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Can DOTr solve the traffic mess?

Manila Standard

If Metro Manila has the worst traffic in the world, what is the government going to do about it?

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) sees this dubious distinction of the National Capital Region as a daunting challenge for the agency to solve.

According to Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista on Friday, his department will look for “creative and lasting solutions” to the horrible traffic congestion in city streets.

That’s a tacit admission that previous “solutions” to the traffic mess in the nation’s capital were neither creative nor lasting, but perhaps even contributed to the monstrous build-up that we’re seeing now especially during the morning and late afternoon/early evening rush hours.

According to the traffic index of TomTom International BV, a location technology company, Metro Manila topped 387 cities worldwide for traffic congestion, with the average travel time for 10 kilometers taking 25 minutes and 30 seconds in 2023, compared to 24 minutes and 50 seconds in 2022. The metro area has a congestion level of 52 percent.

In addition, motorists lose 117 hours per year at rush hours as they travel at an average speed of 19 kilometers per hour.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Romando Artes has been candid enough to admit that “traffic is congested in Metro Manila, and we know it.”

He believes the sheer volume of vehicles is the “number one problem” behind the decades-old traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

Various traffic management schemes, such as the “odd-even” rule where vehicles with specific license plates are banned from city streets once a week during weekdays, have failed to solve the traffic problem.

The “odd-even” scheme was designed to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 25 percent but the affluent simply acquired more vehicles so they could get around the traffic scheme.

Another traffic management experiment designed to make traffic flow more smoothly, the No-Contact Apprehension Policy, has been ordered suspended by the Supreme Court based on complaints that it imposes hefty fines even for minor traffic violations without due process of law.

The cause of monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila is not the big number of vehicles running in city streets, but the lack of adequate mass public transport, such as light rail networks, that should have been planned long ago and built to reach the far corners of the metro area.

As things now stand, city residents would rather drive their own cars to work rather than endure crowded buses, trains and jeepneys, or else rely on motorcycles whose numbers have likewise grown in number in recent years, further clogging our already overburdened road network.

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