7 from North Edsa to San Jose Bulacan – 2020; BRT1 from Commonwealth to Manila City Hall – March, 2018;Southwest Integrated Transport Terminal (central transport depot servicing Cavite) – June, 2017; South Integrated Transport Terminal (central transport depot servicing Laguna &Batangas) – March, 2018.
Until these projects become operational, we have no choice but to make the most of our limited road network. At present, Metro Manila has 5,221 kilometers of national roads, 3,074 kilometers short of what is required of a 636 square kilometer city, hosting 12.9 million people. The situation is exacerbated by more than 100,000 new vehicles adding to Metro Manila’s density every year.
Adding further injury is the presence of provincial bus stations along the stretch of EDSA. There are 46 of them in total, 27 located in Cubao and 19 in Pasay.
I had an earnest talk with Thomas Orbos, the newly installed chief of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to find out their short and medium term plans on traffic. Orbos struck me as a man on top of the situation and in complete control. Within his first 100 days, a multi-faceted plan has already been put together for which implementation is being done on stages.
According to the MMDA, the no-window policy on the number coding system imposed on EDSA has accelerated movement by an average of 19 minutes for those travelling EDSA’s entire stretch, from Caloocan to Roxas Boulevard. Orbos says the no window policy will also be imposed on C5, Commonwealth and the NAIA area in the coming weeks. In addition, delivery vans will only be allowed to utilize national roads from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., a move that is seen to reduce road jamming by 10%. The delivery van restriction went on a trial run from Nov. 1 to Nov 7 but was put on hold for further tweaking.
The assault on colorumb uses and PUVs has been intensified with 15 arrests made every day. Too, malls are now disallowed from having mall-wide sales on weekdays. Certain malls, like the Ayala’s UP Town Center, were made to move their parking ticketing stalls from the mall entrance (causing street cueing) to inside their property.
The campaign to clear roads and sidewalks from vendors and illegally parked buses and jeeps continues.
Orbos says that just as important to MMDA’s initiatives is the public’s adherence to traffic regulations. Metro Manila drivers are one of the most chronic offenders in the world. From January to October alone, 19,782 citations were made for disobeying traffic signs; 9,046 citations for illegal parking; and 5776 citations for illegal loading of passengers by jeeps and buses.
To better manage the traffic situation, the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) was established under Orbos’ baton, along with that of Brig. Gen Manuel Gonzales. I-ACT is a consortium of the DOTr, the DPWH, the PNP, the Highway Patrol Group, the LTO and the LTFRB. It is a “supergroup”mandated to quickly and decisively implement traffic solutions, whilst bypassing bureaucratic red tape.
If and when emergency powers are granted to this administration, I-ACT will supersede the authority of the Metro Manila’s 17 cities and municipalities in as far as traffic management is concerned. This will make I-ACT the over-arching agency for all matters relating to traffic. Indeed, there is a need to unify the traffic regulations across Metro Manila’s 17 administrative regions.
While we wait for relief, however, the MMDA must make the traffic situation more bearable for the citizenry. Foremost, I strongly recommended that the building code on billboards be strictly imposed. Billboards are visual trash that compound road stress. I also recommend a ban on excessive blowing of horns, especially from buses who do so to signal their arrival at bus stops. Greening of our highways with trees and vertical gardens must continue as well.
While traffic remains the burden of every resident of the Metro, the one consolation we have is that there are solutions in the works.
Andrew is an economist, political analyst, and businessman. He is a 20-year veteran in the hospitality and tourism industry. For comments and reactions, e-mail email@example.com. More of his business updates are available via his Facebook page (Andrew J. Masigan). Follow Andrew on Twitter @aj_masigan.