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Out of frustration, I’ve been reading up on the traffic news in Metro Manila and it’s pretty clear that it’s getting worse. To date, there are no signs of improving. Sure, there are government efforts to improve it but it has yet to be seen.

While I believe that this could be fatal, on a personal level, I find it frustrating. Really, really frustrating. What used to be a easy smooth ride to get to some parts of Metro Manila; nowadays, it becomes an hour and a half on the average.

I’m still fortunate though I live in the part of Metro Manila, where I’m close to everything (center of Metro Manila). If you are from the Philippines, if you live in the North or South, to go to work, you would need to leave at least 2 hours to get to your destination to be on time and the most common destination from residents from the North and South of Luzon is Makati, Ortigas or BGC where most offices are located. These are the common business districts in Metro Manila with BGC the newest one.

Some striking facts that caught my attention related to traffic news are somewhat like these: 1. Last 2012, we are losing like P2.4B a day? Imagine the lost manhours/time, gas, not to mention opportunities and lives, yes, it is fatal (if you have to bring someone to the emergency room and you cannot rush it because the road is blocked due to traffic); 2. Maximum capacity of Edsa, one of the main thoroughfares in Metro Manila, has been filled up to capacity (160,000 cars a day); 3. Last but not the least, the Philippines now ranks of having the 5th worst traffic in the world. This makes you think, if the government want foreign investors to come to the Philippines and put up their business here, they should prioritize in solving this traffic mess in the short term, medium term and long term.

manilatrafficTo my mind, every year, 1. The population is increasing in our country. We are already a nation of 100 million Filipinos and counting; 2. Car sales are increasing every year.

Here lies the problem: Roads do not increase every year.

Forgive me but out of my frustration, I thought of a wish list on how to cure the traffic woes in Metro Manila:

SHORT TERM (within 6 months)

  1. Expedite road repairs, completion of bridges, construction of LRTs/MRTs and make them operational 24/7. This is one of the main causes why there is a traffic mess in our country. The government should prioritize its completion thus improving traffic flow.
  2. Improve visibility of the police and traffic enforcers by hiring more policemen traffic enforcers to enforce traffic laws and help in the alleviation of the worsening traffic condition. A lot of bottlenecks are caused by undisciplined and unruly driving, violation of traffic rules, causing minor and major accidents. One parked car on a busy main road can significantly alter the flow of traffic. Fine people who jaywalk, litter on the streets. Disallow beggars on the streets. Remove vendors along the roads, even sidewalks. They are just an obstruction. Arrest juvenile delinquents who throw stones and rocks at passing cars. Impound colorum buses. They should be penalized or even jailed to teach them a lesson. Hire quality traffic enforcers, train them well and equip them and give them a good pay so they can live up to the public’s expectation.

MEDIUM TERM (1 to 2 years)

  1. Modernize PNR (Phil. National Railways). When I was working with Ayala Land back in the 90s, there was already a plan to revive the PNR. It’s already 2015 and it’s still a plan. It may have been operational already but if you will look at the state of our railroad cars, they look shabby and not fit for a convenient ride. What’s causing the delay? The next government should have a strong political will to partner with private businesses to get this done.
  2. Add more train cars for MRT and LRT. Our country needs an efficient mass public transport system and one way to achieve this is to add more train cars so that waiting time is only 5 minutes. This would also decongest the train rides as it would afford commuters to wait for the next train instead of forcing themselves in so they won’t have to wait for another 15 to 20 minutes for the next ride. My wife told me that foreigners in Hong Kong and Singapore commutes daily. They don’t drive cars. Riding the public transport system is more convenient and affordable. This should also happen in the Philippines in the medium term. Make foreigners secure in commuting in the Philippines by riding our mass public transport system. Peace and security should be enforced at all cost to protect our tourism industry.
  3. I.T. companies should develop a killer app that tells you if an area or a building has no more parking space available. Let’s face it. Parking is a problem in Metro Manila. And from experience, I’ve wasted countless time and gas just to figure out where to park. If you already know that there is no parking space available to your destination, you can leave your car and opt to walk if it’s walking distance or just take UBER or a taxi to get to your intended place. This will eliminate the need to drive your car in vain and the less car on the road, you are indirectly helping improve the traffic condition in Metro Manila.
  4. Buses should only use one lane and waiting time limit should be 10 to 15 seconds. The rest of the lane should be devoted to private cars. There are many erring drivers on the road and a lot of accidents happen because of speeding buses by trying to overtake other cars. If they will be limited to one lane, less accidents would occur, more discipline would be enforced and traffic will greatly improve.

LONG TERM (3 years up)

This would require a strong collective political will from both government and private institutions to effect a law to execute the following:

  1. Metro Manila should be decongested. People from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao migrate to Metro Manila in the hope of studying in good schools and finding work and achieving greener pastures. The net consequence is that Metro Manila is already overcrowded.  I strongly believe that the government should discourage this migration and encourage setting up schools and businesses in the respective provinces. For example, you have Cebu and Davao, 2 major cities that have great potential to be an economic magnet in the near future. The government should give tax incentives or breaks to schools and private companies who would set up businesses in provinces. Real Estate developers have a principal responsibility in leading this charge.
  2. There should be a limit on residential condominiums in every city. The density of every city should be controlled. There should be a limit of residential condominium buildings on every city. This would create a good balance in road use, power and water consumption, and control the flow of traffic.
  3. Companies should hire from the same locality. If a company is located in one city, they should encourage hiring people, management and workers alike, who live in the same city and adjacent cities where the company is located. This eliminates the most abused excuse of using location as the cause of being always late. If a company has a branch in other cities like Quezon City, then this company should hire from Quezon City and adjacent cities only.
  4. Government should operate 24/7. This should increase employment by hiring 2 batches of employees to serve on the night shift and the ungodly shift. The government’s duty is to serve the public and since BPO’s common operational time is either night shift leading to the wee hours of the morning, government LGUs should be available at all times. This way, there’s no need for regular employees to take a leave just to go to the city hall or other government agencies. The government has the money. A lot of it go to corruption. This is a deterrent to the corrupt practices of some of our public officials and workers. The same with government service. Government employees should train the public in the use of their online system so that application for government documents and IDs like passport, NSOs, NBIs and the like can be done online thereby mitigating the need to go their respective agency offices.

The present government needs to do some damage control at this point if they want to win the majority of the electorate in next year’s 2016 presidential elections. I’m sure, some of the above have been already been brought forth to them or even suggested to social media or to traditional media (I am not trying to be original here but maybe this can add to pressure the authorities to do something about it. Believe me, if I am frustrated, I’m sure a lot more who lives farther are not only frustrated but mad!). The key is execution.

We all need to help each other improve the daily living conditions in our country and if you can contribute, do your part to make our country a better place to live in.

I am not an economist, an urban planner or even a traffic czar. I am just an ordinary citizen venting out my frustration on the current traffic situation in Metro Manila. If some of my suggestions are not workable, what the heck. I just hope the government will not delay and do something “radical” to improve the traffic condition within the next 6 to 12 months. Thanks for taking the time to read.

image credits: manilatimes.net

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