A lengthy article “Can a World War II Relic Solve the World’s Worst Traffic Problem?” in a recent issue of Popular Mechanics gave some revealing data.
Here are some of the data:
Seventeen separate cities comprise Metro Manila, which is squeezed between a lake and the sea, funneling nearly all traffic between the suburbs in the north and offices in the south.
Nearly half of Metro Manila’s 24 million plus residents take one of 45,000 jeepneys to work each day, more than double the city’s buses and trains.
But a typical commute involves riding some combination of the three. And “trikes” – motorcycle taxis with improvised sidecars welded on.
The average commute takes 45 minutes each way, stretching to several hours for those unlucky enough to be traveling from the suburbs in the north to the city’s main business districts in the south.
The only speed limits are those imposed by congestion.
Running along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, the 12-lane ring road better known as EDSA, is the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), the busiest of Manila’s three trains with lines that spill out of the stations and down the stairs at rush hour.
The jeepney is the garishly decorated offspring of U.S. Army jeeps abandoned in the Philippines after World War II.
Jeepneys have neither emissions standards nor seatbelts nor retirement ages – the eldest have been running since the 1970s.
They are the most dangerous and decrepit two percent of traffic, and they generate 80 percent of vehicular pollution.
The ageless, endlessly patched jeepney was first hacked together more than 70 years ago and is manufactured nowhere else outside the Philippines.
Cars account for less than one-third of all passengers on Metro Manila’s roads but comprise nearly three-quarters of traffic.
Middle-class Filipinos are fleeing the jeepney by buying air-conditioned cars.
New car sales have nearly doubled in the last three years, resulting in the world’s worst congestion, according to 50 million users of the driving app Waze.
Solving Manila’s gridlock was a recurring theme in the debates leading up to the May 9 presidential election.
Candidates’ plans ranged from building more roads, adding more trains, raising taxes on second and third cars, building a new capital just to ease traffic for government employees.
Lawmakers regularly call for “decongesting the city” which would mean expelling thousands or even millions of residents to the countryside.
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to devolve power to the provinces from “Imperial Manila,” likely fueling such talk.
Ground has been broken for a fourth train running along Commonwealth, the “Avenue of Death,” but it won’t be up and running until 2020 at the earliest.
Manila’s first high-speed bus route was approved in December. Both are too little, too late.
The megacity is already threatening to come apart at the seams.
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