Getting around Metro Manila's traffic woes

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Jan 06 2011 01:19 PM | Updated as of Jan 07 2011 07:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is going back to basics in efforts to solve Metro Manila's traffic woes.

The agency proposes to do it by literally going around the problem--by constructing rotunda's or roundabouts.

Considering the cost involved in the maintaining traffic lights on a regular operational basis, and budget cuts, the agency is looking at constructing nine roundabouts in six cities as an alternative measure to ease traffic congestion.

The roundabouts

Initially, two areas are being considered, says MMDA spokesperson Tina Velasco on ANC's "The Rundown" Wednesday. These are the Redemptorist-Taft Avenue and the Baclaran intersection. Other prime spots are also being studied.

"That comes from the simulation study that indicates that there's a 200% increase in the speed in those areas. Essentially, you don't stop, you run smoothly, do a little turn-around and go to your destination smoothly," Velasco says.

The MMDA hopes to conduct the study, sell the idea and roll it out to all the 9 areas as soon as possible. But, Velasco admits, it won't be easy pursuing funding for the project.

"Roundabouts are u-turns that are smoother in design and very efficient when it comes to two or more intersections in major roads," Velasco says.

"On an operational basis, you have less traffic enforcement needed, less operational cost, there's no electricity and it provides an opportunity to beautify the area by greening the area and contributing cleaner air to the metropolis."

"We are not just designing rotundas where we want, it requires a lot of study," Velasco says, adding it involves a visual simulation or traffic simulation which they are also using for u-turns.

Citing studies conducted by the MMDA, Velasco says, the roundabouts also define the behavior of motorists.

"By the symmetrical design of the rotunda, it drives people to be more careful, to slow down and be more responsible."

Alternative measures

"Traffic enforcement is a big concern. Internally, there's a lot we're doing traffic-wise; organization wise, traffic-wise."

Velasco says they are also looking at other alternative plans, citing investment plans raised at the traffic summit last December.

"In Commonwealth, we just can't build more footbridges in the area because we're going to have MRT-7 there. Basically, we're coming out with a BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] Pilot in Commonwealth, creating motorcycle lanes along Commonwealth. If we can do that, we hope to roll it out in EDSA, but now there's an opportunity to do that in Commonwealth given the many incidents [of road accidents]."

Long-term transport plan

Velasco also says it may be more viable to have more roundabouts than build more roads.

"We'd like to discourage investment in [roads for] private vehicles in Metro Manila. Creating more roads in Metro Manila is very expensive. With roundabouts, we don't need to create roads, underpasses, overpasses," she says. "If there are more roads, there will be more cars coming in."

The MMDA would also like to see more investments in trains, which are more efficient and emits less pollution than motor vehicles.

"We'd like to encourage a convincing transport plan that will drive people to go back to mass transport just like in mega-cities and modern cities all over the world."

More parking spaces

Part of the long-term plan, Velasco says, is constructing more parking spaces to encourage the use of mass transport.

"Chairman [Francis] Tolentino met some of the mall owners in the last quarter of last year at the height of the Christmas season where traffic congestion is foreseen. We coordinated closely with mall owners and operators to have their parking spaces available because they're the ones accessible to MRT and LRT stations and we've been getting a lot of cooperation from them. Robinsons even lent their bus stop along Pioneer EDSA."

"It's now actually a bus stop. They're generous enough to lend support in recognition of the mass transport system challenges we have right now," she says.

Parking spaces near trains may even help strengthen family ties.

"[MMDA] Undersecretary [Alex] Cabanilla is talking about a park-and-kiss where the wife can kiss the husband (when she drops him off) at the parking station. It could be a reversal of roles, too."