In my paper that I submitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Design, titled Manila Megalopolis 2020, I expressed the consequence of the primacy of Metro Manila. On the issue of transportation and mobility, I shared that the daytime population of Metro Manila is higher than the nighttime population. This shows that those working in the Makati and Quezon City areas live as far as Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal.
During the peak hours between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., opposite ends of North and South of EDSA are clogged. Millions of people are literally moving day in and day out of Metro Manila. Having a poor mass transportation system and rising number of private cars certainly worsen the problem every year. And it certainly does not help that the major highway also serves as a service road, access road, and arterial road. This is unheard of in proper road orientation principles. Nine super regional malls along EDSA also stagnate traffic.
In order to alleviate the worsening traffic congestion, there is a need to look into both the supply and demand of transportation. We should most especially revisit the demand side of transportation and the integration of traffic impact assessment, mitigation and design to city zoning.
A quick glance on the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila would reveal that the factors are but not limited to:
• the lack of implementation and integration of land use, water use, and zoning ordinance; unbalanced economic growth among cities and regions; emphasis on private cars as the priority in the transportation hierarchy; lack of region-wide, integrated mass-transit networks and intermodal transportation system; allowing low-density developments at the heart of central business districts; over capacity in the use of Manila port and under usage of the Batangas and Subic ports; sub-par services and not following world-standards in the design and quality of mass transport vehicles and systems (for a more objective scoring on the mass-transit quality and effectiveness you may refer to the Bus Rapid Transit World Standards) poorly designed airports (i.e. architecture that does not influence culture, identity, and uniqueness)
• underutilized airports (such as the Clark International Airport; concentration of government centers and offices in Metro Manila; concentration of super-regional malls along EDSA; public roads are used as extension parking for commercial establishments and private homes; no comprehensive standard and enforcement of Traffic Impact Assessment, Mitigation, and design compliance in getting building permits and road use; ;ack of discipline and professionalization of Public Transport Drivers and Traffic Enforcers; unorganized loading and unloading of buses and jeepneys; allowing light transport vehicles such as tricycles and pedicabs in main roads; uncoordinated traffic lights; uncoordinated movement of executive offices with regards to holistic planning.
In principles of urban and regional planning, different government services are always integrated towards a single vision and goal.
There are 20 modes of transport, and in the case of Metro Manila, the emphasis is the use of private cars. The demand is mobility and the supply side are the 20 modes of transportation. In the most progressive cities in the world such as London, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, the number one mode of transport is walking, because everyone is first a pedestrian. The second is biking, the third are buses, then trams, LRTs, water transport, and so on. The last and the least prioritized are private cars.
The reason is not everyone can afford a car. In a country like the Philippines, only around 5 percent to 10 percent of the population can afford cars, so why allocate most of the road to the small percentage of the population? Also, roads are not added as fast as the addition of automobiles, if we are adding at least 150,000 cars a year, then we will be a car-city in a short span of time.
That is why progressive cities are pedestrian-oriented and mass-transit oriented. This should be the case for Metro Manila and the other cities around the country. Sidewalks should be widened, elevated walkways and bike lanes should be developed along the whole length of EDSA and for every kilometer of the Pasig River. Developing dedicated bus rapid transits, fully operationalizing the LRT, imposing heavier taxes on cars (car-impact taxes), and imposing congestion charges could also help alleviate the situation.
Commercial establishments should be required to submit and comply with Traffic Impact Assessment, Mitigation, and Design, and pay “traffic-impact tax.” If buildings will greatly increase the volume-capacity ratio of adjacent roads, there should be an assessment if such development will be allowed.
Citizens who work in Makati and Quezon cities cannot afford to buy a house near their place of work. And it certainly does not help when low-density residential areas are allowed in the heart of the central business districts. In a forum that I attended in Boston regarding city planning, it was shared that having big houses in the middle of the city takes away opportunity for other families to live in the area. Low-density dwellings decrease the number of people utilizing the land. That is why in progressive cities like London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, big houses and low-density dwellings are not allowed in the central business districts. The rich, even politicians, live in condominiums, apartments, or multi-family homes.
Other critical factors such as housing, job opportunities, quality education, quality health, and concentration of government social services contribute to the daily migration of people. Metro Manila is experiencing in-land migration because of its primacy.
I believe with visionary leadership, strong political will, good planning, good design, and good governance, all of the recommendations can be done. And with this, I believe, will help us alleviate traffic congestion and the country can have better economic activity and even address poverty.