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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Maglana: Transport(ed) to the future (Last of 2 parts)

Transport(ed) to the future (1st of 2 parts)


DAVAO residents usually resort to jeepneys/multicabs, taxis, tricycles, pedicabs and habal-habals to travel with their district. The 2015 HIS report also indicated that for the respondents the habal-habal/motorycle is the worst transportation option; and yet many residents in places that are undeserved or unserved by public transport have to rely on the habal-habal for their daily commute.

According to the DSUT 2013 study, about 412,000 residents of 51 barangays, who are a third of the total population of the city’s planned urbanized area, do not have access to reliable public jeepney/multicab services, or at best get only poor service. Unmet transport needs of a third of the city’s urban population—surely that’s a gap as pressing as the transport needs of those who are flying into and out of the Davao International Airport.

Reader Ramon D. Naguita who is based in Toronto and who also heard about the KEC study wrote in to comment about the importance of creating stations in the LRT system that will connect the air, sea and land transport systems, noting for instance the presence of seaports in Sasa where passengers and seafarers disembark. He also pointed out that the planned international sports complex in the Mintal campus of the University of the Philippines-Mindanao would require mass transport support. Indeed the public transport requirements of Davao are many and would require systems-oriented rather than only projects-based thinking. Solutions to public transport problems are frequently presented as modern infrastructure projects that support the requirements of the economic and tourism sectors; hence the attractiveness of railway, flyover, and overpass/underpass systems. Undeniably these systems are important in the medium and long-term, and their high levels of investment require the cooperation of national government, international organizations, private sector and local government.

But such are their requirements—high costs of construction, operations and maintenance; space and road alignment, among others—that they cannot be rushed into. Thus the key questions about timing (do passenger forecasts indicate that we need the system in the next five years, or in the next ten years?), financial viability (will the system’s earnings and benefits warrant the investments over a realistic period of time?), and strategic fit (does the system support the long-term land use plans of the city?) are material and ought not be glossed over. We do not want a version of the Metro Manila LRT-MRT fiasco in Davao: systems that are expensive, highly subsidized by taxpayers’ money, and viewed as unsatisfactory by users.

Equally important are transportation reforms that, although highly relevant, are not financially attractive enough to interest international agencies and private business. Such reforms include changes to transport planning, franchising and regulatory framework, local transport information systems, and improvements of sidewalks, loading/unloading areas, and other passenger and pedestrian support facilities and infrastructure. These are areas requiring the cooperation of local and national government bodies, with local government providing clear leadership and direction.

For advocates of sustainable transport the transport systems of the future need to stand the three tests of sustainability articulated by Geoff Key, Team Leader of the DSUT 2013 project. Will a system be environmentally sustainable? That is, will it promote low carbon emissions, minimise physical disruption as well visual impact? Will it be financially sustainable? Meaning, will its revenues be sufficient to cover costs; will its rates be affordable to users? Will it be socially sustainable? Which means will it cover the most current transportation needs and also be adaptable to foreseeable future needs? Is it inclusive, addressing the needs of the differently-abled, pregnant women, children, the elderly, commuters who have to transport goods from/to local markets, as well as other users? Does it promote safety? Does a wide range of stakeholders support it?

A transport system that earns an informed yes to the three questions and thus has high likelihood of being environmentally, financially and socially sustainable: now that’s the future transport system we who call Davao home deserve.

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[Email feedback magszmaglana@gmail.com]
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