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Panama Implements Traffic Control Measures

Panama Implements Traffic Control Measures

Panama has implemented traffic control measures for the month of December to ease her intractable congestion, which strands commuters in bumper-to-bumper traffic for two or more hours during commuting hours.

December in Panama spells heavy traffic across the Bridge of the Americas in both directions–especially during peak hours. And the Panamanian government is trying to ease the traffic burden by reversing lanes for four hours from December 5 to 30.

Panama dedicates all four lanes of the Pan-American highway to eastbound traffic entering Panama City.

Panama experiments with temporary traffic control measures to ease intractable congestion. (Image courtesy: Panama America)

Evoling Traffic Mitigation Plans

Transit authorities initially planned to dedicate all four lanes of the Panamerican highway to eastbound traffic toward Panama City from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., and to westbound traffic leaving Panama City from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The plan drew heavy criticism from those who commmute westbound to Veracruz, whose entrance lies just west of the Bridge of the Americas. Similarly the business community in Panama Pacifico, the former Howard Air Force Base in Western Panama, complained that its workers would not be able to commute home to Panama City.

Commute Into Panama City From 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.

An interim solution for morning commuters going into Panama City reverses the two westbound lanes, giving the eastbound drivers all four lanes to the entrance to Veracruz. Four lanes narrow to three at the Veracruz exit and remain at three lanes until after the Bridge of the Americas.

All four lanes of the Pan-American Highway are open to eastbound traffic from Arraijan to Veracruz, after which the highway narrow to three lanes.

Westbound: Commute Out of Panama City From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

During the evening commute out of Panama City, three lanes are reserved for westbound traffic until Panama Pacifico (Howard) where one eastbound lane into Panama City is reserved for workers leaving the business park. After Howard, all four lanes are available for westbound traffic until Arraijan.

All four lanes of the Pan-American Highway are open to westbound traffic from Panama Pacifico (Howard) to Arraijan.

Commuters Find Traffic Plan Unfair, Useless

After the first day of the new traffic control measures, transit authorities admitted there were congestions along the Pan-American Highway and asked commuters to cooperate with the experiment and avoid driving on the shoulders.

“We’re going to make adjustments,” Javier Fanuco, operations director of the Transit Police, was quoted as saying at a press conference yesterday. “It’s the first day. We see [the new traffic measures] in a positive light,” he added.

Complaints, however, have been mounting among drivers and community leaders who find the efforts unfair to those who need to travel to Western Panama in the morning. Attorney Victor Martinez, according to Panama America, plans to file an injunction with the supreme court, saying the measures violate the constitutional right to move about the country freely.

“Makeshift measures [like the traffic control plans] only bring more problems. Now those of us who work in Howard are arriving late [to work],” tweeted Pedro Tucker, who echoed sentiments of those who work at the Panama Pacifico business park.

The current mitigation plan makes it impossible for drivers to reach the former Howard Air Force Base between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Melanie Komalram, another Twitter user shared a common complaint among Panamanian drivers who find impromptu traffic remediation plans ineffective because there will always be bottlenecks when traffic merges from four lanes into two lanes.

“They could open six lanes, but it does not help anyone if it narrows to two lanes in the end,” she tweeted.

Panama’s Ranks Low in Driver Satisfaction

Panama ranks near the bottom of the Waze Driver Satisfaction Index, coming in 35th out of 38 countries. Only Guatemala, the Philippines, and El Salvador had worse traffic than Panama.

Waze, whose app offers some hope of avoiding congestion, analyzed traffic patterns in 38 countries with 20,000 or more active users for its second annual Driver Satisfaction Index, which failed El Salvador for the second year in a row. Panama, Guatemala, and the Philippines all fell from their respective spots last year.

Waze logo for the 2016 Driver Satisfaction Index that placed Panama 35th out of 38.

Driver Satisfaction Index Score 2016

Waze analyzed six key driving factors to create a single numerical score defining the most satisfying (10) and least satisfying (1) drives in the world. Panama ranked 35th out of the 38 countries studied by Waze.

Panama's Driver Satisfaction Index (2016)

Traffic Rating

Road Quality

Road Safety Rating


Driver Services

Wazey Rating

Source: Waze Driver Satisfaction Index 2016

Formulas for Waze’s traffic rating, where Panama scored 1.11 out of 10, include ratio of roads with traffic jams, speed during rush hour, average commute length, and reports of constructions and road closures.

Services to drivers, where Panama also ranked poorly, include the numbers of gas stations, service locations, and parking lots. And the Wazey rating includes the ratio of “thumbs up” interaction, or the equivalent of a Facebook Like.

When ranked by metropolitan areas instead of countries, Panama City fared better. Metro Panama City ranked 175th out of 186 metropolitan areas worldwide, doing better than many cities in Colombia, Indonesia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Philippines.

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