The online news portal of TV5
It takes two and a half hours for Tieza Santos to get to work from Parañaque to Quezon City every day. And that’s just the one-way trip to the office.
Santos, who works at the Ateneo Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSEnt), made this remark at a forum on Tuesday, if only to emphasize a point.
She said that the Philippines incurs up to P140 billion in losses annually because of fuel waste and productivity losses due to the inefficient transportation system.
Private vehicles composed 53.2 percent of traffic but only accounted for 21.6 percent of transport demand, Santos said. Add that to the mix the absence of proper road infrastructure; the increase in road safety issues; and the establishment of commercial buildings along major roads, leading to bottlenecks and congestion, and you have the sorry state of Metro Manila transportation today.
In comes the Inclusive Mobility Project (www.inclusivemobility.net), spearheaded by the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) and funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Inclusive mobility, according to project manager Marie Danielle Guillen, is about moving people and making commuting easier, more efficient, and more effective. Their slogan is “Mobility of all, for all, by all.”
“It’s not just about cars, but it’s really how you move,” said Guillen. “At the same time you’re answering a bigger environmental issue.” The project hopes to spur action not just from the government, but from the citizens as well.
Three research projects were conducted in relation to this, and the findings were presented at the same forum held Tuesday, which were attended not just by teachers and students from Ateneo, De La Salle University, the University of the Philippines, and Miriam College, but also officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Transportation and Communication, the Metro Manila Development Authority, and various local government units. Media, members of the private sector, and ordinary citizens were invited, as well.
The 11-month-old project brings together great ideas from various sectors and interconnects these sectors “seamlessly” to create solutions to foster inclusive mobility.
“There are a lot of initiatives. We just really have to pool them,” said Guillen. “It’s also multidisciplinary.” The researchers, for example, presented engineering and economic perspectives to the group.
The project (http://inclusivemobility.net/current-projects/) targets poor and vulnerable groups in Metro Manila “by mapping the current public transport system [and] understanding their mobility, cost, and issues.” The team also hope to discover “entrepreneurial or livelihood opportunities” for these groups in relation to their mobility.
Transport needs of the poor and vulnerable groups
Mobility of characteristics.
ASoG’s Randolph Carreon presented his research on the transport needs of the poor and vulnerable groups, a study that covered 2,026 households in Quezon City. Senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), women, and BPO workers were also part of the report.
It found that PWDs and senior citizens preferred to take tricycles, taxis, and jeepneys. But they preferred the first two modes of transport because they provided door-to-door service. Meanwhile, they took jeepneys because of low fares. Women preferred to walk, or to take the jeepney or the tricycle.
PWDs found pedestrian facilities, like overpasses, as inadequate to their needs. So did senior citizens, who found it difficult to go up the overpasses and to walk along narrow sidewalks.
Women hoped for pedestrian facilities to be lower and less steep, covered, and well-lit. They also mentioned the need for the upkeep and repair of these facilities.
The three groups generally found the public transport system “just right,” although they noted that some units were in poor condition.
Poor communities, on the other hand, found the public transport system “somehow satisfactory.” They generally viewed the terminals as accessible, clean, safe, and comfortable.
The four groups found that most terminals lacked facilities, except for those for mass transit systems like the MRT and LRT.
Mapping to address needs
Mapping of the public.
To address the needs of the poor and vulnerable groups, Dr. Jun T. Castro of the UP School of Urban and Regional Planning advocated the use of the Geographic Information System (GIS) to map the modes, routes, and facilities of transportation in the Metro. This information can then be used to identify transportation-related improvements to be made in infrastructure and services for these communities.
Castro’s study covered three areas in Quezon City: North Triangle, Matandang Balara, and Payatas. After locating the public transport terminals in these places using Google Earth, the data was then converted to GIS.
From these maps, Castro was able to see the distance of the terminals to the poor communities in the three study areas. It was then found that the transportation system was “reasonably friendly to the poor” because the modes of transportation—through these terminals—were easily accessible to them.
He concluded, however, that the public transport system needed to be more efficient to connect poor communities seamlessly while taking into account environmental issues. Terminal and pedestrian facilities could use improvement, as does the dissemination of transport information, like traffic signs and maps.
Not just a dream
Typology of business.
These improvements do not have to remain in the imagination, however. The dream of a cleaner, safer, and more civilized way of traveling around the Metro can become reality.
At least, this is what the ASoG team hopes.
Having studied 50 models of inclusive mobility all over the world, Santos and her colleagues named some which could be practiced in Metro Manila to cultivate such a positive environment for commuters and motorists.
ZipCar, for example, is a car-sharing program in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. According to its website (http://www.zipcar.com/how/), “Each Zipcar shared takes at least 20 personally-owned vehicles off the road.” Members simply go to the website or make a call when they want to reserve a car for a few hours or an entire day. Gas, insurance, and parking are all included in the membership.
Some great models were already in place.
Clean Fuel, for example, promotes loyalty among taxi drivers by giving them a free place to shower and to sleep, as well as a place to eat. The company also has a rewards program that includes kitchen accessories, household equipment, and toys, in effect, covering both the driver and family.
Araneta Center is another example. As it targets low-income users of provincial buses, it provides safe, clean, and customer-friendly terminals. Restrooms, waiting areas, food stalls, medicine stores, and communication facilities are also available. Transport services are integrated; there are trains, taxis, and FX vehicles nearby, and parking spaces are also provided in the terminal.
Involving the community was the key to creating similar business solutions that would help the poor and vulnerable groups, said the dean of the La Salle College of Business and Management, Dr. Brian Gozun.
For example, pedicabs are not supposed to be allowed in Vito Cruz, Manila, where he lives. These drivers, however, would be jobless without their trade. This is the reason why businesspeople should come up with ways to complement the drivers’ livelihood.
“Maybe they can be tapped into in delivering medicines while they wait for passengers to add to their incomes for the day. We should think about business models that will work for the common good,” said Gozun.
Bulldozers in government
ASoG assistant dean Dr. Mary Jean Caleda said she hoped that the research would provide input “for better policy- and decision-making.”
A lot of research may be involved but it all boils down to implementation.
Said ASoG’s Dr. Segundo Romero, “We are really pushing for those who are [driving the] the big bulldozers… to do something about it.” This is the reason why they invited those in the front seat—members of the government—to attend the forum.
A better transportation system could be established. “I don’t doubt that it’s going to happen,” said Romero. ASoG’s role was simply to speed up the process, he added.
“It’s good that we have seminars like this because we get the movers in the same room, talking, meeting each other. That’s the first step,” said Atty. Yves Gonzalez, who heads the MMDA Traffic Discipline Office. “The powers that be [can] come to a consensus on the things that should be done, and then focus on what can be achieved.”
The objective was to find and work on the “things that are good, possible, and realistic.”
“There are a lot of ideas and projects that are doable, even minor adjustments on the engineering [side] that are doable,” said Gonzalez. “And those are the things that we need to find and focus on so that we can build up our successes and start working on bigger projects.”