AN average Metro Manila resident wastes as much as 28,000 hours of his economic life because of heavy vehicular traffic caused by poor urban planning, according to one of the country’s top architects and urban planners.
Felino A. Palafox Jr., a founder of the Philippine chapter of The International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) said that, on average, Metro Ma-nila residents spend 1,000 hours on congested roads every year.
Residents of other countries with better urban planning, Palafox said, spend only 300 hours a year. This leaves as much as 700 hours wasted because of poor urban planning.
“[Metro Manila residents] spend 1,000 hours a year in traffic, [while urban dwellers in] the better countries in the world spend only 300 hours in traffic. So, if you have 40 years of economic life, 40 years times 700 hours a year, [that’s how many hours you waste in traffic]. You’re like a prisoner inside your car or a prisoner inside jeepneys and buses,” Palafox said.
Palafox said one of the reasons Metro Manila residents spend this much time on the road is because there are no cost-competitive housing alternatives in business districts, like Makati City.
He added that the many gated communities, and even the military and police camps on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, prevent these areas from being transformed into high-density and affordable residential areas. The expert said, ideally, the stations of mass-transport facilities, like the Metro Rail Transit, should be complemented by high-density residential and business centers where employees and/or businessmen can live and work.
“Our trade and commerce [as well as] job [centers are] surrounded by low-density gated communities, like Makati. The average worker and even executive in Ma-kati are priced out of the housing stock of Makati,” Palafox said.
Further, Palafox said other reasons for the many hours spent in traffic situations is the Philippines’s transportation policy that favors cars. He said other countries have already shifted their transportation policy to favor pedestrians who walk to work; cyclists who bike to work; and commuters who take mass transport. Cars are often relegated as the least priority in terms of urban transport.
Palafox said ideally, one-third of urban centers should be allocated for trees and landscaping; one-third for pedes-trians; and the rest for moving traffic.
“Unfortunately, our urban-transport policy favors the automobile and only 2 percent of Filipinos, I’m told, own cars; but our transport policy is for the automobile. Elsewhere in the world, the No. 1 form of transport is walking; No. 2 is bicycle, then No. 3 is the 15 kinds of urban transport. The last option is the automobile,” Palafox said. To address some of these concerns, Palafox said the national government must come up with innovative solutions.
Palafox said some of these innovative solutions is asking the government and the residents of low-density gated communities and military and police camps to strike a partnership of opening some of the roads in subdivisions for public use at certain hours of the day.
He said the government, however, must provide the necessary security such as the provision of law enforcement and closed circuit television cameras for the safety and security of the residents.
Palafox also said the government must also shoulder the asphalt over-lay of these streets as part of its
efforts to help residents, as well as the military and police to maintain the quality of the roads inside these areas.
In terms of financing, Palafox said imposing congestion charges could support some of the funding requirements of these changes.
Palafox said these congestion charges can be collected from vehicles/automobiles entering Metro Manila through toll gates during rush hour. The costs may be double or triple the cost during off peak hours.
“Always, these good proposals, there are more benefits. When we put forward design solutions, planning solutions that [champion] the principles of green architecture, green urbanism, green infrastructure and so on, you spend a little bit more on the first three years on proper design and implementation, the next 97 years [will allow you to reap the] benefits,” Palafox said.