Comments, replies and trash
I’ve noticed that I’ve been receiving a number of comments on old posts on railways and active transport that seem to lean on the conspiracy theory or fake news types. While I find these amusing, I generally don’t want to engage in the form of a reply that will publish the comment on my blog. These will end up in the trash bin along with the obvious spam. If you continue to read my blog and see that your comment was not published, think again and check if your comment was factual or based on strong evidence rather than hearsay or urban legends.
Article share: On a future with fewer cars
Advocates of sustainable transport including those pushing for more efficient public transport and more bike lanes often cite what is supposed to be car ownership data from past studies like the one conducted by JICA for Mega Manila. Most recently, I read an article that mentions only 5% of Filipinos own a car so they shouldn’t be hogging the road space against the rest. It seems so simple yet does not take into consideration geographic and demographic factors. It seems to underestimate vehicle ownership across the country and especially in cities. Also, do we equate vehicle ownership with just car ownership? Many may not have cars per se but own and operate motorcycles or tricycles.
I share the following article from the Washington Post as it presents on initiatives and studies from the Institute of Transportation Engineers concerning car ownership in the US. The data is presented in a way that we can clearly understand car ownership from various perspective including income level, household size, age and disability, among others.
Aratani, L. (February 18, 2023) “How a future with fewer cars may change how communities are designed,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2023/02/18/automobile-ownership-street-design/ [Last accessed: 2/27/2023]
Here is an excerpt from the article: “There are people who are car-free and those who are carless. The car-free are the people who are choosing not to have a vehicle because they have access to other means of transportation or they work from home. The carless are people who either can’t afford or don’t have access to a car for other reasons.”
It would be nice to have a similar data set and analysis for the Philippines so we can really understand mode choice or preferences with respect to various factors including household income. Among the data sets we can probably use are the census data and the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) that are regularly collected and from which we can ascertain vehicle ownership vs. various parameters.
Article share: on pedestrian facilities and climate change
Here is an article that articulates the importance of walking and pedestrian facilities in sustainability and ultimately fighting climate change. It argues that if we had the infrastructure and facilities to make it easier for people to walk, they will and are likely to walk rather than use their cars. This is not limited to short trips as walking can be in combination with public transportation, making it an integral part of trips where public transportation covers the main commute and walking is the proverbial last mile travel.
To quote from the article:
“Walking, biking, and transit need to be prioritized, and treated as legitimate forms of transportation. This means stepping up efforts to collect data on sidewalks the way we do for roads, investing in complete walking networks before engaging in expensive new road projects and making sidewalk construction and maintenance a municipal responsibility rather than an individual one.”
Child’s perspective of road safety
As adults, many of us seem to have forgotten how it was to be a child and to see things from a child’s perspective. This perspective is important in many cases, situations or scenarios. One area where we can use this perspective to improve how things are is in road safety. As they say, streets that are safe for children are safe for everyone else. I am sharing this guide that also includes a project involving coming up with a reverse periscope. The reverse periscope is intended for an adult to have the view of a child.
How Do Kids Experience Streets? The Reverse Periscope Companion Guide
This guide would be something that can be used in road safety seminars or workshops that include some field activities. Participants can use the reverse periscope to simulate being a child as they walk and cross streets. An activity can be designed for transport and highway officials, even local government staff involved in planning, design and assessment of streets.
Article share: Redesigning Streets for Livability: A Global View
I am sharing this article on redesigning streets. It is actually a promotion for a book: “Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities”.
To quote from the article:
“Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities is an expansive 270-page volume that explores the evolving potential of the most ubiquitous public space in our cities. It offers ideas, tactics and strategies from across the world on how our streets are being, and, can be rethought, recast, repurposed and redesigned towards greater resilience and resourcefulness. The globally diverse opinions and case studies in this book remind us why cities with limited means can offer profound lessons to affluent societies that take their prosperity for granted. And in turn, how the virtues of effective urban administration and reinforcement seen in developed societies could reassuringly serve to inspire less economically developed ones.”
Traffic congestion at the UP Diliman campus
The University of the Philippines returned to face-to-face classes last week. That meant many students who have been admitted to the various programs of the university finally set foot on campus. Many, unsurprisingly, drove their own cars or were driven by their parents who themselves may probably were first-timers on campus, too. And given that many students come from middle to upper class families (they are the ones coming from the better schools and more likely to be admitted to UP), it is not surprising that many if not most have cars. The result is vehicles going around the campus even for short trips that could have been made by walking or cycling. Public transportation in the form of jeepneys were also affected as their routes were clogged by private cars. Jeepney users ended up similarly caught in traffic.
The same week, the UP Fair was also held. This was the first UP Fair in 2 years after the lockdowns. The trips generated by activities associated with the Fair contributed to the congestion along the main roads in the campus core. Note that much of the Academic Oval remained closed to traffic and these roads are the widest on campus. Still, portions were open to general traffic including sections to access the parking lot across from Palma Hall.
Will this congestion persist or will it go away eventually? Are a significant part of this actually through traffic? We’ll know very soon for sure once students settle down and realize going around on their cars are not the way to travel around the campus.
[Updates on this later]
Top urban problems in Metro Manila
I was looking for material to include in my introductory lecture for a graduate class. I came upon this slide from the study “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas (Region III and Region IV-A)” that was conducted by JICA through a consulting firm and completed in 2014. The slide shows the top three urban problems identified in Metro Manila (or perhaps what we now refer to as Mega Manila or, as what was tagged as NCR plus during this pandemic).
Traffic congestion was identified as one of the top problems if not the top problem itself. This is not independent of the other two (or other problems identified in the survey). All of them are intertwined somehow as illustrated in the simple Venn diagram in the slide. Affordable housing, for example, affects our transportation system and puts much pressure to transportation infrastructure development as well as to the provision of transport services. People continue to choose living in the periphery of Metro Manila or outside NCR because of the expensive residential choices particularly in the CBDs where most people have their workplaces and where many of the elite schools are also located. These people would have to commute long distances and experience longer travel times than what seems to be the reasonable. The result is loss in productivity and transport related costs that include fuel and maintenance costs.
What do you think about these urban problems? How can be address them in a comprehensive manner?
Early risers and commuters
I was half surprised the other day when I went out to go to our office at 5:00 AM. I am no stranger to early morning or very late night travels including driving myself. I’ve done so under various circumstances before including going to the airport for an early flight or driving to a hospital due to an emergency. You don’t see many people waiting for rides at 11:00 PM or perhaps 3:00 AM. These are basically what people refer to as ‘unholy’ hours. People are asleep during these times. If not, they probably are working the so-called graveyard shift. The latter used to be for workers employed in facilities like factories that usually operate 24/7. Nowadays, these include business process outsourcing (BPO) workers who are active in part due to their employers being in countries in different time zones (e.g., US and Europe).
At one point before the pandemic, transport and traffic had become so bad that people had to leave their homes earlier than when they had. For example, instead of leaving at 7:00 AM, employees had to leave at 6:00 AM in order to reach their workplaces at 8:00 AM. Students have to leave at 5:30 AM to reach their schools at 7:00 AM. Now that we are still in a pandemic but returning to the ‘old normal’ it seems to have become worse than before.
At one point during the pandemic, a senior transport official stated that people will just have to wake up earlier if they want to get to their destinations on time. Whether this was serious or in a joking manners, to tell people to wake up early (or earlier) if they want to get a comfortable ride or just even to get a ride is insensitive. It only shows officials to be uncaring. But that probably is linked to their being elitist or privileged that they cannot even empathize with the regular commuters. With a new administration in place, we seem to have more of the same kinds of officials in our transport agencies but hopefully, the younger staff can convince their bosses to be otherwise and really work towards improving commutes.
Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability
Here is a quick share of an article about the link between walkability and affordable housing.
“While early pandemic pundits predicted the ‘death’ of urban areas, recent trends show that people—perhaps more than ever—value the benefits of compact development and easily accessible amenities and services. But “Demand drives up costs and can reduce low- and moderate-income households’ opportunity to live in highly walkable areas,” the report warns.”
Source: Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability
Some people seem to be baffled why people choose to purchase homes and reside in the suburbs or away from the city centers. It is actually simpler than what many tend to overthink and attribute purely to the condition of our transportation system. It takes two (or more apparently) to tango and housing affordability is critical for the Philippines’ case.