The barangays are our smallest unit of government and yet for a lot of Filipinos they represent the real face of governance, providing frontline services and basic government assistance on the ground. And after the fanfare and fiesta atmosphere of the elections last week, real work begins in all of these 42,000 plus barangays across the country. During the pandemic, the barangays proved their worth as they handled tirelessly, without much fanfare and budget, the needed government services at that time—quarantine control and checkpoints, food distribution and vaccination, among others.
Among urban barangays, or those located in cities and highly urbanized municipalities, one area of government service that the barangays can work well, but is not being given due emphasis, would be their role in traffic and transport management. People leave their homes in their barangays for work, school or for any activity, and return back after. Solving traffic and our transport problems at the first and last mile of any journey would greatly help in solving the huge problems that we have right now on these two areas.
The Local Government Code (RA 7160), in fact, provides the basis for such intervention at the ground level. Barangay administrations generally function to promote the health and safety, preserve comfort and convenience of their inhabitants. Sound transport and smooth, stress-free traffic in their localities definitely fall under these functions.
How then can barangays be effective and contribute to the total traffic and transport efforts? Here are some suggestions, a lot of them not original ideas, definitely practical but for some reason, remain still to be implemented.
A pedestrian-first environment. Encourage light mobility such as bicycles and personal e-scooters; and providing adequate pedestrian and bike lanes. Also included would be the conversion of certain streets or on certain days as car-free zones where walkable activities are encouraged.
Barangay land use and routing plan. Develop a barangay land use and a local transport routing plan, similar to the municipal/city public transport plan (LPTRP) with particular emphasis on identifying and constantly updating routing schemes, location of transport terminals with particular focus on tricycles—the public transport of barangays.
Parking space management. This includes implementing a one-side parking rule, time bound parking, mandatory no parking during peak hours; as well as converting empty lots into parking spaces. Consider building a three-story car park rather than just an auditorium or basketball court. Car parks generate revenues as well. Or bring in the private sector to build them on a joint venture basis.
Obstruction free roads. What makes most of our secondary roads unpassable are the obstructions, including sidewalk vendors, junked vehicles, or even barangay buildings built on public roads. These should all be demolished or taken out.
Barangay Traffic Patrol. A barangay traffic enforcement team can be given adequate traffic enforcement training by government agencies such as the MMDA, LTO or HPG, and can even be deputized to issue traffic violation tickets. Coordination and enlistment of personnel from local establishments (schools, hospitals, church, stores, homeowners’ associations, etc.) as force multipliers to the barangay traffic efforts will definitely be needed.
Encouraging community transport. Residents, especially from the so-called bedroom communities, almost always have common times to leave/return to their homes and even share common general destinations such as schools, employment, etc. A car-pooling scheme among residents, encouraged and planned by the barangays, can definitely help not just in lessening vehicles on both the local and major roads when you sum it all up, but also help in reducing gas and transport expenses of the residents, not to mention the resulting camaraderie because of their time spent on the road together.
Enlisting technology and data-driven traffic management planning. This includes having simple but functioning traffic signalization system for the barangays, well-studied street lighting and CCTV systems that help as well in crime prevention. Enlisting technology to dissect travel habits of residents, transients such as food deliveries, and public transport can also aid in coming out with a cohesive transport plan and a pro-active traffic response program.
There is a global trend right now in modern urban planning called 15-minute cities, where sustainability is attained by having all the necessary travel to one’s needs like school, work, basic necessities, done within 15 minutes from where you live. In our local milieu, the 15-minute city is our barangay. We may not have all that we need in our barangays but resolving traffic and transport problems in our communities will greatly help our national efforts on these areas. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. And in our case, that first step would be our barangays.
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