By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Urban planners yesterday urged the government to build the more affordable bus rapid transit (BRT) in Metro Manila as it is the most doable transport system that can be completed within the term of President Duterte.
Mia Quimpo, president of Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP), a group of 2,433 interdisciplinary professionals from architects, engineers, and urban planners, told reporters covering the 26th PIEP National Convention in Quezon City, that construction of a BRT system patterned after the BRT system of Bogota and other cities in developing South American countries can be completed in three years, just well within the term of President Duterte.
On EDSA, the most congested 28.3-kilometer major highway in the country, Quimpo said a BRT can run beside the existing MRT rails. It can also run on other roads in Metro Manila without constructing new roads. The BRT must also have stations or stops utilizing the existing overpasses or existing major bus stops.
There is no need also to import the BRT technology because this can easily be constructed. There is no need for rail construction, Quimpo said. Most important, she said, BRT is cheaper than constructing a mass rail transit (MRT). “MRT costs billions of pesos per kilometer, but BRT is just in the millions,” Quimpo said.
In addition, the lady architect was batting for using a more affordable BRT. The BRT system can cost cheaper because the government can tap the existing local buses and reconfigure them to form several coaches.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) though has been planning for the more expensive articulated BRT.
“There is no need for the more expensive BRT system. Our BRT may not look first world, but now it is the most doable and the technology is with us already,” she pointed out.
The BRT also system goes along with the notion of urban planners that there is no need actually to build more roads, except connector roads, with the commuters in mind, but to design a city that is walkable and with various transportation options.
The BRT system is also a good political move because it can be done within the term of one administration. The government has not been successful in implementing or pursuing major mass transport system like subways and MRT systems, which are long gestating project s, because they need to come up with a project that can be done within their tenure.
“It needs political will,” she said.
Aside from BRT, another doable traffic remedy that can be accomplished by this administration is the construction of bicycle lanes as she noted of several people going to work on bicycles to save on cost and faster travel, Quimpo said. The bicycle lane can be constructed beside the existing pedestrian lanes. “Transportation is not the problem, but the way we designed the city is because it has an implication on transportation,” she cited.
According to Quimpo, Metro Manila and most cities in the country have been designed for cars and not humans.
“We should design for humans, not cars,” she stressed. In the 1920s, she said, roads were more for people but now it is for vehicles. “We kept on building roads, but in other countries they are building mass transport systems like BRTs for developing economies and railways and subways for developed ones,” she said.
There are 2.34 million vehicles that pass by EDSA everyday. But Quimpo estimated that cars could account for 70 percent of total traffic while the mass transport like MRT and buses or the regular commuters with only 30 percent. But in terms of capacity, she said, it is the reverse where the cars only move 30 percent of total traffic while the MRT and buses have been moving 70 percent of traffic (commuters) in this major highway. Among the cities that she’d been to in the country, Quimpo cited Iloilo and Laoag as more harmoniously designed.
“Iloilo and Laoag have no traffic congestion, but have open spaces, where the heritage are blending well with the new, but in Metro Manila, we are tearing down our heritage sites,” she noted.
Meanwhile, PIEP seeks to influence the government on how to build sustainable cities and communities for the urban century. In the Philippines, almost of the 120 million population live in urban areas. Thus, problems in urban dwelling have become more pronounced along with the challenge of environment protection and prevention from natural calamities.