Thursday, July 14, 2016

Manila Traffic Congestion

Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 14th, 2016: Citing a six-hour commuting “kalbaryo” for Metro Manila commuters, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) has reiterated its call for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to declare a traffic crisis so that he could be given emergency powers to solve the problem.

Then two weeks later...

GMA News, July 1, 2016: Senate President Franklin Drilon on Friday filed a bill seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the perennial traffic problem not only in Metro Manila but also in other major urban areas as well.

Indeed Manila's traffic congestion is extraordinary and a simple screen capture from Google tells the story:

I was in Manila in mid-July and I decided to book a 3-hour ride in a taxi to take in the sights... and the congestion.  This was on a Saturday when traffic is slightly less hectic than weekdays. However, around the two hour point I have had it and asked the driver to take me back!

Traffic flow in Manila is very disorganized. The root cause of the congestion are the jitneys and city buses that stop anywhere, including the third or fourth lane of a 10-lane arterial road to embark and disembark passengers. They fiercely compete and block each other in order to secure the tiny fare.

This is a brutal system the at various times reduced the roadway capacity from upward of 5.000 vehicles per hour to under 2,000 vehicles per hour.  I witnessed a jitney driver on a 6-lane road (3 lanes per direction, no shoulders) stopping and blocking a lane to relieve himself by the jersey barrier. I saw an 1-lane left turn becoming a 3-lane left turn because road connectivity is poor. I was told, but I did not witness it, that passenger processing occurs ever on freeway! Taxis and buses stop and pick up people on the freeway. The traffic flow situation in Manila is brutal, chaotic, wasteful and nonsensical.

I also spent a few days in Legaspi City, population about 200,000 where most roads are basic 2-lane roads, one lane per direction. Legaspi has better planning and road capacity for its current level of traffic, but again, random stops by the ubiquitous trikes and jitneys waste over 50% of the road capacity, sometimes creating a quarter mile queue when none should be there given the amount of traffic present.

However, the political moves made in the Philippines government do not seem to address the problem.  The changes are more about contracting and less about flow management and transportation service regulation. Strict penalties for lane blockage must be enacted. The rampant police officer bribing which allows the chaos of passenger processing to continue must stop.

Buses need to be organized into scheduled transit service (not necessarily government transit, but organized, regulated transit) with drivers being professional operators nor highway sharks. Most jitneys need to be regulated out of existence. They are slow, cumbersome and very polluting.  Some of the jitneys (a Manila icon) may be retained and upgraded for neighborhood (feeder) service.

And one more "to do": The Philippines must regulate 2-stroke engines as soon as possible to rid of their toxic pollution (burnt oil in addition to gasoline exhaust).