Facing Manila’s traffic hell: Access to public transport is a right, owning a car is but a privilege

And so here we are, helplessly facing a future of traffic hell as all these road constructions start. To think we all raised a royal tantrum over Dan Brown’s describing Manila as the “gates of hell” in his book Inferno. What have Metro Manila’s residents done to deserve this? Well, quite simply nothing. They did nothing as all the warning signs creeped up on them over the last 20 years. Despite being the ultimate kingmakers of their government (thanks to The Vote), Metro Manilans pretty much sat on their hands and watched their beloved city go down the toilet.

manila_traffic_mmdaYou wonder, though, with the majority of Metro Manila’s residents unable to afford their own cars, why hadn’t politicians with visions of turning their city into a pedestrian- and public transport-friendly paradise been consistently voted into office?

Oh, I forgot, Filipinos don’t vote for politicians on the basis of their visions of the future.

For me, the key principle at work here is simple:

Whereas access to public transport is a right, owning personal transport is but a mere privilege.

Most Filipinos, bizarrely, fail to understand that — which is why the politicians they elect don’t.

In Singapore, owning a car is deemed an expensive privilege granted by the government to its citizens. I read a few days ago that it could cost up to US$50,000 to secure the right to own a car there — and that’s after winning a government-managed lottery to give out slots for that right.

If you think about it, owning and driving a car in the Philippines is supposed to be a privilege too. The fact that it is the Philippine government that issues drivers licenses and regulates vehicle registration proves this. Kung baga, what the government giveth the government can taketh away. If our politicians were really serious about reducing traffic in Metro Manila, it could act tomorrow and start revoking licenses and registrations. Come to think about it, they do that already — but in a half-assed manner: through the license plate “coding scheme” that prevents us from using certain roads on certain days depending on the number on your license plate. But that no longer proves effective. Traffic is gridlocked just the same.

Then I also read that only two percent of Filipinos own and drive cars. Wow. Two percent of the population causing 99 percent of its grief on the road — that’s just wrong. We like to think of ourselves as a “democratic” people but there is nothing democratic about the majority suffering so that two percent of us could make porma in our million-peso cars. For that matter, what is so ma-porma about driving that obnoxious SUV when you spend most of your time crawling at two kilometers per hour? If you think about it, there is really something dumb about paying the extra hundred-odd thousand pesos on extra horsepower you’d hardly be using. Considering that the average road speed in Metro Manila will hardly ever take your shiny steel horse past a trot, that’s money that could hardly be considered well-spent.

Mga Pinoy talaga. Metro Manilans are like the proverbial frog sitting in the pot being boiled alive slowly.

In other societies, the inhumanity we suffer under Metro Manila’s hellish environment would be nothing short of an outrage. But because we’ve had our minds conditioned to be tolerant of urban dysfunction for decades, we’re all quite happy to suffer in silence as Manila’s roads turn into a huge 24-hour parking lot. And even when we get out of this mess — sometime after 2017, we are told — the only people coming out of this happy will be all those high rollers jetting in from Taiwan and cruising on their brand-new highway from the airport straight into Manila’s glitzy ocean-front casinos. Yes, indeedy, Pinoys will, as usual, be left with the thinnest slice of the pie.

* * *

Speaking of stuck-in-traffic, what I consider really strange is how the nation’s jeepney drivers still manage to go home after a day driving their Kings of the Road and impregnate their wives six to eight times over the course of their fertile life. I always thought sitting around with the family jewels stuck in tight jeans under the hot sun causes low sperm count. Maybe that’s another thing to add to the list of things Filipinos should be proud about — our ability to multiply like rabbits despite the odds.

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Post Author: Kate Natividad

Frustrated artist doing geek for a living.

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47 Comments on "Facing Manila’s traffic hell: Access to public transport is a right, owning a car is but a privilege"

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Robert Haighton
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Maybe, just maybe, the jeepney drivers are NOT the biological dads. What about the next door neighbour?

In many countries, to own a car is not seen as a privilege (except maybe in Cuba). Its up to the car owner what kind of transportation he/she will use for going to work or going places. Its up to the government to make this decision in favour of public transport by either making public transport – at least – cheaper than private transport but also as economic and efficient as the private transport vehicle.

Pepe Republika
Guest
Yes! That’s actually better than saying gov’t giveth and taketh away. That’s terrible. The only case for public transport ought to be to compete well with private means. That doesn’t solve Metro Manila traffic, of course, but maybe there’s a different angle to the problem, like why are we congested in Manila to begin with, when we have so much land compared to Singapore? Maybe it has more to do with decongesting opportunities concentrated in one place. With all the lengths Singapore goes through in reducing the number of cars on the roads (COE, ERP, weekend cars, etc.), there’s still… Read more »
Johnny Saint
Guest
Robert, When has a government-run agency ever been as efficient and/or cheaper than a privately managed enterprise? Consider New York’s subway system. Most people believe it was the city government that built the subways. Most of them were actually built by private companies. In New York, it was the private sector that dug the tunnels and managed public transport until the city government decided to step in. This was about the time the private company proposed raising the subway fare to five cents. There was a lot of self-righteous outrage from local politicians, who forbade the increase and eventually took… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member

Johnny,

I do agree with you completely. But almost always the government is a party. Usually the government have to tender the project so that the private party has to buy the lease.

Johnny Saint
Guest
That’s true but in the situation you describe — where the private party secures a contract/franchise from the state — the participation of the government is as a CUSTOMER. In the same way that you or I would avail of a service or purchase a product commercially. If there is something wrong with the product/service, we can hold the seller and/or service provider accountable. If we have the private sector run the mass transit system, under a free market they will be compelled to perform, to provide the best service possible, or they will lose the franchise. And the business.… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member
Maybe yes and no. I am thinking about a mass transport system that doesnt exist yet. To be build from scratch. So the government is probably the owner of the land (soil) and the governemnt must give permission (tend/lease). After that the “new” private owner can execute the new system how he/she thinks it can be run best. But what if the new private company increases the ticket prices (example =>) beyond the yearly rate of inflation? The governemnt wants to make sure that those people (consumers) who cant afford it anymore will start using their own cars or other… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member

Johnny,

I am NOT talking about an ill-corrupt-lazy government (sorry) but about an efficient working government (if there is any).

You can accuse me of being an ideologist. LOL

PhilC16
Guest

Hong Kong has a very efficient, clean safe train system run by the gov’t. The buses are by private and must be the same or patrons complain. Both get fines for not being on time, safe

I’ve also used public transport in Beijing, also works. Korea, also nice (btw not every Korean has a car, many are anti-car). Singapore, nice. Also in these coutries, if you need a car you rent a car. Washington DC, not that great.

Robert Haighton
Member

Hi PhilC16,

The Dutch train system works efficiently but is – IMHO – not cheap. The train system works almost like the system in Singapore. They want to abolish the ticket system in favour of a Public Transport (PT) card (credit card size).

Money is transfered from your bank account onto that card. Every time when you use one of the public transport means, a certain amount of money is deducted from your PT-card.

Advantages: no need for cash money, one card for all PT systems, no seperate tickets for each journey.

Johnny Saint
Guest

PhilC16,

The company that runs the subways in Hong Kong, the MTR Corporation is a PRIVATE company, not government-owned. It is Hong Kong’s first privatised rail and metro company. In fact its creation marked the start of the Hong Kong government’s planned initiative to wind down its interests in various public utilities (c. 1999-2000).

Bjorn
Guest

THE HK gov’t. was Brit controlled until 2000….probably still is….

Johnny Saint
Guest

Just wanted to correct my post.

The largest shareholder in MTR Corporation Limited is The Financial Secretary Incorporated, i.e. the Hong Kong government (77%). Technically, the ultimate owner is Beijing. However, MTR is operated just like any private enterprise. It is traded publicly on the Hang Seng and abides by the government and legal system in Hong Kong, not the mainland. Most significantly, MTR is consistently profitable — unlike other companies which have (some) state involvement and/or supervision — and requires NO government support or subsidies.

JT Jerzy
Guest
Its amazing what someone can think they learn watching PBS in the USA (or USTVNOW.com). But not all that was in “The Rise and Fall of Pennsylvania Station” was true. In NYC, being able to get on a Subway for $2.50 and travel the length of NYC is a bargain. The NYC subway system is the most efficient rail system in the USA and probably the world(that is open to debate of course).Between the hours of 5 A.M. and 2A.M. their is a scheduled stop, at every station, every 22 minutes.Hong Kong’s run a mere 12 hrs. daily. The NYC… Read more »
Jerry Lynch
Guest
I’ve never been outside the airport in Hong Kong so can’t comment on their subway or transport system. I can though comment on Seoul, Korea having lived in or near it for 7 years. The system is owned and operated by the city and/or the national government to my knowledge. The purpose of the subway and bus systems are to move people quickly and efficiently and that they do. Buses are one place to start. They all have specific routes and the fare for any stop on the route is the same, whether 1 stop or the end-of-the-line. You pay… Read more »
PhilC16
Guest

Your comment on the hours of operation of the HK MTR is not correct and the hours are extended on holidays.

Brock MacLean
Guest

You are complaining a subway ride cost $2.25 now in New York?? That is very low. Rates start at $3.00 here in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Some things should be run by government and not just “for profit”. I am reading how great Hong Kong is…hmm…try to go find a public pool to swim in or a public library accessible by foreigners? Good luck…I will take Canada’s slightly socialist country anyday.

oldbread
Guest

i think hongkong is really more about efficiency for work, not leisure.

efficiency in getting people around . to work, moving goods.

public pools and libraries …. don’t sound profitable.

Dirch
Guest

“Two percent of the population causing 99 percent of its grief on the road”, that just explains one thing, a failure in city planning. Manila is a perfect example of coming up with stuff as we go along. For one second can these MMDA and DPWH guys stop and think. Do these guys really have no one who knows how to build a city? Manila is now the most densely populated city on earth and the government isn’t doing anything about it.

NYC2MNL
Guest

I definitely feel this way about Manila, it definitely seems like there are no zoning laws in place. It boggles my mind how road repairs and improvements take forever to complete, one would think they would be working on these projects 24/7 when then start, but based on my observation it seems like it’s just a regular 9 to 5 operation. I wonder if the project deadlines are too lax for these contractors for them to take their sweet time. Just a personal observation from someone ignorant about how these are done here.

mario gonzales
Guest

if the mayors in metro manila managed to remove the double parking in the side streets used now as an alternative route,the sidewalk vendors in some major thoroughfares,maybe traffic situation may improve.

Jim DiGriz
Guest

Yeah, and what’s up with Barangays who just close roads so the jobless can play basketball?

PhilC16
Guest

Agreed w/ both and persons haveing a bit of discipline, courtesy and respect for the law so that traffic flow works. One perpendicular driver can cause problems for miles.

Shouldn’t gov’t employees take public transport?

Gogs
Member

Pinoy priorities. Often the hoops donated by politician complete with name mentioned.

libertas
Guest

Every cloud has a silver lining.
Invest in car parking spaces.

Johnny Saint
Guest

That’s an idea for real estate developers. Instead of building residential condominiums that can no longer be sold to expats or OFWs, build multi-level parking garages. Like this one in Bordeaux:

http://www.dezeen.com/2014/02/07/car-park-with-apartments-on-its-roof-by-brisac-gonzalez/

libertas
Guest
I actually wasn’t saying it flippantly. I do just that in london. Value now 7 million pesos per space ( i wish i had more, but i bought cheap a long time ago) Monthly rental 50,000 per space Tax free, no maintenance. Money for nothing A space sold last week for 28 million pesos so still a buy recommendation A number of people now do similar but via a co-operative where spaces can be bought and sold in all the major cities in uk. Like a ‘commodities exchange’ But it is good for the small investor, not just the big… Read more »
libertas
Guest
Thanks French innovation and style. The ultimate car park is in singapore ( or maybe the bmw factory) Automatically park your car in your condo and look at it all the time – why not if its a ferrari. Condos around 500 million pesos. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2195776/Singapore-s-supercar-owners-close-eye-expensive-rides–parking-living-rooms.html I used to live in frankfurt and at the bottom of the airport car park is a great club – ‘the dorian grey’ where group kraftwerk originated and techno music was born. It is still one of the best clubs in frankfurt. Architects shape our world – good or bad. Multi use is the key.… Read more »
Gogs
Member

Kate. That might be something neglected in the RH Bill.

Jim DiGriz
Guest
First off: Who ever came up with the coding scheme is an imbecile of the highest order. Coding has been tried in major cities around the world and they found out within a month that this piggy does not fly. Only here we stuck with this moronic idea which led to more cars on the road, because the rich just bought another car. Without a doubt, there is just no political will in this corrupt administration to make the long necessary changes. Traffic could be improved easily. 1. There are about 2-3000 buses too many. Get rid of them! 2.… Read more »
Wait
Guest
Some of these solutions don’t really help. 1. Buses coming from Novaliches are impossible to catch later on because they’re so full. While getting rid of buses may seem viable, it just adds worry to the commuters. Perhaps a scheduled timeframe for buses to arrive and depart from their designated ends. 2. The term “public road” is broad. Basically every street is a public road. In my barangay, there’s already a huge number of villages and subdivisions. Maybe restricting access to main highways and avenues would be more suitable. 3. Jeeps are still a source of transportation to many. If… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member
What about the London “Congestion Charge Zone”? (copied from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London#Roads) A plan for a comprehensive network of motorways throughout the city (the Ringways Plan) was prepared in the 1960s but was mostly cancelled in the early 1970s. In 2003, a congestion charge was introduced to reduce traffic volumes in the city centre. With a few exceptions, motorists are required to pay £10 per day to drive within a defined zone encompassing much of central London.[223][224] Motorists who are residents of the defined zone can buy a greatly reduced season pass which is renewed monthly and is cheaper than a… Read more »
Jim DiGriz
Guest
I hear what you say. But in all reality it is not the private vehicles that cause all the congestion. It is buses, jeepneys, tricycles, et cetera. No one says that you can face them out within a short period of time. But there are just too many of them, many driving around almost empty. That aside, they are so dilapidated, that in Europe what you find in the junk yard is in better shape than what drives here on the street. They are just unsafe aside form the fact that they are the worst polluters. How would you implement… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member
Jim, so far I never visited Manila except for NAIA (going from T1 to T3). Implementing such a system requires an advanced traffic control system. I really dont know how they do that in London but I can imagine that it has to do something with road (infra red) camera’s monitoring your license plate and then the computer will show whether that car has paid the congestion fee or not. If not then a bill will be send to the owner of that car (e.g. bus/jeepney etc). We have cameras hanging above the highways monitoring if you drive too fast.… Read more »
Orlando
Guest
Yes i agree ……. 2% of the population causing 99% of the traffic mess? This is simply not true. If you observe the traffic especially duting rush hours, ten or twenty private cars are “in a rush” to get to work/get home to be with their families, do you really think they will stop at every intersection if their cars are not blocked by a jeepney or bus or tricyle? Now take the case of the jeepney or bus or tricycle: do you really think that they will run their vehicles empty or one passenger short? Just to get you… Read more »
sancho alconce
Guest

Today, “Metro Manila”. Tommorrow will be Cebu City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City and the rest of the larger cities of the archipelago. Just like metro Manila, these cities have the anatomy of a failed transport and infra sector. There seems to be an absence or the lack of it of an all encompassing development plan.

Robert Haighton
Member

Sancho,

that will be the result as long as corrupt (city, provincial, national) governments will stay in power. They dont think about you – the citizen – they only think about their own wallets. But who does elect those governments … ? (the citizens, right?)

Toro Hyden
Guest

These problems should be addressed to: Estrada, Moreno , Tolentino and Aquino. Ask them for solutions. They are paid to solve these problems….maybe they promised also to solve these problems…

Ever think of over promising during elections?
Nabisto na, na walang alam, ang mga tarantado…

Bjorn
Guest

Kate’s picture is WOW-OW-Ow-OOOO!!!

Ms.Kate, R U SINGLE?

libertas
Guest

The congestion charge in london has generally been a success, much to everyone’s surprise.
And if people travel in at night or weekends for entertainment then there is no charge.
And if you live in the centre then you are exempt from any charges anytime.
Uses number plate recognition as you say.
Hefty fines if you don’t pay.
It would never work in manila.
The average traffic speed in london 2000 was about 8 miles an hour – the same as a horse and carriage a 100 years previously.
Quicker to cycle.

Robert Haighton
Member
Back to Ms. Kate’s claim that having/owning/possessing a car is a privilege. I think in most richer countries, owning a car is a sign of freedom and a sign of individuality. The car sits there waiting for the owner to drive it, whenever the owner wants to drive it. The car owner is not limited to departure times of a bus, tram, train (or whatever means of public transport). In his car, he is alone and can play his own favorite music on the car stereo. If I want to drive from my house in Breda, Netherlands to – lets… Read more »
oldbread
Guest

i’m from singapore. never drove, don’t have a license, no intention to get one.
coe to own a car costs $80,000SGD, excluding the car.
driving the car is much cheaper than owning one.

people generally think it’s poor planning all the same and roads being congested are a result of that and the measures to control the traffic are because the govt wants more tax. not because they want to solve the problem.

NYC2MNL
Guest
“Then I also read that only two percent of Filipinos own and drive cars. Wow. Two percent of the population causing 99 percent of its grief on the road — that’s just wrong. We like to think of ourselves as a “democratic” people but there is nothing democratic about the majority suffering so that two percent of us could make porma in our million-peso cars. For that matter, what is so ma-porma about driving that obnoxious SUV when you spend most of your time crawling at two kilometers per hour? If you think about it, there is really something dumb… Read more »
John Manila
Guest
I live and drive my self daily in this city the past 12 years. I read the article and the comments. As a foreigner and endless times wondered about this torturing traffic I have the below thoughts of how to reduce traffic. 1. Filipinos is the major cause of this traffic. They have respect for no one else on the road. They will squeeze 3 lanes in to 5 but do they really know what the lanes are for? Ask for heaven’s sake just ask the drivers who has priority, who ever points his nose first (not the one coming… Read more »
Orlando
Guest

Not to mention the illegal terminals blocking almost all intersections. Protected or run by who?

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