Traffic on my mind

By: JASON BAGUIA July 21,2017 - 09:34 PM


After a fruitful day at the university, I stopped by a shed in school where a housemate and a couple of his gamer buddies sat to unwind at eventide.

By and by, my friend asked me if I would join them for supper in a new all-day breakfast joint nearby. After some hesitation, I agreed.

How far was this place? I asked. About half a kilometer westward, I reckoned from my friend’s reply. Let us walk, I gently insisted, gauging that we would reach our dining venue on foot in less time than it would take to wait for a jeep to get there at the time when the day population was still on exodus out of Cebu City’s center.

One of the gamer guys said we can walk, making it two against my reluctant friend. We walked. We chatted. Some road-widening work was in progress close to the Mormon church by which we passed. New lanes, tomorrow’s parking space, I said to myself. I was not cynical.

This island will not grow. But city planners will keep on widening its streets and paving new roads. Companies will keep crafting attractive installment plans to draw car buyers. Citizens’ and authorities’ transport mentality is biased towards riding and vehicles and the corresponding infrastructure.

More roads, more vehicles; more vehicles sold, more roads needed. The cycle will be vicious. I am not pessimistic.

My Facebook news feed is awash in arguments concerning transportation authorities and their recent rulings regulating technology-aided commercial ride-sharing. I will not join this specific discussion.

Let us look to the horizon. Our earth is getting hotter. Our polar ice caps are melting. Our seas are moving inland. Modeling has projected that many of our cities will be underwater in less than a century. We have an international commitment to reduce our carbon emissions. Can we get our act together and seek solutions to our land transportation woes within the context of an ecosystem that is crying out for help?

How speedily can we work towards an efficient, low carbon footprint mass transport system that relies on renewable energy sources?

One Friday in the middle of July, fellow teachers and I visited old Manila. To get there from the guest house of University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City, we took an Uber car. That was convenient. But old Manila, sprawling out of 400-year-old Intramuros, was instructive. If the walls could talk, they would remind our politicos of age-old urban planning wisdom and endorse new knowledge.

Settlements can always be built so that establishments of import are within comfortable walking distance, such as the distances between the National Museum and the Manila Cathedral, between San Agustin Church and Rizal Park, between Casa Manila and the Philippine General Hospital.

Architecture can always make efficient use of land so that building ground floors, as in the ground-level shops of Casa Manila, serve residents’ day-to-day transactional needs while upper stories constitute spaces for homes.

Neither car ownership nor motorists’ use of cars is a must, nor is anyone’s use of fossil fuel–based vehicles. This we can respectively relearn and learn from the ages-old horse-drawn carriage and the beta-tested electric jeeps.

Another evening this month, I walked to Cebu City’s business district to catch a ride home. With the lines down there, I knew I would at least have an idea when I would be able to get a jeep or cab. Before I got there, I bumped into a colleague by the road who was on her way out of the district. She had been there in a queue but in the end felt she waited too long for her long commute. When I got there and saw the labyrinthine lines to the jeeps and taxis, I decided I should stay inside the mall till the crowd thinned out. My phone is incompatible with any ride-sharing app.

I eventually boarded a cab that soon got stuck at length in the rain on Natalio Bacalso Avenue where a Ceres bus and a Ken cab happened to collide close to midnight. Ah, for streets like those in Hamburg, Germany, where lanes are separately allotted for pedestrians, bikers, car drivers, and trucks and buses, and never the four shall meet, and travelers are encouraged to donate to a carbon emission reduction fund.

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TAGS: Cebu‬, JAM, life, mind, roads, traffic

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