IN countries where transport planning goes hand in hand with sanity, integrated transport terminals have been archived. The reason is the simple realization that all forms of mass transport should have priority and unhampered use of public infrastructure and roads. In countries such as Singapore, the bus has more right to use public roads than the car of the prime minister.
Who and which get priority in the use of public roads is primordial in modern-day transport planning.
In Munich, which used to be known as the “car capital of the world,” the policy is to encourage walking, biking and mass transport in that order. Rules have been designed to discourage private vehicle ownership.
Where mass transport is the king, and where all modes of mass transport are kings in the use of public infrastructure, the concept of building integrated transport terminals outside of cities has been declared useless and unnecessary. Integrated transport terminals now mean extra stops, extra rides and hampered commute. And a great burden to commuters who do not belong to the top 1 percent.
Even in the US, a society with a fascination for cars, and where cars are synonymous with individual freedom, the debates in the thriving metro areas are about buses and mass transport. San Francisco is right now intensely debating the merits and demerits of Google buses, not the new car models that have been rolled at Detroit. In New York, it is about trains and those blue Citi bikes.
The 21st century has practically eviscerated integrated transport terminals from living memory especially in the countries that do real and serious transport planning.
It is in this context that you really have to ask this question. Why is a dead and obsolete transport policy being resurrected from the dead by the Aquino government? What use will it serve? What economic and social benefits will it bring to the broader society? Why would it do such a thing – move the country backward?
I stand corrected. The Aquino government is not only bringing up this obsolete and senseless policy from the dead. The integrated transport terminal project is in fact part of the centerpiece infra programs of the government under its PPP thrust and it will take billions of pesos to develop it. And it is the main support infrastructure to the supposed traffic decongestion policy of the government. The integrated terminal has been advertised as some sort of ground-breaking idea in transport.
Oh. My. God. Can our planning really violently assault science, environmental needs, and 21st century trends? Why is an outmoded thing at the front, center and back of public planning and policy? Can’t it get this simple point: That buses and other forms of mass transport get the first crack in using public infrastructure and their trips should be point to point and unhampered is backed by the metrics of efficiency.
Buses that use EDSA carry anywhere from 30 to 50 passengers at any given time and the figures applies to both metro and provincial buses. A private vehicle carries one and a half passenger on the average. A gas-guzzling SUV consumes more fossil fuel than the regular diesel-powered bus. From both the reckoning of efficiency and fossil fuel use, buses have the edge. In a normal world, they should be given the full freedom to ply their trade and use the roads. Like what civilized countries have been doing.
Buses and other forms of mass transport carry more people at less fossil fuel and with lesser strain on roads and public infrastructure.
The current experiment to prohibit Cavite provincial buses from entering the city of Manila—and allow loading and unloading commuters only at the Coastal Mall—has not eased the traffic jams in Manila. The Coastal Mall terminal was supposed to relieve Manila of those pesky provincial buses and the supposed monstrous traffic jams that they impact on the city.
With the buses banned from entry into Lawton, or their terminals, hundreds of both legal and colorum jeepneys and UVs have mushroomed in the city and traffic is worse off now. What would you expect when legions of inefficient carriers take the place of a few efficient carriers.
Worse, commuters moving between Cavite and Manila continue to suffer from double trips, additional fares and hour-long waits. The Coastal Mall experiment has brought in mass suffering and commuters have told President Aquino so—and this was during the occasion PNoy went to the Coastal Mall to interview the riding public on what they felt about the experiment. PWDs, senior citizens and pregnant women have been greatly inconvenienced by the double rides.
The results of the experiment are two-fold. An integrated transport terminal will not solve any decongestion purpose. What it does is screw the poor commuters and add to their daily misery and expense.
The integrated transport terminal, if ever it comes into being, will be nothing but a real estate play. The awardee of the contract, an elite consortium or an elite corporate entity for sure, will be given—on a silver platter—a choice real estate development with captive clients, thousands of buses that will be charged per trip.
The broader public, instead of getting express trips into the city, will be greatly inconvenienced by double trips and additional fares. Traffic relief? Come on, we are witness to the zero impact of the Coastal mall experiment.
More, the Philippines will be the laughing stock of transport planners across the globe. It will gain the tarnished reputation as the country that found its Eureka in integrated transport terminals a full century after the terminals have been relegated to the scrap heap of history.