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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 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:

Mobilizing sustainable transport for development

The United Nations (UN) has recently published a new report on “Mobilizing sustainable transport for development” authored by a High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport formed by the UN. The report and other resources may be found at the following website:

Secretary General’s High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport

This is under the UN’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. You can check out the other materials at the website. The UN has many initiatives on sustainable transport and has been very active in promoting or advocating for sustainable transport for a long time now. It is through the UN Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), for example, that the Philippines and other ASEAN countries were able to formulate their national EST strategies. The new report continues on the UN’s commitment to promote sustainable transport to improve people’s lives around the world.

10 principles for sustainable urban transport

We start October with a graphic on sustainable transport. I first saw this shared on social media (FB) by the Clean Air Asia. The organizations behind it are on the graphic itself so I don’t have to list them down for the reader. This is a good material to share and learn from especially for those who don’t have a clear idea of what sustainable transport is and is all about. As they say, pictures paint a thousand words. And illustrations such as this convey so much about sustainable transport in the urban setting in layman’s terms.

st10principles

Progress in promoting and realizing sustainable transport in the Philippines

There is a very good article that came out of Rappler last March 28, 2016:

Creating sustainable transport systems: PH’s progress so far

The article caught my attention as I have lost track of what should be the monitoring of sustainable transport initiatives anchored on the pillars of EST as described in the National EST Strategy and the article. The formulation of the national EST strategy started under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza) and was completed under President Benigno C. Aquino III (DOTC Secretary Jose Dela Cruz). The formulation was initiated and supported by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) and is unique partly because it is the only one to be completed among similar projects across ASEAN. The other countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia were only able to get to the baseline and consultations stages of their own national EST strategy formulations. The Philippines National EST Strategy document eventually became an input for the formulation of the National Transport Policy Framework (supported by AusAID) as well as the National Transport Infrastructure Framework (supported by the WB).

Looking back at EST social marketing

With all that are happening today that are related to sustainable transport, I tend to pause and look back with a smile on how it was more many years ago when we were struggling to promote environmentally sustainable transport (EST). At that time, most local government units were not yet into sustainable transport and were unaware of the principles. There were a few who already had a project or program in place but didn’t know that these were classified as EST.

CAPACITY-BUILDING AND SOCIAL MARKETING FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT

Under the project, we identified several local good practice examples for EST and invited representatives of those LGUs to spread the word to other LGUs. Those who regularly went with us to promote EST were representatives of the Marikina City Bikeways Office, and San Fernando, La Union’s City Planning Office who shared their experiences in phasing out 2-stroke motorcycle-run tricycles.

I recall that one major Visayan city wasn’t so receptive at the time as the City Planning Coordinator seemed more interested in international trainings and foreign assisted projects than the city actually developing sustainable programs and projects on its own. The irony now is that despite his being not so excited about sustainable transport that city now has good examples for EST including a bicycle corridor and pedestrian and bike-friendly riverside developments.

But there was the case of the very receptive and progressive City Planning Coordinator of another major Visayan city who helped us immensely in promoting EST. His eagerness, particularly for public transport options, paved the way for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to gain a foothold in the discussions paving the way for more efficient transit systems to be considered (and now planned and designed) for his city. That interest led to his city getting the attention of an international agency that brought in then former mayor and now the recently re-elected Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa, to do talks about his city’s Trans Milenio BRT system. I remember a couple of visits of Mr. Penalosa including a series of dinner meetings sponsored by the private sector in Makati City who were interested in the Bogota’s transport success story.

We always wondered who, when and how EST would be advocated by others and particularly by a younger generation who would turn out to be more outspoken and aggressive in promoting EST. These include those calling for better public transport systems, those advocating for pedestrian and bicycle facilities, those pushing for safer roads, and those lobbying for clean air. With all that we are seeing now around us (Congratulations Firefly Brigade for a very successful Tour of the Fireflies last Sunday!) and on various media platforms, I strongly believe that we are on the right path towards achieving better quality, sustainable and equitable transport for everyone.

Technology-driven transit system development

The proposed UP transit system, whether it will be an AGT or a monorail, is a technology-driven project. As such, it can be argued that it does not need hard studies to establish the need for the system. Indeed, it is packaged as a prototype and one which, if implemented properly, will hopefully be a good example that can be deployed elsewhere where such a system is necessary. Such places may include CBDs like the rapidly emerging one in Bonifacio Global City or in small cities where there is a need for a more efficient form of mass transportation but could not afford the conventional MRTs or LRTs that have been constructed in Metro Manila. Also, a significant part of the initiative is the development of the vehicle, which is being undertaken by the DOST’s MIRDC. Their design and their production process should be replicable and they should have been able to bring down the costs according to the marching orders of their Secretary. After all, this system is being touted as something that would cost a fifth of a conventional system.

The conventional way of planning, designing and building transit systems require a lot of studies including the so-called ridership studies that would establish the demand for the system. Of course, there are also considerations pertaining to the stations and analysis of the superstructure that will also cost something. It is no joke that the best examples of AGTs or monorails in other countries are priced so because of all the effort and expertise that went into their developments. We should not kid ourselves by claiming this will cost much less because we did not take into consideration just compensation to people who will be devoting their time and expertise to develop a “home-grown” version of what has been built in other cities. We shouldn’t also sacrifice the quality of the superstructure that includes the stations just because we want to reduce costs. We have to keep in mind that the infrastructure should be able to resist typhoons and the possibility of earthquakes. The foundations for the columns, in fact, should be designed well considering UP’s soil characteristics.

On Wednesday I might just get my first look at the prototype vehicle when I visit the DOST for a meeting not quite related to the proposed transit system although it would be about customized vehicles. The vehicle that is the rolling stock for the proposed system is supposed to have already been built and being tested on a very limited basis at the DOST compound. Perhaps I can see for myself if it is something that will eventually be an impressive piece or something that will need much work once it is brought to UP.