Understanding Rapid Transit capacities
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - September 4, 2018 - 12:00am

Part 1 – The basic measurement

These days might be as good as any for reviewing rapid transit capacities to make sense of the present debates on both the seeming divide between the Bus Rapid Transits (BRTs) and their rail-based cousins in Manila and Cebu, and the controversial High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) restrictions implemented in EDSA. Both issues are tied to public transport capacities and fierce arguments on them are mostly misplaced, resulting from a lack of understanding of what those capacities are.

It doesn’t help that the traditional basic measurement of traffic is deceptive. The DPWH Highway Planning Manual base their road network planning on the “number of vehicles” and computes feasibility from those figures. That’s why they always start off everything with a traffic count – how many cars, jeepneys, buses, vans, tricycles, etc., passing through a road section at a given span of time (usually hourly or daily), and why the objective is to relieve congestion. This is also the reason why we always “expand.”

If we are to attain a certain degree of success in transportation planning, or using the better, more accurate term, mobility, there is a need to fix the real objective from the start. Is the goal to alleviate congestion? If you ask the people reading this newspaper, they’ll insist that it is. But really, that opinion arises from one’s personal perspective as seen from the individual’s point of view, mostly by one riding or driving a car. Many non-car owners will tend to agree, too, since their transport vehicle is affected, and thus, they are, too.

But if we go down to the barest basic developmental goal of transportation, especially from the perspective of society, and thus, of government, it’s really very simple – to move people from their places of residence to their places of work, as quickly as possible, as comfortably as possible, as cheaply as possible, among other things. But the main verb is “to move,” the other qualifications are merely adjectives…in the morning and in the afternoon (or evening). There may be a myriad of other trips and purposes one can have but more than half of all trips are home to work-trips, and more than three-fourths of those are in the morning and afternoon, which we call as “peaks.” This is the primary goal.

And since travel time is considered a “waste” (only jeepney or bus drivers gain from it, and maybe, those who have drivers, so they can work in their car while travelling), we always go for the immediate secondary goal of  “as fast as possible.” Unfortunately, the “congestion” slows this movement down, resulting in frayed nerves, road rage, frequent accidents, etc., which further slows down traffic. The knee-jerk reaction of those who don’t have cars would be to make it a goal to own one. And thus, the problem compounds.

What if there’s a way for a system to achieve this “moving of people” without being affected by the traffic on the road? That, my friends, is what public transportation by rapid transit systems do.

(To be continued)

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