Traffic > Appraisal

Baguio is considering a congestion charge to reduce traffic

Government is looking to charge P250 to enter the city center

The Summer Capital of the Philippines is thinking up ways on how to reduce congestion. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Congestion charging has long become a popular way to reduce traffic by many cities around the world. Now, Baguio City might be joining the likes of London, Singapore and Stockholm, which all charge drivers to access certain parts of their urban areas on four wheels.

The idea is among various proposals currently being discussed, according to the Baguio City Public Information Office.

Would you pay P250 to drive along Session Road in Baguio and access the city’s central business district with your car? You may have to if an idea proposed to the city government by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) goes ahead.

Of course, certain vehicles will get exemptions or discounts. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The unsolicited proposal was submitted to city planners under the Public-Private Partnership scheme that aims to use private funds for shared economic benefit.

Under the scheme, most private car drivers would be asked to cough up for the pleasure of driving into the center of the popular mountain town, but there would also be various exceptions.

Jeepneys and other public-transport vehicles wouldn’t have to pay, and neither would emergency response vehicles and those driven by persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and uniformed personnel on active duty.

Taxis and certain approved government vehicles will get a discounted rate, while residents who live in the chargeable area will be able to claim rebates.

MPTC is proposing more than just a simple congestion charge, and talks about a holistic approach that aims to give Baguio a Singapore-style transport system, complete with a mobile app for fee payment, as well as smart traffic control and parking management.

All of this is aimed at reducing traffic and thereby pollution, which in turn will improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

There is a risk that traffic will be moved to the outer roads of the city, making getting in and out even harder. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Baguio has long had issues with traffic, especially during periods when even more tourists than usual descend onto the city.

Introducing congestion charging could help alleviate the problems in the center of town, but there is also a risk that it moves traffic to the outskirts as drivers look to either circumvent the congestion charge area or try to park elsewhere and take jeepneys or taxis into town.

Maybe a large park-and-ride area at the entrance to the city could be a solution here. And maybe mayors in other cities will be looking at Baguio with interest to see how it goes (if it goes ahead). Metro Manila congestion charge, anyone?

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.