SunStar Philippines, the digital unit of the SunStar network of community newspapers, looks into the habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) phenomenon as this ubiquitous two-wheeler invades the highly congested urban areas. This is the last of three parts of a multimedia report on the new "king of the road" that was originally published on April 3, 2017.
READ: Habal-habal invades cities (Part 1)
READ: Motorcycles on the rise (Part 2)
NOTHING beats the two-wheelers, motorcycles and habal-habal (motorcycle taxis) included, in providing door-to-door mobility.
But in optimizing urban mobility, establishment of a public mass transportation system is still the best option, said urban and transport planner Nigel Paul Villarete.
Villarete, who currently serves as a city administrator of Cebu City, said the Cebu City Government is determined to complete the bus rapid transit (BRT) system project, "which is not only environmentally sustainable, but also promotes inclusive mobility."
The Cebu City BRT, a P10.6-billion mass transport project financed by the World Bank, among others, is a 16-kilometer route from Bulacan in the south to Talamban in the north. It will have a total of 33 stations and 76 bi-articulated buses.
The system is targeted to be operational by 2019 and is expected to serve about 330,000 passengers.
As of March, Villarete said the project was in the road-right-of-way acquisition phase and the funds were being transferred to the Cebu City Government from the Department of Transportation.
First mile/last mile
Even if the BRT becomes operational in Cebu City, Villarete said there would still be a need for the motorcycle taxi and other two-wheelers to provide the first mile/last mile connectivity service, especially in the mountain barangays. About a fourth of the city's 80 barangays are in the uplands.
"Even if the BRT is very flexible, it cannot be door-to-door, so you need this (motorcycle taxi) to provide the first mile/last mile connection going to (and from) the villages," he said.
First mile/last mile refers to the first and final legs of passenger travel.
For instance, a commuter from a mountain barangay not served by public utility jeepneys would need to ride on a motorcycle taxi to get to the highway, where he can take a public utility jeepney or taxi.
The first mile/last mile solution is the motorcycle taxi ride between his home and the highway.
In the case of BRT, a commuter would need to either walk or get a public transport ride to get to a bus station. This public transport ride could be the public utility jeepney, taxi, or motorcycle taxi.
Motorcycle taxis and other two-wheelers, Villarete said, are in most cases the only option for rural to urban connectivity.
In terms of transport economics, he said two-wheelers are "a highly-equitable mode, especially in a developing country like the Philippines, providing door-to-door mobility for a greater number of our residents who cannot afford to buy cars, in spite of the challenges of hot weather or monsoons."
"In Vietnam's experience, you can bring the two-wheeler from your bedroom to your office," he said.
BUS RAPID TRANSIT. Government is acquiring the road right-of-way for a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that is targeted to start serving around 330,000 commuters by 2019. (SunStar File photo)
But in the context of sustainable transport, Villarete said there is a need to study whether two-wheelers should be promoteed as a mode of transport.
At the 10th Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Forum in Asia in Vientiane, Lao PDR two weeks ago, Villarete said his group of transport planning experts pushed for such a study.
In an interview, Villarete raised three issues.
Firstly, emissions spewed by motorcycles contribute to urban air pollution. Villarete said there is a need to look at the emission levels of motorcycles compared to that of other vehicles.
Another group of experts at the EST Forum cited existing studies showing that motorcycles have emission levels that are "quite high." The group pushed for electric two-wheelers as alternative.
This leads to the second issue -- should electric two-wheelers be promoted for sustainable transport?
Villarete note that electric two-wheelers are gaining popularity in other countries and have become affordable. They might also prove to be viable as motorcycle taxis. But this needs to be studied.
And finally, what is the lead contamination cycle for motorcycles? How are the lead batteries, which are toxic, discarded?
"More than the emission levels, lead contamination is a concern," Villarete saod. (SunStar Philippines)