Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Transport Forum

It’s that time of year again when the ADB holds and hosts a Transport Forum at their office in Manila. This forum is expected to attract more people than usual as the ADB will be presenting its new Sustainable Transport Initiative. Its new because it was formulated after Copenhagen and attempts to link transport with climate change. Thus, climate change mitigation and adaptation are among the general topics in the forum.

As usual, there will also be the sessions on urban transport, road traffic safety, rural transport, etc. Of particular interest to me will be the presentations by iRAP and GRSP on road safety on Wednesday aside, of course, to the Keynote Speech on road safety to be delivered by the International Ambassador for Road Safety who happens to be the actress Michelle Yeoh. I will have my chance to meet her sometime in the afternoon as she leads the laying of a time capsule for the proposed Road Safety Park at the UP Diliman campus.

I was actually at the ADB today and joined a meeting by the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT). Unfortunately, I couldn’t join the afternoon session as I had to rush back to the University for another engagement. The National Engineering Center held a forum on Public Service where I presented on NCTS activities including training, research and extension work in the last 5 years. At the end of my presentation, I showed a sneak preview of projects already in the pipeline including shamelessly plugging Michelle Yeoh’s visit to UP for the Road Safety Park.

For a more detailed schedule of the ADB Transport Forum, you can google the same and this will lead you to the ADB website and links to pdfs containing the schedule from May 25-27.

Transport Planning in Quezon City

I got a letter today from the Chief of Staff of the Mayor-elect of Quezon City. I was invited to deliver a presentation on transportation planning in Quezon City before the City Council where the Mayor-elect will be the presiding officer as outgoing Vice Mayor of the city. I still haven’t come up with a draft presentation but am already conceptualizing what I’d want to say before the council.

I will talk about environmentally sustainable transport (EST). I will speak about road traffic safety and the dangerous, killer roads in Quezon City. I will talk about land use planning and its interaction with transport (and vice versa). And though I am tempted to talk about parking, I will definitely talk about traffic impact assessment.

It is important to articulate at the simplest and most understandable terms what transport planning is all about. It is essential that sustainable transport is defined and promoted. Hopefully, the Mayor-elect will respond. Hopefully, the Councilors who will remain will take notice and appreciate the importance of having a well-planned city. Hopefully, they will champion sustainable transport and help spread the word on this through their actions.

I will be joined by colleagues when I go to present my case before the council. We will come in full force and maybe, at least, by our numbers we can show how serious and how important EST will be in solving transport and traffic problems in this part of Metro Manila. Hopefully, we can convince this large and progressive city to become an example that other cities may emulate.

Good luck to us all!

Parking as an election issue – Conclusion

A couple of years ago, Quezon City embarked on several projects that led to the construction of pedestrian and parking facilities along its major roads. Pedestrian facilities include the nice, wide and well-lighted sidewalks along Tomas Morato, Panay Avenue and Visayas Avenue, the underpasses across the Elliptical Road (one connecting Quezon Memorial Circle with City Hall and the other with Philcoa), and several overpasses where the MMDA had not yet put up one. Parking slots were constructed near or in front of establishments located along streets such as Tomas Morato. These were perpendicular to the road and integrated with the pedestrian sidewalks to allow for unimpeded flow of person traffic. Upon completion, people need not have to walk on traffic lanes and be exposed to the risk of being side swiped or worse, ran over. It made sense for the walkways and parking spaces to be located in areas where there were not enough spaces. Morato, for example, was usually congested due to vehicles parked or waiting along the roadside, and pedestrians taking the road for lack of walking space.
Since all of the above infrastructure were projects implemented by the Quezon City government,  funding for these projects probably came from either the treasury of the LGU or sourced from loans such as the foreign kind. Whatever option was used, however,  it is clear that funds were drawn from or will eventually be charged to taxpayers’ money, most probably from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of QC that is based in part from its outstanding tax collections during the 3 terms of the current, outgoing administration.
Last year, one councilor proposed that parking fees be imposed for use of the slots. That launched a firestorm of protests from fellow councilors, and groups claiming to represent the interests of the general public. Even the Roman Catholic Church pitched in with the bishop issuing a pastoral letter opposing the proposal for parking fees. Their argument against the proposed fees were anchored on the latter being anti-poor. This argument is at best peculiar considering that parking is not for the benefit of the poor but for those who owned cars. And it can be assumed that those who owned cars could afford the purchase and maintenance of those vehicles as well as the continuously increasing fuel prices. Thus, it can concluded that car owners are not to be classified as poor.
Public facilities are built using taxpayers’ money and are supposed to benefit the general public rather than the relatively fewer and privileged car owners. Funds used for the purpose of constructing parking facilities could have been used elsewhere including social and health care programs. However, parking spaces offer an opportunity for income generation that can be sustainable and could then be used to fund programs that were otherwise deprived of the budget they required due to the allocation of money for infrastructure that are not necessarily for everyone’s use (i.e., parking spaces).
In conclusion, it is clear that parking fees are not at all anti-poor and in fact can be used to generate revenues that will in turn fund programs that were deprived of budget. Further, the revenues generated are sustainable since they are by nature recurring and therefore it can be expected that such recurrence will translate into a steady source of funds for suitable use by the local government. In this case,   parking facilities may be regarded as an investment and one that is surely beneficial to the general public in the long term. Short-sighted politicians are quick to draw their guns on such and make claims to the effect of making themselves appear to be on the side of the poor. This is an obvious ruse that even the Church leadership has fallen for and demonstrated, in my opinion, their disconnection with fact and the realities in this day and age. It is only hoped that we would be able to elect leaders who are not at all ignorant of ways and means to provide for the needs of our fellowmen whether they be of the temporal or spiritual kind.