Stuck in traffic these last few days? That’s not really so bad but the reality is we all have been coping with this problem for most of the year. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does!
It may make you feel a little bit better that we are not alone. In Bangkok, drivers spend an average of 64 hours a year in rush hour traffic. In Jakarta, it’s slightly lower at 63 hours. These 2 Asian cities made it to the list of the world’s worst cities for rush hour traffic in 2017, according to a study made by US-based transportation analytics firm Inrix. One plus - at least Manila has yet to make it to the list.
Back in February this year, a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced the Philippines is losing some P3.5 billion – a day – due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila alone.
Earlier in 2014, they pegged the economic cost of traffic to P2.4 billion daily. Unchecked, JICA predicted their latest estimate can balloon to as high as P5.4 billion by 2035.
How to solve this long-running problem? Is there even any way to fix it? Well, JICA also said the Build, Build, Build program of the government can at least stop the situation from deteriorating further, and maybe that can reduce the cost to P3 billion a day. But that’s still P3 billion a day.
Don’t think this cost does not hit your wallet. It does, as well as your productivity, your health, your asset, your environment, the list goes on and on. Is there a way you can come out ahead in this bleak scenario?
Many have learned to live with the problem, such as the Chinese who switched to bicycles. China’s capital Beijing is estimated to have some 9 million bicycles as people swapped their 4-wheels to 2. Others have found creative ways to work around it to keep their sanity and even pad their pockets too. And with the holiday season making traffic twice as bad if not worse, their advice can be priceless. Here are some of them:
#1 Leave your car at home. Save on gas and spare yourself the stress of navigating around Metro Manila. Consider other modes of transport – can you bike to work, take public transport, or do your errands by foot? Some cities like Bonifacio Global City in Taguig are investing in bike lanes to make it safer for their denizens should they decide to switch. Point to point or P2P buses now have more routes too, and if you haven’t tried it, you are missing out. For only P70, you can travel from Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas to NAIA 1, 2, 3 or 4 with hourly departures between 9 am to 9 pm. There are nearly 40 P2P routes and not just limited to Metro Manila too. For shorter distances, consider walking. It’s healthier and you save on parking too (the fee and the stress both!).
#2 If you must drive, try carpool. Some prefer to drive – no matter the congestion – and if you must get behind the wheel, make the trip count by finding others to join you in the ride. And it does not have to be a free ride, just look at Wunder Carpool. You can join the mobile app-based community and post empty seats in your car and your travel times for potential passengers to see. If they are traveling in a similar route, they will request a ride and you can decide to accept or decline. Be smart and accept passengers with valid government IDs and emails. On your car’s off-road days, it’s your turn to ask for a ride, and Wunder drivers can see in your profile that you are both a driver and passenger, giving your ride request more chances of getting accepted.
#3 With rising gas prices, a fuel-efficient car is the way to go. Traffic costs you in many ways, and fuel is top of that list. Your gas mileage shrinks when your engine is idling as you drive one painful inch at a time closer to your destination. If you are due for an upgrade, why not consider a downgrade instead. SUVs have become very popular in recent years but they are gas guzzlers with gas mileage in low single digits during rush hour. A compact sedan will easily double that and more often than not give you double digit mileage. Maintenance cost should be cheaper too, as well as insurance fees.
#4 Consider different departure times to avoid typical peaks. What a difference 5 minutes can make! If you are used to leaving your house at 6 a.m. to get to work in one hour, try leaving the house 5 or 10 minutes earlier and see if this buys you less time on the road. You are avoiding here the rush hour buildup that inevitably happens each day. If you take a cab or Grab to work, pushing for a departure time that’s not peak road hours will also save you money. Maybe your company allows flexible hours? Try for a 7 am to 4 pm, or 10 am to 7 pm workday so you also inhale less car fumes along the ride.
#5 Let your fingers do the walking. This year, I hardly left the house to do Christmas shopping and deliver gifts. I decided to let my fingers do the walking and leveraged food and grocery delivery sites like Honestbee.com. They also offer concierge service if I just want pick up with no purchase involved. With Honestbee, I could order highly perishable items like ice cream and have these delivered to my family and friends’ doorstep in about one hour. Even better, I can arrange the delivery at their convenience – when they are at home or in the office so no wasted trips. And best of all, Honestbee offers promotions that give discounts as generous as P1000 based on your total spend – which I will not get from a brick and mortar store.