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Traffic congestion in Metro Manila: Is the UVVRP still effective? – Part 1

I was interviewed last week about the traffic congestion generally experienced along major roads in Metro Manila. I was asked whether I thought the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) more popularly known as the number coding scheme was still effective, and I replied that based on what we are experiencing it is obviously not effective anymore. The reasoning here can be traced from the fact that when the scheme was first formulated and implemented, the main assumption was that if the number of license plates on registered vehicles were equally distributed among the 10 digits (1 to 0), then by restricting 2 digits indicated as the end/last number on a plate we could automatically have a 20% reduction in the number vehicles. This rather simplistic assumption was sound at the time but apparently did not take into consideration that eventually, people owning vehicles will be able to adjust to the scheme one way or another.

One way to adjust when the number coding scheme was implemented was to change traveling times. Everyone knew that the scheme was enforced from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM (i.e., there was no 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM window at the time) and so people only had to travel from the origins to their destinations before 7:00 AM. Similarly, they would travel back after 7:00 PM, which partly explains why after 7:00 PM there is usually traffic congestion due to “coding” vehicles coming out to travel. In effect, the “coding” vehicle is not absent from the streets that day.  Instead, it is only used during the time outside of the “coding” or restricted period.

Another way that was actually a desired impact of the coding scheme was for people to shift to public transport, at least for the day when their vehicle was “coding.” That way, the vehicle is left at home and there is one less vehicle for every person who opted to take public transport. This, however, was not to be and people did not shift to public transport. Perhaps the quality of services available or provided to them were just not acceptable to most people and so they didn’t take public transport and a significant number instead opted for a third way.

That third way to adjust was one that was the least desirable of the consequences of number coding – people who could afford it bought another vehicle. This was actually a result that could have been expected or foreseen given the trends and direct relationship between increases in income associated with economic growth where people would eventually be able to afford to buy a vehicle. Actually, there is no problem with owning a car. The concern is when one uses it and when he opts to travel. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that people started buying new cars outright, making this something like an overnight phenomenon. It happened over several years and involved a cycle that starts when the wealthier people decide to purchase a new vehicle and discards their old ones. These used vehicles become available on the “second hand” market and are purchased by those with smaller budgets. Some of these may have even older vehicles that they will in turn discard, and eventually be owned by other people with even less budget. Note that in this cycle, very few vehicles are actually retired, if at all considering this country has no retirement policy for old vehicles. The end result? More cars on the roads and consequently, more severe and more frequent congestion.

Below is an excerpt from the news report on News TV Channel 11:

Ortigas traffic

Ortigas Avenue traffic is very familiar to me.  For one, I have used the road since childhood because it was the most direct route to and from school. We lived in Cainta and I went to school for 11 years in Mandaluyong. Before that, I even have memories of the section of Ortigas Avenue where Valle Verde phases are now located being carved quite literally from the adobe mountain that it was back in the mid 1970’s.  Ortigas was the only access for those living in the east, particularly the Antipolo-Cainta-Taytay-Binangonan-Angono towsn of Rizal Province, for quite some time. Marcos Highway was still a dirt road and Marikina and Cogeo were somewhat out of the way. Meanwhile, Ortigas was already an important corridor as it led to Antipolo, an important religious and popular recreational site.

As the populations of the Rizal towns I mentioned increased, mostly due to their proximity to Metro Manila and being popular for residential developments then as now, Ortigas became congested. The avenue itself was widened but as any traffic engineering textbook will tell us, the bottlenecks were really the bridges. And I also remember the Rosario Bridge across the Pasig River being widened twice, both before the Manggahan Floodway was constructed. I experienced the impacts of both widening endeavors and did not enjoy having to wake up earlier than when I usually did because of the horrific traffic. It was worse,  I guess, when the Manggahan Floodway was being constructed and there were too few options as to alternative routes. In fact, there were too few bridges across the floodway and Pasig River.

Nowadays, traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue seem much worse than before. This I get from my siblings who still use the corridor as part of their routes to their workplaces. I trust in their assessment considering that my brother went to the same Mandaluyong school I attended and my sister attended another exclusive school in Pasig. My sister’s husband attests to the worsening traffic as he’s also lived at a residential area along Ortigas. From firsthand observation, I can also validate that Ortigas is worse these days than say 10 and 20 years ago.

The counterflow scheme along Ortigas is not new. In fact, my father and our school service drivers  knew about this and would often time their trips to coincide with the scheme so that they can drive almost continuously to their destinations in the morning. Back then, I remember that the counterflow scheme was in effect for 10 to 15 minutes at the 0630, 0700, 0730 and 0800 times. It was also actually a regulated one-way scheme and was called thus since it benefited vehicles traveling along the outbound (from Rizal) direction. Inbound traffic were stopped at strategic points along the avenue including Rosario Bridge.

Such schemes are possible only when there is a dominant direction during the peak hours. In the case of Ortigas the directional distribution before was practically 90% outbound in the morning peak. A one-way, counterflow scheme was possible and practical for an undivided road. There were no medians or island to prevent vehicles from moving over to the opposing lane and back. That was then and at a time when I suppose that there were less friction along the avenue. Road friction, particularly those caused by public utility vehicles stopping for passengers, is more serious these days as the number of PUVs have also dramatically increased to address the demand for travel. Only now, there seem to be more informal terminals and longer dwell times at strategic points along Ortigas. These cause the bottlenecks that are also complicated by Ortigas now having median barriers along its length.

I believe congestion can be significantly alleviated by developing and implementing a simple dispatching system for PUVs along strategic points like the designated loading and unloading zones at either ends of the Manggahan and Rosario bridges. The dispatching system should be implemented along with a strict enforcement regime to ensure quick boarding and alighting times and prohibiting PUVs from spilling over and occupying other lanes, that often results in blockage of general traffic. Perhaps, a counter-flow scheme may be re-evaluated and become unnecessary. This recommendation comes in the heels of a survey we conducted along Ortigas only yesterday, February 10 in Manila, where I personally experienced PUVs making a terminal out of the outbound lanes before the Manggahan bridge and effectively blocking outbound traffic along the avenue. I can imagine the frustration of those caught in traffic along Ortigas and its implications along the extension and the Imelda and Bonifacio Avenues from Cainta Junction. The result of that blockage and the implementation of a counterflow around 0715 is shown in the following two photos I took.

Figure A: Image downstream along Ortigas Avenue (to Rosario Bridge and C5)


Figure B: Image upstream along Ortigas Avenue (from Cainta Junction)


It is clear from the photos that private vehicles were the ones who benefited from the counterflow. However, it is interesting to see that the outbound lanes were practically empty especially along the Manggahan Bridge. This clearly shows that there is actually enough road capacity but that it is not utilized (and counterflows were required) because of the blockage caused by PUVs upstream of our position. This is another strong case for going back to the basics in as far as traffic engineering and management is concerned. It does not take a PhD degree to see what’s wrong in the photos and certainly an advanced degree is not required for a solution to the problem.

Ningas Cogon

After focusing on one negative trait, I didn’t expect to be writing immediately about another. Again, I do this in the context of transport and traffic, and to drive home the point that we really need to go back to the basics in as far as solving transport and traffic problems in this country is concerned. Ningas cogon refers to how a type of grass burns when set on fire. There is initially an intense burning of the grass but after a short time it dies out. This behavior of the burning is often alluded to when describing efforts that are not sustained and especially those that showed enthusiasm (and therefore promise) only at the start. It is also associated with an initial show of interest that eventually and shortly wanes for one reason or another.

Only two weeks back I was writing about Commonwealth Avenue and how it was called a killer highway. At the time, I was hopeful that the renewed effort to impose discipline among motorists and especially public utility vehicle drivers and pedestrians would result in a significant improvement of safety along the highway. The initial results seemed to be encouraging, with a dramatic decrease in the number of road crashes and deaths in the first few days. I even had several opportunities to observe the efforts of enforcers, the combination of MMDA, PNP and QC personnel, to keep PUVs along their designated lanes and remind motorists and pedestrians to follow rules and regulations. I was pleasantly surprised, for example, to see vehicles “slow down” to 60 kph instead of the expressway speeds they usually attain along Commonwealth. At the Philcoa area near Commonwealth’s junction with the Elliptical Road, PUVs were being guided through the loading and unloading area and violators were quickly apprehended by MMDA and PNP personnel closely watching the traffic.

Meanwhile, I read a few newspaper columns giving mixed reviews about the program. One column in particular from a major daily mentioned that the effort lasted only a few days and that traffic reverted back to pre-discipline zone times. My reaction was one of disappointment, not for the government but for the columnist whom I thought came up with a premature conclusion, given that changing motorist and pedestrian behavior and attitudes along a major thoroughfare would take time. I did mention though in my previous post that enforcement should be firm and sustained in order for it to be successful and enduring. Also, I was already wary of the tendency for such programs to go the way of others before it – ningas cogon.

Last Sunday, I drove along Commonwealth on my way to visit my in-laws in Novaliches. I decided to do an experiment using a simple method that I learned when I was a student at University and which I also teach my students in undergrad civil engineering. In what is called a floating car technique, I attempted to travel according to the speed limit of 60 kph. I also tried my best to keep my lane, only changing when it was necessary. I also tried to count how many vehicles would pass me, indicating how many traveling my way were faster than me and therefore over-speeding.

The first thing I noticed when I entered Commonwealth from University Avenue was that buses and cars were again zipping by me and so I didn’t bother anymore to count those passing me. I did maintain my speed so I could have a reference as to how fast the other vehicles were relative to mine. Approaching the Fairview Market area, I also observed that people were crossing almost anywhere and that some barriers have been moved to allow jaywalkers to cross the median. Meanwhile, the pedestrian overpasses were all crowded and I could see the entire length also occupied by vendors. Not an enforcer was around to bring order in what was a chaotic marketplace scene – along a major highway.

I repeated the experiment in the afternoon when I drove from my in-laws home to my parents’ home. Taking the opposite direction, Commonwealth was even more congested when I approached the Fairview Market area. Buses, jeepneys and tricycles practically took up 3 lanes, stalls, hawkers and pedestrians took up 2 lanes and there was only 1 left for all other vehicles to pass through. No one among those who clogged the highway seemed to care and I again saw no enforcers to mahage traffic. If there were, I’m sure they were somewhere else and definitely not doing their jobs.

It is both disappointing and frustrating that the traffic discipline program along Commonwealth went the way of ningas cogon. In fact, the MMDA seemed to have celebrated what they thought was success prematurely, even stating that they were to apply similar strategies to other major roads in the Metro. By the looks of the outcomes along Commonwealth, such efforts along other roads will eventually go the way of ningas cogon. Such results send the wrong message to motorists and pedestrians and reinforce the perception that the authorities don’t really mean business and that such programs are just for show. So far, it seems that this perception will continue to pervade along Metro roads unless the MMDA, the PNP and the respective local government units get their acts together. Again, it shows that going back to the basics remain the main challenge and overcoming the ningas cogon tendency the main obstacle for our authorities.

Discipline along a killer highway

Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City was given a tag as a killer highway due to the frequent occurrence of road crashes along the road, many of them resulting in fatalities. Only last December, a retired judge was about to cross the highway on his vehicle, his wife (a retired teacher from a prestigious science high school) with him as they were heading to church. It was very early in the morning since they were going to the Simbang Gabi or night mass – a tradition in the Philippines during the Advent Season leading up to Christmas Day. Despite probably signalling and their being cautious enough, their vehicle was hit by a speeding bus. The driver of the bus was to claim later that he used his lights and horns to warn the judge against crossing. There was no mention if the bus driver attempted to slow down, the safest thing to do when driving at night and knowing that there are many crossings along the road he is traversing. In fact, this should be the first thing on the mind of anyone aware and conscious about safe driving.

There are many incidents like the one above and not just along Commonwealth or other Metro Manila road. Road crashes occur along many of our national and local roads everyday and the casualties just pile up, and many are often just treated as statistics especially when nothing is done to address the issue. Such road crashes occur due to many factors that are usually categorized into human, vehicle or environment-related. Most often, as findings in the Philippines indicate, it is the human factor that results in a road crash.

Driver error, poor maintenance of vehicles, and ill-designed roads can all be traced to human shortcomings. Environmental factors are also ultimately rooted on the human element. Speeding is one thing and aggressive driving is probably another but altogether general driver behavior along Philippine roads are clearly a manifestation of a lack of discipline and not necessarily the lack of skill, although the latter is also a significant factor if one is to focus on public transport and trucks.

There are few exceptions and it seems “few” is a relative term often leading to the example of Subic. At Subic, we always wonder how and why drivers seem to be disciplined. Some say it is because of the fines or penalties for traffic violations. Others say it is psychological and a legacy of the base being previously under the US military. I would say it is more of the traffic rules and regulations being enforced firmly and fairly in the free port area. I would add that motorists and pedestrians have embedded this in their consciousness such that there is something like an invisible switch turning on when they drive in Subic and turning off once they are out of the free port.

For a corridor like Commonwealth, perhaps the best example to emulate would be the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Along that highway, its operators the Tollways Management Corporation (TMC) have established a strict regimen of enforcement and have applied state of the art tools for both monitoring and apprehension. These tools include high speed cameras equipped with speed radars that detect speeds and capture on photo cases of overspeeding. Photos are used as evidence upon the apprehension of the guilty party at the exit of the expressway.

The current campaign along Commonwealth is premised on the strict enforcement of a 60 kph speed limit along the arterial and the designation of PUV lanes (e.g., yellow lanes) along the length of the corridor. The initiative would be manpower intensive and features novel tools such as the use of placards,  loudspeakers and public relations in order to encourage motorists and pedestrians to follow traffic rules and regulations. The results as of today look promising and there has been a significant reduction in speeds and general compliance for PUVs serving the corridor. The numbers might be misleading if we attempt to conclude about the success of the program now. Perhaps the more reliable statistics would come out after the campaign has been implemented and the effort sustained over a month’s time. Nevertheless, it gives us a nice feeling to see less speeding and less weaving among vehicles that were once observed as though they were driven along a race track. It would be nice to once and for all kill the “killer highway” tag and make Commonwealth an example of how traffic management should be implemented. We are always searching for examples of good if not best practices that can be replicated elsewhere. If we succeed in the “Battle of Commonwealth” then perhaps we could eventually win the “War Against Irresponsible Driving and Jaywalking.”

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.