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An AGT at UP

The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and groundbreaking for a proposed prototype transit system at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus is scheduled for the morning of July 18, 2011, Monday. The site will be at the open lot near the corner of Lakandula and Jacinto Streets just across from the College of Fine Arts and near UP Diliman’s Campus Maintenance Office (CMO). The prototype system is a pet project of the DOST Secretary and was originally billed as the system to replace the IKOT jeepneys of UP Diliman. It will be a major undertaking for the university considering that its expertise (i.e., faculty, staff and students) will be tapped to undertake the studies and designs for the system. It will be a multi-disciplinary project that would involve architects, engineers and planners as well as social scientists who will be assigned with the unenviable task of securing social acceptability of the project.

The prototype system will have several phases in order to complete a loop. It is to be designed as a one-track, and therefore likely a one-way system. The “rolling stock” of modified buses each with a capacity of 60 passengers are supposed to have already been finished and are being tested at the DOST compound in Bicutan. It is still not known what the capacity of the system will be since there have been no studies to support demand (i.e., ridership), which will be affected by factors such as the route, direction and headways. among others. The project is one that is technology-driven rather than demand-driven. It is going to be an experimental system and one that will probably have to be tweaked from time to time given that it will be “home-grown” and attempting to reduce costs commonly associated with existing systems in other countries. Below is one of the proposed alignments for the system showing the initial phase from Philcoa (in yellow). The circles indicate the 2-minute walking distance radius although this is a crude concept considering people will be walking along the roads or sidewalks and not necessarily along a straight line leading to the proposed stations.

Whether it will eventually replace the jeepneys is still up in the air but the stakes are high considering that a locally made AGT may be transferable or feasible in other settings. Perhaps areas such as Bonifacio Global City, the reclamation areas along Macapagal Boulevard and even the Batasan can have their own AGTs in the future. My only hesitation for the prototype at UP Diliman is that it is still unclear who will be shouldering the operations and maintenance costs of a system that is sure to have revenues that won’t be able to cover such. Then there is the issue of aesthetics that cannot really be addressed now considering most plans are still in the minds of the proponents and have not been transferred unto the drawing boards or computers. We hope to be able to answer these questions and answer them correctly and appropriately. Otherwise, our legacy for the campus would be a white elephant that nobody would have wanted in the first place.