Chaos, gridlock a daily ordeal for Manila's long-suffering commuters

Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Posted at Mar 09 2019 02:01 AM | Updated as of Mar 10 2019 04:51 PM

Metro Manila, a sprawl of 16 cities fused together by outdated infrastructure, is creaking under the weight of millions of vehicles, owing largely to economic growth of more than six percent a year since 2012.

Urban rail coverage is limited, trains are prone to breakdowns and queues spill onto streets where exhaust fumes are intoxicating.

President Rodrigo Duterte said fixing Manila's traffic wasn't easy, adding that it was the only campaign promise he had failed to deliver.

The government is making some headway on a $180 billion program to modernize roads, railways and airports, including a subway system set to begin construction on February 27, 2019.
However, the building works are exacerbating snarl-ups.

Quality of life for now remains poor for many urban Filipinos, who spend a chunk of their day commuting.

Janice Sarad works at a bank head office and leaves home four hours before work starts in Bonifacio Global City, a Manila business hub

Janice Sarad leaves her neighborhood to go to work, in Antipolo City, Rizal province on November 26, 2018. On a typical day she takes a train, a bus and two passenger jeeps to get to work. She leaves her home between 4:30-5:00 a.m., to arrive at her job that starts at 8:30 a.m. "In the morning, it's even more difficult to commute because the pressure not to be late is there. You really have to fight your way in. In the evening, it doesn't matter if you get home late," she said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Commuters wait for a bus early morning along San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan province, to avoid the rush hour on November 15, 2018. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad rides a crowded bus going to work in Cubao, Quezon City on November 26, 2018. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Commuters watch television inside a bus stuck in traffic along EDSA highway in Makati City on February 12, 2019. A 2015 survey by GPS-based navigation app Waze found that Manila had the world's worst traffic congestion, partly due to a tripling of annual car sales from a decade ago. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Vehicles are seen bumper-to-bumper along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City on November 15, 2018. The daily loss of business in Manila due to traffic woes has risen to 3.5 billion pesos ($67.2 million) in 2017 from 2.4 billion pesos ($46.1 million) in 2012, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad walks to her office in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila on November 26, 2018. "When I don't feel like going through the commute, I just think about how much money I would lose that day, and then I get up and go to work," she said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad queues for her company's free shuttle service going to the train station, in Taguig City on December 3, 2018. When Sarad doesn't work overtime, she opts to take her company's free shuttle service to save money. "There's no money left for me to save. My salary goes to my sister's tuition fee, bills to pay at home, and my fare to go to work. There is nothing left for me," she said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad exits the Cubao MRT station in Quezon City on December 3, 2018. Sarad sometimes takes the train to avoid the heavy traffic on the road. Trains to Metro Manila however are just as crowded as the traffic-congested roads, especially during rush hour. "It's really annoying how crowded it is sometimes. It becomes so smelly, so sweaty, you can even smell other people's breath," she said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Commuters push their way in to a jeepney in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines, December 3, 2018. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad looks at traffic congestion along EDSA road, in Makati City on December 3, 2018. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Vehicles queue in traffic along EDSA highway in Makati City on February 11, 2019. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad sits inside a jeepney in Pasig City on December 3, 2018. Apart from getting stuck in traffic, Sarad often struggles to get a jeepney going to her neighborhood as very few jeepneys cover this route. "You have to push, shove, and run because everyone's trying to get a seat. On the train, everyone tries to sneak on so they don't have to wait. On the bus, there are usually no seats so you stand up the whole ride," she said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Commuters hang on to the back of a crowded jeepney in Cainta, Rizal on February 1, 2019. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad walks down a street to her home in Antipolo City, Rizal province, in Philippines, December 3, 2018. Sarad usually arrives home between 20:30 to 21:30. "My boss knows how far away my house is. When I get to work late, he just tells me to leave my home 30 minutes earlier to compensate. I really want to be transferred to a different location, somewhere closer to my home," she said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Janice Sarad looks at the television as her sister eats a snack at their home in Antipolo City, Rizal province, in Philippines, December 3, 2018. "When I feel stressed, I try not to dwell on it. I just think about how lucky I am being able to work, and for getting home safely every day," Sarad said. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters