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Hierarchy of transport modes

December 2012


To better understand issues regarding our transportation system in the Philippines and elsewhere, I am showing two diagrams that both describe hierarchies of transport modes. The figures illustrate a concept much like our concept of the food pyramid where many if not most could easily understand in terms of what we need more of and less of in terms of proper nutrition. Transpose this concept to transport and we can understand that the most basic mode of transport is and should be on top of an inverted triangle, which represents which modes re to be prioritized over the others. The figure can also be used to symbolize mode shares. In terms of both priority and mode share, walking is the most dominant as we all walk. As such, it is only logical that facilities be provided for everyone to be able to walk safely and efficiently. These facilities include sidewalks, overpasses and underpasses that would encourage walking over other modes (especially the motorized ones). Walking is the most equitable and sustainable among transport modes and is definitely the healthiest.


For public transportation, another diagram may be constructed to show which modes can carry more people. Though the following figure is somewhat customized for Philippine public transport, it does not include multicabs, FX/AUVs, van-type services, and other paratransit modes (e.g., habal-habal, kuliglig, etc.) that are found throughout the country. There should be similar hierarchies in our ASEAN neighbor countries as they also have their indigenous modes like the tuktuks and samlors of Thailand.


Of course, each mode of transport is suitable for different trips with non-motorized public transport (particularly the 3-wheeler pedicabs, trisikad or padyak) being most appropriate for short distance trips though such trips can also be covered by walking. Jeepneys and multicabs are suitable for medium distance travel (~4 to 10 kilomemeters) where ridership is not yet viable for buses but which would have been serviced by too many tricycles. There is a reason from the perspectives of safety and efficiency why pedicabs and tricycles are not encouraged along national roads and jeepneys are not supposed to be plying routes along EDSA and C5.

Going up the hierarchy would have cost implications and rail transit is the most expensive mode in terms of capitalization, operations and maintenance. Of course, there are different type of rail transport services that include light rail to the long distance heavy rail commuter and regional services. As such, these systems require investment as well as foresight for the eventuality of a large, populous urban area ultimately requiring rail transport to carry so many passengers over longer distances. Rail alone would probably be insufficient so it needs to be complemented by bus and perhaps jeepneys as well. The emergence of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has provided city and transport planners with a flexible option bridging rail and bus transport in terms of cost and passenger capacities and are now being considered as immediate solutions for travel demand and public transport needs in major cities.


  1. warero says:

    Reblogged this on Javmode.

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