Sunday, December 03, 2006

Traffic suggestions

A recent PhilStar columnist (Wilson Lee Flores) discussed his recommendations to solve Metro Manila's horrendous traffic. Apart from the usual calls for better traffic enforcement, listed below are my additional suggestions.

1. Use economic incentives/disincentives. Pricing modifies behavior. There is no need to confiscate driver's licenses. However, impose traffic fines on a progressive basis, meaning the bigger the engine displacement, the stiffer the fines. Bigger vehicles occupy more road space and many of their drivers tend to violate traffic laws. Their recklessness have more significant traffic consequences.

2. Percentage of traffic fines should go to socialized housing. A major cause of traffic is the squatter problem. The garbage-flooding-traffic link is due to the lack of adequate infrastructure (roads, drainage, water supply, sewerage, transportation nodes, etc.) and social services (garbage disposal) in squaatter areas. Squatters are a 40% reality of Metro Manila. Address the squatter problem and you root out a major cause of traffic.

3. Shame them. A number of the traffic violators are politicians and bus drivers. Traffic hotspots should have cameras that are linked to a website, which the public can access. This website should also be a repository of pictures, the license plates and car details of power trippers-traffic violators. I wonder how owners and firm officers of unruly, dirty, and polluting buses will react when they are publicly identified. All fines imposed and collected should be posted online for the public to check anytime.

4. Night workers. All road construction and maintenance should be done only during nighttime. This should be strictly enforced. Violators must be fined or bonds foreclosed.

5. Busways. We all agree that we need mass transit, preferably light rail or a train system for Metro Manila. However, the costs involved, issues of conflict, and the land needed make it almost unfeasible. Light rail/railways are desirable because these are dedicated lines that ensure consistent travel and pick up/drop off points. Why not reclaim one lane of EDSA and the other major roads and make it these dedicated busways or buslanes? The only cost would be the bus stations. Bid out the busway and the right to put in buses that are clean, environment-friendly, safe, and have professional drivers. They can charge a bit more than the buses. Estimate maximum number of buses needed for profitability. Check out

6.Buy out South Expressway toll contract and rebid.
The Skyway is an embarrassment. The residents of Paranaque all the way to the Laguna and Batangas should not suffer because of the business incompetence of CITRA/Stradec. They should give up management control if they can not extend and expand the Skyway system. Let in other business parties now.

7.Buy out jeepney franchises in major roads or phase them out in five-ten years. Society and government need to address this anachronism and major deterrent to efficient traffic management.

The goal is to solve multiple problems/issues using economic incentives. Culture always wins. There are ways to tweak Filipino practices that lead to more desirable behavior. Of course, all these are dependent on political will and transformational leadership. Alas, that is another discussion.

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