MMDA, DOTr to work closely with Singapore on EDSA decongestion plans

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Highlights

  • Singapore and PH to work on traffic solutions together on congestion pricing proposal
  • Orbos assures proposed EDSA fee will be affordable
  • Orbos says e-passes for congestion pricing will be free

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Department of Transportation (DOTr)  are working closely with Singapore's Ministry of Transport to troubleshoot massive congestion along EDSA.

"We have met several times with the government of Singapore," MMDA officer-in-charge Thomas Orbos said Thursday on CNN Philippines' The Source.

"If ever (congestion pricing) is going to happen, it's going to be... government to government," he added.

"Congestion pricing" is a policy MMDA is considering that taxes motorists for using Edsa, with higher charges levied during rush or peak hours.

Related: MMDA eyes congestion fee on EDSA to ease traffic

About 300,000 vehicles daily use EDSA, a 23.8-kilometer road from Caloocan to Pasay City, and cuts through six cities and municipalities in metropolitan Manila.

The "congestion pricing" scheme is targeted to reduce vehicle volume by 30 percent, says Orbos.

Singapore uses a similar scheme, known as the Electronic Road Pricing, which helped maintain a 45 to 65 kph average speed for vehicles on expressways as congestion was lessened.

EDSA is notorious for heavy traffic, with vehicles coming to a standstill or a crawl at rush hours.

Orbos disclosed that there were other traffic decongestion solutions offered by other countries, including South Korea.

"The good thing about the Singapore model... (is) it's a holistic approach. It starts with a behavioral concern of people," Orbos said.

He added that Singapore also utilized technology, enforcement, and education to their advantage.

However, Orbos acknowledges that the model fits Singapore because of its context. The city-state houses around 5 million people, boasts an efficient public transportation system, and restricts private cars.

"Part of the agreement would be for them to customize the solutions to our situation... We cannot compare," said Orbos.

"Definitely I agree [Singapore is different], but there are many things we can learn from them and we can adopt."

E-pass

According to the navigation app Waze, Metro Manila was ranked as having the worst traffic in the world in 2015, although it was outranked by Cebu in 2016.

Netizens were not too pleased with the idea of have to pay for using EDSA, with some pointing out that it punished motorists for government's inefficiency.

Orbos could not give a price range for the potential fee but assured it would be "suited to the kind of paying capacity that we all have."

"It's not going to be too unreachable for common (people), but it will be enough for us to rethink our schedules," he said.

Orbos also clarified that there would be no toll gates akin to those on the North Luzon and South Luzon expressways, but scanners on gantries raised high above the road.

Drivers will have an electronic pass pre-loaded with a cash amount in devices in units installed in the vehicles. The scanners on the gantries then automatically deduct the fee from a vehicle as it passes through.

Orbos said that during their planning, officials agreed that the government shoulder the expenses for the passes and distribute them to motorists as opposed to drivers buying the passes.

"Part of the discussions that we had was... the pass should be free," said Orbos. "It should not be at the burden of our consumers or motorists."

He added that congestion pricing might only be temporary, at least until new infrastructure was built to accommodate enough alternative routes.

The proposal will still be subject to review by the Metro Manila Council. The Council is composed of the Metro Manila mayors, congressmen, a representative for vice mayors, a representative for councilors, the Philippine National Police Chief, and the secretaries of budget, housing, public works, transportation, and tourism.