The SP and Mister PRT

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By Gary Covington

Looking In

Thursday, March 13, 2014


'Proposed transport system tackled today'

A HEADLINE that appeared the other Wednesday and I at first assumed our honorables were finally going to do something positive about Davao's Third World even by Third World standards public transport system. Maybe, even for a token downtown area, they were going to get rid of jeepneys and pedal-powered tricycles and go for a circular bus route or trams. Here was news of SP action, news of introducing some sort of mass transit system with a proper route, stops and schedule.

Silly me.

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Our honorables Committee on Transportation was to hear a proposal to set up - deep breath - an Elevated Rail-Personal Rapid Transport System (Snazzy acronym, Mister PRT System)   which, apparently, is a 'high level mini-taxi service where small, fully automatic, air-conditioned, driverless and lightweight pods are propelled by pollution free motors' I boggled and read on that the city is actually, seriously enough to hear a presentation, considering an elevated mono-rail system but instead of trains there'll be little plastic bubbles, thousands of them humming along. . . there was no illustration, so I thought I'd look.

There's quite a bit of promotional literature out there in cyberspace employing phrases like 'game changing', revolutionary', 'cutting edge 21st century' and one illustration of what looks like fairground Ferris wheel gondolas hanging from an mono-rail supported on two-storey utility poles. A clutter-free scene - no cables or wires festooned across the street, no beer streamers, no pedestrian overpasses, no lightpoles, no electric poles, no utilities at all. A great wide street, an even wider sidewalk, even a bike track, but where would they put it - a route outlined to the SP - on Davao's J. P. Laurel which for much of its length has no sidewalks at all? The promo-writers here lose touch with reality - 'on the sidewalks or inside hotels, malls, hospitals etc'. Even more make-believe is the building schedule - 2-3 months to design, 3-6 months for a one-mile test track, two years for the entire system and 'done only by 200-300 people' which is a far cry from the '10, 000 employed' quoted to the Committee on Transportation. And nowhere could I find news of a system up and running. Instead the worrying 'research funds are being sought' or 'if the project succeeds in drawing investors' and 'cities have shown interest'.

I can't quite believe that our councilors are considering such a scheme although it might have something to do with the proposed initial Davao route and stops; Airport, Damosa Lanang, SM Lanang, Abreeza, Victoria Plaza, Gaisano, City Hall – definitely attractive to our SP mall-lovers but hardly a public transport system for the masses. I'd suggest that if the city is considering such a proposal it might just as well ask for a quote from some fairground equipment manufacturer for a citywide rollercoaster. Scream along J. P. Laurel, Loop the loop around pedestrian overpasses, barf past Abreeza, pull 3gs on cathedral corner. Move the people wouldn't it?

Lastly lastly, still on a transport theme, and members of Tagum City's Special Task Group have completed a seven day course on motorcycle driving and riding. Top officials described it as a 'crash course'.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 13, 2014.

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