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On re-designing or re-imagining our transportation system for people

Here is another good read especially for those who advocate or even just beginning to appreciate the concept of people-oriented transportation:

VannPashak, J. (2018) “Design for humans as they are, not as you want them to be,” http://www.medium.com, https://medium.com/@jvannpashak/design-for-humans-as-they-are-not-as-you-want-them-to-be-ef95076c0988 [Last accessed: 11/23/2018].

In a recent symposium where I made a presentation about low carbon transport and visioning and re-imagining transport, I was asked how we can re-design our transportation to be more people-oriented than car-oriented. I replied that we have to do a lot of unlearning. That is, many planners and engineers would need to unlearn many things they’ve learned in school and those they got from their workplace. One convenient excuse for not coming up with a better design, for example, is that certain planners or engineers just followed what their offices or agencies have been doing. What if what their offices and agencies (and consequently their seniors at work) where wrong all these years and what was “ginagawa na” or “nakasanayan” have led to deficient outcomes? I even joked about whether these offices or agencies were “open minded” referring to a favourite by-line by networking companies. Being open-minded in the context of having people-oriented transport solutions would be difficult if everything was “nakakahon” because these were what you learned from school and/or the workplace. It is difficult to admit that something was and is wrong.

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 viability of bike lanes in the Philippines

I have been inserting topics on complete streets in the undergraduate and graduate courses I teach at university. Some students have also been researching on best practices and designs that they are supposed to apply to real world situations in Philippine cities. The results are still generally mixed but I like how my undergraduate students are able to grasp the concepts and apply them in the short time they have been ‘exposed’ to the concept. I thought my graduate students, most of them practicing engineers, found it more challenging to unlearn many of the things about street design they have learned from their schools including UP and DLSU, which I thought would have the more progressive programs in Civil Engineering.

Here are a couple of helpful articles that explain the business (economic) case for bike lanes. After all, the most persuasive arguments to convince LGUs to take on bike lanes will always be economics or business. That’s also how you can probably convince the business sector to pitch in and lobby for more active transport facilities especially in the downtown areas.

Jaffe, E. (2015) The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes, http://www.citylab.com, https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2RDPGy52R27zmpOAFVbiEWGZtMSjyr1Z3Kf56oPVoPI6LUfdreDWpBM5E [Last accessed: 11/1/2018]

Flusche, D. (2012) Bicycling Means Business, The economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, http://www.bikeleague.org, https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2RDPGy52R27zmpOAFVbiEWGZtMSjyr1Z3Kf56oPVoPI6LUfdreDWpBM5E [Last accessed: 11/2/2018]

One issue often brought up by opponents of bike lanes is that there are few references for bike lane design and operations in the country. Perhaps the only really comprehensive example is Marikina City though I know for a fact that the last three of their mayors (yes, including the incumbent) is not so keen about their bikeways. In fact, one mayor tried to dissolve the city’s bikeways office only to relent and allow it to exist but under one of its departments. Iloilo City is supposed to have some bike lanes but it is still more like a landscape architecture experiment than a fully functional system (sorry my katilingbans and panggas). And so we look to the more comprehensive experiences abroad for evidences of viability and success. The bottomline here is that I would rather ask how it can succeed here than state why it will not.

On hospital parking spaces

I had a nice view of the parking lot of the hospital where my mother-in-law was staying for a couple of days to recover from a bad case of dehydration. The doctors wouldn’t say it was severe but because Mama was 75 years old, they had to treat her condition. But that isn’t what I’d like to write about in this post. It’s really about parking.

I noticed from my times on hospital watch (relieving my wife who spent the couple of nights with her) that the parking lot didn’t get full during the day. The hospital was a good sized one and generated a lot of trips but mostly those taking public transport (mainly tricycles). But this was more a community hospital than one in the league of the St. Luke’s and Medical City, which generate much more private traffic and requires much more parking spaces.

A view of the parking lot of Clinica Antipolo

Friends have always made the observation that parking is difficult in the major private (e.g., St. Luke’s, Medical City, Makati Med,etc.) and public hospitals (e.g., PGH, NKTI, Philippine Heart Center, etc.). I agree with these observations as we have our own experiences where it was difficult to get parking spaces for when we go to these hospitals for check-ups or to visit relatives or friends admitted there. For one, these hospitals are the “go to” places for specialists and modern medical equipment, never mind that these are also the most expensive in terms of medical and laboratory/test expenses. I guess that to be a doctor with their practices in these hospitals means a lot and ups the prices of their services? I say that based also on observations that standard tests (blood, urine, stool, etc.) are much cheaper in other hospitals or clinics. Doctor’s professional fees, too, tend to be less expensive for when you consult with them in the ‘minor’ hospitals.

Major hospitals can also be teaching hospitals and I’m not just referring to internships or residents but medical schools hosted by the hospitals. And many did not consider these schools when the hospital buildings were initially built so schools don’t have their own parking spaces and patients, doctors, hospital staff and students end up competing for parking spaces. Medical City, for example, even instituted some parking fee measures to deter long term parking or those who appeared to have attempted to park for free and therefore occupying slots that would have otherwise have been revenue-generating for the hospital.

Of course, there would be those who would be reacting to this situation and say that people going to the hospital should be taking public transportation. Perhaps this is easier said than done for many cases in Metro Manila? I’m not familiar with similar conditions in other cities like Cebu, Iloilo and Davao but perhaps it is not as severe as those in major hospitals in the capital region. Major hospitals in Metro Manila also attract a lot of people from surrounding provinces like Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite. Again, this is because of the reputations of these hospitals. Even the current President went to Cardinal Santos Medical Center for his recent check-up.

And so the parking problem will persist unless there are better options for public transportation. Incidentally, ridesharing may have helped ease the parking dilemma since TNVS provides a very good alternative to the private car for such hospital trips. I do know Grab, for example, has booking booths at Medical City, Cardinal Santos and St. Luke’s. I personally don’t think additional parking spaces (or buildings) are required. It would be more like a parking management challenge for these hospitals. And in any case, these parking spaces would be mostly empty and therefore idle at night time and Sundays.

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:

The ill-located terminal at Ligaya along Marcos Highway

There is a newly constructed public transport terminal in what is popularly known as the Ligaya area along Marcos Highway in Pasig City. The terminal is right across from the new Ayala Feliz Mall. The terminal is mostly unused or under-utilised. The jeepneys and UV Express vehicles that were supposed to use the terminal seldom go there as the natural stop for most coming from Pasig to Marikina would be closer to the junction of Marcos Highway with Amang Rodriguez Avenue. There is also the U-turn slot nearby where many passengers dare to cross to in order to catch a ride. Sinasalubong ng mga tao ang jeepney na lumiliko dito and the traffic enforcers in the area generally turn a blind eye to this.

The practically empty terminal during evenings

Late at night, the terminal is dark with the lights turned off. Most times I pass by the area in the mornings and afternoons, there are few, if any, PUVs at the terminal and you don’t see a congregation of a lot of passengers there as with other terminals. Did Ayala make a mistake with this terminal? For one, it is known already that while this area is a transfer point for many passengers, the location of the terminal with respect to the established U-turn slots make it unsuitable and undesirable for most PUVs. Then there is the impending operations of the Line 2 Extension whose nearest station will be hundreds of meters away across Robinsons Metro East and Sta. Lucia Mall. I think Ayala needs to construct a physical connection to the terminal if only to increase the number of people going there and therefore attract PUVs. Finally, the area is not a terminus (or last stop) for PUVs so it doesn’t make sense for them to spend time there except perhaps during off-peak periods (i.e., for rest). However, it is not attractive even for the latter since there seems to be no amenities including stores or maintenance shops to support PUVs.

Article on housing and transportation

Here’s another excellent piece from Todd Litman about the dynamics of housing and transportation. This is a very relevant topic in many cities today and especially so for those like Metro Manila, which is struggling with issues pertaining to affordable housing and transportation infrastructure and services. Arguably, a lot of households are spending more than the 45% threshold of incomes mentioned in the article but people continue to get homes away from the city as these are relatively cheaper than those closer to their workplaces and schools. Unfortunately, transportation costs are on the rise and congestion and a lack of an efficient transport system are among the culprits for what many have already labelled as undignified and atrocious costs of commuting.

Litman, T. (2018) “Affordability Trade-Offs,” planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/99920?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-08092018&mc_cid=e2a69b6eb4&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 8/9/2018]

I envy the guy for being able to present these topics clearly. It is a complex subject and one that isn’t understood by many in government who are supposed to be responsible for crafting and implementing policies and programs to address issues pertaining to affordable housing and commutes. I wonder if Todd is coming over for the ADB Transport Forum. He’s make for a good resource person in some of the sessions there and perhaps can also be invited to speak about this and other relevant and urgent topics in a separate forum. Anyone out there care to sponsor him?