Last week, this story caught my eye. It played, of course, as it often does in the media -as an issue of rising costs for the consumer. It follows a recent increase in jeepney fares in Metro Manila.
The burden mass transit has is it has to "earn" money while roads do not. Roads are assumed to be part of the infrastructure of a city or a country but rails are operations -people pay an operator directly so someone has to be making money. Road taxes, or tolls supposedly get the user to pay for the infrastructure but unless your doing congestion charging like London or other cities (notably Singapore) then the tolls pay for the long distance highways.
This article discusses the myths of road vs. rail costs.
Bottom line is, the National Government must view mass transit as a competitive advantage and must be aggresively develop and subsidize the infra and the operations.
I think only HK's MTR is a profitable entity -and that is borne by the incredible densities of the city.
Metro Manila has enough density to support a mass transit network - but it must evolve into a more extensive network. The other consideration is that mass transit does not have to equate to light or heavy rail. Bogota took Curitiba's success and turned it into the paradigm shifting Transmillenio. City-wide transportation networks should not be monocultural.
One of the things that bothered me most when they first put up Metro Manila's 2nd light rail line (the MRT) was that the stations were selected largely with real estate motives (i.e. -where can we put up a mall?) and ignored existing transport and activity nodes. The planners did not create a network where short hop jeepneys would deliver passengers to the MRT.
Mass transit systems (as all delivery and transport systems) are city shapers. The market forces will reorganize the built form around the stations and transport nodes -usually for the good of passengers.
Metro Manila has to:
1) make sure the trains run at maximum service capacity (even if with subsidies)
2) make sure the benefits of locational efficiencies of the stations are spread equitably (i.e. - it will not be the millionaire condominium owners that will benefit the most from being near a mass transit station)
more on this later.