Traffic has become a part of life in the metro, with people resigned to hours on the road, be it as drivers or as passengers. However, aside from the headaches, annoyance, and general bad mood that heavy traffic generates in people, what are the real costs of heavy traffic? What do citywide traffic jams really do to us?
One of the more interesting effects of monster traffic jams is the idea of people becoming hyper-local – which is to say, they will now prefer not to travel, unless they really have to. This is both a good and bad thing, as it means that small community centers may receive a certain economic boost, as people will prefer to go there, rather than larger establishments.
On the other hand, this means that most people will, eventually, end up cocooning at home, given the eventual logic and issues. The economic gains for hyper-locality can eventually be wiped out, if more people will prefer to stay at home, going out only at preplanned times to go to other places where what they want or need is available.
This is one of the oldest issues concerning urban congestion. Monster traffic jams will eventually affect even how urban development will go (you can consider this an offshoot of hyper-locality), and soon, entertainment and work hubs will spring up, around which communities will develop. Again, there are good and bad issues for this kind of development.
The good news is that this sort of decentralization may just be what the metropolis needs, so that people won’t gravitate and form super hubs, such as Makati or Quezon City. On the other hand, this will necessitate that if people do find jobs elsewhere, they’ll have to move to the other city center, if only to prevent themselves from having a more costly transportation outlay in their personal budgets.
Inefficiency for work
Unequivocally, this sort transportation problem may have some good effects for medium- and long-term urban development. However, all the good things are also attenuated by the work efficiency issues that monster traffic jams eventually escalate.
On one hand, people who go to office or factories will end up being frequently late, depending on where they live. And even if they do live relatively nearby, they will still have to wake up early simply to sidestep the incoming rush hour. This will mean that even if the employees aren’t late, they’ll probably stressed out or already exhausted (mentally or physically) once they step into their places of work.
It gets even worse if you think about the transportation of goods. Perishable goods are particularly sensitive to the threat of monster traffic jams, and there is a deteriorating cycle where transport vehicles will need to go on the road earlier and earlier, simply to go through the traffic – and thus end up causing even more traffic, extending the rush hour. Otherwise, they will have to travel in the real off-hours, like in the hours between midnight and dawn, which will mean that transport and receiving facilities will have to be open longer, incurring more costs.
Some people say that this is the real cost of heavy traffic, in that goods and services are bogged down by the traffic creating a multiplying cost factor that will eventually be handed off to the consumers, in the form of more expensive goods and services charged at the front end.
Stress and health
On the very personal level, monster traffic jams can and will play havoc with people’s health. This can happen on many levels.
The most obvious health factor is the simple stress caused by the frustration of having to withstand hours upon hours of travel time. This sort of stress can lead to minor ailments at first, but as the stress piles up, it won’t be a surprise if people start having “lifestyle” diseases like diabetes or hypertension relatively early in their lives.
Another way that people can have their health affected by traffic is on the sheer pollution alone. Just think about all the particulates that people are inhaling as they take public transportation. And if people who drive cars think they are spared, think of it this way: your airconditioning filters can only screen so much.
Now, we all know that the costs of travel are definitely magnified when monster traffic jams hit the city, but think of it this way: EVERYTHING, from the food that you eat, to your transport fare, to your medical expenses. Everything is affected by the heavy traffic that hounds our metropolis.
Are we saying that a city with less traffic will cost less to live in? That’s not necessarily the case, since the cost of living depends on many factors, but the chances are, we wouldn’t be having so much of our salaries eaten up by these hidden costs.
From bribes to negotiate traffic violations quickly, to payoffs so deliveries will come through on time, and even to something as “small” as giving the taxi driver something extra to take you on as a passenger, heavy traffic is a ripe breeding ground for corruption in many forms. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, really. What makes it more disturbing, actually, is that so many people will engage in it, just so they can “get ahead.”
And THAT simply encourages and rewards people to be even more corrupt.
At the end of the road
So many people seem to be disproportionately angry at our ever-worsening traffic situation. Unfortunately, they have very good reasons to be angry, as many of the issues that hound our roads are technically solvable. However, the solutions may not be to everyone’s liking. Yes, it’s easy to say that buses, jeepneys, and taxis should have their numbers or franchises controlled more strictly, but it also means that, perhaps, taxes be raised for people who want to own more than one car. It also means that carpooling should be given incentives.
And then, once those proposals are out in the air, the government will have to deal with demands for a better peace and order situation. It’s no wonder that the government probably doesn’t know where to begin. But the fact is, they should already start, even if it means that they’ll have to work at it piece by piece. Long-term economic effects are nice, but given how the traffic is just sucking the life out of people and businesses, perhaps this is one thing that they should really work on, if only to restore people’s confidence in the government.