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Transport Justice | The Manila Times

TRANSPORT is one sector where there has been minimal recognition of the government’s obligation to ensure that all Filipinos have adequate and dignified mobility. There is little recognition in our policies, laws, budgets or practices that mobility is a basic human need and that government has a duty to make travel accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status or physical ability. . Worse still, our mobility environment contributes to exacerbating inequalities in Filipino society. It demands transportation justice.

Except for the small minority who travel in private automobiles, most urban Filipinos suffer from uncertain, difficult, dangerous or stressful journeys to destinations. Many who depend on public transport face long queues or unpleasant competition for access to limited public transport on a daily basis. It is not uncommon for a person to drop out of a dream job or school because the daily commute to these places will be unbearable or too expensive. Those with private motor vehicles are privileged to have a much wider geographic reach and a wide range of choices.

Filipinos who choose to walk or cycle face dangerous and often hostile road conditions. In the absence of protected cycle paths, cyclists navigate obstacle courses of potholes, protruding objects and other hazards, facing the constant risk of collisions with motor vehicles. Pedestrians mingle with cars and motorcycles because city sidewalks are too narrow, uneven, full of cracks and holes, or littered with obstacles. People using wheelchairs, strollers, or crutches won’t find many trails that meet accessibility standards. Despite Philippine laws that ensure fully accessible buildings, public transportation, and roads, people with disabilities face severely restricted mobility due to poor compliance with accessibility regulations.

Given that public transport services are inadequate, inconvenient or unreliable and that pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is absent or of substandard quality, only the small minority with access to a private car are generally able to travel safely. and with dignity. Because of this, commuters are motivated to switch to using a private motor vehicle – adding to the already alarming traffic congestion – as soon as they can afford it.

The conventional wisdom is that car roads should continue to be given priority in urban areas to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles, and therefore passenger cars have a right to road space. Bad. This is a false and unfair claim that must be challenged and rejected. Since car owners make up only about 6% of Filipino households and roads are usually built with public funds, it is fundamentally unfair that urban roads primarily serve the small minority of car owners.

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We don’t have to look far to find examples of expensive car-centric transport infrastructure that offers little benefit to those without cars. The three new bridges over the Pasig River—the BGC-Ortigas Bridge, the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, and the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge—were built to serve private cars. There are no accessible sidewalks to cross these bridges even though there are densely populated communities on both sides of each bridge. The bike lanes on these bridges, which are narrower than a person’s shoulder width, are sad examples of how to put cyclists at high risk of collision with vehicles. And despite an obvious high travel demand, no public transport uses these bridges. The false promise was that these bridges would somehow alleviate traffic on the EDSA by giving cars alternate routes. Today, MMDA statistics show that traffic on the EDSA has deteriorated and the new bridges have had no positive impact on traffic congestion; on the contrary, all three attracted greater car use and worsened traffic. Solving traffic jams caused by cars with more infrastructure for cars is clearly not the solution.

Roads should serve all users, especially the vast majority who walk, cycle and use public transport. If this simple principle can be applied to the design, construction and use of roads, it will alleviate many mobility constraints in our country. On the main roads, lanes reserved for buses and jeepneys will allow public transport to circulate more quickly and more reliably, freed from friction with private vehicles. Wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes will provide safe paths for the most vulnerable road users. The added benefit of this type of road transformation is that our road and bridge infrastructure will support the mobility of many more people compared to devoting the same space to private motor vehicles. And if it encourages more motorists to turn to walking, cycling or public transport, it will mean fewer motor vehicles and less congestion on urban roads. Inclusive and fair transport provides better mobility for all, including those traveling by private vehicle.

Transport justice demands that the uneven and unbalanced distribution of road space for private motor vehicles be corrected. It demands that the travel needs of the mobility-deprived Filipinos, who represent the vast majority, be prioritized over investments that only serve a small minority already privileged with cars. It demands that our lawmakers and economic managers review the proposed national budget for 2023 to limit investment in car-centric infrastructure and replace it with meaningful spending that benefits Filipinos who walk, cycle or use transportation. in common. It demands that the government develop and expand safe pathways for vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, and people with disabilities) and ensure that public transportation is adequate, affordable, and reliable for Filipinos in all parts of the country. In the Philippines, transport justice is long overdue.

Robert Y. Siy is a development economist, urban and regional planner, and public transport advocate. He can be reached at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @RobertRsiy.