Traffic > Gridlock

LGUs must adjust their working hours to ease traffic, MMDA says

Will a 7am-4pm schedule help decongest Metro Manila?

If you work in an LGU, you'll be clocking in a little earlier now to 'help ease traffic'. SCREENSHOT FROM GOOGLE MAPS

Every time you think that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority couldn’t possibly come up with any weirder solutions to solve the traffic crisis (all while not trying to upset the automobile lobby), the agency manages to surprise everyone.

Its latest idea? Local government units now have to adjust their working hours. This is just another flawed idea in a long line of weak ideas that quite frankly smacks of desperation.

It’s bad news if you are working for one of the many LGUs in the National Capital Region. The Metro Manila Council has just passed a resolution mandating the adjustment of working hours for local government units in the NCR.

Whether you like it or not, you’ll now be working from 7am to 4pm, instead of 8am to 5pm.

From what it looks like, this aims to shift rush hour back (or to eliminate it entirely). PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The step was taken to help ease traffic congestion, but doubts remain if this latest move will actually do anything toward improving things on the megacity’s roads.

What it will do is affect the lives of thousands of people, none of whom were seemingly asked if they were okay with this. The agency is also giving little notice, as the change is due to come on April 15 already.

Having to adjust childcare, school runs, or anything else in your private life? Tough luck, you’d better act quick.

You might now say that it’s for the best. To which I would reply: The best for whom? People who already get up early now must get up even earlier to complete their commute.

All while the higher-ups, the managers, and the bosses who can make their own hours, get to sleep a little longer and enjoy what might be slightly emptier roads (at least for now). It hardly seems fair, but then this megalopolis—and indeed this country—hardly ever is.

Unfortunately for those who commute, it means having to get up earlier to bear with our substandard infrastructure. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The resolution states:

The persistent traffic congestion in Metro Manila demands innovative solutions for the improvement of commuting conditions and the well-being of the citizens of the NCR.

I’m quite sure they could have come up with many better ideas.

They could have just asked the various transport and alternative mobility advocacy groups and experts—most of whom weren’t even invited to the President’s Traffic Summit. Instead, someone found yet another way not to touch the sacred automobile.

There are tons of other solutions that MMDA could have come up with instead of this. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

What could they have done instead, you ask? Improve bus services, improve cycling infrastructure, establish end-of-trip facilities, create incentives to buy bicycles such as grants and tax breaks. Create a framework for bikes and similar vehicles instead of banning them (and letting them use the improved cycle paths), and massively accelerate rail transport projects.

The list goes on. Instead, let’s inconvenience loads of people and force them to work different hours.

Chances are that any positive effects of this latest move—if there will indeed be any—will be short-lived. Adjusting the working hours doesn’t take any cars off the roads. It just moves them around the schedule a bit, and feels like the authorities are fiddling while Rome is burning.

The only real way we can ease up traffic is by improving our public transportation system. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

There’s also the issue of members of the public who need to interact with LGUs now potentially adjusting their hours to do so, thereby defeating the whole purpose of this move somewhat.

The capital is also still growing. Soon, there will be more cars on the roads again. What then? Adjust working hours even more? Maybe bring in a night shift?

It all seems a bit suboptimal to put it mildly, and maybe the people in charge were trying to quickly come up with something after the boss got angry.

Whatever it was, just changing working hours will not fix the mess we are in or give us a sustainable transport future. We hope the MMDA knows this as well, and is already working on better ideas.

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.