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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?

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.

On how communities should be?

This post is related to my recent post about Philippine cities and municipalities already somehow being 15-minute units. I am sharing another article I’ve read and reread for its current relevance.

Litman, T. (March 15, 2021) “A Complete Community is All Mixed-up,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/node/112565?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03222021&mc_cid=628c8ee4b1&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed:

The article is loaded with references that you can download and use in research or practice. And there are these two tables – Walk Score Ratings and Public Amenities – that are quick guides or references to what is desired to be achieved in communities.

Enjoy!

On the principles of good infrastructure

Since the Philippine government is engaged in its Build, Build, Build infrastructure development program, and agencies like the DPWH and DOTr often or regularly refer to what’s happening in the US in terms of projects, guidelines and standards, I am sharing the following article on the principle

Marshall, A. (March 18, 2021)“What Are the Five Principles of Good Infrastructure?” Governing.com, https://www.governing.com/community/Five-Principles-Good-Infrastructure.html [Last accessed: 4/5/2021]

Despite obviously being an article about US infrastructure in the context of the new administration there, there are just too many takeaways or relevant information here that applies to us and how we are developing and maintaining our infrastructure. To quote:

“First of all, cost matters. The evidence is pretty clear now that we pay several times more than other advanced nations to build transit infrastructure, particularly tunnels, and possibly highways as well. It appears we pay too much to build public parks.

Second, time matters. We still get estimates for infrastructure projects whose construction stretches into decades, when it should be a few years. Time relates to cost. Adding time makes projects more expensive.

Third, connections matter. Whether it’s a light-rail line joining up to a bus line, or an interstate exit linking to a town, the connections between infrastructure systems are important. High-speed rail lines need to intersect seamlessly with the cities they serve. Infrastructure can’t be designed in a vacuum. Urban planners and designers should be at the top of the infrastructure food chain, so that transportation and other departments work for comprehensive visions.

Fourth, design matters. Western Europe has been erecting light, airy bridges for decades, while we have continued to build heavy concrete slabs. This is changing, but we lag behind other countries in the design quality of everything from bridges to subways.

Finally, ownership matters. Even the best-designed and swiftly built infrastructure will turn bad if we give one or two private companies total control over them. As we use private companies for broadband, cable, telephones, data management and the power that runs our homes, we need to remember this. When we can’t (or won’t) have public systems, then the private ones need to be carefully managed.”

To what extent do you think these principles apply to our case?

On planning communities for children

I am currently involved in a project concerning child road traffic injury prevention (CRTIP). The topic of road safety is also close to my heart since a beloved aunt died due to injuries sustained after being hit by a jeepney. She was in great health and walked almost daily between our home in Iloilo and the church to hear Mass. Children and senior citizens are among the most vulnerable road users and so I believe we must address their needs more than able-bodied adults. That would probably make our communities safer and friendlier to most people. Here is an article that tackles planning for communities from the perspective of children and families:

Litman, T. (March 9, 2021) “Planning communities for children and families,” Planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/112498?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03112021&mc_cid=5a75b816a6&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed:  3/14/2021]

To quote from the article:

“Here is a summary of child-oriented urban design features:

  1. Children need opportunities to join a loose social group of other children without a formal—or prearranged—invitation to play.

  2. Children need access to safe, uninhibited outdoor play to support their physical and mental health. Outdoor play should include opportunities to interact with the natural environment—finding bugs, smelling flowers, playing in puddles, or collecting objects—without the need for excessive rules, oversight, or segregation.

  3. Children need environments that are safe from traffic, pollution, and undue physical or social hazards, including safe routes to and from school and local playgrounds, allowing them to travel throughout their neighbourhoods safely in order to develop confidence, resilience, and independence.

  4. Children need private spaces for themselves and their friends, including tree houses, forts, or clubhouses that are close to home yet away from public view. 5.

  5. Children need stable, appropriate, and affordable housing that provides them with private space to rest, study, and play.

  6. Children need local access to appropriate early childhood education, child care, and community schools.

  7. Children benefit from the opportunity for their parents to work locally.

  8. Children benefit from walkable communities, with infrastructure for safe walking, cycling, and recreation.

  9. Children benefit from diverse, multi-generational communities, where they can interact with—and learn from—children, adults, and seniors of all races, religions, cultures, and incomes.

  10. Children should be given an opportunity to effectively and productively participate in decision-making processes.”

On planning our cities from a child’s perspective

Wouldn’t it be interesting to find how children would plan their cities? No, this is not the lego building kind of exercise but something closer to actual planning exercises where children not only act as planners but stakeholders themselves. We always say they are the future and that know that they will inherit whatever good or bad we are doing now, and yet they have little say in that future. Perhaps we should heed what they think our cities require?

Ergler, C. (January 4, 2021) “Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities”, The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/young-children-are-intuitive-urban-planners-we-would-all-benefit-from-living-in-their-care-full-cities-151365 [Last accessed: 1/15/2021]

On solving the inequality problem in cities

Here is another quick share of an article that is timely and relevant not just now but for years (maybe decades?) to come:

Grossman, D. (2020) “New Study Proposes a Mathematical Solution to Big Cities’ Inequality Problem,” Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/science/a-new-study-shows-why-building-more-equal-cities-could-save-lives?link_uid=15&utm_campaign=inverse-daily-2020-09-14&utm_medium=inverse&utm_source=newsletter [Last accessed: 9/15/2020]

I will just leave it here for future reference but to summarize, the article explains how cities should be planned or replanned based on the distribution or redistribution of certain facilities like hospitals, banks, schools, supermarkets, and parks. It argues that there is an optimum location for these in relation to where people live and work. If properly planned, travel distances and times can be significantly reduced.

On the importance of trees in the urban setting

Having lived in two other countries and traveled in many others, I have seen and experienced for myself examples of tree lined avenues and streets in the urban setting. And I am not talking about small cities but big ones like Tokyo and Singapore. I have gone to many of the big cities in Japan to be able to say that trees should have their place in the so-called urban jungle and the benefits of having them are tremendous. Here is a nice article recently published in The Guardian that explains the advantages of green streets:

Balch, O. (2019) “Green streets: which city has the most streets?”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/nov/05/green-streets-which-city-has-the-most-trees [Last accessed: 11/08/2019]

Philippine cities should heed the advice from the author and city and municipal planners should make sure that plans incorporate trees and other flora. Obviously, they are not just ornamental but rather should be indispensable components of our towns whether it is highly urbanized or not. I guess the same concepts apply also to the roadsides of our national highways. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) clearly had little or no regard for greenery; chopping down even the elder trees along the way of their road widening programs. As such, they have contributed to blight along these roads and it would take some time and effort to bring back what used to be tree-lined, canopied roads in many provinces.

On the future of city streets

Here is another article, this time on the future of city streets. I had been sharing many of the ideas related in the article in the Transportation Engineering courses that I handle including those pertaining to the Complete Streets concept and road diets. The article is good reading material for my students who need to get out of the box (so to speak) of traditional civil engineering thinking regarding highways and streets. That is, we need to do more people-centred rather than car-centric designs.

Davidson, J. (2018) “What Is a City Street? And What Will It Become?”. New York Magazine. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/01/what-is-a-city-street-and-what-will-it-become.html [Last accessed: 2/2/2018].

Here is a photo I took in Iloilo City a couple of years ago showing the bikeway along the Diversion Road. The facility then was underutilized but was supposed to represent, along with the Promenade along the river and the redevelopment of the old airport site in Mandurriao, the revitalisation of the city. Meanwhile, there have been little done for the downtown streets.

Iloilo City provides a good example of the need to have a more holistic transformation rather than have some exhibition or demonstration pieces for inclusive transport here and there.