Metro Manila traffic slows to a crawl as road projects begin

Traffic builds up on a major road in Manila as residents got the first taste of the traffic nightmare caused by the simultaneous construction of various infrastructure projects in the metropolis.  AFP PHOTO

Traffic builds up on a major road in Manila as residents got the first taste of the traffic nightmare caused by the simultaneous construction of various infrastructure projects in the metropolis.

Metro Manila residents on Monday got their first taste of a traffic nightmare that is likely to worsen and drag on for four years, city officials warned.

Several lanes of Metropolitan Manila’s main highways were closed starting last night as part of a series of road construction and upgrading projects for the city of about 12 million.

“We are informing the general public to brace for the traffic situation which we will be encountering for the next four years,” Francisco Manalo, executive director of the traffic office of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said as angry commuters took to social media to vent their frustrations.

Manalo warned that once construction began, vehicles on the city’s main roads would literally be reduced to crawling speed of one to nine kilometers an hour, compared to the already slow normal 20 kilometers per hour.

Motorists and commuters fearful of getting stuck on the
roads left home earlier than usual Monday.

But with so many vehicles on the road as the day began, traffic in and around Manila was snarled for hours on Monday morning.

“Traffic armageddon begins in Manila!!” tweeted San Crisselle Tiu, while Chay1007 said she had to bring “extra [supply]of patience.”

Once actual construction begins, it could take a vehicle at least two hours to travel the 19-kilometre stretch down the city’s main thoroughfare, warned Vicente Lizada, spokesman for the MMDA’s traffic monitoring office.

The authority has asked contractors to provide staff to help direct traffic.

Manalo said they are also looking at alternatives such as using the Pasig River for commuter traffic even though the last river ferry closed down in 2011 due to low income.

The MMDA said the traffic jams will prod more commuters to travel by rail.

MMDA Traffic Engineering Center (TEC) Director Neomi Recio however fears that the Light Railway System (LRT) and the Metro Railway System (MRT) may be unable to cope with the influx of passengers.

“Definitely, more commuters will now use the MRT and LRT. Our only problem is that the capacity of the existing coaches might not able to cope with the influx of additional passengers,” she said.

Because of this, the MMDA urged the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to increase the number of coaches and if possible, extend the operating hours of the railway systems.

Four-day workweek
The looming traffic scenario also prompted labor organizations to back the proposed four-day workweek and the imposition of a flexible work time.

Renato Magtubo, chairman of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said his group supports the implementation of any “flexible work arrangements” provided that the welfare of workers will not suffer in the long run.

“We support flexible arrangements given the realties brought about by government infrastructure programs that in the long term will benefit the public,” Magtubo said.

However, he noted that workers should first be consulted.
“Labor standards should not be violated, and ample support should be provided by the employers to the additional burden or risks that the employees may endure in complying with flexible work arrangements,” he added.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of the Alliance of Progressive Labor said any changes should not undermine workers’ rights and welfare.

He said a four-day-work week and other similar schemes “must not lead to lower pay.”

A federation of private schools on Monday also suggested that schools come out with short and long range programs to deal with the traffic problems.

Eleazardo Kasilag, president of the Federation of Associations of Private Schools and Administrators, said public and private schools should implement car pooling system.

“It should include the students and the teachers as well as the school administrators. The schools need only to issue a memorandum to implement this,” Kasilag said.

The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education are studying the proposal to implement a similar four-day school week.


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  1. Common sense and plenty of studies show that predicting and providing for cars creates insufferable pollution, noise, danger and misery for city dwellers without solving any of the problems it sets out to, indeed it makes them worse, a destructive circle of increasing car dependence, resource depletion, environmental and social carnage and dying cities.

    Cars and their infrastructure are the greatest threat to the liveability of our cities, causing the exodus of creative people with the intellectual and financial resources to escape. Progressive cities are now getting the message that building roads to accommodate car travel demand leads to more problems and is poor value for money, but restricting car access whilst organising excellent mass transit schemes and creating the conditions that encourage walking and cycling through intelligent polycentric urban planning has massive positive effects all round and no disbenefits.

    What kind of city do you want to live in? One that is dominated and congested by cars, that is unattractive and in appealing, polluted and dirty where the centre is hollowed out by competition from out of centre car-oriented development with no soul or character? Where the poor are even more marginalised with no hope of achieving social progress? Or one that is accessible by an excellent choice of modes of transport, that you can walk around safely, which has trees and great city squares and parks and development that responds to well established principles of good urban design and place making? Cities that have taken the initiative and achieved the latter are reliably the world’ s most liveable habitats for people. They are vibrant, fun, colourful and creative. They are also economically and socially successful.

    Manila should not follow its current tragic route which will commit its citizens to a concrete, car infested hell on Earth. It should, and can, instead become one of the world’s most celebrated liveable cities as it deserves to be. Los Angeles is hardly a paragon of best practice, but even here there is finally a realisation that a transit system is needed. Meanwhile those cities that have invested extensively in cycling networks and pedestrian precincts feature at the top of the list of the world’s most liveable cities with the happiest and most content populations.

    It will take a courageous and imaginative leader to deliver the right vision. Who is up for the challenge and able to deliver?

  2. We all have to pitch in and cooperate and help ease the traffic problem by minimizing our trips. Local city officials should come out with alternative routes to open secondary roads with proper signs as to guide motorist on what detour to take as an alternative route. Public trains & other mass transport system should be maximized and given priority to encourage others to follow.

  3. Biggest road users of today are private car owners. So why not encourage them to patronize MRT/LRT rides instead. This can be done if the government would undertake A thorough overhauling of the system by providing an efficient MRT/LRT riding service, ample coaches more than enough to accommodate extra horde of passengers in case the government implemented car-less days using mass transport travel. Why in hurry. Postpone the construction first until the government can provide an acceptable detour provision before blocking the main road.