Observations from the Street Planning Perspectives

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Thursday, July 17, 2014


THERE are times when snippets of ideas seem better than writing an entire article focused on just one topic. There are so many urban issues that are interesting to write about... so many issues but so little space (to write on).

I wonder if the DPWH Davao City is getting ready to defy the city ordinance designating Pichon Street (formerly Magallanes) as a one-way street by reverting it back to a two-way street? It is good that after asphalting the concrete road, pavement markings designating lanes were painted but when the centerline was painted as a solid line then this marks the separation between two opposing lanes. So is it the fault of the contractor or by DPWH, which is supposed to monitor its road marking design? This exact thing happened a few years back in CM Recto and only when their attention was called did they erase the solid centerline. Such as waste in resources when expensive paint used for the wrong centerline marking could have instead been used in marking numerous pedestrian crossings of Pichon Street.

So far, DPWH has chosen to ignore the plight of cyclists by its non-action in realigning the concrete covers of its drainage manholes on the streets F. Torres. The concrete covers remain very dangerous to cyclists and motorcyclist alike because the covers are placed parallel to the roads making wide spaces where a foot or a wheel can fall through. Seems to confirm my suspicion that the so-called engineers of DPWH know only how to build roads but just do not know how to design it properly with road safety considerations. Very dangerous.

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A few weeks back, I had the chance to ride almost all of the public utility vehicles in a week. After riding an airplane to Manila, I rode a shuttle bus from the airport to the MRT station, which is a great idea in intermodal connectivity, rode an MRT where I was squeezed in like a sardine inside a tiny can, took a taxi where I spent two hours stuck in traffic, took a jeepney which made me sweat like I just came from a shower, rode a tricycle in Puerto Princesa, which functioned like the shuttle bus but more inconvenient and expensive, and rode a van-for-hire to El Nido, which was a very harrowing experience because our driver was driving erratically maybe because of lack of sleep or fatigue.

Of all modes, the most convenient would be the MRT ride because it was fast but with its limited trains during rush hours, passengers are like packed sardines. Yes, train fare was cheap (I paid only 15 pesos out of the calculated 40 pesos true cost of my fare) considering the P6-8 billion per year that we pay in taxes just to subsidize MRT/LRT fares.

While Dabawenyos salivate at the prospect of having an LRT soon, let us consider the capacity of our people to pay its true cost and if we do not limit the redundant PUVs and private cars running the same route then definitely LRT will never get its ridership requirement. So unless the LGU or the National Government subsidize the planned LRT as well as limit redundancy of routes then, this may just be an unsustainable undertaking. When we have the necessary population size and density willing to pay the proper transport cost of an LRT system we have one for the city - say 15 to 20 years from now.

Two weeks ago a new item reported Department of Finance chiding local government units for not updating the valuation of their real properties resulting in low revenues for the LGU therefore lesser funds for the Special Education Fund (SEF). LGUs again are failing in the true principle of devolution - self reliance. How easy it is for LGUs to invoke the Local Government Code when it comes to its decisions in programming and implementing its projects when they are also trying to increase their reliance on external funds coming from their share of the national revenues or IRA.

Bakit kung magbebenta milyones ang presyo ng lupain pero kung magbabayad ng buwis sa munisipyo o syudad ay nagiging ilang libo na lang ang halaga ng lupain? I am in favor of regularly updating the schedule of market values of our lands so there is a uniform value that everyone can follow. Let the national government be it BIR or DOF do the valuation then allow the LGUs to do their own valuation as long these do not exceed 10% less than the national valuation. The prices of properties steadily increase annually but the schedules of market values used by many local assessors are outdated more than 10 to 20 years. Property owners will surely cry foul over a new valuation but that is the system we have. I think it is but fair that the landed few pay correct taxes so that there will be more funds to spend for economic pump priming activities.

Now you know one factor on why LGUs always lack funds to build school facilities for their children. If only the local councilors can speedily approve new schedule of market values so that there is an increase in local revenues that will be used to fund new school buildings, school supplies plus roads, market places and health centers to spur further economic development then why fear losing votes? After all it is the poor voters who will really matter in the count.

If you think daily rush hour traffic congestion only occurs between 7 to 9 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening, well think again. I observed that 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. is also a time for traffic congestion in some isolated spots of our city - the malls. With the rush of people streaming out of the malls come the jeepneys that turn the roads to terminals, then come the private vehicles who take advantage of the late hours to do illegal left turns all result in a traffic jam... it took me more than 10 minutes to move just 100 meters last night. Of course our traffic squad vehicles were there to simply observe the congestion. Traffic czar Poliquit, can we make traffic enforcers stand and direct traffic and also actively give traffic citations during these hours?

Urban issues can definitely be overwhelming but when the stakeholders are able to identify, discuss, strategize and prioritize actions then these become bearable as well as correctable. rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 17, 2014.

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