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WhentheRoadBecomesaParkingLot:AHardLook
atMetroManilasTraffic
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TrustPinoywittocomeupwiththemostappropriatenameforthe
nightmareofbumpertobumpertrafficwithinthemetro:Carmageddon.1
Monsoonrains,roadrepairs,accidents,annualholidays,evenasingle
misbehavingprivateorpublicutilityvehiclecanturnourroadsintoa
virtualparkinglot,whilelinesofpeoplewaitingtocatcharideonthe
MRT3snakedownallthewaytothesidewalks,andcrowdsof
commutersspilloverontothemiddleofthestreet.
ThefinancialcostsoftrafficcongestionarestaggeringP2.4billiontoday,
andlikelytoincreasetoP6billionadayby2030ifthesituationisnot
addressed,accordingtoastudydonebytheJapanInternational
CooperationAgency.2tosaynothingoftheimpactontheenvironment
andgeneralhealthofthepopulace,withDepartmentofEnvironmentand
NaturalResourcesSecretaryRamonPajeobservingthat70to80percent
ofairpollutioninMetroManilaiscausedbymotorvehicles,andonly20
30percentcausedbyemissionsfromindustriesandotherstationary
sources.3
Vehiclesinthemetro:Toomanytomanage?
ManagingtrafficcongestioninthemetroisaSisypheantaskforonesimplereason:Sheernumbersmatter.Ofthe7.690
millionmotorizedvehiclesregisteredwiththeLandTransportationOffice(LTO)in2013,2.101millionoftheseplythe
streetsofMetroManila.4Andwhilethisnumberisrisingatanaverageannualrateof2.13percent,andthenumberof
commutersreacheswellintothemillions,spaceparticularlyroadspaceremainsalimitedresource.
Theeffectofhavingtoomanycarsontheroadcanbeseeninthedecreasingeffectivityofonetrafficmanagementscheme:
theUnifiedVehicularVolumeReductionProgram(UVVRP),otherwiseknownasthenumbercodingscheme,whichwas
firstimplementedin1995,modifiedthroughtheyears,andisstillbeingenforced.
InastudyassessingtheeffectivityoftheUVVRP,Dr.JoseReginRegidoroftheUPNationalCenterforTransportation
StudiesUrbanandRegionalSystemsAnalysis/TransportationandtheEnvironmentGroupnotedthatpeoplerespondedin
threeways:theyadjustedtheirtraveltimetoavoidthehourstheschemeisenforced,whichresultedintrafficcongestion
duringthenonenforcementhourstheyshiftedtopublictransportonthedaytheirvehiclesarecoded,whichwasthe
desiredresponsebutdidnotquitecatchonorthird,andleastdesirableofall,theyboughtnewcars.

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Dr.JoseReginRegidor,UPNationalCenterforTransportationStudiesUrbanandRegionalSystems
Analysis/TransportationandtheEnvironmentGroup.

Thisphenomenon,Regidorobserved,didnothappenovernight.Instead,itstartedwhensomewelloffpeoplepurchased
newcarsanddiscardedtheiroldones.Thesesecondhandcarsbecameavailableonthemarket,andweresnappedup
bypeoplewithsmallerbudgets,whointurn,soldtheirevenoldercarstoothers.
Notethatinthiscycle,veryfewvehicles,ifany,areactuallyretired,consideringthiscountryhasnoretirementpolicyforold
vehicles,Regidorstatedinhisstudy.Theendresultisthattherearemorecarsontheroadsandconsequently,more
severeandmorefrequentcongestionisexperienced.
Eventhenumberofmotorcyclesisrising,encouragedinnosmallwaybymotorcyclevendors.
Thecompetitiontodayamongdistributorsisintense,notedEngr.EmilioLlavor,chiefofthePlanningandDesignDivision
andheadoftheRoadSafetyUnitoftheMetropolitanManilaDevelopmentAuthority(MMDA)TrafficEngineeringCenter.
Theyvebeenofferingavarietyofschemestomaketheseaffordabletomotorists.Theproblemis,withthoseschemes,the
volumeofvehiclesontheroadisrising.
MMDADeputyChairmanUndersecretaryAlexRamonCabanillaalsopointstoatransportmanagementdevelopment
policythatisprimarilyroadbasedinsteadofrailbased.
Abouttwodecadesago,ourpopulationwasaround9million.Today,ithasballoonedto14million.Andthatsthenight
population.Whataboutthedaypopulation,theoneswhocommutetowork,wholiveoutside[ofMetroManila]?Thats
ballooning,too.Sothatsthemagnitudeoftrafficmanagementyouarefacing.
Cabanilla,anurbanplannerandaformerUPSchoolofUrbanandRegionalPlanningassociateprofessor,alsocitedland
use,whichisbothageneratorandattractoroftraffic.
ThetrafficprobleminMetroManilaisamanifestationofinadequateorlackofsoundurbanplanning.Wemakeour
residentialcommunitiessolarge.[Wehave]largetractsofresidentiallands,forexample,intheCommonwealtharea,and
majorityof[theresidents]workinOrtigasorMakati.Soearlyinthemorning,youcanseethesouthboundsideofEDSAis
heavilycongested,butthenorthboundsideisnot.Thisisanindicationthatwehavenotmanagedourlanduseplanning
well,norhavewedonemuchbywayofzoninganddevelopmentcontrols.
Tamingthetrafficmonster
ByvirtueofRepublicActNo.7924,theMMDAisgiventhetaskofmanagingMetroManilastrafficspecifically,the
formulation,coordinationandmonitoringofpolicies,standards,programsandprojectstorationalizetheexistingtransport
operations,infrastructurerequirements,theuseofthoroughfares,thepromotionofsafeandconvenientmovementof
personsandgoods,andtheimplementationofalltrafficenforcementoperations,trafficengineeringservicesandtraffic
educationprograms.5
However,theMMDAdoesnotworkalone.Multipleagenciesworktogetherideally,atleast.TheDepartmentofPublic
WorksandHighways(DPWH)isresponsiblefortheplanning,design,constructionandmaintenanceofinfrastructure,

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especiallythenationalhighways.6TheLTOisinchargeoftheidentificationofroutes,zonesandareasofoperationsfor
publiclandservices,theregistrationoflandtransportationfacilitiesandvehicles,andtheissuanceoflicensetodriversand
conductors.7AndtheLandTransportationFranchisingandRegulatoryBoard(LTFRB)ischargedwithregulatingroutesof
serviceandzonesoperationofpubliclandtransportation,andissuingpermitsauthorizingtheoperationofpublicland
transportationservices.8Inadditiontothesethreeagencies,localgovernmentunitsarealsotaskedwithmanagingtraffic
intheirownjurisdictions.
Whenitcomestomanagingtraffic,theMMDAhasnotlackedforeffortfromtruckbanstoUturnschemestoorganized
busroutestosettingupalternateroutestoaddingandremovingunloadingbaystotheUVVRPeventothenotoriouswet
ragschemeforerringpedestrianssomeyearsago.InanotherstudyconductedwithDr.NorielChristopherTiglaoofthe
UPNationalCollegeofPublicAdministrationandGovernance,Regidordescribedsomeofthetrafficmanagement
schemesimplementedinManilafromthe1970stothepresent,includingtrafficsignalcontrolsystems,flowmanagement
schemessuchasonewaysystemsandreversiblelanes,tolldiscountsfortheNorthandSouthLuzonExpressways,bus
managementschemes,andpedestrianfocusedprograms,suchasoverpasses,underpassesanddisciplinezones.9
Thesetrafficmanagementschemeshavemetwithvaryinglevelsofsuccessatdifferentpointsintime.Butwhenfacedwith
thedauntingtaskoftamingamonsterlikeMetroManilastraffic,youneedallthetoolsavailableatyourdisposal.Andof
course,asysteminpickingthetoolsyouneed.
Datagathering:Thefirststep

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Engr.EmilioM.Llavor,ChiefofthePlanningandDesignDivisionHead,RoadSafetyUnit,MMDA,athisoffice,
lookingoverhisteamstrafficcomputersimulations.

Llavor,whopresidesoverseveralteamsinabustlingofficeonthegroundflooroftheMMDAbuildinginOrense,Makati,as
wellasanotherofficeonthesecondfloor,describedtheprocessflowofassessingwhatkindoftrafficmanagement
mechanismtoinstallinaparticularstreetorarea.
Forushere,whenweimplementatrafficmanagementscheme,weconductstudies,heexplained.Firstofall,wedoan
assessment.Wecountthenumberofvehiclesontheroad.
Withavehiclecounterinhand,thedatagatheringteamfromtheMMDAPlanningandDesignDivisionheadsouttothe
streetstodoavehiclecountfortheday,payingcloseattentiontothetimethevolumeofvehicleswastaken,thetimethe
trafficwasheaviest,thepeakhours,thelevelofcongestion,etc.Ocularinspectionsarealsoconducted,asidefromvolume
count.Theteamalsodoestraveltimesurveysmeanttomeasurehowmuchtimeittakesavehicletoreachthedistanceit
travels.Anotherteam,theroadinventoryteam,measuresthedimensionsoftheroads.
TheRoadSafetyUnitgathersdataregardingaccidentblackspots,orroadsorlocationswhereinvehicularaccidents
haveoccurredmostfrequently,collectingindividualreportformsforeachaccidentfrompolicestationsandTraffic
EnforcementGroupdistrictoffices,aswellasclippingsofroadtrafficaccidentreportsfromnewspapersandtabloids.
TheinformationfromthesesourcesisenteredintotheMetroManilaAccidentReportingandAnalysisSystem(MMARAS),
anongoingdatabaseoffatalandnonfatalaccidentsanddamagetoproperty,includingcausesofaccidents,andthetime
theseaccidentsmostoftenoccur,inordertoplottheareaswheresafetyimprovementsneedtobemade.Allthisdata
collectingisbeingconductedonacontinuousbasis.

Wehave[vehicular]volumecollectionsonthemainthoroughfares,Llavorsaid,enumeratingthedatacontainedinthe
MMDAsdatabanks.WehaveannualhoursdailytrafficintheentireMetroManilaourcountingisabout15hours,from
7:00to10:00,soweconvertit.Wehaveaprocedurewhereinweconvertthisinto24hours,sothereisamultiplyingfactor.
WearetheoneswhocollectandconductsurveysthroughouttheentireMetroManila.Wehavedataonvehiclesofevery
kindtaxis,privatevehicles,buses,trucks,motorcycles.Howmanyturnlefthere,howmanyturnrightthere,howmanygo
straight,howmanymakeaUturndataasneeded.
Wealsocountthenumberofpedestrianscrossingaroad,headded.Beforeweinstallfootbridges,weseetoitthatthat
crossingiswarranted,becauselargenumbersofpedestrianstendtoblocktrafficflow.Wehaveallthatdata,becausethe
Chairmanisparticularaboutit.Hewantseverythinghesayssupportedbydata.
Installation/implementation:Thesecondstep
Thedataisthentakenbytheplanningteamtheteamthatgetstostayintheofficewhiletheresthitthestreets,Llavor
notedwithalaughandthroughacomputerizedvisualsimulator,theysimulatewhatwouldhappenonacertainroadifa
trafficmanagementschemesay,atrafficlightisinstalledonit.Werunitonthecomputerfirst,Llavoradded.Basedon
this,weseeifthetrafficschemeiswarrantedorunwarranted.
Basedontheanalysesofthedata,proposalsonwhatkindoftrafficschemewouldworkbestinparticularareasare
formulated,thensubmittedtotheMMDAchairmanforfinaldecision.Proposedtrafficschemesrangefromimplementinga
onewaytrafficscheme,toinstallingatrafficlight,tocreatingorremovingUturnslots,toassigningcounterflowlanes,to
buildingaloadingandunloadingbayforpublicutilityvehicles,toimplementingaonetrucklanepolicyforspecifichours.
(ConstructingnewfeaturesoradjustmentsontheroadisajobforanotherteamunderLlavorssupervision.)
Sometimesinfact,ideally,asCabanillabelievesmanyoftheseschemeswouldbeimplementedallatthesametime.
Assessmentandadjustment:Thethirdstep
AssessingtheeffectivityofaparticulartrafficschemeinrelievingcongestioninanareaisalsothejobofLlavorsdivision
andteams.Effectivityisusuallyassessedaboutamonthafterimplementation.Andthemainindicatorofeffectivity?The
traveltimesurvey.
Asmuchaspossible,traveltimeshouldshorten,andtravelspeedshouldincrease.Ifwehaventattainedthis,wewillthen
investigatethegroundsofthesituation.Wedoassessments.
Iftraveltimesurveysdorevealthattheinstalledtrafficschemesay,again,atrafficlighthasnotdonemuchgood,what
then?

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First,wearegoingtotryasmuchaswecantomakeiteffective.Afterall,wevealreadyspentmoneyonthat,andthose
thingscostmillions,Llavorsaid.Wewilllookfirstatthetimeadjustment.Ormaybeweneedtomakesomemodifications
ontheintersection.Orwelookforotheroptions,suchassettingthecomputerizedtrafficlightstomanualinthemornings,
andsettingthembacktoautomaticafterward.
Onesizefitsone,notall
Heresonethingpeopletendtoforget:Whileitlooksthesamefromthepointofviewofafrustrateddriverorcommuter,
trafficisexceedinglyvariable.Therecanbenoonesizefitsalltrafficscheme.
Thereasonwecantsolvethetrafficproblemisbecauseeverybodysanexpert,Regidorcommentedwithdryhumorinan
interview.Whenitcomestoearthquakes,doyouseealotofpeopleonTwitterandsocialmediasaying,Thisshouldhave
beendonehere,thatprojectshouldhavebeenmade?Forearthquakes,youlettheexpertsfromNIGSorPHIVOLCSor
architecturalengineersprovidetheexpertise.Buttraffic,myGod.Askthemanonthestreet,[andhellsay,]Ohno,you
shoulddothis.Youshouldputaflyoverthere.
Partoftheproblemmightbethattrafficisalltoocommonanexperience,sopeoplewhoobservethatacertaintraffic
schemeworkedinacertainplacetendtoassumethatitwouldworksomewhereelse,which,Regidorsaid,isnotagood
thing.
TakeUturnslots,forexample.TheyworkedoutwellforCommonwealthAvenue,soUturnslotswereinstalledalong
KatipunanAvenue,QuezonAvenueandothers.
TheyforgotthatCommonwealthAvenueisverywide,Regidorpointedout.WhenyourvehiclemakesaUturn,whether
itsabusorajeep,theislandiswideenoughtoallowforasmoothturn.ButinQuezonAvenueandKatipunanAvenue,the
islandistoonarrow,sovehiclesthatmakeaUturntakeupalotofspace.Soyouputconcretebarriersandwhatdid
thesedo?Theyconstrictedtraffic,becauseinsteadofhavingfourlanes,youonlyhavetwo.
Therecanbenoonesizefitsallpieceoftransportationinfrastructureeitherbecauseyouhavetomatchaparticularroads
requirements.Evenroadwideninghasitslimits.Asfarastheroadsareconcerned,theyarefixedinfrastructure.Thereare

limitationsonhowtheycanbewidened.Infact,thequestionis:Doyouevenneedtowidenthem?Regidorsaid.
Itssituational,Cabanillasaid.Peoplelikeyou,forinstance,caninformtheMMDAthroughourwebsiteorsocialmediato
lookintothese[trafficridden]roads.Orweourselvesgoandchecktoseewhytheseroadsarecongested.Theoreticalor
conceptualdoesntdoit.Itneedstobesituational.Sobyobservation,inspectionandfeedback,wewillarriveatacommon
observationthat[aparticulartrafficscheme]isnolongerhelpingalleviatetrafficbutaggravatingthetraffic.Thatswhywe
needhelp.
Whenitcomestotrafficmanagement,therearesimplytoomanyfactorstotakeintoconsideration.Therearephysical
factorsthesizeoftheroads,thelanduseofthatparticulararea,thevolumeofvehiclesatparticularhours.Thereare
seasonalfactorscertainannualholidayssuchasChristmas,AllSoulsDay,andthestartandendofclassescan
aggravatetrafficcongestion.ThereareevenculturalfactorsasRegidorpointedout,culturaldifferencesbetween
countries,andevenbetweencitiesandlocalities,willdeterminehoweffectiveonetrafficschemewouldbe,rendering
wholesaleadoptionoftrafficschemesthatworkedinotherplacesuntenable.
Andtherearesocialandbehavioralfactorsaswell,whichRegidorsaysaffecttheaccuracyofanymodelingdoneontraffic,
sincesomeofthedataislikelytobeapproximationsatbest.Ifthedataisbad,thesimulationcanbedamaging.Youhave
totakecareincollectingthedatathatyouputinthemodel.Ultimately,trafficisachoiceproblemthesimpleactof
travelingfromUPDilimantoTrinomaorSMisalreadyriddledwithamyriadindividualchoicesandenvironmental
variables.
Infact,forLlavor,itsnotthetechnologyorinfrastructurethatmakestrafficsuchamonstertomanageitspeopleandtheir
unlimitedcreativityanddeterminationinskirtingtrafficrulesandregulations.Herelatedhowsomepeoplegotaroundthe
trafficmanagementschemeofcarpoolingwhereinonlycarswithatleastthreetofourpassengerswillbeallowedonthe
roadbydressingupmannequinsandplacingtheminthebackseatofthecar.
Thenotsosecretweapons
However,Llavor,RegidorandCabanillaagreethatthingscanbevastlydifferent.Oneneedonlytravel136.8kilometers
fromMetroManilatoSubictoseethedifference.Thecriticalingredient?Strictandproperenforcementoftrafficrules.
Indeed,accordingtoRegidor,theregulatoryaspectoftrafficmanagementispartandparcelofthetrafficmanagement
infrastructure.Andofcoursethisincludesthepoliciesthatmustbeputin
placeinaccordancewiththevisionofwhatwewantforourcityorlocality.
Youcannothaveinfrastructurewithoutthebasictrafficrulesand
regulations.Soyouactuallyhaveaneffectivesystem,hesaid.The
questionis:Areweimplementingthatproperly?Evenifyoursystemisgood
conceptually,withoutproperenforcement,theresnothingyoucando.
AndwhenevenintheUPcampus,wedonotabidebyourtrafficrulesor
areevenawareofthetrafficsignssetuparoundthecampushowcanwe
expecttoseetrafficdisciplineonawiderscale?
WhenaskedifthereisonemagicbulletthatwouldsolveMetroManilas
trafficwoes,Llavordoesnothesitate:Themagicbulletistoreducethe
numberofvehiclesontheroad.
Andtothis,CabanillaandRegidoragree.Hence,thedevelopmentofmass
transportationrailways,busesandthelikeiscrucial.Masstransportis
abletocarrymorepeople,soitsmorefuelefficientintermsofnumberofpeopletransported.Thehigherthecapacityof
yourvehicle,themoreefficientyouare,saidRegidor.
Ifyouwantustobecompetitiveasacity,wehavetodevelopourrailways.Wehavetohaveamasstransitsystem,
Cabanillasaid.Insteadofusingcars,weallridetheLRT.Wemakeitconvenient,nothowitisrightnow,wherewereall
packedlikesardines.Wewouldsolvetrafficcongestion.Wewouldalsosolvepollution.
Withthegovernmentannouncingplanstobolsterspendingonseveralmajorpublicinfrastructureprojects,includinga
$325millioncontractfortheoperationandmaintenanceofManilaselectrictrainsystems,thesixlane,NLSEXSLEC
connectorroad,andanew$10billionManilainternationalairport10projects,Regidorpointedout,thathavebeenupin
theairforquitealongtimenowitremainstobeseenwhatimpactthesecanmakeonMetroManilastrafficandtransit
problem.
Inthemeantime,Llavorandhisteamswillkeepondoingtheirjobsinstallingtrafficlightswhereneeded,aswellasCCTV
camerastoimprovetrafficmonitoring,continuingtrafficmanagementandsupervision,andkeepingincontactwiththe
publicthroughtheMMDAs24hourhotlinevia126.

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AndtothecitizensofMetroManila,heurged:Letusallhelponeanother.

Emailtheauthoratforum@upd.edu.ph.
NOTES:
1Patawaran,AA.(2014,May4).CountdowntoCarmageddon.ManilaBulletin.Retrievedfrom
http://www.mb.com.ph/countdowntocarmageddon/
2JapanInternationalCooperationAgency.(2014,September2).JICAtransportstudylistsstrategiesforcongestionfree
MMby2030.Retrievedfromhttp://www.jica.go.jp/philippine/english/office/topics/news/140902.html
3Editorial:MetroManilasairpollution.(2014,October1).ManilaBulletin.Retrievedfromhttp://www.mb.com.ph/editorial
metromanilasairpollution/
4DepartmentofTransportation&CommunicationsLandTransportationOffice.(2014,January23).Annualreport2013.
Retrievedfromhttp://www.lto.gov.ph/component/jdownloads/finish/9/198?Itemid=s0
5OfficeofthePresidentMetropolitanManilaDevelopmentAuthority.(n.d.).RulesandregulationsimplementingRA7924.
Retrievedfromhttp://www.mmda.gov.ph/index.php/12legalmatters/118irrofra7924
6ExecutiveOrderNo.124,s.1987.(1987,January30).OfficialGazette.Retrievedfrom
http://www.gov.ph/1987/01/30/executiveorderno124s1987/
7DepartmentofTransportationandCommunication.(2014,September16).ExecutiveOrderNo.125A.Retrievedfrom
http://www.dotc.gov.ph/index.php/component/k2/item/7executiveorderno125a
8DepartmentofTransportationandCommunicationsLandTransportationFranchisingandRegulatoryBoard.(n.d.).LTFRB
functions.Retrievedfromhttp://ltfrb.gov.ph/main/aboutus
9Regidor,JoseReginF.,&Tiglao,NorielChristopherC.(2007,June14).Alternativesolutionstotrafficproblems:Metro
Manilainretrospect.UPNationalCenterforTransportationStudies.Retrievedfrom
http://ncts.upd.edu.ph/old/research/docs/research/papers/jrfregidor20070614WCTR.pdf
10Larano,Cris.(2014,June3).Philippinesbetsonbetterinfrastructure.TheWallStreetJournal.Retrievedfrom
http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/06/03/philippinesbetsonbetterinfrastructure/

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