A radical solution to the mass transit system

October 7, 2014

Last week, a question was posed by a board member of the LTFRB to implement a reverse coding scheme that would only allow cars that were coding to be driven along EDSA during morning rush hour. In short, if your plate ends with 1 or 2, you would be the only ones allowed to ply EDSA during 6-9am.

Surprisingly, the question sparked a bit more debate than I actually thought it would with those who were for the proposal stating that buses should be given priority because they carry more passengers, and that private vehicles are usually driven by middle to upper management who can do their business on the phone as well as have the luxury to navigate the secondary roads.

I have two lengthy arguments here, including a one hour debate on 9TV’s Opposing Views, but to summarize it for those who have already heard my rant, it really doesn’t matter who is given priority when the problem is volume.

Think of it like a water piping system.  As your city grows, you need to lay down larger pipes. EDSA is the largest pipe. If that is congested, forcing the water to the secondary pipes is certainly not the answer. It is the reverse. Think of Ondoy when they let water out of the dams. Ah, you’re getting it now, huh? Not to mention the fact that, once the ‘allowed car’ leaves EDSA, it is now not allowed at its’ destination because it is coding. Which defeats the whole purpose because it now acts as a plug at the end of your newly freed up pipe.

So, no, I do not think private cars should be banned from EDSA during peak hour in a reverse coding scheme. And I also think that the private motorists should stop being used as lab rats for traffic experiments. Instead, why don’t we take a break from the public vs private and put our heads together and try and come up with something completely out of the box. Something that doesn’t always penalize a certain group and create a bigger divide between classes.

Now I know this is radical, but hear me out. Because there’s nothing really conventional about Metro Manila, perhaps we should look at unconventional ideas to address our problems. Case in point: we love our malls, right? And people like SM, AYALA and Robinson's love to build them for us––cha-ching, cha-ching. But the problem is, they end up adding to the problem by clogging up our roadways. So, why not make them build our roadways instead?

Try and imagine air-conditioned tube-malls with travellators, running either underground or alongside (whichever is the path of least resistance) the toxic areas (say, EDSA from Commonwealth to Magallanes), down AYALA and Buendia ave, C-5, etc. It would be no different to airports where you have shops, restaurants, bars, and even small offices along either side as you make your way to your gate.

I’m no civil engineer, but I’d be willing to bet that the infrastructure cost is negligible compared to mass transit systems––be it at-grade, subterranean or elevated––plus it is even better for PWD's than the LRT/MRT and Buses. Kids can also use it safely.

And because it is commercial, tenants and mall owners would gladly pick up the cost of development and maintenance in exchange for the traffic, which would not only make it more affordable, it would eliminate the need for an expensive and congested ticketing system. Once again, it is no different to their current business model, except it also serves as a roadway where commuters can commute on foot at a steady pace of 10km/h (average of say 6km/h for the travellator and 4km/h walking pace) which should make the commute from Makati to Ortigas around 30-40 mins.

Eventually, once they study the flow they could introduce higher speed travellators; plus, if we made it even half the width of even just the north or southbound lanes of EDSA, we could incorporate dedicated bike lanes with bike rental too. The only motorized vehicles allowed would be authorized electric golf carts (like they have in airports) that could assist in cases of emergencies.

Try an imagine picking up one of these in Makati and pedalling effortlessly to Ortigas in under half an hour. Try an imagine picking up one of these in Makati and pedalling effortlessly to Ortigas in under half an hour.

So there. It may sound crazy, but hey, we live in a crazy place. And the idea is to push in the same direction of the local culture rather than against it. I mean, when you consider how we will happily go out of our way on our days off to go to a massive mall like MOA and walk around aimlessly in circles for several hours, why not toward a goal?

What do you think? Join the discussion below.

About the Author

James Deakin
James Deakin is a multi-awarded automotive journalist located in Manila, Philippines. He has a weekly column in the Philippine STAR's motoring section, is a motoring corespondent for CNN Philippines and is the host of the Philippine motoring television show Drive, which airs every Sunday night at 10pm on CNN Philippines.