(Part of this article was written on a non-Smartphone cellphone using the SMS function and was simply re-typed in my laptop. That’s how bad traffic was)
In one study by a French university (in coordination with the University of the Philippines), they took snapshots of EDSA (the busiest highway in Metro Manila). Here they found that 40% of the vehicles on the road were cars (including SUVs). But on the other hand, according to a World Bank study, those who can’t afford cars and SUVs actually comprise “75% of all trips made in Metro Manila”.
Now, look at this:
It’s not hard to imagine why EDSA (and Metro Manila, in general) would be ‘Traffic Jam Hell’: 40% isn’t just the estimated amount of private cars among all cars in EDSA. It’s also the percentage of private cars among all vehicles in Metro Manila, according to the LTO.
Going back to the picture, the obvious solution would be to: first, unclog our roads of cars and SUVs. Second, provide an alternative means of transportation for people.
The above-mentioned French study actually included among its proposals for lessening traffic the reduction of private cars (higher taxes for car purchases, encourage car-pooling, abolish free parking, ‘road pricing’, etc). Coding schemes by the MMDA have not worked because car owners simply bought multiple vehicles.
As mentioned by a car-owning friend of mine when I first ranted about traffic jams last Christmas, people would continue preferring owning a car to public transport as long as the latter is as inefficient as it is today.
That means that public transport has to be affordable to the majority, at least as reliable as private means of transportation (if not more so), and can get them to their destination. If a public transport system does not meet those needs, people will not use it, thus defeating the very purpose of the system.
First and foremost, this means: MORE TRAINS. We need more systems like the LRT and MRT in other parts of Metro Manila. The city of Amsterdam, Netherlands has TWENTY train stations (16 tramways and 4 light rail) servicing their intra-city needs. And we need to make it affordable, not hike the fares.
Second, it’s probably not economic to have a train way in every corner of Metro Manila. That’s why there has to be a bus system that is more organized and efficient than the one we have today.
We need more buses, but at the same time, the current system where dozens of bus companies are competing for the same route (EDSA-Baclaran, for example) lead to chaos as bus drivers also cause traffic jams when they try to ‘out-box’ each other for passengers.
There should probably only a few companies per route, but they should instead make buses run along a strict schedule (for example, every 10 minutes) and only picking up and letting off passengers in proper bus stops.
Third: many people think that jeeps and tricycles are also responsible for many traffic jams. In certain cases, the sentiment is undeniable. That’s why a better public transport system also has to include instilling discipline among jeeps and tricycles: stop tricycles from counter-flowing, don’t allow jeeps from turning the roads into their terminals