Passing along the University of the Philippines’ part of Katipunan, one will see a new development at the area where the UP Integrated School (UPIS) is currently located. The UP Town Center is being promoted as part of a university town center concept and is the second major Ayala development on UP land after the Technohub in the north side of the 493-hectare campus. The surrounding area to the newly built Town Center will most likely host business process outsourcing (BPO) including call centers that currently populate Technohub.
I learned that the development’s design was reviewed on the UP side by a team that included faculty members from UP Diliman’s College of Architecture and School of Urban and Regional Planning. I assume that they were able to cover most if not all the aspects of the design for this particular development and the rest that will follow once UPIS moves to the main campus and the entire lot is developed much like into what Technohub is at present. I would assume that they provided recommendations to Ayala and that these recommendations were used to improve on potential issues with the development. However, my worry is that the transport or traffic component of the design (i.e., transport impact assessment) was not sufficient for the traffic that will be generated by the development. While Technohub had no serious problems regarding traffic as it was along the wide Commonwealth Avenue, the Town Center was located in the narrower C-5 that is the route for much private traffic as well as trucks.
Let us look at the potential problems for the UP Town Center in relation to transport and traffic. For one, the development is close to a major intersection, the junction of Katipunan-CP Garcia. The current traffic signal cycle for the intersection allows for continuous through traffic for the northbound side of Katipunan. Thus, traffic in front of the development, which is along this same northbound side of C-5 will be continuous. Vehicles slowing down to enter the parking lots at either end of the building will likely slow down traffic along C-5. Meanwhile, there are no driveways or bays for transport to load/unload passengers in front of the building. Instead, the driveway is right after Katipunan-C.P. Garcia intersection and does not appear to be designed for jeepneys, taxis and cars will, instead, likely stop on the road and such will mean one lane of C-5 will be occupied, contributing to a decrease in the capacity of the roadway.
Another thing is the parking. Currently, there are limited spaces as understandably the area is still being developed and the lots are temporary facilities. I presume that there will be more spaces available soon considering the parking generation characteristics of such types of developments that tend to attract car-owning people though perhaps the target is a broader range of customers.
And then there are the issues regarding walking and cycling. One friend was asking if there were bicycle racks at the Town Center. I saw none (yet?) but perhaps there will be facilities for cyclists. As for walking, this section of Katipunan is more walkable compared to the segments in front of Ateneo and Miriam where cars seemed to be parked or standing everywhere and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. Along the side of the U.P. Diliman campus, there are sidewalks where pedestrians can safely walk. On the Town Center’s side, there are also sidewalks and we hope these can still be improved once construction is at full swing. Perhaps what requires attention for both pedestrians and cyclists are crossings. With the increased traffic along C-5 due to the opening of the Luzon Avenue overpass crossing Commonwealth, it has become more dangerous to cross C-5. As such, there is a need to address such issues as surely there will be significant pedestrian traffic crossing to and from the Town Center.
No driveways or bays for public transport? Construction work continues for the soon to open UP Town Center even as the fences are taken down to reveal a modern building that will host restaurants and shops.
The UP Town Center is already attracting traffic as some restaurants and shops have already made “soft” openings.
A colleague once made the comment that the Town Center was not really for UP but, like the Alabang Town Center, was for the posh residential subdivisions in the area. These include nearby La Vista, Loyola Grand Villas and Ayala Heights subdivisions. Also, it will likely attract more car users than public transport users as locator restaurants and shops are mainly upper-middle to upper class. There are no Jollibees, Chowkings or McDos here. For now, the developer and UP Diliman deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt in as far as the development’s design is concerned. Perhaps the issues I mentioned above will be addressed once the entire area leased to Ayala would have been fully developed. And until then, there would be opportunities to check and ascertain if the development is indeed people friendly and something that can be called a university town center and not just another commercial development that attracts traffic.