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DEASTINATION: Stuck in Traffic

Cardinal Conversations is back in its 4th season in collaboration with the Eastern Asia Society for Transporation Studies (EASTS) - Transportation Science Society of the Philippines - Mapua Student Chapter, highlighting the importance and relevance of transportation in the country.

In the first episode, “DEASTINATION: Stuck in Traffic,” they discussed and talked about the traffic congestion in the Philippines with guest speaker, Director Neomie Recio, Director III of the Traffic Engineering Center of MMDA.

What is Traffic Congestion?

In many regions, traffic congestion remains a severe issue. The enormous majority of vehicles on the road is the primary source of concern. There are, however, numerous strategies to mitigate and manage this concern.

According to the most recent TomTom Traffic Index statistics, Metro Manila's yearly traffic congestion reduced from 71 percent in 2019 to 53 percent in 2020. This indicates that a 30-minute commute in Metro Manila will take 53% longer than it would in average, uncongested conditions. Despite an improvement in yearly traffic congestion resulting from COVID-19 community lockdowns, the Philippines remains the fourth most crowded city in the world, having risen from second place in 2019.

Traffic System of the Philippines

Director Recio stated that traffic in Metro Manila is everywhere, especially before the pandemic. The flow of cars and other land transportation vehicles on the road, whether public, private, or government-owned, is referred to as traffic. If there is heavy traffic, it signifies that there are a lot of vehicles on the road, making it difficult to move and traverse. “The congestion is due to the heavy volume of vehicles,” she added.

The MMDA, on the other hand, intended to improve traffic flow and cut travel times by optimizing not only vehicular movement but also that of people, goods, and services. MMDA also needed a long-term solution to managing the movement of more than 11 million people in Metro Manila, the country's main business, retail, and industrial hub.

Recio said that the Philippines must begin with the government to establish a trustworthy system. The government must do something practical to appease the people while also disciplining them.

Causes of Traffic

As people affected by this, we have the right to ask what is causing this to occur. Overpopulation in the country is one of the reasons why Metro Manila is so congested daily. Metro Manila is the core region to which most people travel in the hopes of obtaining work that will allow them to support their families and live a comfortable life. Because everyone is flocking to Metro Manila searching for a job, the city's already dense population grows. Overpopulation causes traffic because the majority of these individuals rely on automobiles to commute to work every day.

Furthermore, the widespread usage of narrow roadways worsens the problem. Skinny roads might be difficult to accommodate the hundreds of vehicles that pass through them daily. Because it can only accommodate a specific number of cars, it might cause traffic congestion.

Lastly, driver noncompliance is a source of traffic. Cutting, taking over vehicles, and disregarding road signs are just a few of the many things that drivers do on the road, causing discomfort to other drivers and sometimes generating traffic.

Traffic Upshots

Consequently, Director Recio pinpointed the populating "car-centric" culture of here in the Philipines. The dream of owning a car or any vehicle, plus the demand and necessity of acquiring a private car, are among the few factors driving the country's "car-centric" culture.

Recio further mentioned that vehicle ownership in the country is unrestrictive, unlike other countries, which led to the voluminous count of vehicles traveling the roads.

Subsequently, this resulted in congestion in the country's major roads, increased carbon dioxide emission, and longer travel time.

"We are experiencing so much congestion, especially along EDSA," Recio said. Congestion on roads is directly related to the volume of vehicles traveling a road simultaneously, mainly experienced during peak travel hours. Moreover, this directly links to the increased carbon dioxide emission from cars, continuously polluting the air.

Recio justified that long travel time is still one of the unpleasant effects of traffic in the country. The time consumed in travel may result in unproductive time when it overlaps the hours allotted for work.

Resolving Traffic

With such adverse consequences of traffic, sets of solutions are needed.

Recio agreed that the traffic situation in the Philippines needs to have its way out. She mentioned that, unlike other foreign countries, the government has not yet taken total commitment to restrict car ownership.

According to Recio, limiting car ownership will restrict the volume of vehicles traveling on roads, thus mitigating traffic. However, it is not feasible with the current situation since everyone aims to reduce contact transmission of COVID-19.

Recio cited that among the practical measures that can be done to reduce traffic are the promotion of mass transportation and the construction of better and broader roads.

Recio said, “Hindi ka bibili ng sasakyan kung maganda ang ating public transport. [You will not buy a vehicle if our public transportation is better.]”

Improving public transportation in the country is one of the government's ongoing projects alongside other Build, Build, Build program projects. Recio added that Filipinos must try to open their minds on mass public transportation.

Not only does mass public transport offer convenient travel, but it also reduces the volume of traffic to the most significant benefit. But then again, Recio said it is still far from satisfying the greatest expectation of the public, yet the efforts and progress are made towards this.

In light of all the issues and root causes associated with the traffic condition of the Philippines, it all comes down to discipline. In solving this traffic crisis, Recio stressed that "Discipline matters." Discipline in all facets – the domain of drivers, the field of traffic, management, and road officials, and discipline of the public.

Co Writer: Rhea Mae Cuasay

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