Asia Minute: Fighting the World’s Worst Traffic

Sep 1, 2017

Jeepney at Quiapo district, Manila
Credit shankar s via Flickr

As the Hawai‘i state legislature wraps up its special session on financing the Honolulu Rail Project, there’s been a lot of talk this week about traffic. While rail is not going to change the nature of traffic flows on O‘ahu, the idea of coordinating mass transit and cars is getting a closer look in another big city on a Pacific island. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute. 

If you’ve ever been on the road in Manila, you know about challenges of traffic—especially during rush hours.  There’s a special sort of added torment if it’s raining.  Buses and cars choke the roads—along with the ubiquitous “jeepneys”---that unique combination of jeep and jitney that serves as the most popular local commuting vehicle.  The noisy steamy stream of vehicles is a problem that gets international attention.

A couple of years ago, the navigation app Waze determined that metro Manila has the worst traffic in the world.  A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency estimated the economic toll of the traffic at roughly $47 million dollars a day…and suggested a subway project might help.

This week, the government of Singapore has become the latest to volunteer assistance.  The Philippines and Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding to develop an “intelligent transport system.”  That involves traffic control and monitoring to make the most efficient use of available road capacity—anticipating issues before they arise.

The Transportation Secretary of the Philippines says that will be part of a “basket of approaches” used to combat traffic—along with a system of bus rapid transit and increased use of rail.