Did you know? According to the navigation app Waze, Metro Manila is once again set to take the top spot as the world’s worst city for drivers.

The Waze report shows that in Metro Manila, it takes about 4.9 minutes for a motorist to cover just 1 kilometer! This is even worse than Bogota, Colombia where it takes around 4 minutes to travel 1 kilometer, and Jakarta, Indonesia where it takes about 3.83 minutes to travel the same distance.

Metro Manila has consistently been ranked as one of the worst cities in the world for drivers.

Note: The Waze report was based on data which was gathered in September 2019. Traffic is expected to get worse in the succeeding months with the upcoming holiday season.

Causes of Congestion in Metro Manila and Other Major Cities

Often, lack of infrastructure is cited as the major cause of the traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other major cities in the Philippines. However, even a simple analysis shows that infrastructure is not the sole cause of the problem.

True, insufficient road infrastructure is a big issue behind the country’s traffic congestion. However, the country’s traffic congestion problem is also caused by other factors, including the country’s economic boom, lack of efficient public transport, and the rise of the motorcycle sector.

The Philippine Economic Boom

A growing economy is good – but it has its downsides too.

The Philippines is a fast-growing economy in Asia. However, due to this economic boom, more and more Filipinos are able to purchase cars and motorcycles. And with more vehicles on the road, the more severe the traffic congestion problem becomes.

Low interest rates and easy access to credit further enables the domestic automotive industry to increase its sales. In fact, in the first quarter of 2019 alone, the Philippine auto industry sold 97,375 vehicles – selling 24 more units compared to the same period from last year! This figure does not include motorcycles, the sales of which improved by 8% in the first half 2019 and is projected to reach 1.7 million units sold in the year.

Lack of Efficient Public Transport

Despite the government’s efforts to solve the country’s traffic crisis, a recent report shows that it is the most congested cities in Asia.

The report cites the lack of efficient public transportation as one of the reasons for the congestion.

Furthermore, a report from the Japan International Cooperation Agency shows that Metro Manila’s traffic congestion costs the country around Php 3.5 billion daily. If no interventions are made, this number could rise to Php 5.4 billion by 2035.

Not only is the traffic congestion costing our country money, it is also costing lives as ambulances face severe transportation delays.

The Rise of the Motorcycle Sector

There is a growing number of motorcycles in Metro Manila and other major cities in the Philippines.

Motorcycle sales improved by 8% in the first half 2019 and is projected to reach 1.7 million units sold in the year.

In 2018, a total of 11.6 million motor vehicles were registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which is an increase of almost 1.2 million from the 2017 figure of 10.5 million.

The rise of the motorcycle sector contributes to the country’s worsening traffic congestion problem. However, it has also led to other road challenges, such as increased road fatalities and accidents.

In fact, motorcycle accidents are now the ninth leading cause of mortality among Filipinos. Statistics show that Quezon City holds the record for the most number of fatal road crashes at 56 cases in 2018. This high incidence is attributed to the large number of motorcycle riders that pass through EDSA, Commonwealth Avenue, and C-5 Road in Quezon City.

Reducing Traffic Congestion and Other Road Challenges

Unfortunately, there is no one answer to the country’s traffic congestion and other road challenges. Any attempt to build new infrastructure to compensate for the country’s growing population and increasing number of vehicles has always been too little, too late.

Solving the traffic congestion and road challenges in the Philippines necessitates a holistic approach, involving improved infrastructure and public transportation, changes in legislation, and improved driver education.

To ease traffic congestion and other road challenges, experts believe that the country needs to build a mass transit system (i.e. a subway system comparable to the ones in New York or London). The current system that we have only covers a fraction of the Metro. Building a mass transit system would go a long way in taking cars and motorcycles off of the road, as well as minimizing the number of buses that crowd the main roads. But since building this infrastructure will take time, experts suggest starting with simpler solutions – such as cycling and walking.

Currently, bicycles are becoming increasingly popular among commuters who cannot afford cars and motorcycles. Although, these cannot accommodate a lot of commuters to decrease the number of vehicles on the road, bicycles can hopefully lessen traffic – in terms of lessening the number of vehicles on the road. Moreover, experts suggest improving walking and cycling safely. They believe that there are many good practices that we can borrow from our neighboring countries, like Tokyo and Singapore.

Another solution to our country’s traffic congestion problem has been the implementation of the excise tax on vehicles. Its pioneers believed that it can help de-congest traffic, particularly in Metro Manila, where numerous individuals use private cars daily. This move is also the government’s way to encourage citizens to utilize public transportation.

Furthermore, if anti-smoke belching laws are strictly enforced, it would greatly reduce the number of both public and private vehicles on the road. Not to mention, it can greatly improve the country’s air quality.

Another solution to today’s road challenges would be to improve driver education. If you have ever applied for a driver’s license, you may notice that it is way too easy to get one. That is why many motorists are unaware of basic traffic laws and lack proper road etiquette, which often leads to car crashes and accidents.

Lastly, before addressing traffic problems and other road challenges, the government must first ensure the proper enforcement of all rules and regulations. Traffic enforcers should remain loyal to their profession, and not be agents of abuse. Law enforcement should be a top priority – it is only through consistency that citizens can learn to follow road rules, and hopefully, lessen the road problems that we experience.