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OpenTraffic platform launched to solve PHL traffic congestion

In efforts to address the worsening traffic in Metro Manila and other major cities in the country, Grab and World Bank partnered with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in launching the Open Traffic initiative in the Philippines.

With the project, traffic management agencies and city planners will be able to access real-time data to better manage traffic flows and congestion on thoroughfares in Cebu City and Metro Manila.

Deevya Desai, Grab's Regional Head of Public Affairs, said traffic congestion in the Philippines has significant economic cost.

"In other parts of the world, car ownership is seen as the major challenge in cities, but in Southeast Asia, traffic congestion and road safety are the more urgent challenges," Desai said.

The OpenTraffic platform will be utilizing GPS data from Grab.

According to Desai, real time GPS data is normally expensive for governments to acquire and will require specific equipment. Desai said the data is even a commercial viable asset

"We are contributing our GPS data because this collaboration can change lives. We believe our data can contribute in building smart cities in the Philippines."

The data, which will be provided by the ride-hailing platform for free, is in itself useless until it goes through the Traffic Engine where data will be converted to statistics showing traffic congestion and road safety and emergency.

The GPS data will be incorporated in a crowd sourced map, the OpenStreet Maps. The combined data and map will be shown in the OpenTraffic platform.

Commuters and drivers going along the major thoroughfares may look forward to better traffic management based on the studies that will be conducted during the pilot launch of the program.

Data from the platform will be able to determine peak hours, travel time realibility, vulnerability to inclement weather or traffic incidents and identification of road incident blackspots.

Some of the data highlights from the 2015 testing of the OpenTraffic platform in the Philippines show that the best time to travel in Metro Manila is at 4 a.m. on Mondays. On the other hand, the worst possible time for commuters and drivers is 7 p.m. every Wednesdays.

The data also showed that the maximum average weekday travel speed in Manila is 38 kph way below the average of Singapore which is at 55 kph.

For Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, this will greatly help agencies in developing policies.

"With this we can make fact-based decisions which can make solutions less stressful," Limcaoco said.

He recalled that before, they had to take manual surveys which take long to be translated to data.

"By the time we get the data, it is possible that the data is outdated already," he said, adding that the data Grab will provide is real-time.

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines Professor Ricardo Sigua said this initiative will help agencies focus more on the actions it should take.

"Data collection is half of the cost of traffic management office. But with this free data, agencies are already halfway and agencies can focus on action," Sigua said.

He added that one part of understanding the traffic congestion is the facilitation of the data to the public.

However, he noted that the data would have to be validated as well.

The OpenTraffic platform is funded through World Bank support and Korean Green Growth Trust Fund. The platform, as of now, is accessible only by policy makers. However, it would be available for public in the future.

Grab and World Bank will also launch similar platforms in Indonesia and Vietnam in the next years. — TJD/KG, GMA News