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Will we ever solve the traffic crisis in Metro Manila?

Will we ever solve the traffic crisis in Metro Manila?

Botchi Santos

Every year, more and more cars are added to the country. In the last four years, cars sales were at 223,793 units in 2020, another 258,468 in 2021, then 352,596 in 2022 and a whopping 441,408 in 2023.

That’s a total of 1,276,265 new cars in the last four years. For this year, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI) says 500,000 vehicles being sold in 2024 is a possibility, a target previously set in 2017.

Metro Manila accounted for 40% of all new cars sold, Region 3 had 11% and Region 4 contributing 17% to that according to industry data. That’s 68% in the last four years, or roughly 867,860 additional cars that pass through Metro Manila and its already densely packed thoroughfares at on a regular basis.

Even if government and private sector continue to improve and build infrastructure, the constant vehicular increase will only lead to more traffic.

We welcome of course any and all infra developments. But these will only alleviate the traffic situation by so much. As cars increase, road space is unable to keep up.

There are more concrete steps of course to improve the traffic: mass transportation is key. Improve it to a safe, consistent and reliable level and people will but forgo their private vehicles and ride the mass transport system, particularly the trains.

Next is improving existing infra: Repair damaged roadways, remove all illegally parked vehicles, evict all squatters occupying public road spaces (these include food stalls and market stalls etc.) and forbid turning public roads into basketball courts, places for funerals, and other social activities especially during the work week.

Third would be the government encouraging work from home where possible: Government should incentivize work-from-home to encourage private enterprise to shift their work arrangements. Flexible working arrangements or results-based working arrangements are also an option for employers.

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Remote learning or home-schooling should also be incentivized and developed to help give students more time to do what’s important: Learn, be productive, experience the world, or play and rest. Not wake up early and slog through traffic.

Lastly would be decentralization. There has been an over-development of Metro Manila, leaving behind many key cities, such as: Cebu, Davao, Gen-San, Roxas, Iloilo and even Angeles City as they work doubly hard to catch up to Metro Manila. These cities (and many more) possess the potential to be a real economic powerhouses for BPO, manufacturing, agriculture and more, if there were adequate infrastructure and incentive from government to support their local economies and contribute to the nation. It’s time government focused on these cities.

As individuals, what can WE do here and now? The real cause of traffic is our abhorrent, callous and inconsiderate driving habits. When we fail to put load on our RFID accounts and cause traffic at the toll, when we fail to observe the speed limit and go below the minimum required speed, when we fail to observe proper lane keeping and lane discipline, when we inconsiderately straddle two lanes, when we cut in line instead of lining up behind other vehicles turning-in, when we double park and block a lane or slow down the flow of traffic, when we swap out license plates on color coded vehicles to avoid staying home, adding to the gridlock that number coding was supposed to alleviate, when we counterflow, when we wait at the curbside pick-up longer despite the queue of cars behind, when we block the yellow-box zone in an intersection. I can keep going on. Ultimately, a significant part of the blame goes to us, the motorists, for the traffic we have unknowingly and unconsciously created.

We should all be in this together. Let’s all do our part, be more considerate and conscientious, plan our trips well in advance, and in the case of our tollways, make sure we have RFID tags and sufficient load in our accounts. In 2014, the Philippine economy was losing P2.4 billion a day due to traffic inefficiencies according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). By 2017, our government said we were losing P3.5 billion daily. This can rise to P5.4 billion daily by 2035, if we don’t do anything.