Opinion

Worst traffic in the region

Worst traffic in the region

The COVID quarantines emptied the streets of Metro Manila and several other crowded urban centers across the country. Vehicular traffic, however, began picking up as the economy was gradually reopened, more people were allowed outside their homes and mass transportation resumed, although still on a limited basis.

The pandemic-related mobility restrictions did not stop the Philippines from being ranked last year as the worst in terms of traffic situation among six Southeast Asian countries with high traffic densities, and the ninth worst among 81 worldwide. People who have been stuck in traffic especially along EDSA and surrounding areas in the past months will agree with the assessment.

The ranking was reported by Numbeo in its 2020 Traffic Index, which assessed the traffic situation based on time spent to reach one’s destination, carbon dioxide emissions and overall inefficiency. The Philippines was ranked the worst among the four other founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore – as well as a later addition to ASEAN, Vietnam.

Reacting to the Numbeo report, the government vowed improvements in the traffic situation with the completion of more roads particularly within Mega Manila. Most of the new roads, however, are toll roads operated by the private sector.

It remains to be seen whether enough motorists will use these roads to make a significant dent in the traffic jams that have returned. With the financial difficulties arising from the pandemic, a daily toll will be another burden many people can’t afford. Why can’t the government provide free basic road infrastructure at least in crowded urban centers? Where do our taxes go?

Numbeo is a crowd-sourced global database of information on cost of living and quality of life indicators including housing, perceived crime rates and quality of health care. Like other free crowd-sourced databases, there is no third-party checking for accuracy of Numbeo data. But perceptions serve as a guide for policy making as well as project planning and implementation. The 2020 Traffic Index should drive improvements in the traffic jams in Metro Manila and other crowded urban centers.