EDITORIAL - Second worst in the world
(The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2020 - 12:00am

The five-minute challenge of driving along EDSA from Cubao, Quezon City to Makati by December last year was not met. And now traffic congestion in Metro Manila has been ranked as the second worst in the world.

Netherlands-based location technology provider TomTom, in its latest Traffic Index covering 416 cities in 57 countries, ranked Metro Manila behind only Bengaluru in southern India among the most traffic-choked mega cities in the world. In Southeast Asia, only the Indonesian capital of Jakarta was also included among the 10 worst in the TomTom Traffic Index, ranking 10th. Thai capital Bangkok, which now has a subway system, placed 11th.

Last year, traffic navigation app Waze also ranked Metro Manila as the worst place in the world for driving, with motorists taking an average of 4.9 minutes to negotiate a single kilometer – and this was in September, before the Christmas season traffic congestion.

TomTom reported worse congestion during the evening rush hour than in the morning rush, with 6 to 7 p.m. on Fridays as the worst time with an average of 143 percent road congestion.

Filipinos are aware of the costs of traffic gridlocks. A 2018 study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency said traffic jams were costing the country a staggering P3.5 billion in “lost opportunities” daily, with the figure projected to triple by 2030.

The government is hoping that new bypass roads combined with road clearing operations and better enforcement would ease the gridlocks. Tolls on bypass roads, however, are keeping away motorists, who refuse to leave their vehicles at home due to the acute inadequacy of public transportation. A subway can ease road congestion, but this project is just getting started.

Motorists have called for the opening of selected streets in gated villages all over Metro Manila to serve as alternative routes. They argue that any road that has become heavily commercialized, such as those in the country’s largest subdivision, BF Homes in Parañaque, must be declared as a free public thoroughfare. Political will, however, has been spotty or lacking in heeding such calls.

There are other measures that can be undertaken within the relatively short term. Upgrading railway services must be given urgency, both for passengers and cargo. Water transportation can use a boost, along the Pasig River and in Manila Bay.

The TomTom Traffic Index merely reflected what everyone in Metro Manila already knows: traffic congestion is a serious problem still begging to be fixed.

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