Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: December 2012

On pedestrian overpasses again

Pedestrian overpasses in Metro Manila are of various designs. The older ones are mostly concrete structures that were not designed to consider the needs of senior citizens or persons with disabilities (PWDs). Often the stairs are relatively steep and each step can be quite high. More recent ones, particularly those constructed by the MMDA in the last administration were steel structures. The first generation where constructed similarly as their concrete versions, with little consideration to the elderly and the physically-challenged. Many of these ¬†overpasses even got flak from women’s groups as the steps featured slits through which women can be taken advantage of by peeping toms. And so some of the “offending” overpasses had their stairs retrofitted to provide some cover for people using these facilities.

A good feature of more recent overpasses constructed has been ramps that allow easier access by persons with disabilities and cyclists. Most new overpasses in Metro Manila also have less steeper stairs and others even have landings to allow people to have some pause while climbing up or down the overpass. Following are a few photos of overpasses along Marcos Highway including one connecting a major shopping mall to the LRT Line 2 Santolan Station.

Overpass along Marcos Highway in Pasig City featuring a ramp that can also be used by cyclists and persons with disabilities.

“Conventional” overpass along Marcos Highway – there are no ramps but the stairs are not as steep as the older ones.

Overpass connecting a major shopping mall to the LRT Line 2 Santolan Station

While such overpasses are necessary along wide roads with heavy motor vehicle traffic, similar facilities are not usually recommended for narrower streets where motorized traffic is manageable. There are discussions now that call for pedestrians to have the right of way along streets. Such discussions have basis given pedestrians attempting to cross at designated areas (definitely not the jaywalkers) have difficulty crossing as motor vehicles disregard them, with some seemingly attempting to sideswipe people (nananadya?). The rule should be that once a pedestrian steps on the pavement at a zebra crossing or crosswalk, vehicles should give way to them. Many drivers and riders are oblivious to this rule and it is not enforced by the MMDA or police. They should, in order to effect behavior change in motorists and to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

Better air quality conference

The Better Air Quality 2012 Conference comes back to Hong Kong this year and is an annual event organized by the Clean Air Asia, which was formerly the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia), attended by government leaders, policymakers, NGOs, the academe, private companies and other stakeholders. It is actually my first time to attend the conference though colleagues have participated in the past. This year I am participating as a transport expert and will be involved in two events – a BAQ pre-event and a session during the conference itself.

The pre-event to be held at the Hotel Nikko is on “Long Term Impacts of Low Emission Transport Policies and Actions in ASEAN” while the session in the conference is on “Transport, Energy and Emissions in 2050: Implications for Asia.” These are related as they are part of the same project implemented and supported by CAI-Asia, the Institution for Transport Policy Studies (ITPS) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). There are five of us from various ASEAN universities including friends from Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia), University of Malaya (Malaysia) and Thammasat University (Thailand). I’m looking forward to a very productive conference and will post again soon about this project that we have been working on since last year.

IMG05008-20121203-0633Metro Manila smog visible in the background of this photo of our plane to Hong Kong

Sound bites on transport and traffic

If there was one thing I both dreaded and enjoyed during my 6-year stint as head of UP’s National Center for Transportation Studies, it is granting interviews to the media. My predecessors warned me about how some media outfits have been notorious for editing interviews to suit their needs. In certain cases, they are alleged to have spliced recordings that if taken as is would have been boring or not quite informative in order to have material that were more sensational. There are features, for example, where it seems interviewees were responding to the each other’s opinions making it look like they were arguing. And then there are those where certain statements are taken out of context when cut from a long explanation in the actual interview that took place.

I think I tried my best to be careful about what I said and how I explained or related things in my interviews. I looked at interviews as a way the Center could reach out and advance its advocacies. These were opportunities to spread the message of sustainable transport, to educate and inform officials and the public about what we should aspire and work hard towards achieving in transport and traffic. I think we had to be both progressive and aggressive with our messages because it was our duty, our responsibility not just to do research and train people but also to inform and educate people about sustainable transport. Popular mass media is an effective way to do this and we should be engaging but careful about our messages in order to be constructive and fair.

The last news interview I had before finally being relieved of being holdover Director for a month after my term ended was with GMA News. I like this interview about traffic congestion because I was able to put in some of the ideas that people in the forefront of sustainable transport have been preaching and practicing. These include the truth that in developed countries and cities, the wealthy take public transportation and that in order to improve public transportation, decision makers should themselves experience commuting.

These are not new ideas and I have to be clear that these were not my original ideas but those that I have come to embrace and advocate. I truly believe that if we don’t take public transportation, walk or cycle, we can’t really have a clear picture of what our cities need in order to solve the traffic mess and come up with services that are safe, efficient, inclusive and equitable.

The feature appearing on Jessica Soho’s State of the Nation on Channel 11 from the GMA News website.

The same report that appeared in the primetime 24 Oras: