A Conceptual Approach for Rationalized Integrated Traffic Routes in Metro Manila


The joint study of NEDA and JICA entitled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas (Region III and Region IV)” was created between 2013 and 2014 to formulate a “Transportation Infrastructure Roadmap” for sustainable development of Metro Manila and its surrounding areas (Region III and IV).  The study provided for a “Dream Plan for Mega Manila” that focus on long term physical infrastructure improvements. However, it failed to provide emergency solution to the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila that can immediate resolve the problem within 6 to 8 months. A solution that will serve as a “stop-gap” to the traffic congestion while the long term infrastructures are being planned and implemented.


One of the recommendation of the NEDA-JICA study is to “rationalize the route structures” of buses and jeepneys. This recommendation was not implemented in detailed by the joint NEDA-JICA study. This is the purpose of this proposal which I titled “Conceptual Approach for a Rationalized Integrated Traffic Routes in Metro Manila”. The question to be answered by this report is whether a Paired One-way EDSA will temporarily solve the traffic congestion in Metro Manila.


In order to answer the above question the following methods where used to arrive in a most logical conclusion:

        a. Literature research by reviewing readily available similarly reading materials

        b. Part of this study is based on my own personal travels as a commuter abroad.

        c. This study is primarily as a result of my life long stay in Metro Manila.

        d. Using Google Map Pro as a tool to get information.

        e. Reference would be the NEDA-JICA Study and other studies.

Accepted Principles in Solving Traffic Congestions

1. The basic principle that is accepted by all traffic authorities is that traffic “congestion results from an imbalance in the supply of and demand for road space”. Therefore, reducing congestion means either increasingthe supply of road space or reducing the   demandfor peak-hour automotive travel”[1].

This principle is relatively true with EDSA where “the excellent accessibility of EDSA sites has clearly attracted a lot of commercial investment and strategic implantation. But this abundance of shopping centers, office plazas, and places of employment generates at the same time an enormous amount of traffic on EDSA. According to MMDA data, about 350.000 people use the EDSA roadway everyday (156,000 vehicles, with a density   of 56 vehicles per kilometer) . Buses, provincial and local, represent a large part of the traffic on EDSA, and are often blamed for the traffic woes. The most common problems  are: too many transport providers, unreliable service, and irregular and/or unpredictable frequency. Route coverage is poor, because buses concentrate on few corridors   while neglecting other parts of the city. This results in low profitability, leading to poor quality vehicles, a poor safety performance, exaggerated pollution and mediocre consideration for passengers (Vergel de Dios n.d.)”[2].

However, this principle is not entirely true in a sense based on statistics and experiences  by various megacities that by ‘increasing the supply of road space” it will in the long run create more traffic congestion as explained by Todd Litman[3].

Figure 1.0 Traffic Growth Chart

This has the following implications for congestion evaluation (Litman 2001):

 Congestion will seldom get as severe as predicted by extrapolating past trends. As traffic congestion increases it discourages further peak-period trips, achieving equilibrium.

 Roadway expansion provides less long-term congestion reduction benefit than predicted if generated traffic is ignored.

 Induced vehicle travel increases various external costs including downstream congestion, parking costs, accident risk, and pollution emissions.

 Induced vehicle travel directly benefits the people who increase their vehicle travel, but these benefits tend to be modest because it consists of marginal-value vehicle mileage that users are most willing to forego if their travel costs increase.”

One typical example is the SLEX. It was built to bring relief to the South Super Highway. Today traffic congestion occurs in the morning and the afternoon or evening. London and Hongkong had experience that building more roads will in the long run will be “insufficient to keep traffic free-flowing, as these roads would inevitably invite more traffic resulting in more congestion” [Lim Yan Luan].

2The second principle is with the traffic congestion in EDSA at its peak, “managing the demand for roadways during peak hours offers the greatest prospects for

reducing congestion”[4]Where ‘managing’ means balancing the supply and demand for road space at peak congestion period.

Singapore’s act was to address the supply side of transport facilities by increasing urban transport capacity then manage the demand side for road space thru efficient use of existing transport facilities (road space) in congested central areas [Lim Yan Luan]. In Figure 2.0 Metro Manila roads would show that 5% to 6% of the peak average daily traffic starts from 6:00 am to 12:00 am (midnight). This would include the lifting of the truck ban at 9:00 pm.  This would indicate that the designated road space for vehicular traffic has reach its peaking point. Since the peak has reached it would be the best time to start managing the supply and demand for vehicular road space.

            Figure 2.0 Graph 2 Hourly Traffic Distribution on Metro Manila Roads

             1) Results from 11 survey stations, 2012 JICA-NEDA Report

2) Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) – the theoretical estimate of the total number of   vehicles using a specific segment of roadway (in both directions) on any given day of the year. This estimate represents the total number of cars per year divided by 365 and is developed using factors to adjust for season, day of the week, and vehicle type.

3) Average Daily Traffic (ADT) – a 24-hour traffic volume that should be qualified by stating a time period, (e.g., MADT – monthly average daily traffic, or ADT for the period)

3. Third principle is that Paired one-way street conversions can increase travel speed by about 20 percent and reduce travel time by 20 to 30 percent”[5].  

This principle has  been adopted by many countries as part of their program to reduce traffic congestion.

Picture 1.0 Singapore Paired One-Way Street

Table 1.0 Peak Time Speeds in Asian Countries[6]

CityEstimated average travel speed during peak times (km/h)Resident populationLength of urban road network (km)Meters per Capita

In Table 1.0 three Asian capital cities where compared to metropolitan Manila based on the region’s overall populationdensity. Singapore has the highest travel speed during peak traffic congested hours compared to other cities which is consistent with having the highest road meter capita at 1.06 meter per capita.  Honkong is quite the opposite of Singapore in terms of speed and low meters per capita which means Hongkong has efficiently use its existing road space.

Picture 2.0 Road Map of Hongkong

In Bangkok its meter per capita is higher than Hongkong but it has a lower speed at peak traffic hours than Manila. Which means that Manila should adopt the Hongkong Model in addressing its traffic congestion problem.

In Table 1.0 it would show similarly with other major cities, that “higher population densitytends to result in lower per capita demand forroadways”[7], like Hongkong. However, in Metro Manila, the per capitademand for roadways remains low despite highpopulation density except that the average speed during peak congested period is low. The most realisticway to reduce congestion is to find ways to manage the demand for road space during the peak hours by the intensive use of paired one way road system.

Both in Hongkong and Singapore has intensively used paired one-way streets system.

4.  “Few congestion-reduction strategies remain effective over time. When a congestion-reduction strategy is implemented and traffic delays are reduced, travellers who had previously altered their travel patterns to avoid congestion will notice the improvement and return to driving along the once-busiest routes during the peak hours. Some will shift from other times of travel, some from other routes of travel, and some from other modes of travel (such as commuter rail). This pattern, often described as triple convergence, slowly erodes the initial congestion-reduction benefits offered by most strategies. Triple convergence explains, for example, why traffic flow improves for a short time when new lanes are added to a freeway but then returns to being congested within just a few years[8].

5. “Many strategies provide short-term relief, but only ‘pricing’ strategies resist triple convergence and manage congestion in the long run. Often called ‘congestion pricing’, these strategies involve charging drivers more for their use of roadways when travel demand is highest. They include assigning higher tolls for driving during peak hours or collecting higher fees for parking in the most convenient curb spaces at the busiest times. Triple convergence does not diminish the effect of pricing strategies, because the peak-hour charges encourage some drivers to change their travel patterns and deter others from converging on the freed capacity when prices rise with increased demand”[9].

Pricing strategy is charging a fee for the use of a specific road space. There are two methods adopted by Singapore and are as follows:

a. Road pricing:

“Charging a fee for the use of roads is not a new idea. Several cities around the world have implemented this concept either manually or electronically (e.g., Oslo, San Francisco, Paris, and Cambridge). Many more cities (including London, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur) have initiated detailed studies on road pricing or are in the process of doing so. In July 1989, the Singapore government announced that it would implement electronic road pricing. However, though the relevant technology required for electronic road pricing had been developed, there was no ready, off-the-shelf, system that met Singapore’s requirements of charging vehicles travelling in a multi-lane environment. As a result, the experiment had to be put on hold. Recently, however, The Land Transportation Authority announced that an electronic road pricing system is scheduled to come into operation in 1997/98. In the meantime, a manual system using pre-purchase display tickets (annex 1) has been introduced on a section of the expressway leading into the city (East Coast Parkway) during the morning peak hours. Motorists using theaffected section of the East Coast Parkway between the hours of 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. pay a fee of S$1 per day (or S$20 per month). The East Coast Parkway experiment was declared a success as it had effectively reduced traffic by as much as 40 per cent along the road during peak morning hours. Moreover, it improved travelling speed. Speeds of 67 km per hour had been recorded during the scheme’s operation. However, once road pricing ends (after 8:30 a.m.), speeds on the East Coast Parkway near the congested Fort Road section slow to 37 km per hour. Because of the success of the scheme, and increasing congestion on other expressways, the Land Transport Authority has decided to extend it”[10].

b. Area Licensing Scheme:

 “In June 1975, the Singapore government introduced an area licensing scheme for automobiles entering the city area. It was a usage measure to control traffic congestion in the Central Business District (CBD) during peak hours. The scheme was based on a “cordon” pricing system. The cordoned area, referred to as the “restricted zone,” was demarcated by twenty-eight overhead gantry signs. During the restricted hours, private cars and taxis buy and display a special area license on their windscreen to enter the restricted zone”.

“The licenses are pre-purchased (on a daily- or monthly-rate basis) at sales outlets (e.g., specially set up ticket sale booths and selected petrol kiosks on major roads into the city). The licenses are dated and identified by shape (a rectangular shape is used for the daily license while the monthly license is distinguished by its circular form) and colour (a colour code for every month). The licenses are then displayed as visible stickers on the windshields. Visual verification is undertaken by police officers stationed at the gantry positions. In general, the level of compliance has been high. Violators are liable to fines issued through the mail. The restricted zone has been adjusted several times over the years as the CBD expanded. Details of the scheme’s operation (e.g., the hours, mode of operation, and charges) have also been adjusted in response to changing economic and traffic conditions. When the scheme was first initiated, cars and taxis could form pools (of at least four persons) to gain free entry.

Since 1989, all vehicles (except ambulances, fire engines, police vehicles, and public buses), have been subject to charges when entering the restricted zone during certain hours of the day. Car and taxi pools are no longer exempt. Charging all vehicles is considered more equitable as all vehicles contribute to congestion in the area and should, therefore, be subject to the same restraints. Also, given this practice, a milder levy is sufficient. Accordingly, the daily peak hour charge has been lowered by 40 per cent from the original daily charge of S$5 to the present S$3 (or monthly charge from S$100 to S$60). In 1989, the operational hours of the scheme were extended to include the peak evening hours (4:30 – 6:30 p.m.) in response to the rising car population in the central area. In January 1993, the operational hours of the scheme were further extended to include the hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays (the operational hours were recently revised on 5 May 1997 to coincide with those of the road pricing scheme, i.e., morning peak hours from Monday to Saturday, 7:30 – 9:30 a.m., and evening peak hours from Monday to Friday, 4:30 – 7:00 p.m.). The area license for entry during the non-peak hours was priced lower at S$2. The change in operational hours was brought about by worsening traffic conditions in the CBD, particularly in the period between morning and evening restricted hours. The objective of the “whole day” restriction was to spread out traffic flow more evenly throughout the day in order to utilize roads better and without congestion. With developments in technology, the scheme is now being upgraded to an electronic road pricing system. The effects of the scheme are therefore closely monitored and periodic adjustments are made to ensure the scheme’s effectiveness. This work routine has been a major factor underpinning the scheme’s success. the area licensing scheme has considerably reduced peak-hour traffic. Specifically, it has reduced such traffic by 45 per cent, effected a 20 per cent increase in traffic speeds, and a 25 per cent reduction in traffic accidents. Traffic growth during the peak hours has been kept well below the volume before area licensing scheme implementation”[11].

6. “Pricing strategies must be complemented by significant alternative transportation   improvements. Certain forms of pricing may introduce concerns about the ability of lower-income drivers to pay. To mitigate such concerns, policymakers must offer faster, more reliable, and more convenient public-transportation options throughout the region”[12].

“In Singapore, the area licensing scheme is a part of a comprehensive transport policy that covers vehicle ownership and parking charges. In the fight against traffic congestion, it is important to keep in mind that no single measure can succeed on its own. An entire package of measures (as demonstrated by the Singapore experience) needs to be implemented. Therefore, road pricing should be viewed as an integral part of a package aimed at ensuring the optimal use of urban transport systems”.

“Prior to the implementation pf the pricing strategy, considerable planning and preparation preceded the scheme’s implementation, including the construction of by-pass routes, park-and-ride facilities, and the expansion of bus services. Third, Singapore is a small city-state, therefore there is virtually no traffic from outside the city-state. Moreover, Singapore’s single-tier government administration has provided for an efficient system of management and enforcement. From the outset, the government has accepted the responsibility of alleviating the worsening urban transportation situation and has mobilized all necessary resources (financial, technical, manpower, administrative, and legal) to solve the problems”[13].

Proposed Integrated Strategy to Fight Traffic Congestion

In any strategies with regards to fight traffic congestion that are being implemented, there is always strong resistance from the bus companies to change their traditional ways of operation. However, a corresponding needed decisiveness from the Chairman of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary of the Philippines, maybe pushed to act by the growing impatience of the public about traffic jams. However, before any strategies are implemented a number of unresolved issues should be addressed, including the aggressive style of driving of bus drivers, oversupply of local buses running half-empty, and poor emission standards for buses. Many bus companies are controlled by well-connected personalities, politicians, military officers, showbiz or sports celebrities, who have the political clout to resist attempts to rationalize the supply of bus service and implement strict norms for buses. The same resistance is seen from the many small operators of jeepneys and tricycle, who are politically powerful as a rich source of votes. Political will is necessary to implement measures aimed at taking out of circulation aging and polluting vehicles to reduce vehicular traffic, both on EDSA and on local roads. [Yves Boquet][14]

To fight traffic congestion in Metro Manila based on the principle shown above a set of integrated strategies should be implemented and should be designed to accomplish four goals: manage peak-hour automotive travel, improve alternative transportation route options, and use existing roadway capacity more efficiently. The following summarizes the recommendations and shows the goals to which each one corresponds.

The following strategies can result to substantial benefits:

1. Paired one-way street conversions of EDSA can increase travel speed by about 20  percent and reduce travel time by 20 to 30 percent. In Picture 3.0 EDSA and C-5 are designated as red lines. The arrows shows the traffic flow direction. EDSA is a radial road  space in a clockwise traffic route direction. While C-5 would be a counter clockwise traffic route.

In Figure 3.0 the major roadways of Metro Manila would show that the major roads such as Abad Santos Avenue, Avenida Rizal (Sta. Cruz District ) going to Balintawak to Venezuela, Quezon Boulevard (Quezon City) going to Fairview, Aurora Boulevard (Sta. Cainta Mesa) going to Masinag, Ortigas Avenue going to Cainta, United Nation Avenue going to Calamba via SLEX, Buendia thru BGC to Taguig, Taft Avenue to Cavite and others. These roads mentioned above originated at the Luneta Park and the Monument of Jose Rizal. A radial or Circumferential C-3 or R-3 road cuts thru these mentioned via Araneta Avenuu. Another radial road  or C-4 cuts thru these roads via EDSA. There is another radial road C-5 suppose to cut thru these roads but eventually redirected as a by-pass road to NLEX.

2) Bus rapid transit (BRT) in EDSA featuring bus-only lanes resulting in much faster transit service at relatively low cost. Refer to Picture 3. The bus lanes can be located at the curb or will be in the center.

Picture 3.0 Proposed Integrated Metro Manila Vehicle Routing

3) Reduce road space for cars in EDSA, while create more of it outside the EDSA . In residential and small commercial areas increase road car capacity by convertin roads to  one-way streets. Increase of pedestrian walk way and curb side-parking. By combining these strategies to balance one another will make it easier fopolicymakers to gain the support needed to implement them.

4) Alternative modes for transport should include walking and cycling, public transport (buses and trains), and high-occupancy vehicles (SUV), car sharingtelecommuting, taxi services, and delivery services. If alternative modes are inferior (inconvenient, uncomfortable, dangerous, etc.), people who own motor vehicle will drive even if congestion is severe, but if alternatives are improved some travellers will use public transportation.

5) High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes such as skyways should maintain free flowing travel  speeds (60 to 65 kph) during peak travel hours while carrying up to twice the volume that congested general- purpose lanes.

6) Install integrated traffic lighting system.

7) Seeking cooperation among multiple agencies is required and lack of agreement can   delay or stop the process.

Conclusion and Recommendations

We find it important  to implement the recommendations as a package rather than choosing only certain options such as the least expensive. Although strategies—such as traffic signal–timing improvements—are less controversial, their benefits are likely to be only temporary. For the Metro Manila, to reduce its traffic congestion for the long term, its transportation policies must include pricing strategies. The above recommendations are designed to complement one another in three important ways.

First, with respect to funding, some recommended measures will be costly to implement, while others will not be expensive. Those that will require significant investments include signal timing and control, one-way street conversions, and BRT expansion. It would be therefore important that strategies should also include revenue income to the city government such as parking.

Second, It will be important to improve nonautomotive travel alternatives such as bicycle lanes and pedestrian lanes. Implementing BRT service thru bus-only lanes on streets and express bus service in HOT lanes on the expressways should be given priority..

Third, concerning the competition for road space, some recommended measures reduce road space for cars, while others create more of it. One short-term strategies for improving the speed and convenience of public transit is the creation of bus-only lanes on transit-rich surface streets. However, individual drivers are likely to object to allocating an existing lane to buses because doing so reduces the road space for cars. To balance this reduction in road space for cars, two measures create additional lane capacity—peak-hour curbside-parking restrictions and one-way street conversions. Combining these strategies to balance one another may make it easier for policymakers to gain the support needed to implement them.

Fernando S. Guevara PME, PE


  • [1] RAND Corporation Report “Reducing Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles California” by Paul SorensenMartin WachsEndy M. DaehnerAaron KofnerLiisa EcolaMark HansonAllison YohThomas LightJames Griffin
  • [2] BATTLING CONGESTION IN MANILA: THE EDSA PROBLEM by Yves Boquet for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific [TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS BULLETIN
  • FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC No. 82 Combatting Congestion] ESCAP
  • [3] SMARTER CONGESTION RELIEF IN ASIAN CITIESWin-Win Solutions to Urban Transport Problems by Todd Litman for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific [TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS BULLETIN FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC No. 82 Combatting Congestion] ESCAP
  • [4] RAND Corporation Report “Reducing Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles California” by Paul SorensenMartin WachsEndy M. DaehnerAaron KofnerLiisa EcolaMark HansonAllison YohThomas LightJames Griffin
  • [5] Ibid 4
  •  [6] A Case Study on Urban Transportation Development and  Management in Singaporeby Lim Lan
  •    Yuan Head School of Building and Real Estate Management National University of Singapore
  • [7] Ibid 5
  • [8] Ibid 7
  • [9] Ibid 8
  • [10] Ibid 6
  • [11] A Case Study on Urban Transportation Development and  Management in Singaporeby Lim Lan
  •    Yuan Head School of Building and Real Estate Management National University of Singapore
  • [12] Ibid 9
  • [13] Ibid 11

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