Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sensible solution to traffic congestion in Manila: City-run mass transit

In all major cities around the world, 'people-movement' within the city is limited to government-operated mass transit systems. From New York City, Paris and Barcelona to Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong, and others… whose populations vary from 5 millions to 18 millions…city-owned/operated buses, trains, trams and sub-ways, are the only ways to move people to their destinations, safely and efficiently. To these cities' governments, the movement of their citizens is much too important to just leave to private business whose sole motive is profit.

Manila, however.. like Karachi and Dacca.. among other 'backward-looking' mega-cities.. seems to be an exception. So.. it now deals with the daily 'arterial blockage' that causes paralysis in the streets, and the intermittent and costly interruptions to trade, commerce and to wage-earners' commutes that the country can ill afford. As an 'aside' to this commentary, it must be said that the DOTC and 'MMDA-run' LRT/MRT, are indeed examples.. but.. on 'how-not–to-run-a-circus'.

There are many ways that congestion, which is brought about by growth, might be handled. Singapore, early in the 1980's limited the vehicles that could enter the city's core, to emergency vehicles, government utility transport, delivery vans and passenger buses. Cars.. to be allowed in.. had to pay for access. Passes were sold in booklets of 10, 20 and 50 single-use-tickets; one of which would have to be surrendered each time the car enters. As well, parking anywhere in the city was limited to designated lots and multi-storey parking buildings. Street parking was banned. The program changed the city-core's feel and appearance at once; and, the residents in and around the city center seemed not to mind the walk along clean and safe 'de-congested' streets. Perhaps this might be considered as one of the many programs needed to alleviate Manila's traffic nightmare.

Manila did have a chance to grow in a rational manner. As early as the 1980s, the city governments, were told to devolve new businesses to other towns and provinces. This advise, was not heeded.. so, now we see a mall in every ten or twenty blocks, as well as warehouses, bus stations and all other sorts of vehicle and pedestrian centers guaranteed to cause traffic 'glue'. Today, this advise must be revisited. A sensible move has already taken place when the Pandacan oil terminals were decommissioned. We could complement this development by having 'inter-island shipping' operate separate cargo and passenger ships. All cargo ships must dock, load, and off-load in Cavite, thereby leaving the North and South Harbors to purely passenger traffic.. thereby, ridding the streets of most container trucks.

There are other sensible solutions, of course, but whatever these measures may be, a city-run mass transport system must be its companion-remedy, or,better yet.. its 'backbone' .

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