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On the war vs. cars and the need to engage in discussions on this topic

There is an increasing awareness for the problems brought about by car-oriented transportation in many cities and towns. These include needless widening of roads, road crashes, and traffic congestion. Then, there are also what we seem to take for granted like air pollution, noise and fuel consumption that are also attributable to the over-dependence on cars. Here’s a nice article about the arguments for more people-oriented transport and how having the latter will benefit us:

Marx, P. (2018) The war against cars will ultimately be won – and that’s good for everyone, https://medium.com/@parismarx/the-war-against-cars-will-ultimately-be-won-and-thats-good-for-everyone-a57b2983c81d [Last accessed: 12/7/2018]

Don’t get me wrong. Though the wording or title seems to stating that cars are “evil” we should still be grounded in the fact that there should be a balance among transport modes. There is still a need to determine which are most suitable for different people with different trip purposes and other characteristics. It is always easy to state (or shout out?) slogans or mantras for sustainable transport when in reality it is challenging to implement these given the various factors in play. That includes changing mindsets especially among the decision-makers. I like to recall what a good friend always asks/says when a discussion on this topic arises: “What mode do you use to travel between your home and office? If you’re dependent on a car, then perhaps its difficult to have the perspective of a public transport user or a cyclist or a pedestrian.” But then that statement also works the other way if you’re open-minded enough to understand why people are dependent on cars in the first place. Likely, the discussions will expand to include housing even the selection of schools for your children. And these types of discussions are exactly what we need to indulge in, and engage our leaders and those coming forward as candidates for elective posts next year.

Article on induced demand and why more roads mean more traffic

Here is a nice article about induced demand, which is simply the additional traffic you get on top of the current and estimated traffic from “normal” growth based on the current transportation system and infrastructure once you introduce additional services and/or infrastructure. That is, there is additional trips/traffic generated for when you widen roads or construct a new transit system.

VannPashak, J. (2018) “More roads, same congestion,” http://www.medium.com, https://medium.com/@jvannpashak/more-roads-same-congestion-b2b437ecaa94 [Last accessed: 11/22/2018]

I think the more interesting part of the article is its mention of the work of Redmond and Mokhtarian, which the author provides in a link. Clicking this link brings you to a wealth of articles attributed to the two that are definitely worth reading especially for people seeking understanding for issues related to commuting. Many of the researches and the methodologies in the articles may be replicated for application in the Philippines, and should be taken on as research topics in what can be inter-disciplinary programs or projects.

On school trip generation

I chanced upon the changing of the shifts for a national high school. This was the time of day when the morning shift students were dismissed (i.e., coming out of school) and the afternoon shift students were coming in.

Students come out of the school to mainly either walk or take public transport (mostly tricycles) to their homes.

Most vehicles give way to people, especially students, crossing the busy street. There are usually traffic aides in the area who help manage traffic and to ensure pedestrians may safely cross or move about.

There are no severe traffic congestion here unlike those generated by many exclusive or private schools. There is actually a private school just beside this public high school that also generates significant private vehicle traffic but somehow manages not to congest this major road that’s part of the L. Sumulong Memorial Circle the way another private school congests Sumulong Highway in the mornings.

Is this simply because of the school being a public school as compared with private schools? Perhaps it is, given the perceived disparity in income classes concerning those going to typical public schools and those going to typical exclusive schools. But income disparity aside, wouldn’t it be possible for most students to just walk or take public transport to school? I actually envy the public school students in the photos above as they can walk to school. And that is because they likely live near the school, which is something that is a desirable situation if public schools are at least at par in quality with the more established private schools (especially the sectarian ones where many parents likely prefer their children to go to). This disparity in quality leads to people residing in relatively long distances away for the preferred schools to travel (often with their private vehicles) to and from the exclusive schools. The point here is that it really is more complicated than what it seems in terms of trip generation.

On the need to increase NMT and public transport use

A recent report reinforces what many of us already probably know or are aware of – that we need to shift away from dependence on car use to more sustainable modes of transport in the form of non-motorised transport (NMT) and public transportation. Here is the article from the AASHTO Journal:

Global Climate Report Calls For Expansion Of ‘Non-Motorized’ Transport And Public Transit (2018)

There is a link to the report in the journal article. The report is conveniently available in PDF form and is very readable (i.e., not overly technical).

Incidentally, I was involved some time ago in a project led by the group Clean Air Asia (CAA), which involved several experts from across ASEAN as well as Japan that attempted to determine the necessary transport programs and projects in the region to stave off the projected increase in global temperatures. In all the scenarios evaluated, non-motorised transport (NMT) and a rationalised public transportation system By the term ‘rationalised’ I am referring to the use of higher capacity vehicles as against the taxis and tricycles that typically carry few if not one passenger. Here is a link to the final symposium for that study that has links to the materials presented:

The Final Symposium on the “Study on Long Term Transport Action Plan for ASEAN”

Here’s a slightly updated slide on the future image for a large city in the Philippines:

On EDSA transport and traffic, again

There’s a recent decision by the Metro Manila Council (MMC) comprised of the mayors of the cities and municipality of Metro Manila and chaired by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair that vehicles bearing only one passenger (the driver) will be banned from travelling along EDSA. The problem with this is that by banning cars with one passenger from EDSA, you only succeed in making other roads like C5 more congested. It’s a simple case of transferring traffic and worsening it elsewhere since you’re not doing anything to alleviate congestion along those roads. Did MMDA run this and other scenarios using analytical or simulation tools at their disposal? If so, can these be shown and used to explain the soundness of this policy approved by the MMC? I suspect they didn’t and likely depended more on gut feel based on the data they have including what is often reported as 70% of vehicles traveling along EDSA having only one passenger. Meanwhile, the state of mass transit along EDSA still sucks.

IMG_3028A very crowded Boni Avenue Station platform (photo courtesy of Mr. Raul Vibal)

Of course, the pronouncement from the MMDA launched quite a lot of memes on social media. Some people shared the typical quotes on planning (you know, like the ones about planning for people vs. planning for cars). Some offered their own ideas about how to “solve” traffic along EDSA. And so on…that only succeeded in showing how everyone had an opinion about transport and traffic. Everyone is an expert, so it seems.

Some thoughts and not in any order:

  • The government can initially dedicate a lane each for express buses (a la Bus Rapid Transit or BRT). This idea has been circulating for quite some time now and has a good chance of succeeding. The DOTr is already deploying buses that they say are supplementing the MRT 3 trains (i.e., there aren’t enough trains running so passengers have the option of taking a bus instead). Running along the inner lanes of EDSA would mean, however, that they would have to find a way for passengers to cross the road and one idea would be for the stations to be retrofitted for this purpose.
  • Those cars along EDSA are not necessarily for short trips so walking and cycling while needing space may have less impact in the immediate term for such a corridor. In the meantime, serious consideration should be made for bike lanes whether on the ground or elevated and improvements to walking spaces.
  • But these efforts to improve passenger (and freight) flows should be a network-wide thing and not just along EDSA.
  • It’s time to have serious discussions and perhaps simulations (even a dry run) of congestion pricing in Metro Manila. Congestion pricing for all major roads and not just one or two. Funds collected goes to mass transit, walkways and bikeways development. DOTr was supposed to have already discussed an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system like Singapore’s with the company and people behind the same in the city-state. That doesn’t seem to be moving along.
  • Working and studying from home might work in terms of reducing vehicular traffic but then we generally have lousy internet services so that’s a barrier that needs to be broken down.
  • How about legalizing, once and for all, motorcycle taxis? Many are opposed to this citing safety concerns but then we are running out of options outside the usual motherhood statements pertaining to building transport infrastructure. Think about it. Give it a chance. These motorcycles might just surprise us in a nice way; that is, helping alleviate congestion.
  • Carpooling and lanes dedicated to High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) would be good but the LTFRB made a pronouncement about these being illegal as they would be considered ‘colorum’. Such statements do not make the situation any easier and sends mixed signals as to the government’s being serious in considering all possible angles to improve transport and traffic particularly for commuting.

Do you have other ideas to share?

On healthier cities and encouraging walking

It’s a Sunday and the sun is up after days of rain so it would be a good time to be outdoors. Here is a nice article for the fitness buffs out there. Many of us have sedentary lifestyles and this has come as no surprise with the how we work and study as well as the influence of tech in our everyday activities. Even as I write this, I am sitting in front of my desk and have only my fingers and hands working. The rest of me is inactive except perhaps my senses and my brain. 🙂

Merle, A. (2018) “The Healthiest People in the World Don’t Go to the Gym,” medium.com, https://medium.com/s/story/the-healthiest-people-in-the-world-dont-go-to-the-gym-d3eb6bb1e7d0 [Last accessed: 8/1/2018].

I miss the times when I was living in Japan and when we were living in Singapore mainly because I was able to have a more active lifestyle in the cities where I lived. I walked and biked a lot when I was in Yokohama, Tokyo and Saitama, and later walked a lot around Singapore. I/we didn’t need a car as the public transportation was excellent and so were the pedestrian infrastructure. I recall walking between our laboratory at Yokohama National University and the dormitory, and later the Sotetsu Line Kami-Hoshikawa Station almost everyday. And then climbing up and down the hills of Yamate on Sundays. I can walk around Tokyo on my own and finding my way through shopping streets especially in Akihabara and Ueno. Of course, my favourite places would always include Kamakura, which can be reached via a train ride from Yokohama Station. The wife and I loved walking around Singapore and exploring places on foot. Indeed, you can be healthy and have a workout everyday without being too conscious about it!

Increasing the number of TNVS units? Not so fast!

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is planning to increase the number of TNVS units (i.e., rideshare vehicles) in Metro Manila to meet what is perceived as the demand for them based on the numbers provided by TNCs like Grab. The problem with this number they want to eventually achieve, 65,000 units supposedly, is that this is based on current transport conditions in the metropolis. Also, this is based on data that is biased for the interests of TNCs, which obviously want to increase their driver and vehicle base in order to maximise profits. Here is a nice article that should provide some context from abroad where rideshare vehicles are actually generating more car traffic and taking people away from public transport.

Fried, B. (2018) “Uber and Lyft Are Overwhelming Urban Streets, and Cities Need to Act Fast,” Streetsblog, https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/07/25/uber-and-lyft-are-overwhelming-urban-streets-and-cities-need-to-act-fast/ [Last accessed: 7/26/2018]

Currently under construction are the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension projects and soon there will also be the Line 1 Extension. Also, in the pipeline are the proposed subway and rehabilitation of PNR that is supposed to revitalise its commuter line. These are examples of projects that will likely be game changers in terms of commuting with the objective of drawing people away from car use. In the bigger scheme of things, perhaps there is a need to rethink numbers for TNVS and instead focus on improving taxi services in Metro Manila. The same can be said for other cities as well where there is already a need for better public transport services to avert a transport future similar to what Metro Manila is already experiencing now.