Mobilizing the political will
to improve public transit in Metro Manila
Part 2: A promise of what is possible
So, first we have to change the frame of the conversation: from congestion to social justice.
The consequence of a bad public transport system is not bad traffic (alone) but a fundamental inequity -where those who cannot afford cars or cannot afford to take cars everyday pay a greater share of their household income and pay a greater penalty in time.
A bad public transport system is inequitable. And it is also inefficient.
We need to get better public transport not because we want to get rid of traffic congestion* -but because we want a transport system that does not favor the rich over the poor and the middle class. We want it because we want parents to spend more time with their children and we want students to have more time to study.
The next thing
The next thing we have to do is to provide an alternative vision of what can be.
You cannot change anything by simply complaining about it or pointing out what is wrong. We do not need any more black hats to tell us why something does not work when we know it is not working. We need to see what will work.
You can only inspire and motivate people to change if you show them what can be.
This is where the success of Bogota, Curitiba, Mexico and Jakarta comes in. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are many, many successful examples of bus rapid transit projects.
These projects are successful not only in terms of efficiency, but also in terms of economy and democratic participation.
Unlike massive light rail projects, bus rapid transit is:
- cheaper (at just 1/5 to 1/3 the cost per kilometer vs. fixed rail)
- cheaper to operate (no substations, no high maintenance infrastructure)
- is more flexible (if you design the stations right, you can have service overlaps)
- faster to roll out (transjakarta started in 2004 and will have a total length of 159 kilometers by the end of the decade)
- is more participative (you can ask existing bus operators and drivers to bid to operate the buses -compare that to their options when we go with expensive fixed rail infra)
We need to talk about BRT and other alternative transportation systems (like bicycle networks, and bike rental systems). We need to get everyone to ask:
So why can we do that here?
Up next, Part 3: Building a winning coalition
*BTW, next time someone says we need to ---take your choice:
- widen roads,
- build flyovers,
- discipline the driver
- deploy more traffic cops
- buy a new computerized traffic signal system or
- build new roads
There is only ONE PROVEN method to reduce traffic congestion -and that's congestion pricing.
It's been proven in Singapore. It has been very succesful in London. New York is planning to implement it.