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Truths & Thoughts on Traffic (Part 2: Problem of Enforcement)

By Anna Liza Villas-Alavaren and Aaron RecuencoSeptember 24, 2017

How to solve traffic problem when disregarding traffic rules is common

 

IN THE PHILIPPINES, people jest that traffic rules are only suggestions.

That is not a complete joke, though.  In Metro Manila, it won’t take a visitor long to observe that motorists and pedestrians disregard traffic rules, especially when there is no traffic enforcer in sight. The practice has led to bottlenecks, accidents and traffic slowdown.

There are numbers that measure lack of discipline. According to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), more than 200,000 traffic violations are recorded annually.

 

600 traffic violations a day

Based on the apprehension report of the MMDA, at least 600 traffic violations are committed in the National Capital Region daily.

In the first half of 2017, exactly 234,478 apprehensions have been recorded.

The year before that, in 2016, there were 249,436. It was 208,602 in 2015; 263,149 in 2014; 258,937 in 2013; and 268,321 in 2012.

 

Top violation: Disregarding traffic signs

Disregarding traffic signs topped the list of traffic violations from 2012 to 2017. These are illegal U-turns, driving against the flow of traffic, beating the red light, not staying in proper lane.

Other common traffic violations from 2012-2017 were obstruction, unified vehicular volume reduction program (UVVRP) or number coding, illegal parking, loading and unloading in prohibited zones, over-speeding, truck ban.

Neomie Recio, Traffic Engineering Center (TEC) head, said these records reflect the lack of discipline among public utility drivers and motorists and even commuters.

 

Enough traffic regulations

She said that “we have enough traffic regulations and policies already. But not all are being followed.

Around the metropolis, Recio said it is very common to see jeepney or bus drivers stopping in the middle of the road to load and unload passengers, overtaking other vehicles, lingering at street corners despite the presence of signboards that read: “Walang Sakayan Dito (No Loading Here).”

Motorists force their way into lanes and intersections, blocking the passage of other moving vehicles. Pedestrians, instead of using footbridges, dare to cross the streets and risk their lives.

“Filipino PUV drivers and private motorists as well are not afraid to violate traffic rules. They got used to it over the years,” she added.

With all the unruly and reckless drivers on the streets, the perennial traffic problems will never be solved.

 

Enforcement

For three decades in the past, enforcement of traffic rules and regulations was under the Philippine National Police who monitored main thoroughfares. They returned for a short period in 2015.

Today, the MMDA traffic enforcers enforce traffic rules along EDSA and other major thoroughfares.

It was observed, though, that drivers were more disciplined when the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) and local police office were managing traffic in the metropolis in 1990s, Roy Taguinod, MMDA Traffic Discipline Office (TOD) head, said.

This is the observation of Taguinod, who also served as PNP-HPG director in the 1990s.

“Drivers were scared of the police because they carry guns. Drivers and motorists appeared to be more disciplined three decades ago. Today, some traffic enforcers are getting hurt in line of duty. You cannot do that to a police officer before,” he revealed.

Two years ago, President Benigno S. Aquino III assigned the PNP-HPG in the hope of bringing miracles to ease the daily woes of commuters and motorists. By September 2015, several HPG personnel were diverted to EDSA, especially at the crossings.

Working on the mindset that discipline is the key to unclog Metro Manila roads, the HPG took over the management of the traffic along EDSA from the MMDA.

The result was: Travel time along EDSA was cut short by 20 minutes both in the northbound and southbound lanes.

Chief Supt. Abner Escobal, HPG director, said that the formula the HPG implemented was simple to unclog the bottlenecks along EDSA which were caused by bus drivers blocking the lanes of private vehicles.

The HPG designated loading and unloading points along EDSA and deployed HPG personnel deployed there to ensure that no bus drivers would dare to stay longer in the pick-up and drop-off points and no bus driver would dare to block any portion of the road.

Escobal observed that “the deployment of uniformed policemen compelled the bus drivers to behave. Not only the bus drivers actually but also the private motorists.”

 

Symbol of authority

He explained that the presence of uniformed policemen along the stretch of EDSA became a symbol of an authority that forced them to follow traffic laws.

After that successful experiment, the HPG was tapped again to supervise traffic in other major thoroughfares in Metro Manila such as the C-5 Road, Commonwealth Avenue and the roads leading to and from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

 

2,500 traffic enforcers

Today, more than 2,500 traffic enforcers are tasked to man EDSA and the rest of Metro Manila’s national highways, in three shifts.

 

I-ACT

In 2016, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) unified various government agencies and formed the Inter-Agency Committee on Traffic (I-ACT). The agency includes personnel from DOTr, MMDA, PNP, Land Transportation Office (LTO), and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

The chief implementor of this agency is the HPG.  Under the HPG are the MMDA and traffic management offices of various local government units in Metro Manila.

Part of the plan being crafted by the HPG is to put up a Traffic Response Team in strategic points of major thoroughfares in Metro Manila composed of policemen, medical team with ambulance and rescue teams.

The rationale behind the Traffic Response Team concept is to expedite the emergency response in the soonest possible time because one stalled vehicle at any part of a major road even for just a few minutes could automatically result in a monstrous traffic jam.

Some of the long-term solutions proposed by the HPG are: to strictly enforce no parking along the streets; to clear of sidewalks; and to work on a law that would make it a condition to have a garage before a Metro Manila resident is allowed to buy a vehicle.

 

Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)

The traffic crisis experienced in Metro Manila did not come like a thief in the night.

Decades ago, traffic problems were only evident during peak hours and most extensively in such areas such as the central business districts where most road sections or corridors are saturated by both vehicles and passengers.

Today, the traffic mess is something people have to deal with at all times of the day.

For example, a person who lives in Commonwealth, Quezon City drives 17 kilometers just to reach Intramuros, Manila. The drive is not less than 60 minutes on a very good day.  If it rains, or it’s a payday, it takes the person 90 minutes to 120 minutes to cover 17 kilometers.  If there is a sudden very heavy downpour and there is an accident on the road, it takes around 180 minutes to cover 17 kilometers.  The longest time to cover that distance, according to the person, was five hours!  That was when the whole Metro Manila was in a traffic gridlock because of many factors – continuous rain, holiday rush, sale in a mall, and it was Friday night and a payday.

The annual average daily traffic report (AADT) in Metro Manila showed the rapid growth rate of volume of vehicles from 2,111,623 in 2006 to 2,628,987 in 2016.

In the 10-year period, there was a 24.5 percent increase in the AADT in Metro Manila.

Along EDSA, the average daily traffic of 247,873 in 2006 rose to 364,781 in 2016, showing a 47 percent increase.

 

7,000 vehicles a day on EDSA

“EDSA’s carrying capacity is only 6,000 vehicles per hour per direction.  But our current situation: 7,500 vehicles,” said Recio, showing the huge disparity between the number of vehicles plying 24-kilometer stretch of EDSA and the road space available.

The 24-kilometer EDSA cuts across the cities of Caloocan, Quezon, Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasay, and the municipality of San Juan. Centers of commerce and urban activities adjacent to the EDSA corridor include Monument/ Balintawak, North Avenue, Cubao, Ortigas, Shaw Boulevard, Guadalupe, Makati and Baclaran.

 

A commuter’s woes

A regular commuter, Revee Bonayon, said traffic has really gone from bad to worse.

In 1990s, Bonayon said she spends an hour commuting from Las Pinas going to Divisoria in Manila City via jeepney. But now, she has to allot two and a half hours, or even three hours travel time for the same commute.

“In the past, when you say rush hour, that’s 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. But, even if I leave the house mid-day, I still experience horrible traffic. It is rare encounter fast-moving traffic,” said Bonayon.

 

Average travel speed & Average travel time

Traffic data in 2010 showed that the average travel speed along EDSA – from Monument Avenue to Roxas Boulevard – is 27.79 kilometer per hour with an average travel time of 2.17 minutes per kilometer.

The travel speed increased by 28.24 kph in 2011; 28.49 kph in 2012; 32.86 kph in 2013 and 32.93 kph in 2014.

 

24 kph travel speed

However, the decrease in travel speed started in 2015 with average travel speed went down to 26.85 kph and 24.33 kph in 2016.

The MMDA attributed the decline to the infrastructure projects under the Aquino administration. These include the Niño Aquino International Airport Expressway; Skyway Stage 3 Project and Light Rail Transit Line 2 extension project.

 

Problem of accidents

When there is a rise in the number of vehicles, the number of accidents also climbs.

Based on the data collated by the MMDA through its Metro Manila Accident Recording and Analysis System unit, accidents have been increasing over the past 10 years.

 

CCTVS

Back then, the MMDA contend itself apprehending traffic violators on the road manually. Enforcers flag down violators, confiscate, and THEN issue him a citation ticket. Over the years, not all violations needed to confiscate drivers’ license and motorists will only get to know traffic violation he ignored when he renews his license at the LTO.

CCTV cameras were only installed along EDSA in 2002.

The surveillance cameras are linked to the MMDA Metrobase, where its personnel can monitor traffic situation on portions of EDSA and other major thoroughfares and catch traffic violators.  The MMDA then added more cameras in line with the contactless policy for drivers who disobey traffic rules.

Aside from removing human interaction factor in traffic enforcement, traffic enforcers do obstruct traffic flow when they flag down traffic offenders.

Technology also played a part in the catching traffic violators, without the physical contact between a traffic enforcer and a motorist.

During Bayani Fernando’s term, the MMDA implemented the policy as the “Non-Contact Traffic Apprehension Program (NCTAP).” The no contact policy was approved under Fernando’s term for a six-month experimental run starting July 23, 2009.

However, the policy was shelved by Metro Manila mayors because apprehended motorists were required to first pay their fine before they are allowed to contest the apprehension during adjudication.

In 2016, the policy was revived under its new name – No Contact Apprehension Policy program.

Under the policy, an erring motorist caught by the CCTV camera are sent a notice by the MMDA giving him or her seven days from receipt to pay his or her corresponding fines or file an appeal of the apprehension for review.

After the lapse of the seven-day period and the notice has not been settled, the MMDA will then send the motorist a final notice informing him or her to immediately settle his or her citation ticket.

The MMDA will then forward the driver’s license number of the motorist to the Land Transportation Office if payment has not been made after the receipt of the final notice.

The non-paying motorist will not be able to renew his or her driver’s license with the LTO in the future until he or she has paid his traffic dues.

Some of the long-term solutions proposed by the HPG is to strictly enforce that roads should not be used as parking spaces, clearing of sidewalks and strict implementation of the policy that sets as condition the availability of a garage before a Metro Manila resident is allowed to buy a car.

Parts 3 & 4: Infrastructure and Education (To be published on Oct. 8 issue)