Metro Manila · Traffic Situation and Number Coding

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Dealing with the heavy traffic is a major challenge for Megacitizens in Manila. The metropolitan authorities try to reduce traffic through a number coding scheme. Effects of the coding scheme are cancelled out though because of the growing number of car owners in the metro. Here is what you should know about the traffic situation in the National Capital Region, why it is so bad and what else the authorities are doing about it.

Expats usually work in one of the busy business districts of Makati, Ortigas, or Fort Bonifacio. If you decide to live in a village in the quieter parts of the metro area, like Quezon City or Alabang, you will soon experience that most business districts can be reached only via a few bottlenecks that get crammed every single day during rush hour, roughly from 7 to 10am and 5 to 9pm. Getting from Makati to Ortigas, for example, might take you 20 minutes on free roads, but this journey can last one or two hours on work days.

The Metro Manila Traffic Navigator allows you to check the traffic situation on nine major roads such as Roxas Boulevard, EDSA and C-5.

What is to blame?

To a major part, poor urban planning is to be blamed for the situation. Manila was never designed for the amount of cars we have today. More highways and access roads would be necessary to connect the different cities and business districts. But Manila is so densely populated and built-up, there is almost no space for new streets now.

Another factor is the poorly developed public transport system. All public transport vehicles are so crammed during rush hour, you can hardly blame people for taking their own car instead. Manila has no subway system and only five train lines with far to few trains. Jeepneys and buses shoulder the large part of commuters, but with their habit of stopping in the middle of the street to load and unload passengers they also play quite a role in the bad traffic situation.

Number Coding

To reduce traffic in the helplessly jammed streets of Manila, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) implemented a number coding scheme. For each car there is one weekday where it is not allowed to enter the roads. The day is determined by the license plate ending:

  • 1 and 2: Mondays
  • 3 and 4: Tuesdays
  • 5 and 6: Wednesdays
  • 7 and 8: Thursdays
  • 9 and 0: Fridays

The Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) “applies to all motor vehicles, both public and private, and prohibits the operations of same in all national, city and municipal roads of Metro Manila from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during corresponding days of the week, except on Saturdays, Sundays and Official Public Holidays...”

However, the rules vary from city to city and you might still be able to get around if you manage to avoid the main streets and seize the “window hours”: private vehicles are allowed on the road from 10am to 3pm (except in Makati and Marikina).  Some well-off families also just buy a second car to be able to drive 24/7.

The MMDA even proposed to expand the number coding to two days a week for EDSA but this idea did not push through in the end.

Special Cases

Vehicles with a passenger or passengers needing immediate medical assistance are exempt from the number coding scheme. Medical personnel such as doctors and others are also excused from the scheme.

In areas like Makati City, seniors with a BLU card can use their cars any day. Officials say that they only have to show the BLU card to traffic enforcers if they are caught.

Traffic Advisories And Road Constructions

The MMDA together with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have a number of road construction projects that started in 2014. These projects include the construction of the Metro Manila Skyway located at Buendia in Makati going to Balintawak, Quezon City. The NLEX-SLEX Link Expressway’s design and construction started January 2014 and is set to be done by December of 2017. The location of this link expressway goes from the Segment 10 of NLEX towards the SLEX passing through Caloocan’s C-3, Jose Abad Santos, Blumentritt, Dimasalang, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Nagtahan, Quirino Avenue, and Buendia.

NAIA Expressway Phase 2 is also underway with Phase 2A scheduled to be done by May of 2015. The location of Phase 2A and 2B is on Sales Road going to Macapagal Avenue.

A traffic advisory was also issued by the MMDA recently regarding the construction of Binondo Arch effective March 30 to June 22, 2015. The advisory says that all cars and other motor vehicles coming from Jones Bridge going towards Binondo should turn right to Escolta to get to their destination. Heavy traffic in this area should be expected and drivers are advised to take alternate routes.

Another link road project from Bonifacio Global City going to Ortigas Center is scheduled to be ready by June 2016. The Santa Monica-Lawton Bridge construction started July 2014, Lawton-Global City Viaduct is set to start on July 2015 according to authorities.

A vehicle underpass project going through Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati Avenue, and Paseo De Roxas is underway. The underpass will be ready by April 2016.

According to DPWH, there will be a Southeast Metro Manila Expressway (C6) by 2019. Stretching over 34 kilometers, C6 is intended to run from Taguig to Batasan Complex in Quezon City and will be divided into six sections.

The Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 will be finished within 36 months based on a report by the DPWH

The elevated expressway will have six lanes running from Buendia to the Del Monte Toll Plaza, and four lanes from the toll plaza to Balintawak. A double deck structure will also be built from Nagtahan to Aurora Boulevard, and from Del Monte to Sgt. Rivera.

An elevated highway from NLEX southward will also be built to decongest traffic in Metro Manila.

The NAIA Expressway is already on its way according to DPWH and will be usable by May of 2016.