The Cost of Traffic Congestion(Part 2 - The social costs)
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - April 17, 2018 - 12:00am

Last week, we laid out the basic considerations in the estimation of the costs of traffic congestion in terms of transport. These are by no means the only costs there are, but as far as economics is concerned, these are the major basic ones, and so substantial that other costs are left out in the estimation especially in project evaluation and prioritization. The reported JICA estimates were based on time costs and VOC costs, and so are the economic benefits calculated by NEDA.

Each affected person may claim other costs as well as traffic affects people in different ways. Most are in terms of delays especially that traffic happens mostly in urban areas with their fast pace of daily life. If we go deeper, perceived delays are often comparative between now and before (what took 20 minutes before now takes 30), seldom absolute. And since traffic almost always gets worse we almost always complain. Still each individual feeling of loss is minimal compared to the economic "losses" we described.

The other experiential but real costs of traffic congestion are the social ones, especially that which affects time, family, and relationships. We often forget that we all have 24 hours per day, no one has more or less. Take away eight of that for sleep (studies show that we need at least that, regardless of age or what we think), and we often work another eight hours a day. That leaves us with only eight hours left for other things -all the other things we do each day, less the time spent in traffic.

And so, we look at the costs of traffic congestion, this time social, in terms of "foregone" time to be spent wisely. Time spent in traffic is time lost which would have otherwise been spent with family and loved ones, unless you waste it on other things, too. Not to mention time spent with finer things in life -a stroll in the park, laughing with friends…the Uber driver I wrote about a few weeks ago said his wife takes four hours to go to work in Manila, one way. Most of us will take less in varying degrees. But for many, the time which could have been spent with loved ones is worth more than any of the transport losses computed by economists. The former is irreplaceable.

That is why there is no other choice but to migrate to mass transport -because then your mobility is not affected by traffic congestion. Those advocating for more roads or road widening instead may have missed all the current widely-accepted realities that widening roads or more roads DO NOT solve traffic congestion but will worsen them. Try googling "road widening congestion" and read all you can. Foreign governments and cities already acknowledge that road widening does not work, yet people in ours still herald this outmoded notion. Sure, we can build and widen others. But if you want to solve traffic congestion you need mass transportation. Not widening. (To be continued)

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