Causes Of Traffic In The Philippines: An In-Depth Explanation

Causes Of Traffic In The Philippines: An In-Depth Explanation

April 18, 2021 0 By onroadtips

Heavy traffic is one of the worst things you can experience on a daily basis when living in an urban area. We have discussed the causes of traffic in the Philippines in another post by putting the causes and solutions of traffic congestion in relation. But today, we want to give you a different perspective on this matter and to help you understand the deep root of the problem.

Classifying the causes of traffic in the Philippines

In this section, traffic congestion is divided into four small types corresponding to what causes them. So, the classification of causes of traffic congestion in the Philippines can also be referred to as the classification of traffic congestion itself.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that recurring means something can happen over and over again, even on a regular basis. On the other hand, non-recurring refers to a one-time thing, meaning it doesn’t happen regularly or periodically.

Recurring: infrastructure

This is one of the biggest and hardest-to-address causes of traffic congestion in any country, not just the Philippines. When working on the infrastructure of an area or city, engineers can’t always foresee the demand growth on roads.

As a result, even when they try to build more roads and wider roads, these roads will end up in jam and congestion anyway. This fact has also been pointed out by researchers from the London School of Economics and University of Toronto in a 2011 study, where data showed that additional traffic will increase until peak congestion and the traffic situation returns to the previous state.  

Besides, over time and due to other reasons, the quality of infrastructure eventually goes down with the appearance of potholes, for example. This results in bottlenecks on roads, which are responsible for 40% of traffic congestion while construction accounts for 10% of traffic congestion.

Causes Of Traffic In The Philippines
Causes Of Traffic In The Philippines



According to a study, snow and rain cause a 50% increase in traffic collisions. This includes foggy and rainy weather, which can have uncontrollable and unpredictable influences on driving and traffic. The rain can affect the road condition too. All in all, bad weather accounts for 15% of total traffic congestion cases.


This is one of the major causes of traffic congestion in the Philippines. Mechanical failing leads to sudden congestion in a short or long time, depending on how bad the breakdown is.

Mechanical problems can be human-caused or external like a sharp object puncturing a tire or some flying object hitting and cracking the windshield out of nowhere. Unfortunately, this issue can occur even when you have your vehicle maintained properly.


Humans cause traffic congestion in so many ways, from drunk driving, distracter driving, to emotional driving. The amount of attention that people pay to driving varies greatly, which results in different incidents on the road that cause traffic congestion.

Drunk driving is one of the many human-related causes of traffic congestion
Drunk driving is one of the many human-related causes of traffic congestion

Understanding the nature of traffic

A person can sit down and list a bunch of causes of heavy traffic in the Philippines. However, there is a deeper issue here that goes further than just road building.

In this part, we will look into the role of street network, land use, and density as well as their tie to traffic congestion.

The role of the street network

The hierarchical road network, where local streets feed into collectors that then feed into arterials and eventually highways, plays the biggest role in creating congestion.

These days, traffic is being funneled with a small number of roads that provide a lower vehicular capacity and fewer workarounds in case of emergency. As a result, when one road clogs, the entire traffic is halted.

A better plan to avoid this is working on a highly connected network, which can be a grid. This way, there are a lot of redundancies when something goes wrong and drivers can take a shorter route to their destination. Also, since the total is now distributed over more redundancies, the traffic is not funneled through a small number of roads anymore.

On the other hand, building the main thoroughfare allowing for greater capacity and higher speeds is a bad idea even when it’s in a grid. The reason is that it will attract the traffic until it’s clogged, meaning vehicles no longer have the speed advantage over other routes.

The role of land use

To understand this part of the problem, keep in mind that: no land use attracts no traffic. That means building anything in an area will increase traffic in there. However, the amount of activity and the traffic in an area aren’t in a linear correlation.  

In order to control this correlation, the key is building a complete neighborhood that can meet most of an individual’s needs in their walking distance. This helps decrease the motor traffic with import replacement.

The term “import replacement” means replacing something you had to go somewhere else to get with a local one. For example, a small town may lack a certain service, so its residents had to visit another town or a bigger city to use that service. But as the town grows, some local business starts to offer this type of service, and people can avoid going out of town.

Now, let’s talk about traffic. If your residential locations are in one place and businesses in another, this will increase traffic as people have to travel more, travel farther, and use more vehicles. On the contrary, if the residents and businesses are in the same location, people will have to travel less, over shorter distances, reducing the use of vehicles. Eventually, this lowers the traffic volume in that area as well as between it and other areas.

We should have complete neighborhoods
We should have complete neighborhoods

The role of density

As a result of complete neighborhoods, we can achieve a higher population density with less motor traffic.

Take Manhattan, US, for example, which has a population density of 151,000 people/square mile. Here, cars make up 6% of total trips, meaning very little traffic. Apart from that, about 50% of the commuting vehicles are commercial ones like Uber, taxis, garbage trucks, etc. The low volume of traffic is also attributed to complete neighborhoods and a subsway system that significantly reduces the number of private cars.

All these matters can be related to the situation in the Philippines to see what are the causes of traffic in the Philippines, or more exactly, what creates traffic.

Major effects of traffic in the Philippines

The bad influences of traffic congestion expands from productivity to environment and even economy.

  • Delays: longer time to arrive at places, causing late arrival at work, school, appointments, etc.
  • Lower productivity: the time lost in traffic congestion means no work gets done.
  • Fuel wastage: the slow movement of a vehicle consumes more fuel than one that moves smoothly.
  • Air pollution: more CO2 is emitted when a large number of vehicles are concentrated in one place and release their exhaust constantly.
  • Economic loss: Metro Manila alone loses about PHP 3 billion per day due to traffic congestion.

Through this post on Onroadtips, we hope that you will understand the causes of traffic in the Philippines go deeper than just the vehicles on the street. It’s a systematic problem that requires a lot of revolution and the bravery to make changes.