Economic effects of traffic in Metro Manila

george chuaLAST week I read a front-page article in this newspaper that Pinoys waste 28,000 hours in “traffic.”  That translates to more than three whole years of your life wasted!  If you consider that the average productive life of an individual is 30 years, this means more than 10 percent of your working years is lost in traffic.  Not a pleasant thought at all.

Unfortunately, that is only the tip of the iceberg.  There are a multitude of other costs and problems that is brought about by the horrendous daily traffic situation.  We have additional pollution, more fuel expenditure, delays in the movement of goods, decreased turnover and the perpetuation of poverty.

Of course, the longer you are on the road, the more emission your public transport or private vehicle emits.  Additionally, the efficiency of engines tend to be less when it is on idle or at slow speed since incomplete combustion is more likely.  Naturally, the more pollutants the population is exposed to, the more effects it has on the general public health, leading to more medical bills and a shorter life span.

Obviously, once you have this perennial traffic situation, your fuel bill also goes up since you will be traveling at less efficient speeds or going nowhere while your engine is consuming fuel. Of course, a higher fuel bill means less profit for the public transport operators or cooperatives, and less disposable income for the private vehicle owners.  Not only that, the additional wear and tear on vehicles that are on standstill or moving at a snail’s pace is also much higher.  In a hot country like ours, the additional burden of lack of air flow increases the engine temperature to dangerously high levels, such that seeing cars stalled in heavy traffic situations is not uncommon.

The saying that time is money is certainly the case for businesses.  Delivering finished goods or receiving raw materials or inventory is time sensitive.  Delays affect production, delivery and work schedules, take its toll on the bottom line of the company.  It could also have an adverse impact on market demand, where alternative suppliers from other countries are more readily able to provide products at more reliable delivery schedules.  Our traffic situation has forced the implementation of color-coding schemes, truck bans and even contributed to our ongoing port-congestion problem, all of which has an adverse financial impact on businesses.

Public transport, delivery trucks and shuttle services are also victim to the perpetual traffic in Metro Manila.  Instead of being able to do three or four round trips, they are lucky to be able to do two, which translates to lost revenues and, in many cases, a shift from profitable operations to a losing business.  Public service also suffers in that the available schedules become less frequent and the waiting time becomes longer.

Without a doubt, the public, transport companies and businesses are all losing time and money, even the government is losing taxes because of the lost revenues from the traffic situation. Why is this happening when the solution is staring us in the face?  Because government officials allow it to happen.  As an example, you can see the horde of pedicabs plying the areas of La Salle and Saint  Scholastica’s in Manila, blocking traffic and making counterflow.  You can see the sidewalk vendors at the corner of Edsa and Don Chino Roces blocking one of the two lanes right in plain sight of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority enforcers.  You can see jeepneys everywhere stopping in the middle of the road to pick up passengers and the buses along Edsa swerving out of the bus lanes, blocking another two lanes.

Why do traffic enforcers and their supervisors allow such things to happen?  The answer is a combination of gross negligence, incompetence nd corruption.  All of which end up perpetuating poverty and costing all of us three years of our lives.  Please, remember this during election time and let us vote for people who can truly fix our traffic problem. We all deserve better.


Comments may be sent to [email protected].


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President and CEO of Bayan Automotive Industries Corp. FINEX former president.


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