• Terrific ordeal with traffic

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    HOW many hours on average do you waste daily stuck in traffic? How will that translate to lost man-hours in a month, or in a year?

    Monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila’s main roads are daily ordeals that seems to be getting worse with no solution is in sight.

    A study by the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) that came out in 2011 estimated that the Philippines lost P1.5 trillion to traffic congestion from 2000 to 2011.

    The study computed the fuel costs and potential man-hour lost while people were stuck in traffic. It estimated that the possible additional costs from fuel add up to P4.2 billion a year, plus the time wasted while stuck in traffic jams which could have been spent for production, trade and business, was computed at P137.5 billion.

    The figure is too big to imagine how that translates into individual man-hour lost. But its impact on the economy must be significant.

    For me, commuting to work in Intramuros, Manila takes me an average two hours from my home in Quezon City. Going back home takes three hours during rush hours, or even four during the rainy months. That’s too much precious time wasted. I feel so tired and sleepy when I reach the office, and more tired and sleepy when I get back home that I could no longer do much household chores.

    Four to five hours wasted on the road each day that I go to work sap my energy. While on the road, I could not do much because reading gets me nauseated, sending and answering e-mails can only get you more stressed over the almost non-existent 3G cellphone plan that you pay with an equivalent of a week’s grocery budget. And by using the phone while in a public transport, you run the risk of being robbed of a previous investment.

    Mondays and Fridays are the worst days to travel in Metro Manila, particularly when a Friday falls on payday. Sundays are least congested, or during holidays.

    The stretch of Quezon Boulevard from Morayta to Quiapo Bridge has always been a choke point because traffic rules don’t seem to exist there. One to three of the lanes of the road are occupied either by hawkers or parked vehicles. Traffic aides allow loading and unloading just anywhere. Sometimes, they don’t allow loading and unloading near the church but they stand in the middle of the road, thereby contributing to the congestion. Or, passenger jeepneys and AUVs load and unload just a few feet from them, clogging that part of the road.

    For weeks now, I am forced to take a walk from Intramuros to Lawton to go home to avoid the congestion on Bonifacio Drive all the way to T.M Kalaw because of the volume of cargo trucks coming from the Manila port.

    A big fire early this month in Parola compound, Tondo, Manila rendered the narrow road to the Manila International Container Port (MICT) impassable for two to three days, practically stranding hundreds of container vans going in and out of the cargo terminal.

    When the only access road had reopened, the stranded cargoes clogged the roads that the trucks are allowed to use in Manila.

    I had a chance to tour the part of the port managed by the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) just a couple of days after the Parola fire, and the situation I saw was quite depressing.

    Christian R. Gonzalez, vice president for operations of MICT and head of Asia Pacific Region of ICTSI, showed me the impressive state-of-the art technology in port operations.

    The young and articulate mestizo executive takes pride in having acquired the best hardware and software available in the market and having developed its own programs for efficient operations.

    But no matter how efficient the port systems are, its capacity and services are limited because of poor access roads and far-from-desirable bureaucratic processes.

    While cargo trucks are banned on Edsa (Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue), negotiating this main artery is also a nightmare, especially during the rush hours. Rush hours are from 6 am to 9 am, and 4 am to 8 pm. The C-5 is an alternate route but it is as clogged as Edsa.

    Many road widening projects only serve as extended parking lots for roadside businesses and residential houses, or are occupied by vendors.

    Also, there are more cars on the road now, and new road constructions are too few to handle the additional volume.

    According to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc.. (Campi) its sales combined with those of the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) rose by 22.6 percent to 20,663 units last month (February 2015) from 16,859 in February last year.

    Isn’t it obvious that the existing roads are no longer capable of handling increasing traffic flows at the rate that is demanded.

    The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Deportment of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have experimented various schemes to ease traffic in Metro Manila, but to no avail. Why? The enforcement of traffic rules is weak, and traffic enforcers can be easily corrupted.

    Undisciplined motorists and pedestrians also worsen traffic congestion. Commuters who refuse to get on and off in designated stops are also part of the problem.

    Poor urban planning, unreliable public transport facilities and inefficient traffic system make the problem all the worse.

    In this lifetime, I wish to experience an efficient public transportation network with fast rail transport, taxis and buses that I get to experience only in other countries, well, except in Thailand and Indonesia where traffic jam is the same, if not worse, than in Metro Manila.

    How can Metro Manila’s perennial traffic congestion be solved, or eased, at least? Can a superhero help?

    I believe that each one of us has a role in it, as a motorist, a pedestrian, or public transport commuter. Let us observe traffic rules, respect the authorities by not offering them bribes, shaking or scratching our heads when apprehended for traffic violations, not parking on the road, crossing in pedestrian lanes, using the foot bridges properly, etcetera.

    Discipline will go a long way indeed!

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    2 Comments

    1. I do not pretend to be good at words but I think “Terrific” is not the word that best describes our monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila. While terrific could mean tremendous or big, Merriam Webster dictionary defines it too as splendid, extremely good, causing a feeling of surprise or wonder. Probably, the better adjective to describe Metro Manila traffic is horrible, horrific, horrendous or awful.

      I hate the traffic gridlock in Metro Manila and the pollution that it brings. Every time I get out of NAIA, I know, even without opening my eyes that I am in Metro Manila because of the strong diesel odor in the air. Air pollution is just the beginning of the cross that a traveler in the Philippines has to bear; what takes 30 to 45 minutes to travel in better- planned cities, it takes twice or three times as much time to negotiate in this chaotic metropolis. This horrible, polluted traffic gridlock in Metro Manila is one of the reasons why many tourists bypass our beautiful country. While Malaysia gets 25 million tourists yearly, the Philippines, despite its catchy slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” gets only a paltry 4 million tourists – many of whom are Balikbayans, a year.

      Is there hope for improvement in our seemingly hopeless traffic jams? Yes, provided the inept, clueless people who are managing our traffic are kicked out and replaced with ones who know how to solve traffic jams. And how do we solve this problem? Simple. Copy the traffic management strategy of Singapore.

    2. If the government made public transport their priority that would be a great start. In the uk we have bus lanes & if cars use them they get fines & points on their licences. Buses have timetables & they carry the equivilant of 20 cars per bus, ( or there abouts ). Give them special lanes so they keep moving. The car drivers will see this & thousands more will start using busses & thus the roads will be less congested & so the traffic moves easier.
      Then bring in a driving test, just copy the british driving test, its designed to make sure a driver understands driving in all aspects. Then bring in proper enforcement of traffic violations, that will not only add revenue to the government but make people drive in accordance with the rules thus making traffic move smoother.
      Try that for starters.