here we go

This from the Manila Times: BRT in the Philippines to cost Php55B for 426 kilometers. (That seems a little pricey to me but at least the idea has found legs.)

Moreso, pilot routes are in the works. I hope they do it right.

The Transportation department is planning to have two pilot routesthe 21-km C-5 (South Luzon Expressway-Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City) route and the 24-km Edsa-Binangonan (Rizal) routewhich will cost a total of over P6 billion.

The C-5 BRT will have 16 stations while the Edsa-Binangonan BRT, 18 stations.

The estimated cost per kilometer in the construction of the Edsa-Binangonan pilot corridor is P139.07 million and of the C-5, P129.33 million.

The two pilot routes were chosen from 11 potential BRT corridors.

NEDA cited the positive impacts of the BRT system in Bogota, including high level of service at low cost, less boarding time, equal-opportunity access, safety, reduction in some pollutants, efficiency and customer satisfaction, all achieved at a fare of $0.40 and not requiring any subsidies.

The BRT system in Bogot can handle 40,000 passengers per hour.

NEDA said that pedestrian spaces and bike paths will complement the proposed BRT system in the Philippines.


chicago, a hundred years since

So, if you didn't know it yet, Daniel Burnham created a plan for Manila before he even worked on Chicago, DC or San Francisco. Of course, we decided not to follow through with it.

Urbanophile lists down why the Burnham plan for Chicago was so successful and I think civic and business leaders back home should take notice.

Item #1 is:

It was a private sector, business led initiative. I hear people today moan about the feckless political leadership in their cities. But Chicago wasn't immune from this in the early 20th century. The rest of the civic leadership didn't wait around for the city politicians to get their act together. Rather, the Merchants Club of Chicago (which later merged with the Commercial Club, a still existing organization) stepped in and sponsored the creation of a plan that they saw as critical to overcoming the challenges the city faced at the time and propelling its future growth.

This is very relevant today. Most cities have some corporate/academic vehicle that is often a prime force in local initiatives. This is the logical place for such a civic strategy to be developed today. However, I might suggest that unlike in Burnham's day, having a broader stakeholder base is critical. Thus involving cultural institutions or other non-business groups, plus at least some form of broader community input is essential today. But I still think that it is generally the business community that is the likely sponsor for any plan.
It takes a lot of work but it produced a very powerful vision and a century later, Chicago is still realizing Burnham's plan.

From the balcony outside his war room, Burnham looked down on a thin strip of parkland that hugged Michigan Avenue. Beyond that, rail lines and sprawling freight yards separated the lake from the people. Plumes of smoke from steam engines cast a haze.

Stand on that balcony today and the extraordinary impact of the plan is revealed, from the Michigan Avenue Bridge on the north to the new skyline of condominium towers rising along Roosevelt Road on the south. The scene is one of order, symmetry and power. Navy Pier and the land bridge to the Adler Planetarium reach out like arms embracing the lake.

You are seeing what Burnham saw. Not the cramped, industrial view his eyes took in but the future he envisioned. People stroll where trains once ruled. A harbor teems with sailboats. Crowds gather for music festivals and skaters glide in front of an iconic sculpture that is becoming a symbol of Chicago. Formal gardens and a fountain modeled after Versailles celebrate this monumental meeting place of the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.

If we dare, can we look at Metro Manila today and imagine, just as Burnham did, the city a hundred years later. Can we envision our own future?


"Our cities are linked and they are learning"

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:


the street of the future is a livable street

This interactive graphic courtesy of GOOD Magazine.

"It’s easy to forget that our streets are alterable. They weren’t set down by God on the eighth day; they were designed by human beings. Unfortunately, throughout the 20th century, most of the human beings designing our streets were traffic engineers. For the most part, they viewed the city from behind a windshield and saw the street as a problem to be solved for automobiles. The result is the American city that most of us know today: sprawling, traffic-choked, hostile to pedestrians and cyclists, dependent on a vast, never-ending flow of cheap oil, and deeply unsustainable.

Streets can and must be more than just a place for the movement and storage of private motor vehicles. The urban street of the 21st century will be a “complete street,” accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders alike. At the Livable Streets Initiative we are helping citizens re-envision streets as great public spaces. Take, for example, the busy intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and West 76th Street in Manhattan."

Yes, we can -Re-imagine Metro Manila's Streets.


want to reinvent metro manila?

DIYcity: How do you want to reinvent your city?

Twitter bots, aggregators, social software, mobile apps - we use these things more and more in our daily routines to make our lives better. But can we also use them to remake our cities altogether? How can these technologies be applied to transform urban spaces, changing them from the centralized, hard-coded things they are today into finely-tuned, fluid, user-operated systems that are efficient, sustainable and fit for life in the 21st century?

DIYcity is a place where people figure these things out by discussing, then actually building and launching applications that address the problems around them.

Anyone care to start a Metro Manila thread?

Image credit: Brokeness by col_adamson


business improvement districts

I've advocated for the use of BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) in Metro Manila. Someone just has to write the enabling law.

What's a BID? (Caveat -that links to a Manhattan Institute report on BIDs, and MI is decidedly on right of the political spectrum.)

A BID is an organization of property owners in a commercial district who tax themselves to raise money for neighborhood improvement. Core functions usually include keeping sidewalks and curbs clean, removing graffiti, and patrolling the streets. Once a BID is formed, the assessment is mandatory, collected by the city like any other tax. Unlike any other taxes, however, the city returns the assessment to the BID management for use in the district.

Do they work? Apparently so, according to the Rand Corporation as reported by the LA Times:
In areas as varied as Old Pasadena, Westwood, Hollywood Boulevard and downtown L.A., business and property owners banded together to assess themselves and form umbrella organizations aimed at keeping their areas safe and clean.

The groups, known as business improvement districts, or BIDS, hired private security guards to help patrol their blocks and crews to clean up their sidewalks, as well as lobbying government officials to make other improvements in their area.

There are now more than two dozen such districts in Los Angeles alone, employing that security guard in front of your favorite downtown eatery and the woman sweeping the sidewalk near your stylist's trendy digs.

In the first comprehensive study of L.A.'s business improvement districts, the Rand Corp. said Thursday that the districts are having a significant effect on crime in their neighborhoods and that areas with such districts have significantly less crime than those without them.

As violent crime has steadily declined by half in the last decade throughout Los Angeles, the report suggests that areas of the city with active business improvement districts have fared even better -- particularly when it comes to robbery and other street crimes.

The districts "are not just gentrification efforts to displace people or the panacea to crime and making people's lives better," said John MacDonald, the leading researcher on the study and a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "These districts make a place not such an attractive place for crimes of opportunity such as robbery."

There are social issues that would need to be addressed but BIDs could go a long way because:
BIDs have unleashed an enormous amount of private sector creativity towards the solution of public problems. Philadelphia, for example, dubbed “Filthadelphia” by local wags, had been brought to its knees in the 1980s by massive deficits and intractable municipal unions. Cyclones of trash commanded the sidewalks. Now, its historic downtown is clean and orderly, thanks to the Center City business improvement district, which steam cleans the sidewalks every night and sweeps them continuously during the day. Local business activity has increased markedly. Baltimore’s downtown business leaders have dispelled the area’s reputation for crime with roving patrols of uniformed “ambassadors,” who assist tourists and discourage panhandlers. And New York City’s 34 BIDs can claim considerable responsibility for turning around once squalid neighborhoods—from Times Square to East Williamsburg, Brooklyn—and making them safe and attractive for shoppers and pedestrians.

...BIDs have returned to an earlier set of values regarding public space. They understand that simple things—such as keeping sidewalks clean and safe—matter enormously to the urban quality of life. A city that has lost the will to control allegedly “minor” offenses such as trash and graffiti only invites further disorder.

And people are voting with their feet in favor of BID values. Downtown shoppers are rediscovering the pleasures of city strolling; property values in some of the most successful BIDs are rising. (MI)


bbc's bicycle diaries

Great podcast series on bicycles (and cities) from the BBC:

This three - part series illustrates how the bicycle is used today and what impact it has on people's lives.

With more than a billion models worldwide, the bicycle has found a place in every society.

Since its invention in 1817 people have redesigned and used the bike for hundreds of different purposes.

From sporting events and policing the streets to sharpening knives and selling ice cream.

Using a lot of leg power, the Bicycle Diaries journeys into three different places around the world to discover the communities and people for whom two wheels are better than four.

  • Part one
    A new bicycle system in Paris, France
  • Part two
    Why cycling matters in Kampala, Uganda
  • Part three
    How biking in New Delhi, India helps the economy

Image credit: Parked Bikes -2492
Binondo, Manila
by webzer

RF and Asian Cities


Foundation to help Asian cities endure global warming

The Rockefeller Foundation President recently came to Thailand on many occasions, one of which concerned the 70-billion US dollar “Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network” project.

According to its President, Dr. Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation is now planning an experiment to help Asian cities endure global warming instead of stopping it.

Climate change, which has already occurred, will lead to flooding, drought and the water systems in recent health risks like dengue fever.

“We will continue to fund grantees that advocate for the issues that we care deeply about in agricultural productivity and food security in climate change resilience and mitigation in assuring better health for all more heatlh equity,” said Rockefeller Foundation President  Dr. Judith Rodin.

Let alone the foundation’s project, Dr. Rodin added the issues focused on were also dependent on governments to play a key role through their policies and investment.

Meanwhile, main criteria have been set to decide which cities will come under the project, while a final decision on the cities will be made within 2009.

The criteria are governments’ willingness and eagerness to do risk assessment and vulnerability planning and capacity building, while cities predicted to have high growth in urbanisation and those shown to have the greatest vulnerability to occurring climate change also count.

"There’s an ASEAN initiative that is going to link capital cities and we’ll be working closely with that. So this is really an effort to maximise all of these various initiatives and dramatically increase both learning and the capacity," said Dr. Rodin.
Dr. Rodin said all of the learning from the experimental cities would be made available to other networks including other cities like a mega city of Bangkok.

Regarding the current world recession’s impact on climate change, Dr. Rodin also voiced her opinion.

"The financial crisis will present a tremendous opportunity because many nations around the world will be investing in economic stimulus packages," said Dr. Rodin.

While the Rockefeller Foundation was working on new innovations to present more opportunity during the economic crisis, Dr. Rodin said, many conversations on economic stimulus packages were now being held, including on jobs, investment, alternative energy and other climate-friendly issues.

With such cooperation from concerned parties, there’s hope for our environment to go hand in hand with our economy. (TNA)


decongesting manila

This was Econmist Benjie Diokno's latest column in BusinessWorld.

He reports back from the findings of WDR2009 and argues that "Decongesting Manila by creating new government centers in other cities is "ill-advised and a waste of public funds" and echoes the report that says "it makes more sense to increase economic activity in the metropolis rather than to disperse it around in the country."

I totally agree with the report, particularly with this quotable:

"In places urbanizing rapidly, government must put in place, in addition to institutions, connective infrastructure so that the benefits of rising economic density are more widely shared.

"In places, where urbanization has advanced, in addition to institutions and infrastructure, targeted interventions maybe necessary to deal with slums. But these interventions will not work unless institutions for land and basic services are reasonable effective and transport facilities is in place." (-emphasis mine, UDC)

Full text of the article below:

Decongesting Metro Manila is one of the government's top priorities. The idea is to allow people to work within the metropolis while living in nearby provinces. As part of this program, five major departments will be transferred to new government centers that will be developed in different parts of the country. Such moves are ill-advised and a waste of public funds, going by the prescriptions from the World Development Report 2009 (WDR 2009), entitled Reshaping Economic Geography.

Recall that in her 2008 State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA), Mrs. Arroyo said that preparations for the development of new government centers had started through the transfer of various departments to areas outside Metro Manila. These are: Department of Agriculture to Davao City; Department of Public Works and Highways to Bicol; Department of Tourism to Cebu City; Department of Land Reform to Iloilo City; and Department of Transportation and Communication to Clark.

Metro Manila accounts for a third of the Philippines' economic output. But World Bank economists see nothing wrong with this unbalanced growth. They argue that despite having a high population of 12 million and high incidence of poverty, it makes more sense to increase economic activity in the metropolis rather than to disperse it around in the country.

The report's main message is that economic growth will be unbalanced. "To try to spread out economic activity is to discourage it. But development can still be inclusive, in that even people who start their lives far away from economic opportunity can benefit from the growing concentration of wealth in a few places. The way to get both the benefits of uneven growth and inclusive development is through economic integration."

The report clarifies what economic integration is. "It means one thing to integrate rural and urban areas, and slums with other parts of the cities. It means yet another to integrate isolated and well-connected countries. These notions of economic integration are central to three debates in development - urbanization, territorial development, and international integration."

On urbanization, the report recognizes that each area within a nation has a specific geography, but argues that the principles are quite universal.

"In places mostly rural, governments should be as neutral as possible and should establish the institutional foundation for possible urbanization in some places. Good land policies are central, and so are policies to provide basic social services to everyone."

"In places urbanizing rapidly, government must put in place, in addition to institutions, connective infrastructure so that the benefits of rising economic density are more widely shared.

"In places, where urbanization has advanced, in addition to institutions and infrastructure, targeted interventions maybe necessary to deal with slums. But these interventions will not work unless institutions for land and basic services are reasonable effective and transport facilities is in place."

These principles can also reshape the debate on regional development. The report says that: "the tools of geography can identify which places are poor - the lagging areas - and where most of the poor live. Often, the two are not the same, because the poor have the most reason to move from poor places."

Governments, the WDR argues, can adopt policies to integrate areas within nations, while reducing poverty everywhere. Lagging or poor areas have one thing in common: they are economically far from places that are doing well. But the economic geography of lagging areas is not the same. In some countries, lagging areas, such as China, are sparsely populated; in others, lagging areas, such as Brazil, are densely populated but domestic mobility is not difficult; and in others, lagging areas, such as India, are densely populated but people find it difficult to migrate.

In lagging areas that are sparsely populated, "what makes more sense is to provide basic services everywhere, even if it costs more to reach these distant areas. Encouraging mobility of people is the priority, and institutions that make land markets work better and provide security, schools, streets, and sanitation should be the mainstay of integration policy."

In lagging areas that are densely populated but where mobility is not difficult, both institutions and infrastructure to connect these areas to places that are doing well are necessary for economic integration.

But in lagging areas that are densely populated but where mobility is difficult, the report concludes that: "institutions and infrastructure could be complemented by incentives to producers to local in these lagging states. But these incentives should be carefully designed to avoid offsetting the unifying effects of common institutions and connective infrastructure. A promising possibility is providing incentives to agriculture and allied activities that are appropriate for states that are mostly rural."

There are many policy lessons that may be learned from the report's findings and recommendations. First, it casts serious doubts on the government priority plans to decongest Metro Manila which includes transferring the DAR, DPWH, DOT, DAR, and DOTC to cities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Abandoning this plan may provide significant benefit for government workers whose families would have to go through severe adjustment costs. But it is a major setback for the land speculators and contractors and suppliers who would have been favored by the transfer.

Second, the results of the study provides strong arguments against proposals to create more special economic zones in various parts of the country. It could be argued that at present there is already an oversupply of such economic zones. While the economic benefits are fuzzy, these economic zones are costly to develop and maintain - and they enlarge the leaks in an already leaky tax.

Third, it puts pressure on policy makers and administrators to be serious about fiscal equalization especially for social services. Support for access to basic education and basic health care should be more or less equal for every Filipino everywhere - whether in rural communities or urban centers, lagging or leading regions.

Fourth, good governance matters. Institutions should be developed at all the national and subnational levels. Fiscal resources should be properly allocated, projects implemented effectively and in a transparent way, and beneficiaries carefully targeted. The prescriptions apply to both the central government and the 45,000 local governments.

Benjamin E. Diokno
14 January 2009


mag-aral ka, anak

So, go get your college degree.

But make sure to walk through a park to give your brain a break.

Quick Links

Notable posts on the metro