Back in 1995 the traffic in Manila streets was getting to be more of a performance art sculpture than anything resembling a transportation network. Thousands of public utility vehicles, PUVs, or jeepneys, jammed the main streets to the point where something had to be done. The executive director of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, (MMDA) Colonel Romeo Maganto, came up with a plan. Not the lurid pink public urinals that still dot the main roads, but a system of voluntary restrictions on who drove the main route of EDSA on which days.
The word ‘voluntary’ should give old Manila Hands a fair idea of what happened next.
Basically total confusion and utter chaos. Those who followed the suggestion were angry so many others ignored the attempt to make the roads a better place for all. You see jeepneys with number plates ending in an even number could drive on the roads on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but not Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. That was reserved for plates ending in uneven numbers. There was no legal authority to impose this, or to apply penalties and of course, the various mayors of the many cities that make up metro Manila, all had their own ideas as to which roads, what days and who should obey.
Eventually it was made law and further chaos and confusion reined. Not to mention a lot of traffic cops made a lot of coffee money. These days the system is even more complex (of course!) and while the days are better shared, there are different areas that have different ‘windows’ and so on. In a nutshell, if your plate ends with a 1 or 2 you are barred on Monday. 3 or 4, don’t drive into town on Tuesday. 5,6 it’s Wednesday, 7,8 is Thursday and those ending in 9 or 0 can’t come in on Friday. Of course some people have two cars and make sure the last digits are not the same or consecutive to the plate on the other car.
In true Pinoy style the system has become known as ‘color coding’. Of course colours do not feature in this traffic management system in any shape or form but color coding is nicer than number coding, easier to say and appeals to the musicality of the Filipino ear. That it is not accurate, relevant or makes any sense is neither here nor there and simply realising that there are no colours being coded proves you are a kano who just doesn’t get it. Ok di ba?
Has it made a difference? Who knows? The traffic is so bad these days, you wouldn’t want to find out if going back to the any day you like system is any worse or better.