Caught (up) in traffic

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New Year’s Message

I got a New Year’s greeting from a friend who states in his text: “Please take care of yourselves this coming New Year. A recent joint study conducted by both the DOH and LTO indicates that 23% of traffic accidents are alcohol-related. This means that the remaining 77% are caused by assholes, who just drink coffee, carbonated drinks, juices, milk, water and stuff like that. Therefore, beware of those who do not drink alcohol. They cause three times more accidents!”

It is a message to humor us in this holiday season when many road crashes are indeed alcohol-related. It is an alarming trend and we see reports on TV of motorcycle riders losing their balance and cars plowing into sidewalks and medians hurting if not killing people in the process. The truth is that there are so much more crashes that could have been prevented if we drove safely (even without the influence of alcohol or drugs) rather than aggressively as we see on the roads everyday in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines.

We look forward to further promoting road traffic safety in 2011 especially as we join other countries in ushering in a Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020). We hope to drastically curb the incidence of crashes for we are all vulnerable road users and there are lives at stake.

A Happy New Year to all and may we have a safe 2011 as we travel in this journey we call life.


I still remember what our calculus teacher told us while discussing a problem in integration. At the time, I believe he was setting up the working equation for a problem involving trajectories. He was reminding us that in problem solving it was very important to remember how to “kiss.” As we were practically in awe of him, he followed up by asking us what “kiss” meant. He called on one of our classmates and then another, all the while smirking like a child who thought he alone knew the answer to his question. “Kiss,” he said, meant – keep it simple, stupid. Of course, the last word was intended to drive home the point with a little sarcastic humor to a class of sophomores, most of whom were engineering students. Years later, perhaps its time we realize and accept that we do indeed need to “kiss.” This time, we need to apply the same principle to public transport.

In the past few weeks as I and my colleagues pondered the development of public transport planning support system that would include, among others, a franchising module specifically for Mega Manila and generally for other Philippine cities, I came to the obvious conclusion – “kiss.” It seems that based on the secondary data we got from the LTFRB and the DOTC, and the primary data derived from field surveys validating routes and allowing us to estimate both supply and demand that Mega Manila public transport has become so complicated due to the overlaps and tangles that are the bus, jeepney and AUV routes in this mega city. Through the years and despite opportunities to untangle the mess of routes, there was no strong effort to do so and today, there seems to be little interest in rocking the boat that is the current state of public transport in this country.

It is often asked why, despite having EDSA-MRT, have the numbers of buses along EDSA seemed to have increased instead of the logical decrease as the rail system covered much of the demand along its corridor of operation. One answer seems to be related to provincial buses since continuously increasing populations outside Metro Manila coupled with better roads have led to more economic activity that translates into more travel (and person trips).

The same is true for origins and destinations within the National Capital Region and thereby affects the supply side for buses for city operation. Yet, there is always the specter of colorums or illegally operating buses that are often difficult to catch and to distinguish from the legitimate units. There are even allegations that some unscrupulous operators allow colorums among their ranks in order to generate more revenue.

However, such situations are not exclusive to EDSA. There are the similar questions pertaining primarily to jeepneys along corridors already served by LRT 1 (since 1984) and LRT 2 (since 2004). Why have authorities allowed most jeepneys to continue plying routes along these two lines? Why are there no strong efforts to rationalize (a word very much abused when referring to public transport in Philippines) routes to complement established mass transport systems rather than to compete with them? Is it really a matter of political will among our leaders especially those in-charge of our transport agencies? Are there conflicting interests, some probably vested, among politicians, transport groups and operators themselves? And are we dead serious about addressing, once and for all, the challenges of putting in place a public transport system that is both modern and sustainable?

Why is it that transport systems in cities such as Tokyo, Singapore, Hongkong and those in Europe and the US appeal to us? What is different about the transport systems in these countries especially those cities that have similar if not larger populations and sprawl? Is it their high tech attributes? Is it their fare systems? Or, if we look close enough, is it their simplicity? It should be noted and emphasized that these cities follow closely the ideal hierarchy of public transport services. In a nutshell, this is where high capacity modes form the backbone of the transport system while lower modes complement these, acting as feeders from the main lines. This is simplicity as applied to public transportation.

Mathematicians, scientists and chess grandmasters then and now have often invoked the principle of simplification to solve problems of different magnitudes. It is quite a common approach for the most complex predicaments since it is also believed that a system that is too complex and requiring so many inputs is impractical and unmanageable – precisely the descriptions for public transport systems in this country. Perhaps one city should show the way in coming up with a proof of concept for simplicity. Maybe that will be Cebu once it builds what is touted as the country’s first BRT line. Maybe that will be Davao should it implement possible recommendations pertaining to sustainable transport from an ongoing study. But I hope it will be Metro Manila, not necessarily at a grand scale but something that will show signs of life in an otherwise deteriorating system.

Replicating success

In his inaugural speech, P-Noy stated his disdain for “wang-wang,” referring to the abusive of the sirens by certain people. “Wang-wang” then symbolized how these people practically claimed privilege over other people haplessly caught in traffic jams. The mere reference to “wang-wang” and the marching orders for the PNP-HPG and the LTO to crack down on the abuse led to an aggressive, fast and effective campaign that resulted in the confiscation of illegal sirens. In effect, the campaign brought back the sirens to its original purpose. And that is to get the attention of motorists for them to give way to emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks.

I’ve always wondered after that successful campaign why our agencies can’t replicate this for other traffic violations as well. Surely, a similar campaign will go along way in establishing firm enforcement of traffic rules and regulations – something that has been cited time and again as what needs to be done to bring order to the traffic mess we experience everyday.

Perhaps we can start off by listing something like a Top Ten rules that are violated and apply the “wang-wang” campaign to these. I nominate the following to be included in the Top Ten:
1. Counterflowing
2. Use of illegal license plates
3. Speeding
4. Jaywalking

These combined with another aggressive campaign but this time on the environment side (i.e., no-nonsense emission testing and anti-smoke belching) should help ease traffic in many major thoroughfares. These could all be under the banner of a Traffic Discipline Zone (TDZ) or corridor and if implemented properly may help bring respect back to our traffic enforcers. I am optimistic that enforcement will go beyond just being a motherhood statement and that its contributions would be very significant.


A lot of people have asked me how it felt when one is interviewed by media. It is not an easy thing and certainly not a comfortable experience considering that I must be wary of the statements that I make considering my position at the University and my being head of a research and training center. I must be well informed about the topic and usually require whoever was requesting an interview to provide the topic and perhaps guide questions in advance. This is to allow for some preparations especially to get sufficient data on things I may be asked.

Data should be current and reliable such that it will be factual, informative. After all, interviews are also opportunities to promote the advocacies of the Center as well as the Center itself. And the best way to do so is to project the Center as an institution of honor and excellence, in the tradition of the University it represents. I must also be mindful that we are actually part of the government and that we have many linkages with government agencies including those that have often been under attack for the mess we have to deal with in Philippine transport and traffic. Yet being part of the University and the academe in general, one must also maintain objectivity while being fair, not resorting to uncalled for criticisms or government bashing that has been the signature of some so-called experts in transport and traffic. Thus, it is also a tough balancing act as one is being called upon to comment and provide opinion on a variety of topics, mainly those that are the talk of the town like a recent road crash or a controversial traffic scheme being proposed.

Interviews, however, despite the required preparations are definitely enjoyable and, after one is shown on TV or printed in the newspaper, something one would be proud. This is especially true if the interview went well and one is not quoted out of context. Colleagues at the Center including previous heads have always nixed interviews because of their experience on TV, radio and print where careless (and maybe even reckless) reporters have quoted them out of context. I have had my share of similar experiences despite my preparation and I guess it is something one should expect if one grants one too many an interview. Based on this experience I have enlisted the help of my staff to screen those who are requesting for interviews including setting up a system where they have to write to the office (an email would be enough).

I have turned down many requests and my staff have done so, too. Mostly, these are ones that obviously are in conflict with my schedule (lectures, meetings and other appointments) or those that violate time I have reserved for myself and my family (i.e., no interviews after 6:00PM and definitely none on weekends). I have made very rare exceptions to these rules and then only when the topic is a hot issue and one that requires expert opinion from a scholarly perspective.

In future posts, I will try to write about specific experiences and some of my favorite interviews and interview topics.

Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020

Today we are holding a Road Safety Conference with the theme “Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020.” The theme is consistent with a worldwide campaign led by the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and its partners that aims to curb the sharp increase in the incidence of road crashes. The program was actually launched last year at the Road Safety Forum held in October in Singapore and formalized with the first Transport Ministers’ conference on road safety held in Moscow the following month of November.

The Road Safety Conference in the Philippines is organized by the Automobile Association Philippines and the National Center for Transportation Studies of UP, and is mainly sponsored by Toyota Motor Philippines as a major part of the latter’s advocacy for road safety. Partners include SafeKids Philippines, Pilipinas Shell and 3M Philippines. This year, we are happy to have on board the fledgling GRSP Philippines (PGRSP) that is comprised of major companies dedicated in promoting road safety in the country.

The program includes 3 panel discussions with the first one tackling road safety legislation including the status of the Road Safety Bill filed in the last congress. The second panel discussion will feature the International Road Assessment Program (i-RAP) that will be implemented in the Philippines through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The assessment will involve an automated audit of more than 4,000 kilometers of roads throughout the country. These include roads classified under the Asian Highway (AH) network as well as the tollways of Luzon island. The third panel discussion will be on eco-safe driving. which is a practice that aims to promote both safety and energy efficiency by encouraging more relaxed driving while putting emphasis on regulating the driver’s use of the gas pedal. The latter, in effect, allows the driver to manage the engine revolution so that upon acceleration and during cruising, the engine will only reach around 2,000 r/min maximum.

These are but among the many topics that are part of the bigger picture that is road safety. They are surely among the most interesting ones that are oriented toward actions necessary if we are to succeed in cutting down the steady rise in road crashes and save lives. The topics are also a welcome departure from past conferences where many presentations showed statistics and sought to establish context for road safety initiatives. That context is already well established and if one is not aware or has a clear understanding of the state of road safety, then perhaps that person is disconnected with what is happening around him.

This year’s Road Safety Conference will be held at the GT Toyota Asian Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is a whole day event that starts at 9:00 AM and concludes at 5:00 PM.

“Wang-wang” of another kind

Ever since the current president of the Philippines mentioned his disapproval and disdain for the abusive use of sirens by unscrupulous individuals and organizations, there has noticeably been some “silence” in our streets. It used to be that vehicles with sirens muscled through heavy traffic to get ahead of everybody else, appearing as if their business was more important than all the rest. Never mind that those comprising the frustrated among those caught in the jam might be professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers whose times were much more valuable compared to say, a relative or a staff of a congressman using a siren on their way to the shopping mall. Never mind that among those who were wallowing in traffic were students – the very future of this country – who might already be late for their classes. Never mind, too, that other people happen to be workers or laborers whose times were critical because they might be getting their pay based on an hourly rate. Now, you only hear the sound of engines, tailpipes and the occasional horns mainly from those who are in a hurry or public transportation drivers trying to catch the attention of commuters waiting for a ride along the street.

However, I would like to talk about a “wang-wang” of another kind. And this one is of the good type. “Wang-wang ng Bayan” is a radio program that went on air 5 weeks ago. It is a talk show hosted by two good friends, Sheilah and Dayo, who graciously accepted the invitation to host the show. Following are more info about the program taken from its Facebook page:

“The title of the program is a play on the local term for the sirens used by ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles that were abused by politicians and people who thought of themselves as being more important than the average citizen. “Wang-wang” was specifically pointed out by the current President Noynoy Aquino in his inaugural speech as it became associated with abusive behaviour especially in traffic. In truth, “wang-wang” is an instrument for catching attention. And in this case attention is needed for us to be aware of and understand the current and enduring issues on transportation and traffic.

The objectives of the program are as follows:
1) Advocate – environmentally sustainable transport (EST) including road traffic safety, social equity, clean air, and other elements of EST
2) Clarify – issues pertaining to transport and traffic, focusing on current concerns in Philippine cities particularly in but not limited to Metropolitan Manila
3) Teach – the general public by providing current, relevant information concerning transportation and traffic systems, and sharing knowledge concerning transport and traffic”

So far, the program has tackled topics like traffic rules and regulations, u-turns, the odd-even scheme, pedestrian facilities, and motorcycles. Guests included the like of former LTO Chief and LTFRB Chair Bert Suansing, Traffic Engineer and UP Professor Ric Sigua, former MMDA traffic chief Ernie Camarillo, motorcycle riding instructor and expert Jake Swann. In its upcoming 6th episode, the show will have as guest current LTFRB Board Member Julius Garcia who will talk about public transport including challenges and current programs of the government.

It is through such a program that the academe could hopefully reach out (extend) to discuss and explain, or as their objectives state – ACT – about the relevant topics on transport and traffic in our country today. Truly, these are matters many of us need to be aware of and rightfully informed rather than misinformed. “Wang-wang ng Bayan” airs on DZUP 1602 AM radio every Wednesday from 1-2 PM (Philippine time). It is also available online via livestreaming.

Odd-Even Now? (Conclusion)

From the previous posts, it is clear that vehicle restraint measures can very effective in reducing congestion. However, there are also obvious limitations to the effectiveness of these schemes. In the case of the UVVRP, this limitation has been reached considering that the Philippines and Metro Manila in particular continues to experience a high rate of motorization. This is partly explained by a general increase in car ownerships that have resulted in increased traffic volumes in our roads. It is not surprising that people who can afford more than one vehicle often choose vehicles with license plates ending in numbers that will ensure they can take at least one car everyday. In many other cases, motorists have adjusted their schedules so that they can take their cars during days when the vehicles are prohibited during “coding” hours. Given such circumstances, the Odd-Even scheme will ultimately reach its limit and will be most effective for the short -term, especially since it is expected to take a lot of flak if not examined and implemented properly.

In conclusion, I reproduce below excerpts of my letter to one Metro Manila mayor prior to his attendance of the Metro Manila Council meeting where Metro Manila mayors took up the proposal by the MMDA to implement the Odd-Even scheme along EDSA.

“The papers tackle various traffic schemes implemented in Metro Manila and focuses on the impacts and effectiveness of the UVVRP (Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program or number coding) in particular. Unfortunately, at the time the studies did not include evaluation of the Odd-Even scheme although such is mentioned in the first paper as the precursor of the UVVRP. Please note that these schemes are classified among vehicle restraint options that include the truck ban. Color-coding, number coding and the odd-even schemes were originally implemented as short term measures intended to be modified or lifted once the infrastructure projects that were then being implemented (overpasses and underpasses, coordinated and adaptive traffic signals, etc.) were completed. The UVVRP was indeed modified to include a window from 10:00AM – 3:00PM. Meanwhile, some LGUs in the periphery of Metro Manila no longer implement the UVVRP since they do not have much congestion unlike those LGUs where traffic converge along major thoroughfares such as EDSA, C5, C3, Gil Puyat, Espans and Quezon Ave. and Commonwealth. Incidentally, many of these roads are found in Quezon City.

The perceptions on the potential negative impacts of an Odd-Even scheme for EDSA are well founded since vehicles displaced will naturally be diverted to other roads. We have to be careful though not to call such roads simply as side streets or alternate routes since C5 (Katipunan (in QC)-E. Rodriquez (Pasig)-CP Garcia (Makati-Taguig), C3 (Araneta Ave.), Shaw Boulevard, Quezon Avenue and others are major arterials and form part of the circumferential and radial road system of Metro Manila. We are to expect more congestion along these roads that will, in effect, marginalize potential gains along EDSA.

The recommendation therefore, is for the MMDA not to experiment on EDSA from November 2010 to January 2011 but instead undertake in-depth analysis of the implementation of an Odd-Even scheme. Direct experimentation while effective in some cases will without doubt place much of the burden on the people using EDSA and other major roads. It is known that MMDA has acquired the capacity to simulate traffic based on their recent presentations. Perhaps this should be done for the entire stretch of EDSA and include all major roads affected considering that they will bear traffic diverted from EDSA. Such traffic simulation should, however, be properly calibrated and validated to reflect real world conditions. This is because it is also easy to come up with simulations whose results are partial or biased on what the simulator wants to show.”

Should the MMDA choose to go the way of vehicle restraint and examine the benefits and costs of implementing the Odd-Even scheme as well as revisit the UVVRP and truck ban, it is recommended that they also study other vehicle restraint measures in combination with schemes favoring public over private transport. In fact, government should take the lead in encouraging a shift to public transport use in parallel with efforts to improve the quality of service of public transportation in Metro Manila. Perhaps it is time to revive discussions on congestion pricing and take the cue from the example provided by Singapore. It is worthwhile to learn from their experiences that we so often dismiss as exceptions yet are actually textbook applications that met with success due to a mix of political will and a citizenry who cooperated because they understood they had no choice if they were to improve transport and traffic conditions in their city-state. Perhaps we should realize the same while lobbying our government and public transport service providers for the transport system that we deserve in order for us to move forward in progress.

Truck Ban

Another form of vehicle restraint focuses on freight and logistics vehicles, particularly trucks. These are commonly referred to as large vehicles having at least 6 tires (double-tired rear axle). The prevailing perception is that many if not most of these vehicles are overloaded and impede the flow of traffic due to their slow speeds as well as damage pavements not designed for heavy vehicles.

“The truck ban is a scheme first applied in the late 1970’s to address the perception that freight vehicles are the main culprits in congesting Metro Manila roads. Trucks were prohibited from traveling along major arterials including the primary circumferential and radial road network for most of the day. Exemptions from the daytime ban were applied to roads in the vicinity of the port area where truck traffic was practically inevitable.”

The coverage area of the truck ban included all of Metro Manila’s major circumferential and radial roads – C1 to C5 refer to Metro Manila’s circumferential roads while R1 to R10 refer to the radial roads. These comprise the main arterials of the Metro Manila road network. For reference, C3 refers to Araneta Avenue and related roads, C4 is EDSA, Letre and Samson Roads, and C5 refers to Katipunan, E. Rodriguez and C.P. Garcia Avenues. R1 refers to Roxas Boulevard, R5 is Shaw Boulevard, R6 is Aurora Boulevard, and R7 is España and Quezon Avenues.

“There are the different versions of the truck ban being implemented in Metro Manila. Truck Ban 1 is enforced along EDSA, Metro Manila’s busiest arterial and often its most congested road. Designated as Circumferential Road 4 (C4) it has a 10- to 12-lane carriageway with a mass rapid transit line running along its median. Truck Ban 2 practically covers all other roads except sections of arterial roads that have been designated as truck routes.”

Truck Ban 1 is enforced from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM everyday except Sundays and Holidays. Meanwhile, Truck Ban 2 is implemented from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM everyday except Sundays and Holidays. The second version attempts to minimize trucks during the morning and afternoon/evening peak periods.

“The chronology of the truck ban scheme started in 1978. In recognition of the critical situation of traffic congestion in Metro Manila, the then Metropolitan Manila Authority (MMA) issued Ordinance No. 78-04, which prohibited cargo trucks, with gross vehicular weight (GVW) of more than 4,000 kilogram, from plying along eleven major thoroughfares in Metro Manila during peak traffic hours – from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. and from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M., daily except on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

In 1990, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) issued Memorandum Circulars No. 90-367 and 90-375, changing truck ban hours to: between 7:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. on weekdays; 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. for Monday to Thursday; and from 4:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. on Fridays. In response to the appeal of the members and officers of the various truckers’ associations for an alternate route and a 2-hour reduction of truck ban, the MMA issued Ordinance No.  19, Series of 1991, amending MMC Ordinance No. 78-04.  This issuance provided alternate routes to the truck ban routes and effected a 2-hour reduction of the truck ban period, thereby prohibiting trucks on the road from 7:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. and from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.

In 1994 the MMA issued Ordinance No. 5, Series of 1994, further amending Ordinance No. 78-04 as amended by Ordinance No. 19 Series 1991.  The Ordinance restricts trucks from traveling or passing along 10 major routes from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. and from 5:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. daily, except on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.  The Ordinance also provided for an “all-day” truck ban along Metro Manila’s major arterial road, the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. daily, except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

In 1996, the MMDA, in its desire to further reduce traffic congestion even on Saturdays, issued Regulation No. 96-008 amending MMA Ordinance No. 94-05, imposing truck ban from Monday to Saturday, except Sunday and holidays. An MMDA Regulation No. 99-002, amended Ordinance No. 5, Series of 1994, wherein the “gross capacity weight” was amended from 4,000 to 4,500 kilograms.”

In the last few years, the MMDA has implemented adjustments to the truck ban scheme in coordination with Metro Manila local government units. Certain truck routes were identified to address the issues raised by the private sector, particularly industries and commercial establishments, regarding the transport and delivery of goods. Other cities in the Philippines have adopted the truck ban in one form or another, often directing trucks to use alternate roads in order to decongest the roads in the central business districts as well as to prevent their early deterioration as a result of truck overloading practices.

[Source of italicized text: Regidor, J.R.F. and Tiglao, N.C.C. (2007) “Alternative Solutions to Traffic Problems: Metro Manila in Retrospect,” Proceedings of the 11th World Conference on Transport Research (WCTR 2007), 24-28 June 2007, University of California Transportation Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, DVD.]

From Odd-Even to UVVRP… and back

Picking up from where I left off in the last post, I reproduce another part of the paper I co-authored with a good friend who now happens to be the Director of the Center for Policy and Executive Development (CPED) of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) of UP Diliman.

“The UVVRP or the “number coding” scheme, as it is commonly called, is a travel demand management measure that has evolved since its first implementation in 1995. The original intent was to use this measure to address congestion brought about in part by the many road and rail infrastructure projects being implemented throughout Metro Manila in the 1990’s. However, due to its perceived success in decreasing traffic along Metro Manila arterials, the scheme’s implementation was extended and even expanded to include public transport vehicles like buses, jeepneys and taxis.

The original programs involved only the main arterials of Metro Manila including its five circumferential and ten radial roads. These included the three expressways that connected the region to surrounding provinces in the north and south. All these are classified as national roads. The current program includes essentially all roads, with traffic enforcement units of cities and municipalities implementing the scheme for city and municipal roads. The MMDA enforces the scheme along most major roads.

The chronology of the development of UVVRP starts in 1995 when the MMDA Regulation No. 95-001 otherwise known as the “Odd-Even Scheme” was issued. The scheme bans private vehicles with less than three (3) occupants from plying restricted thoroughfares during AM and PM peak periods on particular days. Specifically, low occupancy private vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers are banned on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while those with license plates ending in even numbers are banned on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Peak period is defined to be between 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The penalty was set at P 300 per offense. Exempted from this regulation are public transport vehicles, emergency vehicles, police and military vehicles, school buses, diplomatic vehicles and official media vehicles.

In 1996, the MMDA issued Regulation 96-004 otherwise known as the “Modified Odd-Even Scheme” in addition to the existing Odd-Even Scheme. The Modified Odd-Even scheme applied to public utility vehicles such as taxis, buses, public utility jeepneys, etc., which are banned from all streets of Metro Manila on particular days of the week from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM based on the plate number ending of each vehicle, as follows: 1 and 2 on Mondays, 3 and 4 on Tuesdays, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, 7 and 8 on Thursdays, 9 and 0 on Fridays. This regulation took effect February 19, 1996 and covered all roads in Metropolitan Manila.

Also, in 1996 the Metro Manila Council, MMDA, adopted and promulgated MMDA Regulation 96-005 entitled the “Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program” regulating the operation of certain motor vehicles on all national, city and municipal roads in Metropolitan Manila and repealed MMDA Regulation Nos. 95-001 and 96-004. The UVVRP, commonly referred to as “color-coding”, was adopted from the previous “Odd-Even” scheme which was first implemented in December 1, 1995 by the MMDA together with the Philippine National Police.  Under this scheme both public and private vehicles are banned for longer hours (i.e., between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM).  This regulation was first implemented last June 1, 1996 and is still in effect.

In early 2003, the MMDA temporarily suspended the UVVRP. The resulting mayhem, probably due to the abrupt reaction of car-users, forced the MMDA to restore the scheme. A variant of the scheme was later introduced with a window from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM (i.e., the off-peak period within the day) when banned vehicles may travel. Not all cities and municipalities in Metro Manila, however, adopted the scheme due to its perceived detrimental effects on traffic in their respective areas. The prime central business districts of Makati and Mandaluyong prompted these cities to implement the UVVRP from 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. This created problems as many roads run through different cities and municipalities, especially the circumferential and radial roads. Thus, it is possible for a motorist to use his vehicle in a city adopting the off-peak period window and get apprehended in another city that enforced the UVVRP during the daytime.”

[Source: Regidor, J.R.F. and Tiglao, N.C.C. (2007) “Alternative Solutions to Traffic Problems: Metro Manila in Retrospect,” Proceedings of the 11th World Conference on Transport Research (WCTR 2007), 24-28 June 2007, University of California Transportation Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, DVD.]

I am aware of certain stories circulating among those in the transportation and traffic circle(s) claiming an even earlier concept of the Odd-Even scheme. All stories seem to eventually lead to Oscar Orbos who had a brief stint as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the Cabinet of Cory Aquino in 1990. He is, of course, credited with the conceptualization and implementation of the “yellow lane” scheme, as lanes alloted for exclusive use of public utility vehicles have come to be known. An earlier version of the Odd-Even scheme has been attributed to him and, perhaps subject to verification, was claimed as among the reasons he was eventually relieved and transferred to another post. I say subject to verification because I do remember but faintly that there was a lot of talk about how to drastically lessen the number of vehicles along Metro Manila roads at the time. I was quite naive to such being a college junior at the time and was quite indifferent to policies that years later I would be evaluating and writing about. Moreover, it has been established that certain stories if allowed to circulate long enough gains the appearance of being true.

At this point, I am already tempted to provide a brief conclusion on the lessons and experience of vehicle restraint policies as implemented in Metro Manila. However, I would have to defer until after another post where the topic will be another vehicle restraint scheme, this time one that is even older than the UVVRP and its various incarnations. It is a scheme that has been subject to probably even more discussions and scrutiny given that it is a scheme other cities have implemented in various forms and had its share of successes and failures. I am talking about the “truck ban.”

Traffic schemes in Metro Manila

I interrupt my writing on the U-turn Scheme to write about other schemes first and particularly about vehicle restraint measures that have been implemented in Metro Manila (and probably elsewhere in the country).

I was researching on papers that we could attach to our letter to the mayor of Quezon City prior to his attending a Metro Manila Council (MMC) meeting where the mayors of the 15 local government units comprising Metropolitan Manila would be discussing the proposed implementation of an Odd-Even Scheme along EDSA. The proposal would be presented by the Chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for decision of the MMC. Earlier, the MMDA Chair gave interviews to the media and mentioned a study made by the NCTS pertaining to congestion along what is regarded as the busiest thoroughfare in Metro Manila and perhaps the entire country. The MMDA Chair did not say the title of the study nor were there specifics on the authors of the study. And so it piqued my interest enough to search for the paper that the MMDA Chair used in his statement. The search led to two papers I co-authored with two very good friends. The material I was able to dig up had enough for several blogs but rather than re-invent the wheel, I will just reproduce what has already been written, reviewed, published and presented back in 2006 and 2007. Since the following text will a verbatim reproduction of parts of the paper, I have italicized the material and cite the paper from where it came from.

“Traffic management refers to a wide range of measures and programs designed to improve traffic flow and enhance traffic environment without substantial capital investment that may include ROW acquisition. Traffic management is necessary due to the significant imbalance between demand and supply in traffic that results in chronic congestion and its derivatives – environmental degradation and decline in traffic safety.

Measures formulated to address Metro Manila’s traffic problems are based on established, conventional travel demand management (TDM) and transport systems management (TSM) schemes. However, the schemes have been adapted to local conditions and are still being modified to better address the requirements of Metro Manila travelers. The MMUTIS Technical Report No. 8 (1999) presents a comprehensive review of traffic management schemes implemented in Metro Manila from the 1970’s to the present. Among the schemes formulated and applied in various forms and extent are the following:

• Traffic signal control system (TEAM, SCATS)

• Flow management schemes (one-way systems, reversible lanes),

• Toll discounts (for the North and South Luzon Expressways),

• Bus management schemes (bus segregation, provincial bus restrictions, designated bus lanes), and

• Pedestrian-focused programs (overpasses, underpasses, discipline zones)

The UVVRP and the Truck Ban are TDM measures that have evolved since their introduction in 1995 and 1980, respectively. The U-turn Scheme is a TSM solution introduced in 2003 that was intended to promote uninterrupted flow in Metro Manila by reducing delay incurred at intersections (i.e., through intersection closure).”



Regidor, J.R.F. and Tiglao, N.C.C. (2007) “Alternative Solutions to Traffic Problems: Metro Manila in Retrospect,” Proceedings of the 11th World Conference on Transport Research (WCTR 2007), 24-28 June 2007, University of California Transportation Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, DVD.