Editorial: Scaling Up Our Transportation Services

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014


INTERCONNECTIVITY matters. This may now mean having wifi routers so various phones, notebooks and desktops can connect with each other but the definition works the same in transportation – we must have smooth transition between different modes of transportation.

Last week, I was impressed on how fast I was able to get to NAIA 3 terminal from North EDSA via commute. I took the MRT from North EDSA (although I had to walk about a half a kilometer from Trinoma Mall to get to the MRT station) then disembarked at the last station in Baclaran then transferred to a shuttle bus to NAIA 3 to ride a plane to Davao City. It took me about an hour of commute to the airport and I spent only 35 pesos (thanks to the billions of pesos national government subsidy on the MRT) against around 400 pesos taxi fare. It would have taken me 2 hours just to get to the airport if I rode a private car.

Here in Davao International Airport I once saw a jeepney and multicab servicing some passengers to the downtown area or maybe the terminal itself but what can a multi-cab do when passengers have large luggage and balikbayan boxes?

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Why can’t a private company, CAAP and LTFRB work out a shuttle service system to provide air-conditioned shuttle buses to bring tourists to various hotels and the overland transport terminal of the city. I am sure that locals and tourists will not balk even if the bus company charges up to 100 pesos for such service. Quality and convenience is highly appreciated. If this happens, then we will have a modern airport bus system akin to Seoul.

Traffic congestion is a favorite topic here in Davao City. It seems like people appreciate the traffic conditions when there were no malls, no new hotels, no new subdivisions, and no commercial development here in Davao City. Everyone is complaining but seems to fail in pointing out the real causes of the present road congestion. The entry of investments in our city is not a cause of traffic congestion, it may be the poor or lack of traffic plans that were not implemented to mitigate its traffic impact. I hope that traffic impact assessment is strictly imposed on all development projects especially along major roads of the city so that their internal traffic routes, parking requirements, and even off-site development needed can be scrutinized.

Existing buildings have contributed to traffic congestion by converting their parking spaces to commercial spaces. Just look at the junkshops along the Soliman Street for example, they put their junk wares on designated parking spaces therefore customers are now forced to use the road as their parking spaces. Another area notorious for such violations is the new buildings along Surveyor Street near Victoria Plaza. Parking spaces were converted into commercial spaces so now SUVs and pick-ups are parked on both sides of the street. Worse are the parking spaces of Chowking as well its adjacent buildings – they may have allocated diagonal parking spaces but these are undersized or too short that vehicles are already occupying the sidewalk as well as having their rear ends extending on the road itself.

I hope the Building Official will penalize these building owners and force them to reconfigure their parking spaces to conform to their original building plans.

Meanwhile, the Business Bureau can also suspend the permits of commercial establishments occupying these buildings as long as they do not conform to the parking requirements.

These building code violators are taking advantage of public properties (sidewalk and roads) for their own personal gain and I rank them alongside corrupt government officials who use public funds for their own gain.

It is not only the lack of roads that is the cause of the congestion but also the uncontrolled entry of new vehicles using roads. How many new (brand new and second-hand) vehicles enter the road system every day? We do not have a system of regulating new entrants as well as removing vehicles from the roads especially those which are no longer road worthy, pollution emitting and pose a danger to both its passengers and other road users.

People buy their own vehicles because of the poor quality and inconvenience of our so-called public utility vehicles or jeepneys. If we can have genuine public mass transportation systems then maybe people use these for the everyday commute to work and school then use their private cars only on weekends. My European friends do this.

The Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system will take a few more years to build and even much longer for an LRT to be feasible in the city. For the next ten years, we can have a more convenient PUJ system by introducing air-conditioned vans to serve the same routes. LTFRB and LTO can retire old jeepneys especially those that are no longer road worthy then ask the operators to change these to air-conditioned vans so that people will have more transport choices. If the commute to work and school is air-conditioned and comfortable perhaps people will use their own cars less. People will not mind the higher fares if they can arrive in their offices fresh and comfortable.

More and more people are now trying biking as an alternative to commuting. The other day, I saw a high school student riding his bike from school back to house. I calculated that it was just an easy two kilometer ride of little more than ten minutes. The transport fare savings that his daily bike ride to school translates to a few thousand pesos in the next six years, savings best spent on school supplies and food allowance.

How about it folks, are you ready to do your share in supporting a student to earn his/her diploma? I will be embarking on a transportation scholarship program for UP Mindanao students. This will entail providing UP Mindanao Foundation, Inc. scholars with bicycles that they will use commuting around the campus instead of riding habal-habals or jeepneys. This will mean thousands of pesos transportation savings that UPMFI scholars can instead use for their school projects. If interested to be part of this project, send me an email for details.

Traffic management is very crucial in the development of any city. With fast paced urban development, we cannot afford too many experiments but we can learn from other cities on how to solve congestion effectively and economically.

As I have always advocated, traffic congestion is not solved by infrastructure alone. It needs a combination of at least road engineering, land use planning, traffic demand management and mass public transportation to really manage our urban roads.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 31, 2014.

Opinion

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