Outsmarting traffic jams
Metro Manila’s traffic jams are like instant noodles: You just need to add water and they instantly expand. I guess this is why Filipino bus drivers of late have become rabid with the threat of rain. One thing is for sure, though: Traffic is a major problem in the Philippines’ capital.
What’s worse, for some reason, traffic has gone from awful to hellish. During rush hour, you will see Facebook pages flooded or congested (pun intended) with ranting motorists, or in-car selfies of stranded drivers or passengers. Or you’ll find your Waze app’s route filled with angry ghost icons.
It might be the increasing number of vehicles on the road or the lack of infrastructure planning. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: We have to deal with traffic jams—unless we decide to permanently hang up the car keys and opt to travel on a hand-propelled two-wheeled vehicle.
So how do you outsmart traffic jams? Here are some proactive tips:
The early bird has a clear field of the mall’s parking slots. Try to beat everyone by being at the mall’s gate when the doors open. Think of this as coming to a sale where you have the best pickings if you get there first. By lunchtime, you should have wrapped up your errand and been all ready to leave, just when people are starting to fill up the mall.
Ask for a change in work hours that avoid going to and leaving the office during the usual rush hours. A few years ago, we noticed that the office personnel were constantly late in logging in, and their excuse would be the heavy traffic. So what we did was to ask them to change their work schedule to 9 a.m.-6 p.m. instead of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours. It was better than having people sitting in the traffic, mindlessly ogling passing billboards of half-naked men and women for two hours. This also leaves them with more energy for work.
Take your lunch early and get back fast. I realized that when I arrive at a restaurant just before 12, even though I have no reservations, I am able to quickly get a table. Same goes for parking. As soon as you finish lunch, try heading back to the office at once. By getting back to your desk early, you might be able to get through the afternoon workload quicker, with the end view of heading home earlier.
Plan your out-of-the-office meetings. There will be days when you have several meetings outside the office. If you live in Alabang for example, prioritize your meeting in Quezon City, and the next ones moving closer to home. This way, instead of traveling nonstop a full 2 hours going home, you are able to break it up into shorter trips and avoid a sore bum.
When scheduling trips, consider the route opposite the rush-hour flow. In the morning, all roads lead to Makati; in the afternoon, traffic flow is reversed. Try not to schedule meetings where you have to take the same direction that the mob takes.
Use phone apps such as Waze or MMDA. This helps in getting relevant traffic information on what is the best route to take when you want to meet up with friends for an impromptu dinner or you need to make a quick dash home.
When I posted on my Facebook page the question about how best to outsmart traffic, there were a lot of people who suggested using bikes or scooters. Of course, there are disadvantages to this, like needing a shower after you travel to the office and the lack of bike lanes in Metro Manila. The advantages, of course, would be the free workout (if using a pedal bike) and/or not needing to spend 30 minutes to find parking space.
Find an alternative route. When I was in college and had to drive to UP Manila every day, I didn’t mind exploring new routes because it sometimes led me to discovering another way or a shortcut to where I was going. Most of the time, traffic in Manila is due to bottlenecks caused by people who go caveman. If you know how to maneuver your way through parallel roads, you might just be able to avoid wasting 20 minutes playing Candy Crush in your car.
And if all else fails and you just have to brave it out, a colleague of mine, who is a radio DJ, suggested being ready with a well-curated playlist that might be able to make your road trek bearable. Make sure that the music relaxes and puts you in a good mood. Aggravating music will just fuel your serial-killer tendencies.
Hopefully, before our newly minted teenage drivers have a need to get a facelift, the current traffic problems will get solved. But please, be mindful that traffic is not a problem we Filipinos exclusively have. You can also experience this in the streets of Manhattan, Bangkok, Mexico City and many others.
What is important, though, is what we road users want to be: a road block or a green light for development.
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