Traffic – we all hate it. But traffic’s relationship to the economy is much more complicated than just that. Think about your day and how traffic can affect you. it can make you late to work, which can make you feel stressed out before you even get to your desk, negatively impacting your day right from the start. Statistics say a city where employees travel less time to get to work is likely to be more productive than one where travel takes longer. Time is money and the more time spent traveling costs more money to employees and employers.

Metro Manila is on the rise with a booming economy, but with one very large problem: congestion. Metro Manila was recently voted as having the worst traffic in the world according to a user survey by Waze. According to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, traffic is impacting the productivity and industry competition for more than 15 million workers. The government estimates that the traffic congestion in Manila costs an estimated $3 billion annually in lost productivity, illness, wasted fuel and vehicle maintenance. Public transport, delivery trucks and shuttle services are also affected by the traffic situation. Drivers can barely do two round trips per day, which equates to lost revenue and can drive a once profitable operation out of business. To avoid the morning rush, employees have to leave their homes at least two hours before their shifts start. This leads to loss of personal time and affects work/life balance, which can lead to added frustration and stress.

Simply put, there are just too many vehicles on the road and the roads are unable to accommodate the volume. Cars are estimated to carry around 30% of people in Manila, but account for 72% of the traffic. Annual car growth is estimated to reach 500,000 by 2020, which could render Manila “uninhabitable.” And to top it off, there is barely any enforcement of typical traffic laws. People park their cars and trucks anywhere they please, disregard traffic signals and load and unload in the middle of the street, causing traffic jams that can last hours. Why is this allowed to happen? The answer is pretty simple – it’s due to negligence, corruption and incompetence amongst those in charge.

So what if they build more roads to accommodate the growing number of vehicles? Engineers and planners in the Philippines have learned that they cannot build their way out of congestion as the number of roads themselves are part of the problem. According to surveys, public transport accounts for 69% of the total number of trips taken in Manila every day. The government is expanding Metro Manila’s train system in hopes that it will ease the traffic situation. The railways should ideally take up 41% of the overall transport system. According to the World Bank, they signed agreements with the Philippines for a $60 million dollar loan and a $1.3 million dollar grant from the Global Environment Facility for the Metro Transport Integration Project (MMURTRIP). In December, a “rapid bus” route was approved in north-east Manila, with buses having dedicated lanes. But even with a “perfect plan,” Manila will likely still have a problem that will require consistent and serious efforts to solve.

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