Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wanted: Systems View on the Traffic Issue

The traffic woes in Metro Manila could make a killer out of Gandhi. It is frustrating as watching a cross-eyed trying to thread a needle. There are many solutions that have been brought forward; some are witty and many others border on the dumb and dumber. 

As an intermittent economist who also dabbles as an armchair urban planner (oh, a potent combination!), I agree with certain proposals that focus on enforcement. People are known to respond to prices. When there is a price to pay, behavior can be changed. 

Others dwell on the obvious physical limitations of the roads. They say we have too many cars and too little road space. So, when one puts two and two together and get three, that person is likely to suggest that the solution is to have less cars by forcing them out of the system. Some others get five, so they look to requiring a minimum number of heads in a car to be allowed to partake of the limited space. 

And then there are the limited few who  get it  right between the eyes. The ones who would say, let us be holistic. If we fix the trains, people will choose it over their cars when the roads are full. People will even choose the buses if the buses are on time, clean, drivers are behaved, and have express services, the last one being a point to point service with no stops in between, and with some extra mile services such as newspapers and maybe even coffee. But then we will have to have carparks in train and bus terminals so people can park and ride. Others can even kiss and ride when the wife can drop off husbands on their way to the grocery, or that could also be husbands dropping off working wives before their muscled arms do the laundry. 

The really enlightened ones would propound creative solutions and say,  we should create systems for temporary house swapping, so families who dare participate in this system could swap houses (or apartments, condo units) so that they may live closer to their workplaces. Schools could create swap systems to optimize home-work travels for their teachers and students, government offices can also do the same for their employees. 

But wait, there's more! Malls and business establishments can seriously localize hiring of sales staff, and private companies can shift a whole work force into a 10am-7pm work schedule. I would even push it to 11am-8pm to really skip the rush hours altogether. Or for the brave CEOs, work-from-home could also be the new flexitime. Otherwise shift workdays from Tuesday to Saturday, and avoid killer Mondays like they do now in some State Unis. 

Government can incentivize these private-led solutions. 

Until we realize that the traffic is just a manifestation of lack of a systems view of urban planning issues, we will continue to get piece meal solutions from politicans. 

There I said it. Yes, i did. Now I will sit back and drink my decaf coffee.