Take out the number coding scheme

For us Metro Manilans, it is obvious that the dreaded Metro Manila traffic has reared its ugly head once more, though not as bad and worrisome as before. In a way, it is a good sign that the capital region is back on its feet, after the two-year pandemic hiatus, but the thought of going back to those days when traversing Edsa would take hours would give the new administration, especially our new set of transport and traffic managers, its work cut out when they take over. My unsolicited advice — no need to re-implement the United Vehicle Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or more commonly known as the “number coding” scheme.

This scheme, with its many variations, had been with us for the longest time. It began some 30 years ago during the first Aquino administration incidentally by my brother, Oscar, who was then the transport secretary. Originally intended to be a short-term traffic solution while the many infrastructure and transport developments were being worked out, the scheme has become a permanent fixture many administrations after. But such a measure does not really work in the long term. The number coding scheme plus the lack of public transport only resulted in more vehicles on the road, or what can be said as an incident of “induced demand.” Hence, families bought an extra vehicle or two, leading to another pressure point of lack of parking space. Therefore, my wish for the next administration — let’s not fall into this trap, especially because there are also significant advantages that other administrations never had before — more infrastructure and transport development, some completed during the pandemic and more still in the pipeline. In the meantime, there are many traffic enforcement gaps that can be filled in. It is just a matter of strict enforcement and attention to detail. We did this in a way with some success, in the worst of times in the last quarter of 2016, when I was at the MMDA. We actually shaved off more than 10 minutes of travel time, without spending any capital expenditure but just focusing on enforcement work that we were tasked to do anyway. Allow me to share our solutions then and some things we were working on at that time.

1. Strict truck ban implementation — right now suspended due to Covid. My suggestion — implement daytime limitation to peripheral roads but allow full use of all roads, even Edsa, during the night — from 10 pm to 5 am

2. Implement the closure of Edsa provincial bus terminals, but address commuter convenience without added costs to them. My suggestion —bring in more commuter buses to traverse the central provincial terminals; and build a central hub in Metro Manila, it could be in Caloocan but definitely not on Edsa.

3. Fix persistent traffic areas: Baclaran / Taft and Cloverleaf Balintawak where you have all modes of transport present 24/7 — even tricycles, and sidewalk vendors taking up 2 lanes.

4. While we are at it — jeepneys are not supposed to be on Edsa, but they are there again in the areas I mentioned. Why? Strengthening!

4. Open up once more the military camps, private roads and exclusive villages on limited time and specified roads, if need be. We did this in 2016. This can be done again definitely.

5. Temper the ingress / egress areas of the super malls that we have along Edsa.

6. Start utilizing the newly built “flanker bridges” parallel to Guadalupe Bridge crisscrossing the Pasig River to ease the north-south traffic.

7. Secure and strengthen the underutilized corridors: Bike lanes and the Pasig River ferries — expand to Mega Manila, especially on the river tributaries

8. Technology! Why not have the ERP (electronic road pricing) system similar to Singapore; and CCTV monitoring for better enforcement.

9. Try implementing measures that work in other countries such as carpooling and flexi time.

10. Staff! Professionalize the enforcers and increase their numbers similar to what we have done with the police force. Maintain I — ACT or interagency cooperation and put more cohesiveness to LGU and national traffic managers.

11. Increase and encourage public transport. Rationalize their routes. And if need be, let government subsidize modernization.

12. Open up side aisles. Decongesting Edsa would mean decongesting as well as the connecting corridors.

There are many other schemes with less or minimal costs that can definitely ease the pressure of traffic. We need not always depend on institutionalized volume reduction, which we know will only worsen the situation. With a new administration coming in, we need to look for more sustainable traffic solutions beyond quick fix measures such as the number coding scheme.

The author may be reached at: [email protected]

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