Why Coding And Building More Roads Won’t Fix Metro Manila Traffic

by John Nieves  April 13, 2022

After 3 long years of being stuck inside because of the plague, people are coming out again with a vengeance. Daily commutes are back to pre-pandemic levels, and it seems like the solutions that we tried to fix Metro Manila traffic during the pandemic haven’t really done anything to curb the hellscape we call our daily commute.

And just like clockwork, the powers that be (in this case the MMDA) are proposing a new coding scheme to try and stem the inevitable tide of cars barreling down EDSA and every major artery in Metro Manila. And just like the previous coding scheme, it won’t do anything of the sort – it’ll just create even more problems as people try to buy a third, probably crappier car to try and circumvent that, just like what most people did when they bought their second, probably less crappy car to try and circumvent the initial coding restrictions when it was first proposed.

In case I haven’t made it clear: vehicle reduction by coding hasn’t really been effective in our country. Just like in Mexico and in other countries where similar schemes have been put in, families and households typically just buy a second car to circumvent the ban. That’s led to more cars being on the road and since many families don’t have garages built into their homes in the metro, that means more cars obstructing side streets and other alternate paths, leading to more traffic.

Well, if there are more cars on the road, the solution is to build more roads! Well, no. It’s been proven time and time again that if you build more roads, people will just drive more to fill those roads, and voila, you’re back to square one: stuck in traffic again, but instead of sitting on a nice 2 lane highway, you’re now stuck in a 4-lane one. And this isn’t conjecture – the phenomenon is called induced demand, and numerous studies have already shown that simply adding more roads won’t actually fix the main problem.

This is what’s waiting for you back in the office

The main problem is the fact that the middle class, the ones who can afford these cars to drive to work every day, do not have a comfortable and convenient way to get around the city. While transportation options like Grab and taxis exist if you add up the cost of taking them every day, you can pretty much buy a halfway decent car which has led us to our current problem.

So, how do we fix Metro Manila traffic? A few things – one is to put increased public transport capacity and invest more in public transportation systems. The bus lane in EDSA was actually a good idea, but the execution needs to be improved. One of the biggest problems that we have right now in terms of public transport is that there is a multitude of private bus companies that compete with each other for passengers and routes. This leads to uneven bus coverage for multiple routes and is one of the main reasons you sometimes see busses that have few passengers blocking streets waiting to pick up more passengers. If we had one unified transit authority for buses in Metro Manila, then it would be easier to coordinate bus routes for lines and routes that see more passenger traffic leading to faster rides.

Another solution is to invest in more rail and train transit. We’ve already made steps in the right direction, but it’s not enough. More inter-city rail systems are needed moving forward if we really want to decongest the metro. Let’s stop building roads that only serve cars and let’s build more transit systems to serve people.

There’s a simple way of reducing traffic volume now without investing in all of that infrastructure and upfront costs, and it’s something many companies are already familiar with during the last few years. The government should start giving tax breaks to companies and businesses that allow their workforce to work from home. It’s no coincidence that traffic started increasing when we started relaxing restrictions and letting people back in the office. Plenty of companies have already adjusted to the new realities of life during COVID, and there’s really no sense to go back to the way things were. A study conducted in the US by Owl Labs shows that 90% of the 2,050 full-time remote workers surveyed said that said they were as productive or more productive working remotely, compared to when they toiled in the office.

Allowing more remote workers to work at key positions in big companies will also spread money around the country, as these workers can now stay in their provinces and build their careers from there without having to pay for Manila’s increasingly crazy cost of living. The money that they generate will go directly to the provincial communities they live in, spreading the wealth around instead of just using it up in “imperial Manila”.

There isn’t a single, magical fix to Metro Manila traffic, but I can guarantee that what the MMDA is suggesting isn’t it. We can’t build our way out of it, and we sure as hell cannot code our way out of it either.

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    Agree. The solution is make commuting convenient and seamless. Terminals should be strategically located for smooth interconnectivity and not on locations lobbied by business owners. Follow the advice of urban planners.

    I’m really surprised why car volume reduction has never been an option. It’s about time that cars should only be used for a maximum of 10-15 years. Old vehicles should already be phased out since these are the ones contributing to pollution.

    Drivers attitude are the main cause of tragic traffic jams.. mandate a Standard Driving Distance of 2-cars spaces to prevent everyone from tailgating and crowding the flow of traffic.

    My observation show that traffic management is needed. Implementation of stop light systems to help control of traffic instead of under qualified traffic enforcers.
    The other major problem is drivers on the road unwilling to follow the rules of the road.
    Sadly the attitude and lack of proper education/training of people has to change to help improve this.
    Honestly, how many people on these roads have proper licenses?

    Sorry, but traffic isn’t as bad as the picture shows. In fact, traffic flow has improved a lot because of the current government’s massive and intensive infrastructure building program.

    I agree with the traffic analysis. And perhaps, both national & local gov’t must implement now the spread out of factories, logistics, so that people will not congest in the mega cities.

    Rising Gas prices will push some cars people off the Roads, and Government legiislating for Electric vehicles only to use certain road arteries.

    Yes perfectly agreed. But building more roads, bridges, loading/unloading docks flyovers et al becomes ineffective only if the govt persist on appointing and hiring lawyers ex-?militaries to solve the perennial traffic problems. What they need are traffic analyst, engineers, and seasoned traffic managers with proven track records who can conduct mathematical analysis using time and motion study with real time data, to decide which traffic lane should be green and red. Better yet on the other hand, analyzing where to place flyovers instead of traffic lights to relieve traffic congestion due to too much traffic light along the way instead of flyovers so the flow of traffic will be continuous. More bridges to distribute the volumes. These are some of the things they should be thinking and focusing on to be more progressive , not restrictive and anti road users. These can be funded easily using the road user’s tax paid yearly by the car owners which until now there seem to be no accounting on how was the fund being utilized for the road users( calling COA) , how about the accountability of the former road board??? These are road user’s money and the same people mmda is oppressing now through their not carefully studied schemes or otherwise if they claimed they carefully studied them , then the description becomes you know what. All said with due respect of course.

    It’s been proven that work from home is working during this covid. Even meetings can be now be done effectively thru zoom and other means. Let work that can be done remotely be applied so working people can save a lot in transpo, time savings and less hassle in going to work. I go for WFH schemes. It’s more convenient. Of course there’s an exception but all this can be fixed. It’s a matter of buying and applying the idea. Also, streamlining works.
    There are lot of of course some exceptions which can easily be defined.
    I believed that WFH is ONE of the best solutions of the many solutions.
    Call centers were all done remotely. Hopefully this suggestion maybe of help. Thank you. God bless us all.

    I strongly agree to this. Adding more roads only sends rightful owners, to their properties, away. They own properties, owned by their ancestors, but they’re forced to relocate only for the purpose of building new roads. So many toads have been built but the issue on traffic was and will never be solved. I agree, allow more public transport and unity between transport owners.

    I agree with the statement . I was a commuter before the pandemic and would only bring the car maybe twice a week since I needed to travel to home quicker to attend some stuff but ever since the pandemic Im forced to use the car whenever I need to go out for the safety of my family . Covid still exist and the number of lack of social distancing is scary , and adding an additional day restrictions just to force people off the road and into the side and use the public transportation , when we have one of the worst public transportations in the world isn’t ideal . If you would look at the US , they have decent public transportation to beat traffic . We have bad roads , Bad public transportation and bad safety on and off the road . We were always told by our parents to walk with your bag at front because it would be unsafe and we would get picked pocketed while going home . I would honestly prefer commute because its cheaper but with things are and WFH not really being considered even if millions of uproar are asking for it , taking the car is the only solution at this point . You cant blame the people for this because the government had all this time to find a better solution , the schemes they are producing ( even the odd/even scheme didn’t even work well for Pasig and was one of the 1st thing Vico remove when he stepped into the office) are a joke and you cant count it as a band aid solution because it doesn’t even solve anything . The government works for the people , not the other away around . MMDA even asked for people’s opinion online last April 9 with more than 70% saying to keep the old scheme and improve public transportation , did they listen ? No they are implementing this scheme with the majority don’t want . This only affects middle class , its really unfair .

    Thirty odd years ago there was the Blue(love)Bus.. Joined up thinking is whats needed now.. and relax laws about importing service buses and spare parts for them.. MetroManila needs to work then with London’s Transport executive and set about introducing some low height double deckers with a direct transport authority which sets the routes and tenders with a combined ticketing system and combined maintenance programme.. It is possible but some silly folks would say.. Oh that’s communism and limits free enterprise.. well not if you tender the maintenance programmes out and allow private companies to administer the ticketing systems… It would certainly be better than the failed free for all that exists right now

    what is needed is massive public transport system.BUSES,TRAINS,SUBWAY SYSTEM.look at all the cities like NEW YORK,HONGKONG,TOKYO,SAO PAOLO ETC.they all have massive public transport systems.

    These are half ass simple solutions from a high school kid. The current solutions being implemented are from elementary school thinking.
    We do not have to re-invent the wheel again, there are 100’s of city’s which set the sample (good or bad) . But somehow we think we need to do it in our own way….
    That empty bus-lane and blocking another edsa lane is the biggest mistake ever. Already has been tried in Jakarta before btw..

    The main problem is the fact that the middle class…yeah the middle class is buying cars they cannot afford. The car market is completely messed up. Downpayment 10k but over the years you pay double the value of the actual car. Because that “middle class” couldn’t really afford it.

    Edsa is the quality of a dirt road. Fulll of potholes and whatever.

    The simplest way is emulate singapore. No garage no car. Raffle. Only those who won in the lottery can buy cars. And 5 year old cars or older should be phased out.

    MMDA enforcers look on how they can give violations to the motorist rather than to ease traffic they are not educating motorist but how they can kotong

    What we need are underground walkable air-conditioned malls, like they ones in Taiwan. The heat is the problem, any walk further than 1KM is just not feasible. That’s why “para” anywhere has been a mentality.

    If we can make the city walkable, then most of us would. I am just 3KM from the office, but I drive 40 minutes a day.

    There should be a law that requires car/vehicle of any type owners should have a parking space before allowed to buy a vehicles same thing should hold true to car dealers, a law stating car dealers can not sell cars to buyers without a private garage

    Let me add:
    1. Zoning. For example, here in Commonwealth Ave, QC, we have wet markets, churches, car dealerships, construction materials stores, schools, shopping malls, etc all located near each other.
    2. Many of these establishments do not provide ample parking. e.g. the St Peter church besides Ever Gotesco use Commonwealth Ave as its parking space, taking 2 or 3 lanes of the road. So what is City Hall Building Permit office doing in implementing the building code.

    Mga tol, marami sa atin ay patuloy na nag hahanap ng sagot sa laganap pagtaas ng krudo sa bansa, laganap na trapic sa aking palagay ay ipag patuloy nalang ang tranaho sa bahay iwas na sa sakit iwas karga ng krudo at iwas din sa mga sakuna sa daan, pangalawa ay ipaiiral ang na lang ang coding ng sasakyan ayon sa kanyang BRAND di naman lahat ay kayang bumili ng 60 BRANDS of vehicles,
    halos 60 BRANDS ng sasakyan na tumatakbo sa buong Philippines, hatiin ito sa 6 araw 10 BRANDS ng sasakyan ang mawawala kada isang araw at luluwag pa ang traffic, less pollution, less road accidents at kasama pa natin araw araw at mag hapon ang ating pamilya habang tayo ay nag hahanap buhay sa bahay lang….
    FORD + 9 BRAND’S
    Try natin ito

    I think that more point-to-point public transports are needed in the streets so as to avoid unnessary loading and unloading of passengers in the middle of the street and to avoid accidents.

    The MMDA traffic inforcer has to removed on the road instead, because they are just collecting money from the byaheroes, we have traffic lights on the roads why to put this inforcer to collect money. Car is paid from LTO for the usage of public roads yearly all drivers too. I dont know why this local inforcer born and they feel like they are deputy then corrupting drivers on the roads.. more inforcer more traffic pansinin nyo.lahat ng mga traffic inforcer NG LGU at MMDA gawin nalang taga pag walis at taga ayos ng mga ilaw para di sila mawalan ng trabaho malinis pa at maliwanag ang kalsada. Mayroon tayong Police, to conduct invistagation if there is accident the MMDA can’t do about it. We have HPG for patrol..,and police for invistagation. all drivers know how to give way to others, and all barangays of every town will inforce one lane parking and all 3 lanes to keep open so that parking is not a problem and traffic flow is smooth, because one reason is, no public parking that Goverment given to public, no free parking for all establishment, remove the towing company they are violating the right of the people. then barangay officials and volunters may arrange the parking.. the problem is all LGU wanted to collect money, why you guys not sit down and talk about how to solved traffic without using traffic inforcer..

    Still dreaming of trams in the city during my lifetime. I do not think that this will ever happen in my life time. Inter-city trains, trams and subways are the best way of transportation. From the airport to work and to your home. I really enjoyed my stay in Hokkaido Japan. Never found a need to ride a car. Even my stay in Bangkok, all I ever needed to go around was the raised pedestrian walkway and you could go from mall to mall and other places. In my stay in Hong Kong, buildings are interconnected with each other and there was not much of a need to go out in the streets. Their inter-city train is so fast even the one going to Disneyland.I love trains from Hitachi, Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens. Technocracy is the answer where in the right people are the ones appointed in key positions, not people who has the money to run to be elected by idiot monkeys. Make public commuting convenient and there will be no need to drive a car in the city just to get around.

    First of all people can buy easily a car if you have money why not? Korea you can have only one car and imagine those business class people. Trains and busses are major transportatio├▒in cities. But is not the case why traffic still in metro manila. Trade and business are in metro manila. Business people who were lived in provinces lay their business in metro manila. How about, other cities in Philippines states be like metro manila? Maybe it will lessen the traffic in metro manila. Jobs and trades in thire respective provinces.

    Can I add that designed stops for jeepney and buses would help? There is such a thing as too much convenience. Why expect public transportation to stop every 10 meters, instead of a little walking?

    One of the biggesy problemes is the salary difference from the provinces. People will always come to Manila for perceived better education. Other people come to Manila for perceived higher income, minimum in Mindoro is 320 peso but in Manila 537. The person comes to Manila but has to live a long way outside of Manila with usually only a bed space and has to commute up to 2 hours each way. If the government slowly increased provincial minimum wages the population in Manila would decrease resulting in less traffic, water and sewage issues. STEP BACK AND LOOK AT WHY PEOPLE COME TO MANILA, THE ANSWER IS MONEY.

    Limit the car registration, just like in Singapore. Limit the car per family and limit the bus on the roads except during rush hours.

    The problem is not coding it’s the government. These are the problems I see : Not enough traffic light at high traffic intersections; No traffic Enforcement when people drive wrong, motorcycles cause most of the problems by filling up the intersections and turning beside cars and trucks, there are no signs on where you are or where you going. During construction of roadways no lighting, signage to warn drivers. Biggest problem here is motorcycles going between cars and trucks.