By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The business community yesterday begged authorities to do something about the horrendous traffic in the metropolis which it estimated to cost ₱3.4 billion a day or ₱250 per person trip daily or 40 percent of the ₱600 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila.
In a statement, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) has 10 recommendations for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority stating their members are directly affected by the traffic congestion and employees of its members are crying for a solution.
Based on its computation, the daily cost of traffic congestion in 2019 is estimated to be ₱3.4 billion for 13.4 million person trips based on factors, such as the value of time lost due to delay, fuel costs, vehicle operating costs, health impact and greenhouse gas emission (or pollution). This translates to ₱250 per person trip per day which is around 40 percent of the ₱600 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila (MM).
Viewed in another way, MAP said the cost of rice in Metro Manila, as of November 21, 2019, ranged at the retail level from ₱27/kilo (regular milled) to ₱50/kilo (premium) or an average of around ₱35.
It further quoted an estimate from an international firm, which is a key player in the global supply chain, that transport costs account for 16 percent of total cost of a product that is moved from a manufacturing facility to a retail outlet.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that transport cost in Metro Manila accounts for 25 percent to 29 percent of the cost of a product – probably higher for rice as there are many costs involved from source in the provinces to retail in Metro Manila – perhaps as high as 40 percent.
Thus, a reduction of transport cost to even 25 percent (from 40%) would result in a 60 percent reduction in the cost of rice – from ₱35/kilo to ₱14/kilo.
“An impossible dream? Perhaps but worth fighting for as one can imagine the increase in productivity, the improvement in the quality of life for the commuter while also bringing down the cost of food to a level accessible to many more persons,” said MAP.
With the MMDA calling for suggestions from the public, MAP has called for an honest-to-goodness enforcement to compel motorists, both public and private, to comply with the regulation, and fines for violations must be settled speedily.
It also urged MMDA to maximize (but regulate) the existing PUVs to move more commuters faster than at present, in the absence of an efficient mass transport system which is an absolute necessity to alleviate the MM traffic crisis.
It also urged MMDA to put more commuter transport vehicles on the road at the right time. The imperative is the efficient use of PUVs (PUBs and PUJs).
“They must be operated efficiently as a system to quickly unload and load passengers at designated stops and not allowed to linger as always happening. Bus lane must be unclogged to keep PUVs moving and transporting commuters to their destination even during peak hours. Higher passenger throughput is the key. More PUVs and dedicated lanes won’t matter if they are just stuck in traffic on bus lanes or roads,” MAP said.
PUVs must be given priority in the use of limited road space by allocating more lanes to PUVs during rush hours (5:00 AM to 9:00 AM, then 4:30 PM to 9:00 PM).
To accommodate the additional number of PUVs on the road during rush hours, more lanes (at least one additional lane on EDSA) should be given to PUVs so they can make more round trips to transport more commuters daily and as quickly as possible.
PUVs should also be allowed to have a window long enough in the morning and again in the evening to help in transporting the massive number of commuters.
MAP also proposed to eliminate Number Coding for PUVs during designated rush hours to encourage more use of public transport rather than private vehicles. It is absurd that the Number Coding applies to PUVs, considering that hundreds of thousands of commuters are lining up starting at 5:30 AM and as late as 9:30 PM. Authorities must do within current powers to give priority to commuters rather than save the motorists from traffic.
Provincial buses must also be given enough leeway to help transport the maximum number of commuters at the shortest possible time.
Restore to private vehicles the use of all lanes during non-rush hours (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM). Limit the number of PUVs on the road thru a suggested, modified coding system in order to provide more space (and less congestion) to private vehicles during non-rush hours.
MMDA should also assign special flying (mobile) task force to unclog chokepoints along critical routes. There are many. One glaring example is the EDSA – Taft chokepoint area that slows down traffic and causes vehicles to back up kilometers long. Central traffic control center must put to good use their CCTV system to closely monitor these problem areas and alert flying task force or assigned traffic personnel to quickly untangle them before traffic backup. There must be accountability. Traffic supervisors failing to do their job must be yanked out and replaced. Unless this is done, the bad practices will continue with impunity.
Other recommendations include strict enforcement of traffic rules; strict supervision of traffic personnel and accountability imposed; PUVs to be operated efficiently as main people mover system, not private cars; PUV lanes to be used efficiently to move PUVs, not for parking or idling of PUVs; central traffic command must close monitor traffic conditions and quick reaction commands issued to field personnel; central PUV command to closely monitor and dispatch additional units or reduce them as appropriate; quick-reaction trouble shooters to untangle traffic; good road engineering with ruts quickly repaired to prevent vehicles from slowing down; congestion pricing for private vehicles during peak hours, instead of number coding; secondary roads must be cleared to reduce overloading main roads.