THERE is no silver bullet to solve Metro Manila’s traffic mess. We have to swallow bitter pills, if we push for immediate action measures. Traffic congestion is a physical effect and a confluence of many factors. It is not a simple mass-transit or road maintenance issue; it is a problem of holistic city planning.
As a senior planner and team leader for the Metro Manila Transport and Development Plan (MMETROPLAN), a joint project of the Philippine Government and Freeman Fox and Associates of the United Kingdom (1975-1977), we identified that a “do nothing scenario” would be catastrophic. Unfortunately, it is happening today—catastrophic flooding, traffic, transport, and obsolete infrastructure, among others problems. Even more worrisome is that cities of the other regions could be copying the mistakes of Metro Manila.
Many of the measures to address transport, traffic, and land-use issues of today were already identified in the MMETROPLAN:
Congestion charging during peak hours may be done starting with tollways and other highways entering Metro Manila. Peak-hour rates could be double the price. On the other hand, exiting Metro Manila should be discounted or even free of charge. Congestion charging on urban roads and streets during peak hours can also be done. This will encourage people to leave their private vehicles behind, when walking, biking, or taking mass or public transport are the more convenient and practical options.
Open up the gated communities and gated military camps parallel to EDSA to alleviate traffic. Some private roads have already been opened to the public, including Orbit Street in Bel-Air Village 2, F. Zobel Street in San Miguel Village, and Wilson Street in Greenhills. Rockwell Drive and other roads in Rockwell Center are open to the public to alleviate traffic on the stretch of EDSA, between Estrella St. and Sen. Gil Puyat Ave.
These gated communities and gated military camps may opt to increase the price of car stickers that will enable private vehicles to pass through their gates. Revenue from the car stickers can subsidize the installation of CCTV cameras, which will address security concerns. Road resurfacing and maintenance can also be done.
Increase parking charges during peak hours.
A road network is like a chain. It is only as strong as the weakest links, like intersections and ramps entering and exiting elevated skyways. Cars should not be stopping or parking within or near intersections.
Sidewalks and pedestrian pathways are for people. Penalize parking on sidewalks and remove other obstructions. Sidewalks should also be PWD-friendly, with ramps for wheelchairs and tactile paving surfaces for warning or directional purposes.
Synchronize traffic signals. In heavily pedestrian areas, pedestrian green light should be the priority. For example, pedestrian green light in Shibuya is 60 seconds for every 60 seconds of green light for cars.
Improvement of geometric design of intersections.
Improvement of pedestrian facilities. Previously, I proposed to have an elevated walkway the whole length of EDSA. I observed that it is much faster to walk during peak hours, especially on a payday Friday.
Pedestrian bridges across Pasig River every 800 meters will encourage more walking and biking trips.
Complete the plan for major thoroughfares in 1945, including Circumferential Road – 6 (C-6). In Palafox Associates, we also proposed to add more that will be a total of 10 circumferential roads.
Implement recommendations of MMETROPLAN, including all eight proposed lines of Light Rail Transit. In 1984, we had one of the best LRTs in the world.
Mass transit like bus operations should be clean, safe, convenient, and on-schedule.
Long-term proposals like water transport linking cities and communities along Manila Bay and Laguna Lake should be started.
Look at the demand side of transportation: land use, density, and location. Land use and density attract traffic, transport, and parking. There is a need to create more affordable housing for employees within the cities so that they will not need to commute far distances from where they live to places of work.
All Central Business Districts and major activity areas are access-limited due to gated communities and military camps “strangulating” them.
All planning initiatives from 1905 until today should be revisited and updated.
I hope that the incoming administration will be able to address the bigger issues of city planning and that these initial recommendations will be heeded. I strongly believe that we have the opportunity to be part of the top 20 economies of the world by 2021. As I have shared before, strong political will, visionary leadership, good planning, good design, and good governance are needed to realize plans toward positive change.