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I end the year with commentaries on transport issues. I recently responded to a request for an interview. This time, it was not possible to do it in person so we corresponded through email. Here are my responses to the questions sent, which are mainly about the public utility vehicle modernization program of the government.
· Will old-school jeepneys finally disappear on Philippine roads before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends, barely three years from now? What is a more realistic timeline of jeepney modernization?
Old school jeepneys won’t disappear from Philippine roads. For one, the modernization program has slowed down a bit and even the DOTr and LTFRB have stated and admitted that it is not possible to have 100% modernization before the end of term of the current administration. It’s really difficult to put a timeline on this because of so many factors that are in play including social, political, institutional and economic ones. The technical aspects are not issues here as there are many models to choose from and suitable for replacing jeepneys in terms of capacity.
· What are the bumps on road to jeepney modernization?
As mentioned earlier, there are many factors in play here. Economic/financial-related bumps pertain mainly to vehicle prices. The new models are quite pricey but it should be understood that this is also because the new ones are compliant with certain standards including technical and environmental ones that most ‘formally’ manufactured vehicles must pass unlike so-called customized local road vehicles (CLRV) like the conventional jeepneys. The financial package is not affordable to typical jeepney operators/drivers. The cost of a modern jitney (the technical term for these vehicle types) is close to an SUV and revenues may not be able to cover the combination of down payment, monthly payments, and operations & maintenance costs of the vehicle.
· Should local government units dictate the pace of jeepney modernization, not national agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board? Why?
I think the word “dictate” may be too strong a term to use. Instead, I prefer the word “manage”. After all, LGUs are supposed to capacitate themselves to be able to rationalize and manage public transport operations. That is why the DOTr and the LTFRB are requiring them to formulate and submit for evaluation and approval Local Public Transport Route Plans (LPTRP). Though the deadline was supposed to be 2020, the agencies have relaxed this deadline after few submissions from LGUs. Few because there were only a few who were capable or could afford consultants to prepare the plans for the LGUs. These plans should be comprehensive covering all modes of public transport including tricycles and pedicabs that are already under the LGUs. Buses, jeepneys, vans and taxis are still under the LTFRB. Plans may also contain future transport systems that are being aspired for by LGUs such as rail-based mass transit systems and other such as monorail or AGT.
· Transport groups like PISTON are against drivers and operators merging into cooperatives. Is consolidation into cooperatives unworkable? Why?
I think consolidation into cooperatives is workable and should be given a chance. Unfortunately, there are still few examples of successful transport cooperatives. And the success also depends on the routes served by their vehicles. And that is why there is also a need to rationalize transport routes in order to ensure that these are indeed viable (i.e., profitable) for drivers and operators.
Another angle here is more political in nature. Note that while PISTON and other like-minded transport groups oppose cooperativism, there are others that have embraced it and even went corporate to some extent. Perhaps there is a fear of a loss in power that the leaders of these opposition transport groups have wielded for a long time? Perhaps there’s a fear that success of cooperatives means the drivers and operators will turn to cooperativism and leave those transport groups? Surely there are pros and cons to this and groups should not stop being critical of initiatives, government-led or not, that will affect them. This should be constructive rather than the rant variety but government should also learn to accept these rather than dismiss them or be offended by them as is often the case.
More comments in the next year!
The connections between transit stations in Singapore show us examples of how to encourage people to walk long distances. The links, mostly underground, are interconnected with branches to common exits to hotels, office and residential buildings. These are basically transit malls lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. There are even gyms (e.g., UFC) and play venues along some connections.
Underground transit mall between a City Hall Station (red line) and Esplanade Station (orange line)
The connection is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops
Singapore’s underground connections reminded me of similar structures in Tokyo and Yokohama. You can just walk underground and come up near your destination. This is especially advantageous and comfortable during the summers when the hot weather becomes a detriment to walking outdoors. Underground transit malls or connections are usually air-conditioned or air is pumped into them for ventilation. As such, temperatures are significantly lower compared to the surface/ground. Will we have similar facilities/developments here in the Philippines and particularly in Metro Manila once the MM Subway is developed?
The recent trip to Singapore was like a sentimental journey for us. We had lived in the Lion City for almost 2 years and consider this a second home (actually a close third for me because I consider Yokohama as a second home having lived there for 3 years). Among the things we truly missed about Singapore aside from friends (many of whom have already moved to other countries) and food were the public transport and the walking. Singapore is a walkable city and the excellent public transport along with the land use planning has allowed healthier commutes for people.
The environment along Orchard Road is inviting and conducive for walks.
Wide sidewalks can accommodate more people and don’t make it feel so crowded even during the peak hours.
It was easy to log more than 10,000 steps per day in Singapore. In fact, I was happy to have walked an average of 11,000+ steps per day for the 3 days were there. One could only hope we can have similar infrastructure in the Philippines.
More on walking and public transport in Singapore soon.
The sidewalks around the University of San Jose Recoletos in Cebu City are named Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo de San Jose. Here are a few photos on Paseo de Recoletos.
Arcade-type walkway along the perimeter of the University of San Jose Recoletos. This part is the Paseo de Recoletos along Magallanes Street and across from the Freedom Park Market. The other is Paseo de San Jose but is not wholly covered. The latter is along P. Lopez Street.
The Paseo leads to the church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which is on the second level from the ground.
View of the Paseo de Recoletos from our vehicle. Note the architectural details on the USJR building.
Another view of the Paseo de Recoletos
The main gate of the USJR is at the corner of Magallanes and P. Lopez Streets. The photo capture the view towards P. Lopez and the side of the university along this street is Paseo de San Jose.
Frontage of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish Church, which is integrated with the main building of the university, which is run by the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR).
Scenes along the Paseo de Recoletos included overloaded jeepneys, motorcycle taxis and various vendors both mobile and those who’ve set up shop across the street.
Vegetable vendor pushing a cart containing his merchandise
Scenes like these are common in many Philippine cities especially the old ones that have narrow streets and have retained much of the commerce in many areas around the city centre. It gives you a glimpse of the marketplace and commerce before the arrival of the large malls. Of course, there are what are already termed as malls around the area but these are more like large department stores than the types of SM City, Ayala Center and Robinsons Place.
Last month when we were in Cebu to coordinate with our counterparts at the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJR), I took some quick photos of the sidewalk scenes near the university. We stayed at a nearby hotel so that meant we only needed to walk to/from USJR for our meetings. Here are some of those photos.
Many buildings in the downtown area have designs where sidewalks are practically covered, protecting pedestrians vs. the elements. This alludes to arcade design architecture you find in many old cities’ downtowns including Manila, Iloilo and Bacolod.
There are many shops and stores at ground level. Depending on the area, there will be hardware stores, electronic stores, school supplies and others.
Along some streets, one will find makeshift stalls occupying the road itself. I assume these are allowed by the city along certain streets.
Typical street vendor with his mobile store. Fruits, local delicacies and snacks, and refreshments are popular.
I believe these scenes reflect on the character of the city and gives the visitor a view of life in the downtown area of the city, which in this case is Cebu, the oldest city in the country. I will be back in Cebu soon and will be taking more photos around downtown. I’ll be posting these, too.
Here are a couple of references/resources for pedestrian and cycling safety. These are guidelines and countermeasure selection systems that were developed under the Federal Highway Administration of the US Department of Transportation:
- Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System
- Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System
These guides are designed to be practical and should be helpful to practitioners/professionals, policymakers as well as researchers. These would be people looking for references to use in designing or revising (correcting?) existing conditions or situations in order to enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists who are among the most vulnerable of road users.
Here is another quick post on another article I am sharing showing the importance of sustainable transport:
Milner, D. (2019) How sustainable transport can save the world, medium.com, https://medium.com/@djjmilner/how-sustainable-transport-can-save-the-world-f2f64517dc52 [Last accessed: 4/9/2019]
It goes without saying that sustainable transport has a lot of potential for helping mitigate climate change and other issues but much is expected of our leaders for policies and program & project development & implementation towards achieving sustainable transport in our cities and municipalities.