When traffic is not triviality

ariel nepomuceno_1MAKE use of time, let not advantage slip! That’s not from a management guru but from a literary genius, William Shakespeare, who clearly assigned a high premium to the value of productive time.

There is absolutely no question that the current traffic situation in Metro Manila is no longer a joke. Edsa can only handle 120,000 vehicles per lane per hour but currently, this number grew to 145,000 vehicles. More vehicles with no effective traffic management and control is a formula for an urban disaster in a megacity like Metro Manila.

Unfortunately, traffic statistics would show that a trip by car from the Camp Crame area in Quezon City  to the business district of  Makati City now takes about one hour and 45 minutes in the morning if one leaves between 7 and 8 a.m. If you leave Makati by 5 p.m., one would reach Cubao in about two hours and 15 minutes. The traditional choke points along Edsa have now increased from three (Balintawak, Cubao, Guadalupe) to at least eight, which now include Ortigas proper, Megamall area, Shaw Boulevard and Taft Avenue.

Lost productivity

People who spend less time to get to key employment, education, commercial and population centers are inclined to be more socially and economically productive than those whose travel time takes several meaningless hours. Traffic congestion intensifies costs to the Filipino family, the work force and the industry. There is a peso value attached to lost time and opportunity, not to mention excess costs in fuel consumption. The gridlock in Edsa and its arteries adversely affects competitiveness and efficiency. Free flowing travel enables companies to bring merchandise to the market quicker. Consequently, this also boosts profits.  Undoubtedly, productivity is a cornerstone of increased and sustained economic output.  In turn, economic growth enables more gains in poverty reduction.

Long-term solutions: Urgent

Good traffic management and control systems, coupled with an effective transportation system, are crucial in promoting economic growth because it cements the interconnections between different parts of the country and even beyond our borders. Superior urban transportation systems facilitate more access to important services and social activities. They link people to their workplace, deliver products to market faster, solidify both supply chain and logistics concerns, and boost local and international trade. Environmentally speaking, less traffic congestion means less greenhouse- gas emissions. A plethora of scientific and policy studies on the direct linkage between mobility, transport systems and productivity support the aforementioned conclusion.

A study made  by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) showed that Metro Manila’s traffic congestion costs the Philippines P2.4 billion every day way back in 2012 when the study was made, and that the country stands to lose up to P6 billion a day by 2030 if the problem persists. With transit demand that reach up to 7.4 million passengers a day by 2030, Jica said there is a need for good mass-transport services to address this issue. Public transport accounts for 69 percent of the total number of trips taken in Metro Manila every day.

Jica also came up with a 2030 plan, which involves the establishment of an integrated urban mass-transit network, efficient infrastructure and improvement in  traffic-management activities. If the plan is operationalized,  our country  can save as much as P1.2 trillion in 2030: P1.9 billion a day or P570 billion a year from time cost savings and P2.1 billion a day or P630 billion a year from vehicle operating cost savings.

PNP and budget support needed

Very encouraging is the pronouncement of Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad that  the government intends to increase infrastructure budget  from about P400 billion in 2013 to at least P800 billion in 2016, to reach the target of 5-percent infra spending to gross domestic product ratio. The Executive department has also begun an infrastructure rationalization plan under which government processes are streamlined to fast-track infrastructure projects. These projects would include improvements in transport and traffic-management concerns.

The Highway Patrol Group (HPG) experiment is also one concrete response by our government to the public outcry to solve the chronic traffic problems in Metro Manila.  It seems to be producing some positive results, but it’s still early and we are all aware that long-term solutions are needed to address this nagging issue. Positive feedback continuously builds up as  he general populace is pleased that our government is seriously taking this up. Critical here is the leadership of PNP chief Gen. Ricardo Marquez, who is known for his no-nonsense management style.

The government must also double the public education aspect of this traffic dilemma. Our citizens, the motorists in particular, must learn the proper rules and etiquette on our busy roads from the time they are in high school, to the moment they apply for their license to drive, and up to the first chance that they hit the road. Part of the solution is to follow and respect traffic rules.


For comments and suggestions, send to: arielnepo.businessmirror@gmail.com




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