There is a general observation that urban planning in the Philippines, including planning and design for transport, revolves around motor vehicles. In fact, much of what we think are sound policies and guidelines, even rules of thumb, are car-oriented rather than people-oriented. Our love for the car is often traced to our being a colony of the United States and our orientation to cars have been reinforced over the years by policies, plans and projects that seem to be biased for car users while detrimental to commuters in general. In fact, we have been used to having roads built and widened that these types of projects seem automatic, no brainer solutions to the traffic problems we encounter everyday. Not that this is a bad thing, considering that we do have many missing links to complete and infrastructure to build where they are needed. Yet, for many of our highly urbanized cities, public transport infrastructure has been too slow to address the demand for movement.
Metro Manila is already choking in as far as traffic is concerned and our proposed solutions still are road widening and the call for elevated expressways. Meanwhile, we have poor road public transport services and a limited rail or mass transit network. It seems that most of the plans for trains and BRTs have never left the proverbial pipeline and as such, we continue to languish in I would like to think that a lot of people would want to take public transport if only the quality of service is similar to systems in Singapore, Hongkong, Kuala Lumpur or even Bangkok or Jakarta. We have to deliver on this end, which will also see our streets begin to become decongested as vehicles will naturally decrease with people choosing PT over their cars, especially in this period of increasing fuel prices.
Of course, these public transport infrastructure carry hefty price tags. And so to complete the picture and solve the puzzle of transport in cities like Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao, we would need to address what is perhaps the most basic for of transport that is often forgotten when talks center on highways and mass transit – walking. It is a fact that walking is the mode with the highest share for transport; dwarfing all other modes since we all walk at some point of our trips (e.g., Car users still have to walk to and from the parking spaces.) Unfortunately, we seem to have become lazy, preferring to ride than to walk and making so many excuses even when the facilities for walking are already provided and conditions favor walking over motorized transport. Of course, the main challenges for ensuring the safety and comfort of those who choose to walk remain and investments are required for more infrastructure to encourage walking. There are good practice examples like the walkways connecting buildings at the Makati CDB and the sidewalks of Quezon City. These are, however, more the exception than the rule and so there is still a need to actually “formalize” walking as a mode of transport and one that could probably save us a lot of fuel, reduce emissions and, most importantly, improve our health and well-being.
Following are excellent articles for reading, and for consideration when we re-think what we are doing to improve transport and mobility in our cities. A re-orientation is in order for us to address
(Note: the sources and links to the online articles are shown below and in the files. These are made downloadable here only to facilitate access to the articles. There is no intent for any copyright infringements.)
With America and the rest of the world taking a second and perhaps critical look into how they are planning their transport systems and focusing on encouraging people to walk, we should perhaps take this as our cue to also re-think how we are planning and designing our systems. We should, and not be too dependent on the recommendations of studies past and present that seemingly try to simplify our plights as something that can be solved by roads and cars alone.