Note: OK, I'm being lazy. Here's a replay of my old post -from August of
2008 2005 (thanks, chesca), on how the economic model of public transport in the city shapes both driver behavior and our actual built environment. You can catch the original post and the comments here. And here's the whole series on disorganized transport.
The Boundary System as a city shaper.
Cities are self-organizing systems. With the exception of planned cities like Brasilia or Chandigarh, very few cities arise ex-nihilo.
Cities respond to the needs of the individuals that comprise it and one of the key needs is mobility -to get from one point to another.
Cities are shaped by the current mode of transportation available when they grew up. So older european cities have narrow winding streets, suitable for carts and donkeys or walking. London grew up around the tube, and New York around the subway system. L.A., like Metro Manila, grew up around the automobile -so roads (at least in the newer parts of the metropolis) are wide and traffic fast.
The mode of transportation shapes the city and the demands of the city also shapes the transportation -particularly public transportation.
In our own city, public transport, as I previously discussed has been given over to the free market. The rewards/remuneration system of this particular urban sub-system, has shaped our city in ways that may have been invisible to us all these years.
The Boundary System is basically a vehicle rent system. The driver is "hired" by the transport operator, to run and maintain his jeep, bus, or FX cab. The driver can run as many trips within the boundary period (standard is 12 hours) as he wants but he basically has to pay the "boundary fee" (usually, daily) to the owner -and his source of income is whatever he makes over and above the boundary fee. The driver covers the cost of gasoline and minor repairs.
This remuneration/rent system has shaped metro-manila in subtle and not so subtle ways.
The boundary system brings a logic to earning money that shapes the driving habits of the renting drivers. If the driver only earns above the boundary, then logic dictates that he must get as many passengers as he can in as many trips as possible . The driver also benefits by having the vehicle on the road as many days as possible - as repairs and shutdowns mean no income for the day.
So, a driver will:
- soak up passengers by basically waiting as long as he can in a high traffic/passenger volume area and then
- speed up to the next high volume pickup point to soak in more passengers.
- he will also see other public utility vehicles plying the route as competition so waiting in a line does not make much sense,
- he will try to get ahead of the line (usually by doubling up on the pickup lane) so he can be closer to the "source" of passengers and so
- he won't be tied down on the line and can speed up to the next destination.
- It also means that shorter trips are preferred to longer trips and
- vehicle downtime and thus vehicle maintenance is kept to a minimum (=inefficient engines, =more pollution).
This system is behind the traffic chokepoints at the major junctions and intersections. The underpass in cubao, the flyovers in ortigas, the overpasses in santolan, even the grade separations in EDSA in Makati were driven by the logic of separating the buses, who spent an inordinate amount of time at the intersections waiting for passengers, from the rest of the road traffic.
The government has also probably thrown millions of pesos in soft costs at trying to manage the behavior of the public utility vehicles by throwing hundreds of traffic enforcers and by coming up with several management programs (from Oscar Orbos' bus numbering system, to Bayani Fernando's Organized Bus Routes).
The flyovers/overpasses/underpasses have made EDSA completely un-friendly to pedestrians, and the accumulation of vehicles in the intersections have concentrated exhaust/pollution in the areas around these passenger pickup junctions so these have become some of the worst parts of the city. (Ordinarily, the high pedestrian traffic junctions would be the most suitable places for commerce and retail.)
A serious re-thinking of the boundary system (legislating a wage based system seems the easy way out -but that will create it's own problems) would go a long way not only in solving intractable traffic problems but also in re-shaping the fabric of the city.