IN 1984, Metro Manila had one of the most modern Light Rail Transit in the world. In 1975-1977, Metro Manila had the most comprehensive plan in the world– The Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development planning Project (MMETROPLAN). It was a World Bank-financed inter-agency project of the Philippine Government led by the Planning and Project Development Office of the thenDPWTC and Freeman Fox Associates of London and Hong Kong. I was fortunate to be the Senior Planner and Team Leader for Development Planning of MMETROPLAN.
Eight integrated LRT lines were planned to be accomplished in 15 years from 1977, along with a bus rapid transit, and cordon pricing in congested roads. As early as 38 years ago, urban mobility was already in check to accommodate the current population of Metro Manila. It also took into consideration that the Megalopolis should prioritize pedestrians and mass-transit over private vehicles.
In 1945, the American Corps of Engineers planned the six circumferential roads and 10 radial roads for then Manila and suburbs. Until today, 70 years after, circumferential Road 6 has not seen the light of day. One of my main recommendations in Manila Megalopolis 2020, a paper I submitted to Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2003, is the creation of urban growth centers as counter magnets to the rapid growth of Metro Manila. Access to the north and south of Luzon would have prevented regional population migration towards the central city. Economic, health, and educational opportunities would have been equal. Lastly, ecological preservation would have been more manageable.
Previous planning initiatives emphasized that cities are for people and not for automobiles. After 38 years, the development recommendations and conclusions made by the team still hold true and valuable. Sadly, they remain as plans to this day.
In 1905, Daniel Burnham planned Manila. His inspiration was Paris and Venice. Pasig River was envisioned to be like the River Seine, and the esteros of Manila like the canals of Venice. The inspiration for Manila Bay was the Bay of Naples. In 1977, Metro Manila was envisioned to have integrated mass transportation systems so that sidewalks, open spaces and old trees would be preserved for walking, biking and social interaction.
Although it is frustrating to wait for these plans to materialize, I believe that through visionary leadership, strong political will, good planning, good design and good governance; the Philippines will be well on its way to become one of the top 20 economies of the world by 2021. It is not an impossible task. It all starts with electing the right leaders in 2016.
Roads are for people first
Cars and automobiles do not own the streets; the streets belong to everyone. The problem with Metro Manila is that it embraces the necessity for automobiles. It also followed the planning and zoning mistakes of post-war, car-oriented cities like Hollywood and Los Angeles. Apart from this, there is also a problem of regional centralization. Today, there is an imbalance between daytime and nighttime population in the city: 16 to 17 million in the morning and 11 million in the evening. There is also an imbalance between jobs, housing, education, health, and economic opportunities, hence the regional population migration towards Metro Manila.
There are just too many cars and the addition of 120,000 cars a year in Metro Manila is outpacing the development of new and widened roads. Because of road widening projects, sidewalks are getting narrower and trees are being cut as well. Despite these efforts, the rapid increase of automobiles is still clogging the major arteries such as EDSA.
Another main problem of the city’s road design is that major arteries and central business districts transect low-density gated villages and gated military camps. Access and movement of vehicles are impeded.
The government should identify immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions.
For immediate solutions, installing more CCTV cameras and security monitoring devices can help aid gated communities to open their roads for access. This will aid in easing probable crimes that may happen in the area, which is one of the major fears of the gated communities. But so far, the opening of San Miguel and Bel Air II Villages in Makati and the Rockwell Center for bypass access is successful. Enforcement of traffic rules and road discipline is a must, especially the loading and unloading of buses and private vehicles along EDSA.
For short-term solutions, re-training and coordinating the different traffic officers of LGU’s is important. Making sure that traffic lights are working during rush hours, and are re-studied if the current traffic strategy is effective.
For medium-term, the loading and unloading zones for both Buses and Jeepneys should be developed and proper infrastructures should be put into place. LRT lines should be well-maintained so that road usage will not drastically increase
For the long-term, it is important to adapt a beneficiary-sufferers analysis before an economic-benefit analysis, to understand the daily struggle of all citizens. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive urban planning, land use/transportation plan, and traffic management. Comprehensive in terms of area coverage, including Metro Manila, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon. Comprehensive in terms of time: immediate action, short term, and medium term plans. Comprehensive and inter-disciplinary – urban planners, regional planners, land use planners, transportation planners, environmental planners, traffic engineers, and traffic management experts. Let us not leave the planning and development of cities to politicians, road engineers, and contractors.