Last week, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority announced a five-year Comprehensive Traffic Management Plan for the Metro area.
Although there have been traffic plans announced by the MMDA in the past, this appears to be the most ambitious traffic project that will ever be undertaken.
This is mainly due to the scope of the project.
The MMDA also announced the participation of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency which has been a long time partner of the government in traffic and transportation projects.
JICA for the first time is wading in as an active participant in finding ways to better manage traffic in Metro Manila.
JICA’s participation is critical and ensures the completion of the CTMP.
From what has been published so far, it appears that the CTMP is already an approved project.
This would mean that there will be funds available to complete whatever activities that will be undertaken.
This is in contrast to previous MMDA undertakings which were very limited in scope and did not have ready funding to ensure completion of any project.
What the news report did not say was whether this project will have an MMDA Project Manager working with JICA which I assume will provide the expert personnel for the project.
Whatever it is, it looks like MMDA is at last thinking strategically and this is as it should be instead of focusing only on EDSA as if it is the only road that matters in the Metro area.
What we the public would like to see now are additional details of the plan because the news items released in the papers last week were too general.
With all the items that have been identified for accomplishment over a period of five years, it will be a big challenge for MMDA and JICA to complete the project especially in the area of Intelligent Transportation System.
This is because MMDA and JICA will almost be starting from scratch when it comes to ITS.
It is not only in the infrastructure which has to be completely modernized but also in the area of driver discipline, enforcement and education.
The Metro traffic signaling system is so antiquated that it needs a new state of the art system to include a new and modern traffic control center.
In countries like Japan and Germany, ITS has been in use for many years to manage and decongest traffic when needed because drivers in these two countries have discipline.
For instance, in case of a traffic buildup, the traffic control center can take over by redirecting or adjusting the cycle time of traffic lights and drivers will simply follow.
In a country like ours where discipline is wanting, it will take time for drivers to drive with minimum of supervision and enforcement to maximize the benefits of ITS.
Still, it is good to see that the MMDA is talking about what ITS can do in traffic management.
The CTMP also talks of the 12 strategies to address traffic management issues which makes the project comprehensive because it includes almost all that are needed to be addressed.
Not mentioned are the 42 traffic bottleneck areas that have been identified that needs improvement.
No word was said whether these 42 bottleneck areas are intersections wherein the traffic signals are to be replaced or road sections needing engineering modifications and improvements or both.
Strengthening traffic regulations I assume refers to amending the current Republic Act 4136 and other related laws together with the many different municipal traffic ordinances that have been enacted by the 17 cities and municipalities that comprise the National Capital Region.
One item that was omitted which is important is the review of the MMDA law for possible amendment so that MMDA will be given more teeth to perform its traffic management functions.
It is surprising that the CTMP did not generate any reaction from environmental, traffic and transport groups.
Perhaps, this is because the scope of the project has not sunk in yet or they have not yet given it much thought at this time. But they should be happy with this project.
If MMDA and JICA can achieve what is in the scope of the project, we can for the first time achieve a substantial improvement on Metro Manila’s traffic.
Part of the reason is that there are other public work projects now going on that will also contribute in easing traffic congestion.
But there will always be traffic challenges due to the absorption capacity of the NCR for more ground level roads and the continuing increase in population albeit in much lesser numbers than in the past.
The whole object of any traffic management plan is to improve travel time.
If at the end of five years, MMDA and JICA will be able to improve travel time in spite of the projected yearly increase of motor vehicles in the NCR, then the CTMP would be a feather in the cap of both agencies and the PBBM administration.