Agenda of the next president: Traffic
Starting Feb. 9, 2016, the Inquirer is coming out with a 10-part series on pressing national concerns that should be high on the agenda of the five contenders in the May 9 presidential election. The series should help Filipinos choose wisely the country’s next leader.
In line with our “ThINQ. Vote.” advocacy, we have asked the presidential candidates to outline their concrete plans of action in dealing with 10 decades-long issues—poverty, economy and jobs, food security, peace and order, corruption, healthcare, foreign policy, traffic, climate change and Internet connectivity.
As the economy improves, vehicular traffic congestion on major roads becomes a national problem. In Metro Manila, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the growing number of cars and the inefficient mass transit systems cost road users P2.4 billion a day and that could swell to P6 billion a day by 2030. A recent Social Weather Stations review showed that no past President had scored satisfactorily in traffic management.
INQUIRER.net is publishing verbatim the candidates’ action plans on traffic in Metro Manila. For the summary of the 10 pressing issues, go to our special Elections 2016 website.
The Binay administration will ensure that every Filipino can travel safely and quickly to and from their homes and workplaces.
For Vice President Binay, the urban traffic problem would be one of the key challenges and tests of his Presidency. To solve this, a comprehensive plan, not quick fix solutions, should be implemented:
- Under his presidency, Vice President Binay will personally monitor and supervise the coordination between local government units (LGUs) and other government agencies involved in the traffic management, set targets and deadlines and ensure they meet their targets and deadlines. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be the lead agency in solving the traffic situation.
- Traffic rules will be strictly implemented to encourage traffic discipline among motorists, especially of public utility vehicle drivers and operators.
- Basic infrastructure deficiencies, which includes embarking on a major flood control study and project for the whole metropolitan area, will be improved.
- A fully integrated mass public transport system will be established as a long term plan. The MRT/LRT/PNR systems will be upgraded and interconnected, and the current public bus transportation system will be improved and modernized.
- A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Metro Manila will be implemented. One BRT lane moves 45,000 passengers per hour while each car lane only moves 2,000 passengers per hour.
- A Binay administration will abolish the boundary system. One reason why bus drivers disobey traffic rules is because they try to get as many passengers as possible to pay for their boundary. The Vice President intends to follow the model of the former Metro Manila Transit Company. The company paid their drivers on a fixed regular salary basis so the drivers simply drove the buses and stopped at designated bus stops.
- Traffic engineering will be improved and more technology-based traffic control devices will be used. A Binay presidency will put up bus lane barriers, conduct sidewalk clearings and fix signages. It will also replicate Makati City’s use of “timing plans,” which programs stoplights based on current traffic conditions, use vehicle sensors embedded on the streets to signal the system to adjust to the volume of traffic and use CCTVs to catch traffic violators and rogue traffic enforcers.
- Decongest Metro Manila by moving government offices to a new community.
- Lastly, the Vice President will tap international talent and expertise on crafting solutions for the Philippine problem, as Manila is not the first city to have a serious traffic problem, and international best practices and solutions, including studies on optimum building and vehicle density standards, should guide the next administration’s approach to solving this problem. A Binay presidency will strive to turn Manila into a modern city and paradise both for Filipinos and tourists alike.
- Volume reduction programs, like the number coding scheme of vehicles in Metro Manila, need to be studied carefully, since in Metro Manila it hasn’t really worked to ease traffic since it was instituted 20 years ago.
- Affordable, efficient mass transport is a viable sustained alternative to road congestion. This is the key that will encourage people to use their cars less, especially in the core of urban centers. The use of the Pasig and Marikina Rivers, not only for marine transport but the effective utilization of its embankments for mass transport, shall be a major priority.
- The long term goal, of course, is to decongest cities by providing countryside opportunities.
- A National Land Use Program, which shall be the basis for regional and local zoning laws, shall finally be legislated after languishing in Congress for the last 30 years.
- The government needs to invest in rail systems in regions to enable proper transport around major urban centers, not just the greater Manila area.
- Upgrade and expand coverage of computer-coordinated traffic signaling systems.
- Strictly enforce traffic rules for drivers of cars, buses, jeepneys and motorcycles, as well as for pedestrians. Discipline has no cost and yields results.
- Remove colorum buses from the streets and require operators to do away with the boundary system of paying their drivers.
- Fast-track the completion of MRT7, LRT6, Skyway 3, LRT2 East Extension, Northrail and Southrail.
- Encourage investment and job creation outside of the major cities.
Traffic jams in cities can be addressed by constructing more road networks, decongesting existing ones and instilling discipline among motorists, commuters, and pedestrians. Every minute getting stuck in traffic is a minute that could have been used more productively or spent with family. It is an obstacle to the people’s freedom to travel with ease.
That is why the solutions are already underway. For example, the construction of two NLEx-SLEx connectors, which will provide residents of northern and southern provinces seamless access to Metro Manila, is right on schedule. The completion of these projects will significantly reduce traffic in existing routes such as Edsa, which is one of the very few highways traversing the entire metro.
We will continue to improve our mass transportation systems and ensure that they are of sufficient capacity and world-class quality. With the new maintenance contract signed by the Department of Transportation and Communication, problems in the MRT will soon be addressed. In addition, two new cars have already been delivered, another two will be delivered next month and, starting March, four new cars will be delivered monthly until all 48 are complete.
To improve connectivity in areas within and outside Metro Manila, we have also started expanding our railway systems so those working in urban centers will no longer have to actually live and stay there. For instance, we are planning the construction of railways that will connect Metro Manila to Calamba, Laguna, in the South and Clark airport in the North. This will make public transportation more efficient, more convenient and more inclusive.
Decongesting major highways will require a significant change in the operations of entities that provide public transportation. For example, my proposal to decongest Edsa is to centralize all city bus operations into one entity following one route, one schedule and one management. That way, bus drivers will no longer have to compete for commuters, which is one of the main reasons for both traffic congestion and road accidents. It also follows that bus drivers will be given a fixed monthly compensation, which will replace the percentage-based computation of their wages.
Discipline should be viewed less as a limiting factor and more of a necessary element for free and convenient travel. As such, we will strictly enforce guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety of commuters and pedestrians alike.
But the best and long-term solution to address congestion in key urban areas is developing the countryside. That way, people will no longer be forced to move out of their original hometowns and into the cities to find better opportunities for employment and success. By directly supporting local government units and stimulating growth in local economies, we make development more inclusive and more tangible for every Filipino family.
I am personally affected by the traffic situation in Metro Manila. I live near Katipunan Avenue, one of the most congested streets during school days. I am also aware that other urban centers face similar problems. Clearly, something must be done to reduce the volume of vehicles on the road at any given time. In addition, the government must expand the operations of the MRT, LRT and the PNR to serve the growing commuter population. There should also be other decent transportation options for commuters. If elected president, I shall:
- Order a review of the number coding scheme;
- Impose, with legislative support if necessary, a progressive taxing scheme for the purchase of more than one car per family, as well as regulations for car loans;
- Require large malls and commercial centers to provide areas for proper bus stops;
- Consider imposing a fixed salary system for drivers in the public transport system to discourage the practice of stopping whenever they see potential passengers; and
- Continue and replicate the point-to-point bus system.