- 'Catastrophic traffic predicted 'as early as 1976' - Palafox
- Solutions: More bridges, more LRT lines, elevated walkway along EDSA
- No need for government offices in Metro Manila
Plans to improve mass transportation in Metro Manila are 40 years behind schedule, according to renowned architect and urban Planner Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr., who said "catastrophic traffic and lack of decent housing" were already predicted as early as 1976.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Palafox said the World-Bank-funded Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project, or MMetroplan, published in 1976, already saw challenges brought about by floods, overpopulation, poor housing and traffic.
"With a do-nothing scenario, we will have catastrophic traffic, flooding, lack of decent housing and we will not be prepared for disasters. 1976 sinabi na namin 'yan," said Palafox, who served as senior planner and team leader for development planning of the MMetroplan.
Forty years later, the predictions of the Mmetroplan have come true.
Palafox said the daytime population of Makati Central Business District is "11 times the night time population" because of large scale development. The same problem can be seen in Ortigas and Cubao, he added, even as road capacity remained the same.
He said employees in Makati, Ortigas and Bonifacio Global City take 5-6 hours going to and from work. "Elsewhere in the world, it takes you 30-45 minutes lang," he said.
Palafox said the EDSA corridor should have 8 parallel roads "but these are inside gated military camps and gated villages."
"The government should be the exemplar, not the exempted. Before opening up the gated villages, it should first open the military camps," he said.
A plan to build a subway in Metro Manila was first proposed in 1971 but is only now being built, he said.
The MMetroplan also proposed 8 Light Rail Transits in 1976 "but we only have 3, parati pa sira," he added.
Palafox said one way to decongest EDSA is to increase walkability through an elevated walkway.
"Dapat public transport and sidewalk widening. After the 1973 OPEC oil crisis, progressive countries in the world widened sidewalks and increased walkability. [There should be] Elevated walkways the whole length of EDSA because EDSA was designed for 60 kph. Ngayon 11 kph na lang. Pag Friday, pay day, umuulan, 2 kilometers per hour na lang. E di maglakad ka na lang sa elevated walkway," he said.
Palafox said government offices should not be located in Metro Manila, pointing out that the office of the Department of Agriculture has its main office in Quezon City "even if there is no agriculture [here]."
Even Malacañang Palace, he said, could be transferred so that Mendiola Bridge could be better utilized.
"If you remove the government offices, about 2 million population will be removed from Metro Manila. And we have 81 provinces, 166 towns and cities, we need to develop outside Metro Manila," he said.
The urban planner said city officials should address the "imbalance" between places of work and places of residence. He said there should be more affordable housing in job centers such as Makati, Ortigas and Bonifacio Global City and more dormitories near universities.
He also proposed 13 additional bridges across Pasig River.
"If not vehicular, kahit pedestrian and bicycle bridges na lang. Galing kang Mandaluyong papuntang Makati 2 oras. Kung maglakad ka na lang o magbisikleta ka na lang, if you build more bridges, mas mabilis," he said.
If vehicular bridges are impossible, another solution for traffic is more pedestrian bridges across Pasig River, Marikina River and San Juan River. "Encourage walking because an indicator of a First World country is when the leaders of government and business use public transport or walking. But if you have long lines, there should at least be an electric fan or shade," he said.
Another fix, he said, is water transport on Laguna Lake, Pasig River and Manila Bay.
Palafox said land use planning in Metro Manila has become "short-term and opportunistic" in lieu of actual vision.
He backed a proposal to give emergency powers to President Duterte to fix the traffic mess, which would solve problems such as right-of-way issues.
"With what's happening now, all the proposals and recommendations, it will alleviate the situation but it will not solve the problem. Siguro it will take 15 years to really address more effectively the problem of traffic. Kung may emergency powers, siguro in a shorter time of years," he said.
"With a do-nothing scenario, it will become worse. Kausapin niyo mga empleyado ngayon. Two years ago, 2 hours lang going to work and coming from work. Ngayon 5-6 hours na...[We need] political will, visionary leadership, good urban planning, good design and good governance," he added.