Metro traffic costs P140B a year, dwarfs corruption losses

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The Red Advocates, a newly-formed multisectoral group of concerned citizens advocating “Respect Equals Discipline” on Philippine roads said the country loses a whopping P140 billion annually due to traffic in Metro Manila alone, a figure that dwarfs the amounts lost via the controversial pork barrel scam.

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“We share the country’s concern with the rampant misuse of public funds and understand why corruption is at center stage these days,” said Brian Galagnara, president of The Red Advocates.

“But after seeing the success of concerned citizens and collective action in the abolition of the pork barrel, we feel it is time to mobilize efforts to address a problem that has an even greater negative economic impact than corruption: traffic.”

Galagnara said the two separate studies quantified the financial impact of traffic in Metro Manila: a 1999 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and a 2011 study by the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies (UP NCTS).

“The findings of these studies are essentially the same. They peg the losses due to traffic at approximately P140 billion,” lamented Galagnara.

“Direct losses are attributed to wasted gasoline, lost labor hours, employment of traffic aides and wasted electricity; the indirect losses refer to withdrawal of potential foreign investments, missed business opportunities and reduced capital inflow,” he explained.

“These are losses that should immediately be addressed,” Galagnara stressed, “because traffic is getting worse by the day due to our inaction.”

Galagnara said that his group would “go beyond finger-pointing and focus on doable solutions that would involve the participation of all the stakeholders affected by traffic: everyone.”

“Like corruption, traffic is something that affects us all, rich or poor. Even the powerful are powerless when our roads are clogged,” said Galagnara.

“One of the immediate and most practicable solutions is to start with one of the variables that amplifies the problems that lead to traffic. We know that we have too many cars and not enough roads, but what makes thing worse is our lack of discipline on the roads, a lack of respect for each other” Galagnara pointed out.

And to top it all, it is obvious that the traffic enforcers have no proper training in the science of traffic management. There is also a need to instill the discipline through effective traffic law enforcement.

“It is important for traffic enforcers to understand the driver mentality and behavior. Filipinos follow rules when enforced fairly and correctly like in Subic and when driving abroad,” the group had stressed.

“This is the reason why we organized an advocacy group called The Red Advocates. R, E, D, or RED, means Respect Equals Discipline,” he added.

In one study, Galagnara said, the top four congestion-causing behaviors that exacerbate traffic are: (1) public utility vehicle behavior; (2) turn-lane behavior; (3) intersection behavior; and (4) pedestrian behavior.

In another study, the top five traffic violations by Filipino motorists are: (1) beating the red light; (2) violation of no u-turn rules; (3) violation of no loading and unloading rules; (4) speeding; and (5) violation of one-way rules.

“Our belief is that a significant step towards solving the traffic problem begins with each one of us. Our call to action, then, is to foster discipline by emphasizing respect for others, so we want to tell everyone “Huwag kang Baboy!” Galagnara emphasized.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, in an interview, said that “It’s a no-brainer that we have to boost infrastructure. We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure. The government intends to invest in more roads, bridges, railways, airports and seaports during the remainder of President Benigno Aquino III’s term.”

For his part, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that, “We are accelerating our infrastructure spending and adjusting procedures to ensure the timely implementation of infrastructure projects and to improve the absorptive capacity of government agencies.”

According to The Red Advocates, building additional infrastructure is a good start but the solution must not end there. The group emphasized that the people are indispensable components of the solution — the traffic enforcers, on the one hand, and the drivers and commuters, on the other hand. PNA

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