My commute to work in Makati from our house in Mandaluyong used to take 30 minutes. I’d slip out of the house at 8 a.m.—or 8:05-8:10 a.m. if I was being a daredevil—and I would have no problems catching a jeepney and transferring to a tricycle to make it to the office by 8:30 a.m.
This was 11 years ago. Over the years, I’ve seen how the number of people and cars steadily increased. It began when I started having trouble getting a jeepney and I had to walk farther and farther away our house—opposite my destination—to get a seat. My walk would eventually reach three blocks, and even there, jeepneys were mostly always full.
Then the traffic got real bad. Before, the congestion was limited in the areas near Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge, then it inched its way to the barangay next to ours, until last year, when it finally reached our doorstep—that’s traffic that stretches for about 1.5 kilometers—and beyond. (Ours used to be a quiet street, where you can walk your dog or play street games.)
There are two condominiums along my way—each boasting multiple towers—with one more scheduled to be finished soon.
The main road is so narrow that a passing garbage truck—which for some reason, prefers doing its rounds during morning rush hour—will immediately cause a huge buildup. Add to that two road constructions ongoing for more than a year now and a city hall that goes under the water at the slightest rain, and you pretty much have the perfect recipe for disaster. On a bad week, my commute time increases by 100 percent.
The travel going back home isn’t much better: I sometimes opt for the 45-minute walk than deal with the traffic, but it isn’t without its cons, specifically the pollution, the weather (intense heat or rain, take your pick), and the national/local government’s obvious disregard for pedestrians (e.g., lack of sidewalk).
I’m discussing here my commute between two cities that are immediately next to each other. Others in far more challenging situations have to go through several more stages of Dante’s Inferno.
I see no respite from our traffic woes: NCR, with is 11.8 million population (as of 2010), crumbling infrastructure, and lack of urban planning, is bound to exhaust its bandwidth.
With the booming outsourcing industry located all over the country, I actually expected we’d see lesser strain on Manila’s resources. I know friends and acquaintances who moved to the provinces and still maintain their professional careers as they would here. Telecommuting is also becoming increasingly popular (though local Internet services leave much to be desired). So it puzzles me why traffic is getting even worse.
Aside from strengthening and improving on such opportunities, I also hope for bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets. One of the things I love about Bangkok, another city notorious for its traffic, is that its MRT equivalent has a matching (in size and area) elevated and covered walkway: implemented here, people may opt to walk from, say, Ayala Station to Shaw Blvd (or even farther, judging by how most people roam aimlessly in malls) in a secured, well-lit, and ample space.