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Monthly Archives: October 2010

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.


Full circle with the U-turns: Traffic Signals in Metro Manila

Since last week, it seemed as if a ghost of Christmas past has come to haunt me and my colleagues at the NCTS. We had some unexpected visitors from the Traffic Engineering and Management (TEAM) group of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). They were at the Center to consult about a project being formulated by the group together with the MMDA for new traffic signals for Metro Manila. DPWH-TEAM has a long history with NCTS starting when that unit was created when the Philippines invested on its first coordinated traffic signals in the 1970s.

At that time, the NCTS was still the Transport Training Center (TTC), and was the site of the first traffic control center for signals that were installed along Quezon Avenue. The package was funded by a loan from the Japanese government and hence involved traffic signals manufactured by Mitsubishi. Years and many TEAM project phases later, most of Metro Manila’s major intersections would be signalized and traffic signal control would be under the Traffic Engineering Center, which until 2003, was under the DPWH. In the 1990’s, the TEC and TEAM worked together to acquire the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS), which at the time was already installed and running in most major intersections in Cebu City.

SCATS was supposed to usher in a new era in traffic control in Metro Manila until some major problems eventually plagued its operation. One of these problems was power. However, this was something everybody else was concerned with because of the power crisis of the early 1990s. It was also something that seemed to be easily solvable with the acquisition and installation of uninterrupted power systems (UPS) and generators that allowed the facility to operate even during blackouts.

Another technical problem cropped up just about the same time when the TEC and TEAM people were trying to solve the power issue. This time, it was something much more complicated and perhaps, what led to the system losing its credibility in Metro Manila and a chain reaction of sorts in as far as reactions go. The communications problem was a critical one and rendered the system practically unreliable for what it was supposed to solve – congestion. SCATS required a reliable network for its controllers and computers to communicate with each other. This communication allowed its software to assess network-wide traffic demand measured by means of detectors embedded in the pavement at each approach lane of an intersection. Data from these detectors are transmitted to computers in the control center, which then compute for  the optimum cycle times for each signalized intersection. The computers determine which intersections need to be coordinated and how (i.e., alternating or simultaneous), and this process allows SCATS to adapt to variations in traffic. Hence, its name which seemed only appropriate given its performance in what is now the expanded network in metropolitan Cebu.

The failure of SCATS in Metro Manila was further hastened by traffic enforcers who were only too eager to intervene. This intervention was more of interference as enforcers started switching the traffic signal controllers to manual mode at the slightest indication that the signals would appear to be non-responsive to changes in the traffic situation. In truth, it takes a few minutes for the detectors to collect data and send it to the computers that will compute for the appropriate cycles and signal settings as well as determine which intersections to “marry” and “divorce” – to borrow terms used by traffic engineers in Cebu City for the process of coordinating intersections throughout the day. Due to this rampant practice by enforcers in Metro Manila, it was only a matter of time before SCATS was declared a failure and claims were made that Metro Manila traffic is so much more complicated than Cebu’s, where SCATS was a success (it still is today).