There’s a widespread feeling of helplessness among Metro Manila residents because of our worsening traffic problems. Government solutions have been aimed at increasing road space and decreasing vehicle volume on our roads, but none of these has worked to ease our traffic woes.
In the search for solutions, one option is overlooked: reducing the number of road commuters, which can be attained by enabling people to live within a comfortable walking distance from where they work.
If a large number of our workforce is afforded the convenience of living near their places of work, there will be a large reduction in the number of road commuters.
A very good friend of mine, a lawyer-mathematician engaged in the real estate business and who prefers anonymity, provided me with figures that illustrate how this can be a traffic solution for Metro Manila.
My friend proposes that within a walking proximity from each of the business districts of Ayala Center, Ortigas Center, and Bonifacio Global City, the government or accredited private companies should build residential condominiums that are affordable to salaried employees. Each building will sit on a 2,000-square-meter lot, will be 30 stories high, and will hold 2,400 units of 20 square meters each in size. Each unit will house two persons, so one building will have 4,800 occupants who work nearby.
The construction of 20 of these buildings can reduce 192,000 commuters per day (96,000 persons @ 2 trips/day). Each unit-owner saves as much as four hours of productive time per day (about two million work hours/week @ 96,000 x 4 hours x 5 working days).
At 100-passenger capacity per bus, 20 of these buildings will reduce 1,920 bus trips per day (960 buses @ 2 trips/day). The scheme will also reduce pollution, and it will be a virtually no-risk investment for the government because the market is assured.
My friend estimates that each building will cost P3 billion if built in the expensive Ayala and Global City centers. But government or private contractors can still earn a respectable profit if each unit is sold at P1.25 million. Through loans that incur 6 percent interest per year, the amortization is P8,000 per month, payable in 25 years. That’s P4,000 in monthly forced savings per person, which amount to a capital investment, and which is a beneficial substitute for monthly transportation expense.
My friend proposes that each unit contain an annotated restriction that it can only be sold to a buyer who has tax document evidence of working in the nearby business district, and that he/she can only resell the unit either to another employee in the area or back to the government. This ensures that the units will only benefit employees who work in the area, and not rental income investors.
These building projects will need the following forms of government support: tax exemption on the sale of the units in order to financially ease transfer to other users in cases of change in employment venue; strict regulations on buyer qualifications in order to avoid abuse over the relatively cheap prices of the units; government buy-back guarantee in cases of job termination or transfer; and exemption from floor-area-ratio limitations in order to lower land cost in the expensive business districts.
With the government’s full support, each building can be completed in 12-18 months, compared to other traffic decongestion “solutions” that need 5-10 years to complete.
A government residential program for our urban workforce is not entirely new. The Quezon City residential areas which we know as Projects 1 (Roxas district), 2, 3, 4, 5 (Kamias), 6, 7, and 8 were government projects from the 1930s to the 1960s. This time, the needed government projects are residential condominiums near our places of work.
The convenience of living where you work is a privilege exclusive to the rich. Many of our city problems will be solved if this convenience is made available to our toiling masses.
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