Managing the metropolis
If all the new cars registered in Metro Manila in the first six months of this year were to be parked on Edsa, how much space would they occupy ?
Arrayed five abreast and bumper to bumper, they would occupy both the north and south bound sections of the 23.8-kilometer highway end to end.
When I first heard this calculation from a friend, on how the National Capital Region’s six-months’ worth of car registration, if paraded on Edsa, would turn it into a stagnant carpark, my first reaction was that of disbelief.
To convince me, my friend hurriedly scribbled some back-of-napkin calculation while we were waiting in a Makati building for both the rush-hour traffic and the flood water to subside outside.
Look, car sales this year would reach the 300,000 mark, was his preamble to his lecture.
“And if we follow the rule-of-thumb that one in three vehicles driven out of casas will spill onto Metro Manila’s streets, then that’s 100,000 adding to road constipation.”
Edsa is a 23.8-kilometer-long, or 23,800 meters, he explained, after Googling this factoid.
“If we round off the average length of a four-wheel motor vehicle to 5 meters, then one lane of Edsa, from Monumento to MOA, can contain 4,760 vehicles. Multiply it by 10 lanes, for both directions, then that would be 47,600 vehicles—or half of the projected number of new cars registered in Imperial Manila this year.”
This figure, he harrumphed, does not include the motorbikes sold, which, my friend stressed, “are being sold at bargain-basement prices .”
At that point, I did not know if my friend’s finger-math was accurate. But when in comes to traffic, you don’t need statistics to convince yourself of the cargameddon in our midst.
Now let’s ditch my friend’s imaginary crystal ball for official statistics.
The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines and the Truck Manufacturers Association announced that automotive sales from January to September surged to 206,284 units from 169,727 units during the same period last year.
This prompted vehicle assemblers to giddily forecast that the year would close with total sales reaching 310,000, or 10,000 more than my friend’s guess.
As to size of the national car pool, Land Transportation Office statistics showed that of the 7.690 million motor vehicles registered in 2013, 2.101 million, or a whisker short of 30 percent, were registered in Metro Manila.
This count of course includes motorbikes and tricycles. The latter numbered 4.250 million—two years ago. The jeepneys are no longer the kings of the road, long been sideswiped by the swarm of motorcyles.
The buses, which ought to be a vital cog of mass transport, is in the minority too , accounting for 1.8 percent of the total.
Based on data, these people carriers are not the main culprit of NCR road congestion. But this is not to say that they can’t clog roads. In fact, a few of them are Occupy Edsa stalwarts.
So what’s my point in rattling off these numbers? I am tying these to the role of the head of the Metro Manila Development Authority, now recently vacated.
Whoever will be appointed will not just assume a thankless job but also the crown and scepter of being the national “kontrabida.”
To be an MMDA chairman is to be a national punching bag, whiplashed by cruel memes, constantly smacked in social media.
There are systemic problems in the megapolis that will be pinned on him, but whose roots can be traced to the design of the governance software long passé and outdated.
One, NCR is Balkanized into several republics. One set of rules doesn’t seamlessly pass throughout this warren of 17 local governments. A traffic fine in one city costs triple in the other. One LGU will tolerate street parking, for a fee. In another, cars are towed, for a fine.
While the conveyor belt of the motor vehicle industrial complex would disgorge its output on Metro Manila streets, MMDA has no power nor the funds to build more roads, which is the province of the DPWH.
Increasing NCR’s road-carrying capacity is not its primary mandate. Yes, MMDA can direct traffic, but what if the sheer volume of cars have overwhelmed city streets? What if we now have a de facto unmanageable vehicular surplus in the nation’s capital?
What if, as my friend had illustrated, a mere half-a-year’s worth of new car registration, all parked on Edsa occupies its entire stretch, then what can MMDA do?
A good train system would have provided an escape valve to depressurize NCR’s traffic. Again, the MMDA has no say on MRT’s operation. Worse, the floundering trains’ human overflow constantly spill onto the roads managed by the overworked men in blue.
Against these challenges, the MMDA can only provide palliative care, and with abbreviated relief at that.
Metro Manila’s mess is the elephant in the national living room. Presidential hopefuls must have a cogent plan on how to end the daily torture 12 million people have to undergo daily.
Prescriptions which go beyond bashing, because repeating the problem is not solving it. Merely reciting the obvious is to provide superfluous commentary. What’s needed is an action plan, not annotation.
The next commander-in-chief will have to serve as the NCR’s CEO, or at least co-CEO. He or she has to clean the imperial front yard, making it a shining city on the hill, before he or she can convince the rest of the country that the miracle done in NCR can and will be replicated.