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Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area (UTSMMA, 1973)

September 2014


[Important note: I have noticed that the material on this blog site has been used by certain people to further misinformation including revisionism to credit the Marcos dictatorship and put the blame on subsequent administrations (not that these also had failures of their own). This and other posts on past projects present the facts about the projects and contain minimal opinions, if any on the politics or political economy at the time and afterwards. Do your research and refrain from using the material on this page and others to promote misinformation. I suggest you go to the The Mass Transit System in Metro Manila site for more facts about railway development and history. I do not consent to the use of my articles for the purposes of misinformation and historical revisionism. 10/13/2019]

With the recent approval of JICA’s Dream Plan for Mega Manila, I thought it was timely to look back at similar plans developed for Metro Manila and its surrounding areas. At the time these plans were made, I guess they were all regarded as “dream plans” in their own ways. Let us start with what is probably the original dream plan, the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area (UTSMMA, 1973). The project was implemented from March 1971 to September 1973 with the assistance of the Government of Japan’s Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency (OTCA), the precursor of today’s Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Being the first comprehensive study for a metropolitan area that was yet to be formally consolidated and called Metro Manila, UTSMMA set the stage for future transport studies for the metropolis. Among the study’s main recommendations is one proposing for a mass transit system restricted to railways. A Rapid Transit Railway (RTR) network was recommended in the form of subways in the inner area bound by EDSA, and elevated in the suburban areas. Brief descriptions of the proposed lines are as follows:

  • Line 1 (27.1 km) – from Construction Hill to Talon via central Quezon Boulevard, Manila downtown and the International Airport
  • Line 2 (36.0 km) – from Novaliches to Cainta via Manila downtown and Pasig
  • Line 3 (24.3 km) – Along Highway 54 (C-4): half a circle route about 12 km from Manila downtown
  • Line 4 (30.1 km) – From Marikina to Zapote via Cubao, Manila downtown and the Manila Bay area
  • Line 5 (17.6 km) – From Meycauayan to Manila downtown running between Line No. 2 and PNR
  • PNR improvement (56.4 km) – From Bocaue to Muntinglupa via Tutuban Station

The following that was posted here before in another article shows a map illustrating the recommended RTR network for the Manila Metropolitan area. (Note that the map was enhanced from the original black and white to clearly show the proposed lines back then.) MM RTR map2 UTSMMA also recognized the important roles of buses and jeepneys in the future, and recommended that these be used for feeder services once the rail systems have been constructed and operational. As a result of the study, a Feasibility Study for the Manila Rapid Transit Railway Line No. 1 was conducted and completed in June 1976. The study, which was supported by JICA, noted that “the implementation should be initiated immediately” in light of the estimated heavy traffic demand along the corridor. This project could have been the first major transport project for Metro Manila if it had been implemented. Unfortunately, despite a favorable assessment in this study, the proposed RTR Line 1 was not implemented after a contrary assessment by a subsequent study, MMETROPLAN, which is discussed in the succeeding section of this report. The estimated costs of construction of recommended transport infrastructure were provided in the Final Report of the study including indicative costs and benefits of proposed urban expressways and urban rapid transit railways. [Reference: UTSMMA, 1973 – NCTS Library] Whenever I go back to UTSMMA and the network of proposed railway lines, I can’t help but wonder what could have been one of the more efficient transport systems in Asia or even in the world. What happened? Why was this plan not realised? The answer may be found in the next big study conducted for Metro Manila that also included in much detail its land use and development plans. Next: MMETROPLAN, 1977 –


  1. […] of way back in the 1970s (perhaps further back?) when the precursor of JICA came up with the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area (UTSMMA) in 1973. The study was closely followed by a feasibility study for what was proposed as the Rapid Transit […]

  2. […] UTSMMA or the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area was completed in 1973 and was immediately followed by a Feasibility Study on the Manila Rapid Transit Rail Line No. 1 that was completed in 1976. Here’s a nice render of a subway station platform from that FS: […]

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