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15 July 2013

MMDA's new proposed number coding scheme is a low blow to private motorists

Words by Leslie Sy
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Traffic conditions in Metro Manila has gone from bad to worst in the last few months. This is despite the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority's (MMDA) vehicle number coding scheme of banning private and commercial vehicles from the city streets one day a week. Originally planned as a temporary measure to ease traffic conditions around the construction areas in the city's road flyovers back in 1995, it has since become the MMDA's permanent solution to easing the Metro's traffic woes.
But recently, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino is proposing a shift from the current two-digit Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) into a four-digit system as a potential way to ease the traffic congestion in the Metro. With the proposed new four-digit system, vehicles get banned from the city roads twice a week.
Vehicle with license plate numbers ending with in the following digits will be banned from major thoroughfares on assigned days (this was later changed to only affect EDSA users), as listed below:
1, 2, 3, 4 banned on Mondays
5, 6, 7, 8 banned on Tuesdays
9, 0, 1, 2 banned on Wednesdays
3, 4, 5, 6 banned on Thursdays
7, 8, 9, 0 banned on Fridays
The current two-digit Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) bans vehicles only once a week.
While the MMDA said the new proposed system could cut the number of vehicles on the road by 40% on any given day as was done in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Santiago in Chile, local motorists have voiced their protest and discontent against this new proposal. The main problem is that the new plan does not address the sources of the traffic issue.
A major source of the problem is the public utility buses and jeepneys. There are too many of them on the road. Also, it has already been pointed out by a Japanese study that by drastically reducing the number of buses on our major highways, it will actually help speed up the passenger movement and volume. To solve this problem, the MMDA has to effectively remove all colorum buses and reduce the number of buses with existing transport franchises.
Another source of traffic are the bus terminals and bus stops. For the terminals, it has been long recommended to have them moved to locations at the city boundary so provincial buses do not have to enter the city and add to the city traffic. Buses at the designated bus stops should not be allowed to linger longer than a few seconds to allow passengers to get on or off the buses. This prevents buses from piling up at a single stop.
Third problem is the lack of any increase in the major roadways to travel around the city. As Metro Manila's population is still growing, the road network has to keep pace with this growth. A road network that was adequate for 1980's will not cope with the increased population today. We need new roads as well as to expand our existing ones.
It seems the MMDA prefers to “punish” private car owners because it is easier for them to do this than to actually face the source of the problem and to fix it. The MMDA asks us to give their new traffic scheme a chance to improve the traffic condition. But it seems they have forgotten that they have already been given a chance by private car owners since 1995 with the first implementation of the odd-even traffic system soon followed by the “number-coding” scheme by the MMDA. Since the completion of the metro's road flyover system, we have not seen improvements to permanently fix the problem. We have only seen short-term, stop-gap, and half-baked schemes that don't do much to help the problem, or worst, create a bigger mess than before. So it is to no surprise that when the MMDA proposed a new number-coding scheme that bans private cars twice a week, private car owners all voiced out their discontent and anger at the agency.
Ironically, with the MMDA doing nothing to permanently solve the traffic issue ends up costing the country more. Everyday, we needlessly burn two to five times more fuel simply because we are stuck in traffic. Everyday, our air gets smoggy because of all that needlessly burned fuel from vehicles stuck in traffic. Everyday, we waste so many hours sitting in traffic where-as it could have been spent productively in our offices or homes.
MMDA, it is time that you face the real issues and have the will to fix it properly.