Traffic czar proposal may work

Traffic czar proposal may work

/ 04:35 AM March 25, 2024

The suggestion to declare a “state of calamity” in Metro Manila due to the horrible traffic problem and appointing a traffic czar is something worth seriously considering. The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is cool to the idea, arguing that it continues to address the issue.

However, the traffic congestion simply gets worse each day, and blaming it on the ongoing construction of flagship projects such as the subway, road repair and diggings, and the sheer volume of vehicles is simply finding someone else to take responsibility. Immediate solutions—not the long-term proposals that have been on the table for decades—are what commuters need now that the MMDA does not seem to have.

The transport mess has worsened to the point that Metro Manila has topped a recent study listing the worst traffic among 387 highly urbanized areas around the world. The cost to the economy of the worsening traffic congestion has been estimated at P3.5 billion a day in lost productivity hours, which the business group Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) argues is enough reason to declare a “state of calamity” in Metro Manila due to the traffic conundrum. This will have the effect of allowing the President to implement “emergency state relief measures” to address the crisis.


Four zones

Many will agree that the problem has grown to a point that needs the President’s attention. Among MAP’s proposals, worth looking into immediately is the appointment of a traffic czar and organizing the region into four zones that will each be headed by a traffic manager. MMDA general manager Procopio Lipana says there is no need to appoint one because transport agencies continuously conduct studies to alleviate the traffic congestion in the metropolis. However, studies will not ease the flow of traffic and the MMDA has to accept the fact that the status quo is not working.


It is true that the MMDA and other transport agencies know exactly the causes, but what is puzzling is why their proposed solutions to address these do not work. This brings us to the root cause of this crisis: the lack of a comprehensive government approach to address it. Consider the MMDA’s expanded number coding scheme aimed at reducing the volume of vehicles plying Metro Manila’s busy thoroughfares. Some cities exempt some of their areas from it, while others do not follow the so-called “window hours” that allow prohibited vehicles on the road. An official empowered by the President himself will force mayors and other transport agencies to follow the solutions crafted by the four traffic managers.

Edsa busway

The MAP has forwarded specific proposals that the zone managers can immediately implement without the need for time-consuming construction work. These include clearing all roads by disallowing parking during designated peak traffic hours and towing and impounding vehicles, revising the direction of traffic flows along Metro Manila streets to minimize traffic conflicts at intersections by limiting left turns and crossings, creating a quick reaction force to clear choke points; requiring high-passenger occupancy vehicle practices in high-density zones such as schools; strictly enforcing the no-parking, no loading/unloading rule along major routes, among others.

MAP is the same group that vigorously pushed the Edsa busway, which has been proven to be the most cost-effective urban mass transit system. The management group cites as proof the one-day peak ridership of 454,000 passengers on Dec. 27, 2022, using only 550 buses deployed. In contrast, the defunct yellow bus lanes had more than 3,000 public buses that only trapped commuters in standstill traffic. MAP is suggesting to replicate this busway system to other major thoroughfares suffering from traffic congestion, among them Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Sucat Avenue, and Alabang Zapote Road.

All-in-one manager

It is time to centralize the management of vehicular flow in the metropolis under a high-ranking traffic czar with the power and authority to compel the various transport agencies to implement measures needed to get vehicles moving again on Metro Manila’s roads. Former transportation undersecretary Thomas Orbos wrote in an opinion piece that a traffic czar to be appointed by the President himself will give that person the power to loop in all the related agencies into a singular solution to the traffic crisis. The traffic czar, Orbos said, must be an all-in-one “manager, coordinator, enforcer, communicator, innovator, politician” knowledgeable in “traffic engineering, transport laws, urban planning, logistics and supply chain management.” Finding one will definitely be a daunting task, but naming a traffic czar now may be the best shot at finding workable and immediate solutions to Metro Manila commuters’ woes. The current system of using moral suasion and hoping other agencies and local governments will cooperate simply does not work.

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TAGS: Editorial, opinion, traffic

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