What makes Metropolitan Manila traffic so congested, and what can be done to fix it

You’re in Makati. It is 1:00 PM. You have a 3:00 PM appointment in Parañaque – a mere twenty kilometers from where you are. You get in your car and drive to your appointment. Because the traffic is so bad, it takes you 2-1/2 hours to get to your destination. You miss your appointment. Don’t curse – you’re in Metro Manila!

Metro Manila (also known as the National Capital Region) has a traffic problem like no other place on earth. Most political and business leaders in the country blame the situation completely on “bad traffic management.” But bad traffic management is only one of the causes – and not the primary cause – of Metro Manila’s traffic woes.

Metropolitan Manila is made up of sixteen cities and municipalities. The region covers an area of 611 square kilometers (236 sq. miles) with a population of 12 million people. Metro Manila is likely the world’s most populated region, with a density of 19,000 persons per square kilometer (50,000 persons per square mile).

While not all the people who live in the Metro Manila drive their own vehicle, most of them are on the road travelling, at least twice a day – by car, bus, “jeepney”, taxi (or Uber), tricycle, pedicab, motorcycle, motorbike, or on foot. And those who walk help obstruct and slow down vehicular traffic.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 2.5 million vehicles of all types were registered to operate in the Metro Manila area in 2015 - more than 25% of the total number of vehicles operating in the entire country. On the other hand, there are only 1,030 kilometers of roadways in the entire region of 611 square kilometers.

From these facts, one could easily glean the reasons Metro Manila’s traffic is so notoriously bad:

  1. There are 2.5 million vehicles operating in an area with only 1,030 kilometers of roads – more than 2,400 vehicles per kilometer of roadway.
  2. Traffic patterns are disorganized.
  3. Drivers, generally discourteous, disregard and violate traffic rules and safe driving habits.
  4. Pedestrians and peddlers occupy traffic lanes in congested areas.
  5. Passenger vehicles double-park in wait for fares in congested areas.
  6. Development continues unabated without regard to environmental impact, especially on traffic and parking.

What’s the solution?

  1. Thin out the Metro Manila population by requiring large industrial complexes to move out of the area.
  2. Move the nation’s capital to a planned community at least 200 kilometers away from Metro Manila.
  3. Promulgate a national policy for agricultural development and growth to discourage people from migrating to the cities in search of opportunity.
  4. Enforce traffic rules.

Without these steps, the Metro Manila area will literally stagnate.


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