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Odd-Even Now? (Conclusion)

October 2010
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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.

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