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)