In commentaries on and analyses of the horrendous traffic gripping Metro Manila, the government can find not just a few short-term solutions to ease the problem. True, the remedy is the development of an efficient mass transportation system, specifically a network of elevated and street-level railways like the MRT and LRT lines. But while the government and the private sector work on this long-term solution, a lot can be done today to address the traffic woes. And a lot of the short-term remedies have to do with driver discipline, starting with staying in the right lane and following the “yellow box” scheme.
Often one will see cars swerving or crossing many lanes because they had to go up a flyover or down a tunnel, in the process slowing the flow of traffic. On the other hand, that big yellow-painted box covering an entire intersection with a huge “X” inside is the most effective way to keep vehicles flowing, especially in the crisscrossing streets of the central business districts in Makati, Ortigas and BGC. The concept is for a driver to stay clear of the yellow box. In short, his or her vehicle should not be inside that box when the traffic light turns red.
While drivers are being made familiar with the yellow-box concept, there is a need to redeploy traffic enforcers. In some stretches like Chino Roces Avenue in Makati, every intersection is manned by an enforcer or two during rush hours. But the problem in other areas is that not all intersections are manned, resulting in a gridlock in those unmanned intersections because drivers simply ignore the yellow box. Definitely, not all traffic enforcers are deployed efficiently. Big groups of them sometimes stay in a single area like Megamall in Mandaluyong, yet no one is visible at the other side of the Edsa-Shaw tunnel where unruly bus drivers occupy lanes outside their designated lanes, in the process blocking the flow of traffic.
The network of side streets is a viable alternative to major thoroughfares like Edsa, Quezon Avenue and C5, but take the traffic navigation app Waze from Quezon City to Makati and it will take you through the side streets of five cities, with nearly all of them made narrower by illegally parked vehicles.
Other short-term solutions involve the reduction of vehicles on the roads at peak hours of the day. The bulk of working people hit the road to be in their offices at 8 or 9 a.m.—thus the horrible traffic from as early as 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. The same is true in the afternoon, when the bulk of those workers knock off from work at 5 or 6 p.m., causing traffic bottlenecks sometimes up to 9 p.m. There should be an effort to shorten the workweek for some companies, or even government offices, and extend the working hours to 10 hours a day to compensate for the lost one workday. Or office hours can be staggered: Some companies can start at 10-11 a.m. and let employees leave at 7-8 p.m. Again, incentives to companies adopting these schemes will be a nice come-on.
Better yet, some companies should promote working at home or in places near their workers’ residences. Many employees need not be in the office every single day of the week, and many types of work can be done at home, especially in this digital age. The government can also think of providing incentives to companies that have a well-developed system for their employees to work outside the office, preferably in their homes.
Carpooling is yet another short-term solution. The government can dedicate one lane on Edsa—similar to what was done during the Apec meetings here last year—for vehicles with three or more passengers.
Our traffic situation has gone from bad to worse and has become notorious globally. Last year, Waze did a survey on the driving experience of 50 million users in 32 countries, and came up with the world’s first “Driver Satisfaction Index.” The results: The Philippines was the world’s third-worst place to drive in, and Metro Manila had the worst traffic and the longest commute time. This year, the Philippines is the second-worst place to drive in after El Salvador, and Cebu City is ranked lowest among 186 cities included in the survey. Interestingly, Metro Manila moved up from last spot in 2015 to 147th.
There are doable suggestions to immediately alleviate the traffic nightmare in the metropolis, and hopefully improve our rankings in the next survey.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.