An Economy Stuck in Traffic
Trapped in gridlocked main thoroughfares is boon to emerging economies like the Philippines. Trouble might be brewing for the metropolis because of poorly planned urban growth. The unbridled addition of new vehicles, as well as human population in the ever shrinking roads of Manila could hamper further economic progress if left unchecked.
Traffic hurts the pockets too. In 2013, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reported that the Philippines lost Php 2.4 billion every day in 2012 because of traffic. By 2030, JICA predicted that the country is at risk of losing Php 6 billion per day. Other factors could hurt not only the economy, but also health, productivity and the environment. Traffic jams translate to increased greenhouse gas emissions, which could be detrimental to health. Moreover, vehicles often trapped in traffic jams could have reduced lifecycles, increasing the costs of repairs and fuel prices. Being caught in traffic jams reduces the productivity of workers.
The busiest roads in the metropolis are highways, radial, and circumferential roads that move goods and people on a daily basis. Among these roads are C-3 (Araneta Avenue, Gil Puyat Avenue, Ayala Avenue), C-4 (EDSA, Samson Road, Letre), C-5 (C.P. Garcia, E. Rodriguez, Katipunan), R-1 (Roxas Boulevard, Bonifacio Drive), R-2 (Taft Avenue), R-7 (España Avenue, Quezon Avenue), R-5 (Legarda Street, Ramon Magsaysay, Shaw Boulevard, Pasig Boulevard), R-6 (Aurora Boulevard, Marcos Highway), Gil Puyat Avenue, Ortigas Avenue, R-7 (Espana Boulevard, Quezon Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue), and R-9 (Rizal Avenue, McArthur Highway).
The JICA 'Dream Plan'
Nevertheless, there is still hope for Metro Manila provided the government responds decisively. Recently, the government approved a study of JICA and key government agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to name a few. The aim of the study was to find solutions at solving the congestion problem in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Among the recommendations of the plan is to implement a modern, economical, and coordinated integrated transportation system in the metropolis by 2030. The plan is also known as JICA’s “dream plan.”
Aside from a modern, efficient, and integrated transport system, JICA recommends urban expansion to nearby provinces. The urban expansion includes the development of affordable housing for low-income groups, the retrofitting of existing urban centers to accommodate an integrated public transport system, an expansion of the existing multimodal transport network, and enhancement of the traffic management system.
For the entire project, the Philippines should shell out Php 2.3 trillion. Included in this plan is the development of new roads and expressways to improve accessibility to rail system, traffic enforcement, and education. Improved traffic management, as well as improved public transport system will enhance the ability of the country to reduce losses and generate income. If the project is implemented, JICA estimates that the country could save as much as Php 1.2 trillion in 2030 or an equivalent of Php 1.9 billion per day. The government is expected to generate up to Php 119 billion from toll and fare revenues. Commuters will save at least Php 18 per day and reduce travel time by 49 minutes per trip. The demand for mass transport by 2030 will increase to 7.4 million passengers per day.