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Why do we keep widening roads?

I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.

 

Another definition of the 15-minute city

We begin 2023 with an informative article defining the “15-minute city”. This is actually an entry in Planetizen’s Planopedia, which contains definitions of fundamental concepts in urban planning:

Ionescu, D. (December 2022) “What is a 15-minute City?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/15-minute-city?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-12292022&mc_cid=ee083e2ee7&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 1/1/2023]

 

I’ve written and shared articles about this concept before. Here are a couple from 2021 where I offered my opinions about the concept as already applied in the Philippines:

https://d0ctrine.com/2021/08/13/on-defining-the-15-minute-city/

https://d0ctrine.com/2021/04/07/didnt-we-already-have-15-minute-cities-and-towns-in-the-philippines/

On making streets safer through woonerfs

One of the new things I learned when I was taking up transportation planning as an undergraduate student in the 1990s was about the woonerf. Our teacher then was a Visiting Professor from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He introduced to us many concepts in that elective course that paved the way to a number of us proceeding to specialize in transportation. What is a woonerf? Well, here’s a nice article defining the woonerf and providing some examples:

Ionescu, D. (October 6, 2022) “What is a Woonerf?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/woonerf?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10062022&mc_cid=9d60b3d668&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/10/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Translated as “living street,” a woonerf employs strategies like traffic calming devices and low speed limits to force drivers to slow down and safely share street space with pedestrians, cylists, and others, often without raised curbs separating cars and pedestrians. In the Netherlands, where the woonerf originated in the 1960s, motorized traffic within woonerf zones is limited to walking speed…

…A woonerf is not a pedestrianized street, but rather one where multiple users and vehicles co-exist. However, a woonerf can be converted to car-free uses using bollards or other barriers. The woonerf maintains utilitarian uses like loading docks and parking while making the roadway safer and more accessible to non-drivers.”

There should be many applications to the woonerf in the Philippines especially in areas where the dominant land use is residential and through traffic should be discouraged. This is goes well with the complete streets concept that is now being promoted and in fact pre-dates the concept and was well ahead of its time.

On development density and transportation

The term ‘density’ here does not refer to transport or traffic density in the traffic engineering sense but to density of development such as urban density or building density. Here is an interesting article about building during a climate crisis. While it is very much applicable to any situation, the need to revisit plans and designs has become more urgent with the current pandemic.

Alter, L. (November 19, 2021) “What’s the Right Way to Build in a Climate Crisis?” Tree Hugger, https://www.treehugger.com/what-is-right-way-to-build-in-climate-crisis-5210156 [Last accessed: 2/23/2022]

There are mentions to various references throughout the article so it is not entirely an opinion piece but supported by evidence or studies. There is also a note that the article has been fact-checked. Quoting from the article:

“Adding gentle density can help ensure there are enough people in a neighborhood to support local schools, health, and community services and keep shops and restaurants open. It can provide a range of housing types and tenures that support the needs of individuals and families throughout all stages of life and allow for aging in place. It can also support public transit services, providing residents with efficient and affordable transportation options without relying on private automobiles.”

What do you think is the ‘right’ density for Philippine cities and municipalities?

Article on evaluating transport equity

Here is another quick share of an article on transportation equity:

Litman, T. (February 2, 2022) “Evaluating Transportation Equity: ITE Quickbite,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/news/2022/02/116058-evaluating-transportation-equity-ite-quickbite [Last accessed: 2/4/2022]

Transportation equity is a very relevant, very timely topic as people in the Philippines are just beginning to understand and weigh the advantages of having more efficient transport in the forms of active and public transport over private vehicles.

On transport equity

To start the year 2022, I’m sharing another article by Todd Litman. I thought this was a timely one as this is basically about transport equity and the results despite competent planners and perhaps good intentions.

Litman, T. (December 21, 2022) “Good Planners: Bad Outcomes. How Structural Biases Can Lead to Unfair and Inefficient Results,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/115621-good-planners-bad-outcomes-how-structural-biases-can-lead-unfair-and-inefficient?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-12232021&mc_cid=35d4ce69aa&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 12/27/2021]

There should be similar studies for the Philippine case. We need to understand and correct bad practices including those related to an over-reliance to what is referred to as “old school” practices (i.e., “nakasanayan na”, “ginagawa na noon pa”, and so on), which is what young engineers and planners are taught by the “old boys” in certain agencies as an initiation of sorts if not part of their ‘continuous orientation’ at these offices.

Cities and Automobile Dependence: What Have We Learned?

We end the year with an article from Todd Litman via Planetizen. The topic is something that we really need to ponder on as we or if we are to move towards more sustainable transportation for our cities and municipalities. The experiences during this Covid-19 pandemic should have provided us glimpses of how it could be if we put active and public transport above automobile dependence or car-centricity.

Source: Cities and Automobile Dependence: What Have We Learned?

The main article may be found here (in proper citation for academic/researchers reading this):

Newman, P. and Kenworthy, J. (2021) Gasoline Consumption and Cities Revisited: What Have We Learnt?. Current Urban Studies, 9, 532-553. doi: 10.4236/cus.2021.93032.

On parking minimums again

A recent development on parking minimums is about Toronto removing these for new residential developments:

Davis, E.N. (December 16, 2021) “Toronto Removes Parking Minimums for New Residential Developments,” Storeys, https://storeys.com/toronto-removes-parking-minimums-residential-developments/ [Last accessed: 12/23/2021]

Indeed, the building code and local government provisions for minimum numbers of parking spaces for various buildings translate into more expensive units for prospective residents or lessees. Perhaps someone should be collecting and analyzing the data on buildings such as high-rise residential and commercial developments? This is to have the numbers for an objective and factual discussion about parking minimums for these types of development. Here is an excerpt from the National Building Code showing examples of minimum parking requirements for residential buildings:

How many parking spaces are actually bought or leased/rented among the hundreds usually provided in buildings, to comply with building code and local government requirements? What is the ratio of parking slots per unit? Where are the trip-ends for these developments (especially for residential buildings)? The answers to these questions may help us understand the situation and formulate revisions to building code as well as local government requirements for the minimum number of parking spaces.

On housing and urban planning

I’m sharing this article on housing in Montreal. The relevance is basically related to urban planning and its implications to transportation.

Polese, M. (Winter 2020) “How One City Makes Housing Affordable: The Montreal Example,” City Journal, https://www.city-journal.org/montreal-affordable-housing#.YbQ7E3HXwwU.facebook [Last accessed: 12/18/2021]

I’ve shared and posted a few articles on housing before. These include my own opinions about housing and its close links to transportation. Having lived in Japan and Singapore, I I saw first hand how concepts like transit oriented development (TOD) and socialized housing were implemented. I think there’s a lot we can learn but haven’t so far from these examples that will also address problems associated with sprawl including the lagging development of transportation systems to cover the increasing demand.

On housing and transportation

I’ve written about how we should not be trying to isolate transportation as if it is singly at fault for the transport and traffic mess many of us are in at present. There are many factors affecting travel behavior including mode choice. Travel distances, travel times and mode choices are not a consequence of transportation system (including infrastructure) alone. Land development and pricing especially those pertaining to housing are critical in how people decide where to live. These are intertwined with transportation and can be quite complex without the proper data or information to help us understand the relationship. That understanding, we are to assume, should lead us to the formulation of policies intended to correct unwanted trends and perhaps encourage more compact developments that are closer to desirable concepts such as the 15-minute city.

Here is an interesting article to enrich the discussion on this topic:

Dion, R. (October 28, 2021) “Coupling Housing and Mobility: A Radical Rethink for Freeways,” Planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/features/115126-coupling-housing-and-mobility-radical-rethink-freeways?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-11012021&mc_cid=85ec2b565f&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1%5BLast accessed: 11/3/2021]

The first thing that came to my mind are residents of northern and southern Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces. Many chose to buy houses there and beyond (i.e., Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite) and yet work or study in Metro Manila CBDs like Makati, Ortigas and BGC. And they do use the tollways (e.g., NLEX, SLEX, CaviTEX, Skyway) to get to their workplaces and schools.

This is also a relevant and timely topic in the Philippines as many cities are already headed for sprawls that will inevitably put more pressure on transportation infrastructure development that usually leans towards car-oriented projects (e.g., road widening, new roads, flyovers, etc.) rather than people-oriented ones (e.g., modern public transportation systems, bikeways, pedestrian infrastructure). Note that only Tokyo has developed an extensive enough railway system to cover the sprawl that is the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, which if interpreted loosely also includes Yokohama, Kawasaki and Chiba in the sprawl. No, we cannot build as fast to have as dense a railway network as Tokyo’s or other cities with similar rail systems. And so we have to figure out another way to address this problem.