Time for some rants and ramblings, and it’s about one of Metro Manila’s perennial problem – traffic. We Filipinos, particularly those living in Metro Manila have been used to spend a significant time of the day in traffic.

On the average we spend 30 minutes to an hour of travel time to the office. Now double that time just to get there, another double to go home because of traffic. So roughly, we are wasting 1 to 2 hours on the average of our time each day in traffic. That’s a lot of quality time lost which could have been spent wisely at the office or at home.

Although we complain, but we never really protested about this despicable problem. We learned to embrace it, adjusted to it, made it a part of our lives.

Our government have spent large amount of money to solve this problem but were unsuccessful. The Metro Manila Development Authority or MMDA have concocted several “brilliant” ideas, from providing traffic policemen with big bikes and jackets (rumored to have been the plan of then MMDA Chairman Binay), to the pink fences of the previous MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando.

Well the pink fences are probably a much useful solution than traffic policemen on motorbikes with dashing leather jackets, but like most other solutions (elevated pathways, number coding, etc.), its simply a patch-up, short-sighted approach in solving the problem.

So how to solve Metro Manila’s traffic problem? It is both common sense and the appreciation of the chaos theory – needless to say the solutions can be simple to complex. The approach is both immediate/short term and long term. Traffic problem cannot be solved overnight, nor it can be “fully” solved, but, it can be improved significantly when managed right.

Immediate to short term:

  • Don’t mess with the traffic lights. Have you seen this common practice by traffic enforcers of standing right in the middle of a busy major intersection directing traffic manually? They switch off traffic lights and just love to do it manually – the result? Chaos here and there. And to make it even worse, it takes like forever before they let go of the other lanes.
    • Traffic lights are supposed to be properly configured to work in a synchronized and timed manner.
    • Stopping a lane for more than 40 seconds especially on a busy intersection will lead to chaos as vehicles file up, drivers become more agitated and frustrated.
  • PUV/PUJ number coding. No it’s not the number coding that MMDA men love to enforce meaning, they are actually not assisting to ease flow of traffic, but on the look out which car has a plate number’s last digit banned for the day.
    • I have seen number coding effectively implemented in Cebu before. First, implement a systematic Route assignments and numbers, for example Pasay Rotonda to Blumentritt is Route 01. Route numbers are painted in all public utility jeepneys (PUJ) corresponding to their respective routes. Loading and unloading bays have specific Route Numbers. This is to avoid all PUJs loading and unloading anywhere they like, or fill up a single designated loading/unloading bay. If you’re Route Number is say, 01, then you are only allowed to stop at say, Stop 01-03.
    • If you have been to Singapore and other countries, you can also see this effectively implemented.
  • Lessen the volume of vehicles passing a major road like EDSA. This can be done by implementing the following:
    • Improve mass transport system services like the LRT and MRT. Put new routes to and from designated MRT/LRT stations.
    • Take out old, dilapidated PUJs and buses off the streets – by not allowing registration of public utility vehicles older than say, 10 years. With this solution alone, we can see a significant improvement but have you ever wondered why this cannot be implemented? There must be “millions” of reasons why.
    • Taking PUJs out from EDSA and major thoroughfares should also be considered. Government can deploy its own buses instead. This way, better mode of transport is provided, jobs are generated.
  • Improve road conditions. Metro Manila roads have the most potholes next to the moon. We have also the darkest roads next to the dark side of the moon. Responsibility and accountability should be strictly implemented. Punish government officials and contractors implementing sub-standard projects. How can this be done?
    • I believe national road projects are a national government concern. Streamline bidding of national road projects by implementing a good bidding and procurement system, and deal only with qualified contractors.
    • Details of the Road Project should be displayed in the project site, with the information on the Fine to Contractor when the project is not delivered on time, or if the road found to be defective and sub-standard.
  • Streets are not parking spaces nor a shopping area. Keep the roads clear of parked vehicles and vendors. Require all mayors to implement this – political will is the key. Hold city and municipal mayor accountable for any violations. There’s freedom in democracy, but there’s chaos when abused. Bayani Fernando effectively implemented this in Marikina, there’s no reason why it cannot be implemented in other cities.

Long term solutions:

  • Implement a Metro Manila-wide, integrated Computerized Traffic System. This might cost a lot, but its better than motorbikes and jackets and pink fences.
  • Government to take-over bus/transport operations on major streets. This is quiet radical, but look at Singapore, Hongkong, Malaysia and other countries. Traffic and expensive fares are an obstacle to business and progress.
  • Construct government-run bus terminals for both Southern and Northern Luzon provincial buses and keep these buses from passing by EDSA. This means that the government has to improve access to these bus terminals for commuters’ easy transfer.

These are my humble thoughts, care to comment or make your own suggestions.