“With schools going back to face-to-face instructions, traffic congestion as we are seeing is worsening going back to pre-pandemic level”
In a recent traffic and transportation congestion study, it came as no shock that Metro Manila was adjudged as the 8th most congested metropolitan area in the world.
The surprise was that there are now seven Metro areas around the world that are more congested than our own NCR.
Considering the land area of the National Capital Region and population density, 8th is not really the worst place to be if this study is accurate.
Perhaps, what this tells us is that there can still be room for improvement. That is if we really put all our best efforts into it.
In that recent study, Istanbul came out the worst with Bogota and Mumbai coming in second and third respectively.
I do not know the methodology used in this study or its accuracy.
This study is saying that 98 hours or about four days are lost to traffic every year in the NCR which to me is too low.
In one day alone, at least a minimum of one hour is lost by motorists due to traffic congestion in the NCR.
And if we multiply that by 280 working days a year, that is about 280 hours lost or about 11 days and not just four days as the study is telling us. Nonetheless, for this article, let us assume that the results of the study are accurate.
I suspect, however, that this new study was affected by the pandemic due to the long lockdowns in major cities around the world.
The NCR, for instance, has had one of the longest lockdowns which unavoidably must have affected whatever congestion study that was made.
This is one reason why it is in 8th place now instead of fourth which was its place in the last available traffic congestion study before the pandemic.
As we have been reading in the past few weeks, the MMDA has been grappling with the problem of traffic congestion.
One of the plans that was supposed to be implemented to reduce traffic congestion, however, was stopped by the Supreme Court thru a Temporary Restraining Order.
The MMDA has not announced whether it would put an interim program in place or whether it would just wait for the five months and hope the Supreme Court would allow NCAP to proceed.
With schools going back to face-to-face instructions, traffic congestion as we are seeing is worsening going back to pre-pandemic level.
Traffic congestion has become a fact of life in the NCR for the past few decades with no significant relief in sight.
As difficult as it is to all, the public has shown remarkable patience which I think is now running thin.
It is, therefore, fair to say that the President who will be able to significantly improve traffic flow and public transportation will earn the undying gratitude of the public and earn a just reward.
To do this, the government should concentrate its attention on public road transportation because that is where the huge part of the problem is.
This means the buses, traditional jeepneys, tricycles, taxis and UV vans. These are basically the vehicles that need rationalization so we can put order in the streets.
As we know, the government relies heavily on private investment to provide public transportation but this is one of the causes of the chaotic traffic in the NCR.
The operations of these vehicles must be more orderly than it currently is.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, the government must start thinking in investing funds to provide public road transportation.
We already have a template for this. In 1980, then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. established the Metro Manila Transit Corporation and reduced bus ownership by forming 10 bus cooperatives with specific assigned routes, thereby eliminating destructive competition that is going on nowadays.
It worked pretty well then because the government had control of public transportation unlike the way it is today.
Unfortunately, this program was eliminated by the new administration after 1986. This is the reason why we now have hundreds of bus companies operating in the NCR.
Another step the MMDA should do which I strongly recommend – while waiting for the five months TRO zone – is for the MMDA Chairman, with a team maybe from DOTr to make arrangements with the Brazilian Embassy, to visit the city of Curitiba in Brazil.
Maybe they can learn something about how public transportation and land use in that city evolved to what it is today.
Curitiba has been touted by Brazil as its show window in transportation management and still attracts officials from cities all over the world grappling on how to improve their own public transportation.
I am sure that the trip will be educational and worthwhile for them.