1.18.2006

the light at the end of the gridlock


Jay Walljasper, editor-at-large of Utne Magazine, in a recent article for the Michigan Land Use Institute, muses about the possibility of a world with fewer vehicles. What he says about the history of traffic in other cities gives me hope for our own woes about traffic and gridlock:

It’s helpful to remember that before there was Prague, with its fiercely reckless drivers, or Bangkok and Jakarta, with their horrendous traffic jams, the picture of a transportation nightmare in most people’s minds was Rome, Madrid, or London. In each of these places, autos represented something deeper than just a way to get around.

In Rome of the 1960s, car culture was a mark of Italy’s arrival as a prosperous nation; in Madrid of the 1970s, a badge of the modern consumer society that replaced Franco’s dictatorship; and in London of the 1980s, the supreme symbol of free-market freedom as defined by Margaret Thatcher.

But look at them now. London shocked the world in 2003 with the huge success of its congestion pricing policy, which charges drivers a hefty fee to enter a traffic-unsnarled city center.

Madrid tamed its famously unruly traffic with aggressive implementation of pedestrian streets and other measures to keep cars from ruining neighborhoods.

And Rome, the butt of so many jokes about impossible traffic and insane drivers, reduced traffic by 25 percent in its center — an initiative that has become the model for Paris, a city usually looked to as the urban ideal.

Which is a fitting intro for the succeeding series of posts where I want to begin a dialogue on how we can rethink our streets and in so doing rebuild our cities.

(BTW, don't forget to vote!)

3 comments:

wysgal said...

It would be interesting to see the effect charging "entrance" to the Makati Business District would have on commuting habits. There must be some economic point at which people will just scream "enough!", leave their cars at home and take public transportation.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

wysgal,

that's actually been in consideration for a number of years. the pedestrian underpasses and overpasses in the CBD are part of an effort to reduce short vehicle trips. another component was supposed to be the building of parking garages at the peripheries.

so is charging for on-street parking and reducing allowed parking times.

what is missing is an efficient and convenient internal people mover (a surface tram?) or circulator that will make it easy for someone to take their cars to say magallanes or guadalupe, hop on the circulator and get to their offices quickly.

get that working and we can begin a congestion charging system.

the top concerns people have in deciding on their transport options are

1) predictability (i can be sure how long it'll take me to get somewhere) and
2) convenience.

If we can skew the balance so mass transport becomes very predictable (moreso than the threat of traffic jams) and convenient (within a five minute walk to my office/home), then we'll see reductions in car use.

(although even now, over 80% of CBD workers already take public transport -except most of our public transport is also motorized)

Ivan ManDy said...

U,

Very well said. Unless we give the people the the comforts of seamless public travel (as they do in Singapore or Hong Kong), the matrons and yuppies of Makati and Alabang will never take the public.

In tiny,ultra-squeaky Singapore, you can actually feel the whole population moving with you when you take the subway. And thats because everybody, almost everybody uses the underground.

And thats because its nice, convenient efficient. For all the improvements we've had with LRT, MRT and LRT 2,well, I wish I could say the same....

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