Decongesting roads: How other cities (try to) do it

KD Suarez

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A look at how several major cities abroad try to decongest vehicular traffic.

MANILA, Philippines – Number coding, bus coding, the Metro Rait Transit (MRT), alternate roads.

These are just some of the remedies the government has tried or has been using to try to decongest Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare, the bane of motorists throughout the metropolis.

Now, two new proposals to lessen vehicular traffic along EDSA, and to speed up commutes of everyone, were presented on Monday, Jan 2, 2012: the construction of a ‘Skybridge’ from Quezon City to Makati, and the conversion of the avenue to a tollway.

The first proposal, which Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has put forward, entails the construction of an 8.3-kilometer bridge that will connect E. Rodriguez Avenue and the area near the Sta. Ana racetrack in Makati. It will pass over roads and esteros and promises to cut travel time between the two cities to only 15-20 minutes.

On the other hand, partylist group 1-UTAK proposed the conversion of the thoroughfare into a tollway, where motorists must pay to pass through the road during certain times or at specific zones.

Metro Manila is not alone. Numerous other major cities around the world are trying to decongest vehicular traffic. How several major cities abroad have addressed this issue is instructive.

Here is how four cities are doing it right now:

SINGAPORE: Electronic Road Charging

In Singapore, the Electronic Road Pricing system is in use, where motorists are charged when they use certain roads — usually around the central business district — during peak hours. The city-state’s ERP, according to their Land Transport Authority, “uses a dedicated short-range radio communication system” or sensors that detect cars passing through these roads. The toll is automatically deducted from prepaid cash cards in the vehicles. 

LONDON, United Kingdom: Congestion charge scheme

Most of the city centers are covered by a congestion charge, a fee levied on categories of motor vehicles that pass through certain roads at certain times of the day. Non-exempt vehicles would have to pay a minimum of £10 to enter the Congestion Charge Zone, a major traffic area covering most of central London. Transport for London, the government office in charge of the scheme, explains that cameras monitor the entry and exit points of the zone. These cameras then check the plate numbers of vehicles against a database to see which of them have paid the fee. Penalties are levied on motorists who haven’t.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Smart Tunnel

The Malaysian capital has the SMART Tunnel, or the “Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel.” Constructed in 2003, it has a dual purpose: on normal days, it serves as a toll road that helps decongests major roads; on days when there are storms, it becomes a conduit for floodwaters. There’s a website that informs people whether the tunnel is passable or not.

CURITIBA, Brazil: Rede Integrada de Transporte

The city of Curitiba has been a role model for cities trying to put in place a mass transportation system. In 1974, the city implemented the Rede Integrada de Transporte (Portuguese; this translates to Integrated Transportation Network), the first bus rapid transport system in the world. It is a well-planned network of buses using dedicated lanes and requiring buses to stop only at specific elevated tubes. It has a high usage rate among the citizens of Curitiba, and has become the inspiration for dozens of systems around the world. –

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