Roads for people
There will be no end to our traffic problems unless the government stops adopting solutions based on this wrong assumption: that our roads are meant for motor vehicles.
Our roads are intended for people who move, and the use of motor vehicles is only one among the many ways that enable people to move between home and workplace.
Public officials think of cars on the road as synonymous with commuting people. This mindset has led to the thinking that ease in the movement of vehicles translates into ease in the mobility of people.
Our officials are wrongly focused on the increasing number of vehicles, instead of correctly focusing on the increasing number of people who need different means of mobility. Our roads are meant for community use, but they are instead largely used by private means of transport.
If we consider that more than 50 percent, maybe even 70 percent, of the vehicles on our roads carry only one or two passengers (out of a seating capacity of six or more persons), we should realize that what happens on our roads is a daily movement of cars occupying road spaces too big for the few passengers they carry. We have a daily parade of almost-empty vehicles on our roads.
If we correctly view our roads as spaces that enable the movement of people—not vehicles—we may yet discover the many ways our road spaces can be utilized for people to travel to their destinations, other than through the use of vehicles.
Elevated and covered walkways can be constructed to allow pedestrians to walk uninterrupted by street-level traffic. An example of this walkway exists in Makati along Dela Rosa Street. Several kilometers of these walkways can be constructed originating from business centers and radiating toward outlying residential areas or nearby major highways. This can be done for the business and commercial districts of Makati, Cebu, Manila, Ortigas, and Cubao.
In the Makati business district, for instance, imagine an elevated and shaded walkway that goes through Bangkal and stretches all the way to Roxas Boulevard corner Edsa in Pasay City, a second one that snakes along Gil Puyat Avenue and ends at the LRT station on Taft Avenue, and a third one that passes Makati City Hall, crosses over the Pasig River and goes all the way to the Mandaluyong City Hall area.
Elevated and shaded walkways can serve as alternative and inexpensive mobility options for short- and medium-distance commuters, for those who need multitransport connections, and for those who will make the walk between home and workplace a daily exercise regimen.
The government may also construct elevated and shaded walkways that cover the entire width of some of our streets to serve as second-level roads but completely devoted to pedestrians and bikers.
Inner streets that shadow major highways like Edsa and Quezon Avenue can be declared exclusive for walkers and bikers. Alternatively, one lane can be devoted to motor vehicles, while the other lane plus the road shoulder can become shaded paths for bikers and walkers, respectively.
Walking and biking can be effective, popular and enduring mobility options if these are made convenient through covered paths because of our sun and rain, provided with clean shower facilities, and made safe with firmly devoted and secured pathways.
We can also consider what cities like Seoul in South Korea have adopted in the form of underground pedestrian walkways beneath some of their streets. And because shops occupy part of the spaces, rental revenues are generated monthly for the government.
But the major component of a comprehensive program to reduce our overdependence on private vehicles should be for our train networks, bus rapid transit system and boat ferries to be substantially expanded, improved and interconnected.
The government will never solve the traffic problem if its solution is to play catch-up to the never-ending increase in the number of motor vehicles. The solution lies in reducing our reliance on private vehicles and providing a mixed bag of mobility options for long-suffering commuters.
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