The Metro Manila Development Authority, now under the leadership of chairman Danilo Lim, is looking into the possibility of implementing a three-digit number coding scheme to further reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and improve the flow of traffic in the metropolis.
The three-digit number coding scheme was first proposed last year but was rejected by members of the Metro Manila Council, the governing board and policy-making body of the MMDA, citing the lack of time and preparation to implement the scheme.
The MMC, which is composed of 17 mayors in the National Capital Region, instead suggested that the MMDA should intensify the road clearing operations against illegally-parked vehicle, basketball courts, sidewalk vendors and other obstructions on both major and secondary roads.
Lim, now more than one month as MMDA chief, said that there is need for the government to reduce the increasing number of vehicles in NCR as the number of registered vehicles in the metropolis alone already reached from 2.6 to 2.7 million, more than double the maximum carrying capacity of the road.
“Yung kalsada natin dito sa Metro Manila is only five to six percent of all the national road networks, so you have all the 36 percent ng lahat ng sasakyan nag ipon-ipon lahat dito sa five percent na mga kalsada,” Lim said. “Napakahirap talaga nitong problema sa traffic, kailangan mabawasan talaga ang volume [of the vehicles].”
Aside from the three-digit scheme, the MMDA is also considering enforcing the odd-even scheme, implemented during the time of the late former President Corazon Aquino, and imposing higher penalty for traffic violations.
Last week, Lim got irked when asked by reporters if there’s a timeline when the MMDA would solve the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila.
The former army general said he should not be pressured by the public and should not be tied down with timelines. He pointed out that he is not a “time-bound” official of the government for the public to expect an immediate traffic solution from him.
“Wag niyo akong anuhan ng time dahil hindi niyo ako pwedeng itali sa time na yan. Hindi tayo time-bound,” he said, but clarified that he will not stop looking for solutions to traffic problem and asked for the public’s cooperation. (Don’t ask me about timeline because you cannot tie me into that. We’re not time-bound here). “Unfair ang question na ganiyan, ilang taon na itong traffic? 20 years. Tapos gusto niyong solusyonan ko overnight. There is no overnight solution to the traffic problem in this country,” he said.
(That’s an unfair question. How old is this traffic situation, 20 years. And then you want us to come up with a solution overnight?)
Last year, then MMDA acting chairman Thomas Orbos agreed with the implementation of the three digit scheme proposed by Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on or before December to ease road congestion during the peak buying days.
In his Nov. 3, 2016 column at the Manila Standard, Suarez said “Before December comes in, the DOTr should have a prescribed schedule of banned vehicles per day (i.e. 1,2,3 for December 1; 4,5,6 for December 2; and so on). This must be implemented until the end of the Three Kings’ Day celebration, when we will revert to the two-digit number coding scheme.”
“I can already anticipate the resistance by many. It requires change. Big change. Change is often met with instant refusal. Change is seen as a negative thing. I think, in this case, big problem, big solution. So please consider, do we leave things as they are and allow traffic to get worse? Isn’t it better to do something now before a serious problem arises?” said Suarez in his column.
Suarez had expected that the scheme will reduce 30 to 40 percent decrease in the volume of vehicles in Metro Manila.
The lawmaker made the proposal after the slight success and improvement of traffic on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue following the suspension of the so-called window hours for private vehicles in the number coding scheme.
The Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, or the number coding scheme, was devised to keep vehicles out of major thoroughfares on certain days based on the last digit of the license plate.
The system corresponds to 1 and 2 for Monday, 3 and 4 for Tuesday, 5 and 6 for Wednesday, 7 and 8 for Thursday, and 9 and 0 for Friday. The window hours refer to the five-hour (10 am to 3 pm) period, but removing this means the vehicles covered by the Number Coding Scheme may not pass EDSA and other major thoroughfares.
MMDA officials admitted that the increasing number of private vehicles is the major cause of the traffic jams along EDSA. They say more than 6,800 vehicles are using EDSA per hour in one direction higher than the artery’s capacity of 6,000 vehicles per hour.
The agency says about 6,000 cars are sold in the country each month, and that 90 percent of the vehicles using EDSA are private.
Lim said among the other reasons why motorists continue experiencing monstrous traffic are the increasing number of road accidents, undisciplined drivers and the ongoing numerous infrastructure and road projects initiated by the government.
“We have to reduce the volume. Now, we begin first with discipline, back to basic we should follow and sustain serious implementation and enforcement of traffic rules,” said Lim.
Study showed that for a mega-city like Metro Manila, 25 percent of the total land area should be allotted for roads.
But based on the MMDA’s records, only 5,000 kilometers of road network is in place instead of the ideal target of 8,000 kilometers.
Some analysts said that to solve traffic congestions in Metro Manila, the government must concentrate on the development and improvement of the public transport system. They also recommended strict regulation of car ownership, a no garage, no car policy and higher fees on parking areas.