rethinking public transport

So, had enough of the Erap verdict? If you haven't, go visit Roby Alampay's op-ed piece in The Guardian UK (which I consider to be the last word on the matter), then come back here so we can talk about more immediate matters, like the quality of daily life in our megacity.

Question: If you were running a company and you knew that 78% of your assets traveled through a single channel, wouldn't it be in your strategic interest to that make sure that channel operated as efficiently as possible?

Well, then, what should we do about public transportation in Metro Manila?

Everyday, nearly 8 out of every 10 person trips (that's 1 person, taking one trip, in one vehicle, from one point to another) in our megacity is taken via public transportation.

In 2002, that meant 20M out of 25.7M person trips per day. That's twenty million individual movements. That's the production base of the your megacity's economy going from home, to work, or to school, or to get their daily needs. -That's 78% of the person trips that generates 1/5 (or more) of the national GDP.

It's obvious isn't it? It's management 101 - to become more productive, make your major channels as efficient as possible (more efficient than your minor channels).

So, what have we done to make public transportation more efficient?

We've invested heavily and are planning to expand our investments in an expensive, but still fragmented, light rail network. We're buying back the MRT to the tune of $865-million and throwing in another P6.57-billion to finally connect the northern end of the MRT to the LRT. (And yet, have we thought about connecting one of these lines to the airport?)

We're putting in more monies into the LRT-7 (a private initiative that smells more like a real estate deal), the Northrail, the extension of LRT-1 (LRT-6) to Zapote and are upgrading the PNR service to Laguna. -All these investments in rail infra takes us decades to build. Meanwhile, Jakarta has rolled out 159 kilometers of bus rapid transit in just the last 3 years.

We've put in an Organized Bus Route system (basically just a traffic management tool) to control bus flow on EDSA. We're even flirting with using electric jeepneys (a move I'm personally not too excited about).

All of which will make some dents on demand but will probably still miss by a wide margin in fulfilling the crying needs in public transport.

The MRT barely moves 500,000 people a day, they need to invest more money to up the service to 650K/day. The LRT/Megatren combined barely scratch 400,000 passengers a day. -So those three existing rail systems carry at most, 1M people. If you assume those are roundtrip passengers, then that's 2M person trips per day - less than 10% of the share of public transport. (And you wonder why there are still jeepneys on our roads.)

The coming investments in light rail and high speed commuter rail are all primary trunk transport routes, if we hope to make the megacity more productive, then we have to seriously reconsider reforming and re-investing in the secondary and tertiary transport systems.

I don't have the answers, but I hope seeing those numbers should change your perspective.

As difficult as it is to drive through Metro Manila to get from one point to another in your private car, our most important investments (investments that will bring the most direct returns in quality of life and competitiveness of the metro) don't lie in widening our roads or speeding up automobile traffic -so you can drive faster. It lies in rethinking our tricycles, our jeepneys and buses and the routes they serve.

All transport data from MMUTIS and LTO, c. 2002
via a presentation on BRT in Metro Manila by Dr. Ricardo Sigua NCTS
(ppt file, 1.8mb)

Image credit: toda by aileron


exskindiver said...

ikinakatay ko na po ang baboy para iyong pagdating.
sept 20 diba?

Urbano dela Cruz said...


sa 24 po ako mapapadpad sa Pittsburgh.

nabulabog ba ang plano mong pista? baka ako pa ang katayin mo.

peterangliongto said...

For some of the big transport projects things are moving along peerhaps tempered by GOP budgetary concerns but it's clear how some will work out.

I'm interested to see how our whole jeepney system can be modernized. Putting in batteries does not exactly make it modern. I'm not aware that the folks in UP or DOTC has given serious thought to increasing efficiency on the secondary and feeder routes. I'd like to find out if they have something mapped out.

Paul said...

Don't you find it odd that MRT Line 3 was built as a light rail line but has significantly more passengers per day than LRT Line 2 which is for all intents and purposes a heavy rail line?

Urbano dela Cruz said...


sorry for the lag time in the replies. have been in transit for most of the past week.


I'm interested in how we can modify the jeepney system, too, though I don't know if the bright folks in UP have something in their shelves. (digression: I think all studies conducted by UP and other state institutions should be published on the net and free to the public. The research, after all, is paid for (in part or in whole) by the taxpayers.)

It might be helpful to parse the problem based on distance of trips.

Person trips under half a kilometer should be answered by more walkable street environments.

Person trips under 3.5 kilometers can be answered by a ped-bike-ped infrastructure.

Longer person trips should be BRT or maybe an upgraded vanpool/FX system -that feeds into the LRT/MRT network.


(ok. -either Mary shows up next or one of the other disciples...)

I think it's a matter of the coverage of the line. (there really is a blurred line now between heavy rail gauges and light rail gauges).

First off, the MRT connects to the Makati and Ortigas CBDs. Makati's worker population alone swells to over 1.2M everyday.

If they stretch LRT2/Megatren to Marikina or even Cogeo, then the commuter shed will be wider. Moreso if they bring it to the North Harbor.

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

here's my take on it:


Sidney said...

I am not in a very constructive mood today... is "efficiency" really a big concern in the Philippines?
It seems that as long as labor is dirt cheap people don't really care...

peterangliongto said...

hehe even without a nice walking environment, maglalakad pa rin iyan, it's not as if they've(the majority) got a choice, (in availability or budget).

For pedicabs and the like, even if we could find the space for such lanes,it's inherent lack of efficiency specially considering the numbers running in the millions would only make it work in very few places. It would help to increase the capacity and efficiency of both fx (including vans in the maxicab classification) and jeepneys (a return to the notorious minibus, hell on wheels hehe) anyway same dimensions but faster ingress egress from the side with double the capacity.

Another key item that should be addressed is the way the routes are managed. The various toda's, joda's, boda's etc act like unions which should not be the case.

Fyi, line 2 is supposed to be extended to Cogeo, I think in the long run it should also connect with Tutuban and North Harbor but Line 2 extension is in ICC.

Also me thinks the difference in gauge has more to do with the type of financing in Line 2 which is ODA hence tied as opposed to line 3's BOT.

With the purchase of MRT3 by LRTA, I think the GOP should just go ahead and privatize LRTA and raise all the money for Line 4, 7, 8 and just implement. Building 100 kms of lines in a go would save quite a bit more money for the whole system in the long run.

koikaze said...

Good Morning, Urbano

This comment is probably off-topic, but I tried to post it yesterday on your Design for Democracy thread and it slipped into the bit-bucket, so I'll try it here:

I've run across a site that might interest you. A gentleman named Roy Daine created a site where communities, anywhere in the world, can pose questions of local public interest and the people of the community can express their opinions and vote on the issues.

The site is designed so the user selects a country, and, if appropriate, the state or smaller political subdivision of the country. The user then responds to topics raised for that community or poses new questions, seeking public response.

The site has only been operating since June 1st, 2007, so it has hardly gotten off the ground. It's easy to use, but it will probably take a while for usage to build. My guess is that it will serve as the focal point for some heated local controversy, get some publicity, and usage will grow after that. I thought it was neat that there's a site ready-made to solicit public feedback on questions of interest in Manila.

Mr. Daine and I have discussed various aspects of his project. He's aware the site provides no "voter registration" or "voter validation" services. He feels the most important first step is to get it up and running ... and that seems reasonable.

it's at: http://www.myverdict.net/HTML/home.php

Best wishes,


domokun said...

also a bit off topic but i found this article on the environmental and social costs of parking to be interesting.


Urbano dela Cruz said...


I'll post my reply on your blog.


Got up on the wrong side of bed that day? I know what you mean about "efficiency" -or the lack thereof. Is it endemic to the Philippines? I'm working on a project with New Orleans now and I can definitely tell you that inefficiency lives everywhere.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


"maglalakad pa rin iyan" - ah, there's the rub. we feel no obligation to give pedestrians (read: non-car-owners) any options simply because they have no choice anyway.

I think we CAN make pedicabs work and i think we HAVE TO make them work if we want to make a serious dent in our GHG emissions. We just need a serious paradigm shift about our city. As Jane Jacobs says it, you can make a city for "foot-people" or for "car-people."

And I'm for exploring all options - jeepneys (or some variant), streetcars, FXs and Minibuses -as long as we can get beyond the private car as the be all and end all of efficient public transport.

As to faster ingress, egress times - look at Curitiba's solution. (Curitiba invented bus rapid transit.)

"Another key item that should be addressed is the way the routes are managed. The various toda's, joda's, boda's etc act like unions which should not be the case."

I agree. Again, anything to get away from the boundary system that so defines PUV behavior (read: chaos on our roads).

"With the purchase of MRT3 by LRTA, I think the GOP should just go ahead and privatize LRTA and raise all the money for Line 4, 7, 8 and just implement. Building 100 kms of lines in a go would save quite a bit more money for the whole system in the long run.."

You've got my vote there too. We really have to think of and get a grip on the system as a whole -and not just go with piecemeal solutions. And I'd consider switching the unbuilt lines from light rail systems to BRT.

Btw, have you ever noticed the language when the government or government officials talk about mass transit projects? They always anchor it on "this will improve traffic, reduce congestion" -i.e. - make it easier for cars and car owners to get around.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


haven't quite had the time to really look at Mr. Dane's work and the website -the proposition is interesting. (sort of like NZ's attempt to use wikis to get the public to help write laws


you should also look into the writings of Donald Shoup. I think I am a shoupista myself.


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