As transport is such a huge topic, I would like to focus on the obvious congestion and endless queuing in all LRT/MRT stations and bad transport connectivity. Perhaps, the starting point is to ask ourselves how might we create a human-centred design and inclusive transport services that will improve well-being and increase productivity.
I reflected on that question and sent to the Chairman of MMDA, Atty.Francis Tolentino, the Part 1 of our suggestions that might create a humane transport service, incentivise people to use the public transport, cut carbon emission, and diminish the chronic congestion on the road, end the senseless queuing and other inconveniences that undermine the well-being of theFilipino people.
Until now we have not received any feedback from his office since we sent our suggestions some four months ago. The call for improvement needs to be reviewed and implemented more swiftly as the slow process to improve transport services traps people in deeper cycles of poverty.
I use the public transport and as a keen long distance walker I feel completely and utterly frustrated about the set up in this country when we can do something about it. I dreamt one day of walking or cycling securely not in the middle of a road for lack of sidewalk, not being assaulted by stench emitting from an open sewer or thick pollution from smoke-belching vehicles bullying to run you over as you cross correctly along a pedestrian lane, or hopping now and then to avoid badly constructed manholes (I fell in fact.) and broken paving slabs, etc. These inconveniences demonstrate how little thought was made that transport, roads, and all public services should be designed to a reasonable standard for human beings, that is for all – man, woman, child, pregnant, with physical, learning and other forms of disabilities, senior citizens, etc.
The onslaught of climate change, increasing population and poor health should force us to look for creative solutions that regenerate our communities and produce responsible citizens. There are practical solutions that can move quickly into practice that will ease traffic which should be made mainstream activities such as walking, biking, carpooling and using the public transport system. However, there are also important changes to be made in our attitude like discipline, respect, apathy which may be slow if not difficult to change as quickly if we lack awareness and not intentional to make a transformation, or if we do not have the proper structure to bring these about. What about if they construct decent footbridges and sidewalk (bike lanes would be a dream) so that people would be motivated to walk or cycle even in short journeys and not use public transport?
Just like the rest of the Filipinos I desperately desire a transformed nation. So instead of surrendering to the woes of this country it’s worth the time to bring these issues to the surface, be part of the solution and help create solutions.
I would like to propose the following 10 ideas for change in the Transport System in the Philippines
1. Smart Transport Card
Every day there is an unreasonable long queue in buying a transport pass at all LRT/MRT stations. The queue can get tremendously long, many times you don’t know anymore what you queued up for until you realize after 20-30 minutes of queuing that you queued up for the senior citizen lane counter to buy a transport card. This is a pointless system that reduces the quality of life. Weary Filipinos would appreciate immensely if there is a smart transport card that stores value and enables the public to buy transport credit for a week or a month even up to a quarter and top it up at any corner store, shop or supermarket, and be able to just swipe it on to enter the MRT/LRT platform with ease.
2. Transport dispensing machines
Place LRT/MRT ticket dispensing machines (similar to an ATM) at any designated places to facilitate easy access. Commuters will definitely shave off significant queuing time which will have a massive impact on both the quality of life and economic productivity.
3. Daily price capping for multiple journeys
Charge a flat rate on multiple journeys by public transport from any point within the metropolis. I think Filipinos should never pay more than the price of all their multiple journeys. And they should cut the price cap if:
i. You are traveling off-peak hours.
ii. You are a person with a disability.
iii. Senior Citizen
iv. Age 16-21
4. Seamless connectivity of all transport options
Connectivity is key to the challenges in transport. MRT/LRT and buses that run along EDSA should interconnect flawlessly with alternative transport options such as FXs, jeeps, and tricycles that run through city roads, central business districts, offices, town centers, airport, bus terminals and residential areas in an almost door to door fashion.
As it is, queuing is not only prevalent in LRT/MRT stations but in other transport options such as FX, buses, and jeeps which normally are situated outdoors. Queuing outdoors exposes people to pollution, heat, and other environmental hazards. Raising a generation of fatigue and unhealthy citizens do not bring sustainable economic growth, and this standard of living is not fit for the 21st century.
A well-connected transport system and organized alternative transport options (FX, buses, etc) eliminates queuing, increases productivity and well-being.
5. Redesign roads with ecological footprint
There is not enough transport options in Metro Manila and much fewer roads in going about in the metropolis at local community or neighborhood level for short journeys simply because there is no decent walk paths and sidewalk or bike lanes. As observed, side roads are converted into side market or tricycle stations, or the sewers on some side roads are left open. Therefore people risk walking in the middle of the road along running vehicles so they take a tricycle or bus on short distance as an expedient approach to avoid these inconveniences.
Create walk paths, footbridges, bike lanes and side walkways
Redesign public roads and transport system with a strong human-centered ethos and ecological footprint. We should create more incentives for people to cut their carbon footprint by building decent walk lanes, footpaths, footbridges, bike lanes and sidewalks to enable the public to either walk or cycle safely and securely from home to church, school, and town centers, etc. Also, we should create greater awareness of the impact of pollution on health and the environment.
6. Closed-Loop System
One practical solution to traffic congestion and pollution is a car-pooling system. It is a close-loop system that harnesses seat surplus in vehicles especially in private cars and redistributing them to where it is needed i.e. to public commuters within proximity of origin or destination. This is a sustainable solution to traffic, un-strategic pickup stations, pollution, increasing petrol prices and public transport costs, and all kinds of hassles and disruptions if designed as door-to-door and community-based e.g. from home to school, work, church, town centers, etc.
7. Introduce congestion charges
Rethink color coding scheme. It does not reduce congestion if you buy an extra car. Replace it with congestion charges especially for old and single driven cars including trucks that enter city centers, central business districts and single lane residential and school areas. Citizens should pay for the negative externalities they create.
8. Easy access to travel information
Create a central hub of transport information for the public in real-time about routes of buses, jeeps, MRT and LRT, travel time, travel options, pick up stations, access points, fares, etc.
9. Coordinated Master Plan and a multilateral solution
The lack of road corridors and increasing population pose a major challenge to our already problematic transport system. The size of this problem requires multilateral effort – this is a problem of the DOTC as much as the DPWH, DILG, civil society, MMDA, communities and people etc. and a diverse stakeholder group should work together in co-producing and co-delivering solutions. There’s so much hidden innovation, ideas, solutions, and wisdom that can be unlocked by bringing in diverse communities and sectors to the conversation and giving everyone a stake in the outcome for the common good.
10. Introduce clean technology.
Gradually phase out the issuance of licenses for tricycles and jeeps. They are not the efficient form of transport unless redesigned in a human-centred way. As it is, they are chronic violators of traffic rules, lack understanding of health and safety and pollute our environment. Introduce clean technology by retrofitting old stocks of vehicles. People take tricycles due to lack of transport options, sidewalk or bicycle lanes or sensible transport system for short journeys.
Central and local government should tackle heavy air pollution in Metro Manila head-on as an urgent issue. Air pollution is the leading cause of death. According to a World Bank Report, the health cost of air pollution is estimated at US$400 Million a year and is equivalent to 0.6% of the Philippines’ national gross domestic product. We still have to account for the productivity loss of queuing and traffic. It is a right of every human being to have access to the decent transport system, clean air, and safe and livable communities.
The country’s transport system is highly disorganized and the issues are already bursting at the seams. The number of articles that appeared in the papers these past few days on this topic shows how urgent the situation is.