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Last December 8, it was a holiday at Taguig City as they celebrated their foundation day. Not surprisingly, many major roads including C-5, Ortigas Avenue and EDSA were relieved of congestion and I was among those who benefited from this as we breezed through Ortigas to get to the hospital for our daughter’s regular check-up. I also saw many posts on Facebook in agreement with this observation as they too had shorter travel times particularly between Quezon City and Taguig.
I jokingly proposed on my social media account that perhaps, instead of tinkering with the number coding scheme, we should have something like coding for cities. I recall recommending something like making a holiday for one major traffic generating city for each of the five working week days. It’s like making Mondays off for Makati City, Tuesdays off for Pasig, Wednesdays for Makati, Thursdays for Taguig, and Fridays for Manila. I got some supportive comments including one that made very good sense about commuters losing the equivalent of a day anyway because of traffic congestion. The 4-day work week is not at all unusual or new since this has been practiced in many offices including government offices. In certain cases, there are offices that allows you to work from home once a week so you only need to be physically in the office for 4 days. It would be nice for an analysis for this proposal be made and supported perhaps by some modelling so we can have metrics for the potential benefits to all of such 4-day work weeks.
A friend asked me about my commute after the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had implemented a tweak in the number coding scheme. To those not familiar with the recent adjustments to the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or more popularly known as the number coding scheme, the MMDA has recently eliminated the window that was applied to many roads. The 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM window is no more and the MMDA also extended the coding period to 8:00 PM from the old 7:00 PM lifting.
My observation from my personal experience commuting in the mornings between Antipolo and Quezon City is that my travel times have somewhat improved. After Undas, I have enjoyed travel times of 45 minutes to 1 hour during the same morning periods when I choose to travel. This has improved significantly from the 1.5 hours I had spent prior to the adjustment. My usual route was mainly through Marcos Highway so perhaps its not just the coding aspect but also the fact that much of the construction work for the LRT Line 2 Extension have been completed and there have been less obstructions due to this project between Masinag and Santolan. My homebound trips seem to have improved too for the same reasons although not as significant as my morning commute. Another friend has similar observations and is very happy about the big improvements he says he now enjoys considering he has even longer commutes between Antipolo and Manila (Intramuros) or Makati (Gil Puyat).
But generally speaking, is it possible that there are significant positive impacts of the tweak in the number coding scheme? My assessment is that it is very possible and very likely especially if we see it from the perspective of vehicle trip reduction due to the adjustments made in the restraint policy. The number coding scheme is a travel demand management (TDM) measure designed to reduce vehicle traffic through vehicle use restraint. By introducing the coding window many years ago, the restrictions to vehicle travel were in effect relaxed and that encourage more people to use their cars.
The elimination of the coding window means people could not move their times of commute to later than 7:00 AM or earlier than 3:00 PM. It meant people whose vehicles were “coding” had to leave (forced?) early and go home late. Extending the coding period to 8:00 PM probably was probably a back-breaker to many people. And then the difference now compared to the 1990s and decade after that is the availability of the more reliable Uber and Grab vehicles that many car-owners had no option to use before. I’m not a psychologist but perhaps such factors have led to an improvement in traffic conditions. How long this would last shouldn’t be so difficult to tell given the experiences in the past and the fact that population and vehicle ownership continues to rise. Perhaps a year or two if no significant improvements in transport (e.g., mass transit projects) happen.
Starting November 14, the MMDA is also supposed to be clamping down (read: stricter implementation) on the motorcycle lane policy along EDSA, C5, Commonwealth and Macapagal Blvd. I’m not so sure how they will be doing this as enforcement along the stretches will require a lot of manpower.