How To Survive Metro Manila's Traffic

A typical traffic situation in Metro Manila (Photo taken in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City; 9/24/12)
A typical traffic situation in Metro Manila (Photo taken in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City; 9/24/12)

TRAFFIC in Metro Manila, Philippines has been described as “notorious”. It is here where the average speed of vehicles is reduced to less than eight (8) kilometers per hour. A trip that ordinarily lasts for not more than thirty (30) minutes now takes not less than an hour.

While various schemes have been implemented to decongest traffic in Metro Manila’s roads, the deplorable situation persists. Traffic still results to a standstill for hours. Negotiating its major thoroughfare known as EDSA or the “Epifanio de los Santos Avenue” is really a patience depleting experience. You can be in the middle of the road for hours without moving. Ordinarily, an hour is already more than enough to travel both ends of this national road but now you are lucky if you can reach the Mall of Asia in Pasay City from SM North in Quezon City in less than two (2) hours during rush time. This is definitely not an exaggeration.

The authorities have tried almost all forms of traffic decongesting schemes, yet nothing seems to totally solve the problem. The much hyped “number or color coding scheme” or the “Uniform Vehicle Volume Reduction Scheme” that prohibits vehicles with specified plate numbers on given days to be on the road has not been very effective in reducing traffic jams. The rich can easily afford to buy another vehicle with a different plate number thereby reducing the effectivity of this scheme meant to lessen the number of vehicles that plies Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares. The “Yellow Lane Scheme” where Public Utility Buses are allowed to use only the outermost lanes in EDSA is often ignored when there are no traffic enforcers.

In some cases, the introduction of a new traffic solution often results to confusion aggravating the traffic situation. Some schemes, for the sake of argument, may have alleviated the problem but finding a permanent and long lasting solution to Metro Manila’s traffic requires first and foremost a stricter implementation of traffic rules and less lip service. The full cooperation of everyone is necessary to solve Metro Manila’s traffic woes. The government cannot solve the traffic situation without the full cooperation of its citizens.

Metro Manila’s traffic may even get worse as its already dense population continues to rise. It is said that Metro Manila is the most populous among the metropolitan areas in the country and according to the 2010 census the population reached as high as almost twelve (12) million. With this statistics alone, it can be expected that traffic within Metro Manila is much worse compared to other cities in the Philippines. And without clear guidelines to avert the population boom, traffic is headed to be a gargantuan drawback in attaining growth and progress.

The lack of discipline among motorists and commuters also contribute heavily in worsening traffic congestion. Traffic rules and regulations are often violated with impunity. Road signs are commonly ignored and very few violators are penalized. Foreigners are often caught in a quagmire driving in the streets of Metro Manila.

With the foregoing, traffic jams are expected to stay. Consider it a part of the experience in traveling within Metro Manila. Holy week is one, if not the only exception, when you will not experience that agonizing traffic. But during the rest of the year, getting caught in a traffic jam is usual occurrence unless it is a Sunday, a holiday or during those unholy hours.

How do you survive Metro Manila’s traffic jams? (1) Listen to your favorite music. Music can immediately calm your stressed self. Soothing and relaxing music is one good way of keeping your patience; (2) Stay calm. Whatever happens on the road, it is always best to stay calm and composed. When stuck in traffic during a heavy downpour and the roads are getting flooded, do not panic. Panicking will only worsen the situation. As most roads in Metro Manila get flooded even during those unexpected months, it is best to get that insurance with an “act of God” coverage; (3) Be observant. When stuck in the middle of the road, take a look at your surroundings. Make sure that your vehicle is locked. Street urchins and peddlers selling almost anything often roam the streets of Metro Manila. It is thus a good idea to keep all the exits of your vehicle closed; (4) Always remind yourself that you not the only one stuck in this horrendous traffic situation. There are thousand others who are similarly trying to survive; (5) Always look at the bright side of your situation. Find the silver lining of being stuck in traffic. It can be a valid excuse for being late on your scheduled appointment; (6) Have a quick shut-eye while all cars are not moving. Driving is very stressful to the eyes. This is also an instant form of relaxation; (6) Do some deep breathing exercises. It can bring back that lost patience; (7) Try to keep cool. Refrain from arguing with traffic enforcers and fellow motorists; (8) Be careful. Hitting another vehicle would only worsen the traffic situation; (9) Always remember that traffic rules and regulations are meant to be obeyed at all times; and (10) Next time, bring a pee bag!

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