Traffic > Gridlock

Here’s how Metro Manila’s traffic has changed in the last decade

Motorcycles quadrupled, while jeepneys halved

Motorcycle riders are the most common road users. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) just published its latest “Facts in Figures” document. It covers annual average daily traffic statistics for Metro Manila from 2013 to 2023, and makes for some interesting reading. The headline figure is, without a doubt, the massive increase in the number of motorcycles on our roads.

Back in 2013, merely 443,340 motorized two-wheelers roamed around the metro. That figure has ballooned to over 1,600,000 in 2023, a 286.5% growth. This means there are 1,200,000 more motorbikes on the roads now, or roughly four times as many as a decade ago.

The increase is largely down to the launch of motorbike taxi services such as Angkas and Joyride, as well as the growing demand for food and goods deliveries. Sadly, with more motorbikes also come more crashes. Road traffic collisions involving motorcycles are up 80%, from 20,272 in 2013 to 36,486 in 2023.

Traffic congestion can't be solved without proper mass transit. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Where motorbikes are the winners in growth, publicutility jeepneys appear to be the losers. Daily PUJ traffic is down by half, from 193,221 in 2013 to 95,659 in 2023. According to the CPBRD, this decrease is partially due to the ongoing PUV Modernization Program.

The reduction in public units on one side saw an increase in private-vehicle use on the other, which in turn made Metro Manila traffic even worse. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority only started arranging data based on vehicle purpose in 2017. But even in this relatively short period, a significant shift in numbers can be observed.

Daily traffic from public-transport vehicles decreased by almost a third, from 418,927 in 2017 to 284,731 in 2023. At the same time, the number of private cars went up by nearly half, from 2,280,000 to 3,340,000. So traffic doesn’t only seem worse—it actually is.

Photos of Commonwealth Avenue tend to go viral on social media. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK

The CPBRD also looked at where all that Carmageddon is occurring, and Commonwealth Avenue experienced the highest growth in traffic volume, with an increase of 170,411 vehicles or 71.7%, overtaking EDSA, which traditionally held the title of the busiest road.

Quezon Avenue also saw a substantial increase of 128,877 vehicles or 70.2%. Good old EDSA itself actually experienced a decline in car and bus traffic. Car traffic decreased by 14.1%, and bus traffic dropped by 74.4%. However, motorcycle traffic increased by 248.9%.

Different types of roads also attracted different growth numbers. Radial roads, which connect circumferential roads, experienced a nearly 50% increase in traffic, while circumferential roads saw a 32.1% rise. The most notable growth was—probably unsurprisingly—in motorcycle traffic again, which soared by 271.2% on circumferential roads and 300.9% on radial roads.

Like it or not, the reality is you make traffic worse by driving a private car. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

So, next time you’re out there and the roads seem busier than ever, it’s not just you. It’s everyone. Remember this before complaining about the congestion behind the wheel: “You are not stuck in traffic—you are traffic.”

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.