Land use and transport
Land use and transport
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - March 20, 2018 - 12:00am

Part 4 - Unnecessary trips

Last week, we wrote about trips -that traffic congestion is caused by their overabundance vis-a-vis the capacities of our roads, and not necessarily by the number of cars. Thus, even if the car population in a city stays the same, we traffic congestion maybe alleviated by decreasing the number of trips. We mentioned some trips (schools, markets, convenience stores, groceries, etc.) which may be eliminated if we build these destinations near or around our where we live.

Technically, we call them “person-trips,” as I wrote in this column in February 2012. While these vary each day, the total number of trips in a certain city, would be more or less constant, maybe varying for each day of the week. There would be hourly variances as people go on with daily routine. It would then be obvious that decreasing the number of trips is an excellent way to reduce traffic congestion. And this will still be true even if the number of cars continues to increase. Addressing the congestion problem involves both car ownership and car use.

In 2012 we said that trips maybe typically classified as follows: home-to-work, school or church, personal/family matters, or social/recreational. We sum these up to define the traffic demand of a city. But we can also categorize them in order of importance, or economic value. The most important commutes are home-to-work trips. The rest usually have less economic value. Some may even be “unnecessary,” which means there is a potential of decreasing the daily trips!

For example, is going to Fuente Osmeña simply because you crave “balut” (or whatever) necessary? Of course not. Maybe many years ago you would have, probably not recently. But what do we mean by “necessary,” and how do we classify them? If we are to test each trip, we would invariably connect this to the issue of “car dependence.” I realized this myself while we were formerly living in Mactan Island.

One Saturday afternoon, I wanted to go to SM Cebu to buy an item I needed, but then found out the car won’t start. The wife told me to just take the jeepney, but I said, “No, I’ll just get them tomorrow” (when the car would have been fixed). These are unnecessary trips -trips which you wouldn’t have made by any other mode, when a car is not available. You see, we have been so used to the car that we use them as often as we want to, even for trips which we wouldn’t take by other means. And there are those trips which we can lump together, too, in a single trip instead of three. But it’s self-limiting, too -traffic congestion, like what we are experiencing now, causes us to take less unnecessary trips, or lump them together. This also means lumping separate trips together, like four people going to the mall in one car, rather than separately. Which, by definition, is a carpool! (To be continued)

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