MANILA, PhilippinesThe Roads and Traffic Expo PH⁠ 2019 opened last Tuesday, October 1, at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, aiming to provide a holistic solution to the country’s traffic problem. Hundreds of exhibitors, government officials, road experts, and prime movers in the transportation industry joined the expo organized by Terrapinn.

The first ever event dedicated to roads and traffic in the country featured keynote speakers from around the world who shared their knowledge on infrastructure, technology, and innovation.

Transport economist Jedd Ugay, Chief Mobility Officer of AltMobility PH, laid out what he thinks are the best ways to manage traffic. His talk zeroed in on prioritizing public transportation movement and going on a “road diet” to alleviate the worsening traffic conditions in cities.

AltMobility PH presents this slogan for traffic management: Prioritize movement of people over cars. “Move cars but the priority is to move people above whatever else,” Ugay said.

According to Ugay, public transport can move more people compared to private cars. “Especially buses. Why don’t we prioritize bus movement? Because buses can move more people. If you can shift car users to using public transportation, you [ease] congestion. You can free up a lot of road space. You don’t need a lot of road space to serve the same number of people,” he said.

Citing 2018 data from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Ugay revealed that private cars take up 80% of the road space but they only carry around 20% to 30% of motorists and passengers. “Public transport is carrying the bulk, around 60% to 70% of the people, and yet they’re only provided 20% or less of the road space,” he explained.

The AltMobility PH CMO flashed a photo of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) on a screen and pointed out the inequality in the share of road space.

Ugay continued by saying that the present situation shows a very inefficient way to distribute urban road space. He added that traffic congestion not only costs people in terms of productivity, but also affects our personal lives by reducing time spent with our families.

As an alternative, Ugay suggested that commuters turn to public transport, walking, and cycling as these are more efficient and sustainable in utilizing limited urban road space.

Ugay lamented the hierarchy of transportation, with our urban planning concentrated around prioritizing cars while pedestrians and cyclists are given less importance. He reiterated that if city planners focus on providing better public transport and wide sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists, more people would prefer these options rather than driving.

“That’s like what we call ‘road diet’—you shift people from using personal cars to using public transport. For example: you take up a car lane, because you want to widen the sidewalk. But with that move, you encourage people to walk, especially if you put a lot of trees. Then less people will use their cars,” Ugay shared.

As an example, Ugay cited the city of Seoul in South Korea where they transformed car lanes into pedestrian-friendly spaces. He also lauded the city of Iloilo where they continue to add more bike lanes, rather than car lanes.

“To create a livable city, the inclusive solution is an efficient and sustainable solution. In the words of Enrique Peñalosa, ‘an advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport or bicycles,’” Ugay said. (AJC/LMO)

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