“The government is regularly called upon to fix outdated infrastructure and inefficient systems, yet has so far failed to come up with something truly workable”
As the full force of Filipino commuters returns to work with the easing of quarantine restrictions, public transportation is bursting at the seams trying to handle the overload.
Filipinos have long been sick and tired of waiting in long lines for a ride, trains or buses coming late or crammed full, and of spending a hellish amount of time in traffic.
This is one reason people want government officials to experience public transportation for themselves – we’re thinking that maybe, if they stepped out of their airconditioned, chauffeur-driven cars and lined up for an MRT or LRT train for once, that they would be more sympathetic to the situation of the ordinary commuter and try their best to find solutions.
However, it’s been decades and several administrations and yet traveling within urban areas is still an inferno.
The government is regularly called upon to fix outdated infrastructure and inefficient systems, yet has so far failed to come up with something truly workable.
It’s always seat-of-the-pants fixes – repairs of existing elevated trains, for example, or buying new train cars.
In recent years, new roads and skyways were built at a rapid pace, but those were a boon for cargo vehicles and those with their own vehicles. Again, what about the rest of us?
Makati City will be getting their own subway system soon. According to a Wikipedia page, the project, called the Makati Intra-City Subway (MkTr) will “link establishments across the city’s business district.”
It is supposed to be completed by 2025 at a cost of P125 billion, and will be able to move 700,000 passengers daily with nine stations with connections to the under-construction Metro Manila Subway.
Speaking of the latter, per Wikipedia, the Metro Manila Subway worth P355 billion will have 15 stations between East Valenzuela and Bicutan. Like the MkTr, it will link to the existing MRT and LRT. It is supposed to be fully operational in 2027.
There are other rail projects in the works, which can be discussed further in future columns.
For now, I mention these to point out that the development of mass transit is along the lines of railways.
Trains are a tried and tested form of transportation and have served many countries in good stead across the centuries.
If the government is now making up for lost time by accelerating development in these areas, well and good.
It can’t come too soon to relieve the pressure on commuters, which is why I am also advocating more policies that support the shift to a remote work culture to take people off the streets and away from traffic.
Are the country’s economic managers afraid this will curb public spending?
Give people a break and they will spend money, perhaps not on daily transportation (which sucks) but on other goods.
There will be a shift in the types of livelihoods and businesses that will thrive in the new normal (such as online ordering and food and goods delivery), but we have to learn to adapt to rapid change, otherwise we will stagnate.
I also join my voice to those of many Filipinos calling for better bike laws and more and safer bike paths to encourage the development of a bike culture such as in The Netherlands, as well as pedestrian walkways.
To raise another point, I can’t help but feel sorry for ourselves, that our country is so poor in resources and vision that we are still looking to beef up infrastructure in terms of subways and elevated trains that have been used in other countries for nearly a century and a quarter.
The Paris Metro was opened to the public in 1900 and the New York City Subway in 1904.
However, the technology has gone way beyond that. Last week Designboom published articles on two new types of public transportation – China’s maglev (magnetic levitation) Sky Train and Canada’s FluxJet.
The first is touted as “the world’s first” such transport system that “runs power-free, thanks to permanent magnetic tracks that keep the carriages suspended indefinitely in mid-air, gliding smoothly and silently.”
The Sky Train had its first test run in Xianggou Country and reached speeds of 80 kilometers per hour.
This is not the first maglev train; the technology was introduced for commercial use in 1984. But it is said to be the first that does not use electricity, only magnets.
Meanwhile, Canadian startup TransPod has unveiled FluxJet, a fully electric vehicle that is a hybrid of a train and an aircraft.
It features “contactless power transmission and a new field of physics called ‘veillance flux’ enabling it to travel…faster than a jet and three times as fast as a high-speed train.”
It promises to revolutionize the world of passenger and cargo transport, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and highways (it runs on a guided pathway like Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop, a concept he presented almost a decade ago and may start work on again soon).
Passengers will pay only about half the cost of a plane ticket to travel the same distance on the FluxJet.
While all these scientific strides in transportation are being made, our sights are still set on the fundamental, because we failed to get it right all these years.
We continue to build roads, bridges, and skyways, and acquire more subways and trains, because we don’t even have all the basics yet, so we can’t even plan for a Hyperloop or Sky Train or FluxJet.
Science and tech nerds like me can only dream that our country will one day be able to afford such wonders.
Meanwhile, our commuters make their daily slog down to the train station, packed cheek to cheek in queues and on the trains, just to make it to work on time.
Will the new administration be the one finally to fix this perennial problem of public transport?
Let’s hope they have a vision that goes further than the fundamental, a vision that goes forward into the future of our most exciting dreams.
*** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO