Transportation – Infrastructure or Service?
STREET LIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - January 29, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 1)

As it happens, I have been in some meetings and discussions about “transportation” in the last few days, mostly about looking forward, somewhere in the future, or more specifically, talking about the state we want it to be. What is encouraging is that there is a growing trend on looking at the issue(s) with more realistic people-oriented ways, but there is still a steady and persistent view on focusing on infrastructure. It’s not surprising as transportation is traditionally part of the infrastructure development sector.

But times change, and there is a growing attention towards looking at the issues, problems, and their solutions, as “services” rather than “infrastructure.” It started with Enrique Peñalosa, former and current mayor of Bogotá, capital of Colombia, saying that “we should plan for people, and not for cars!” Now, everybody parrots this phrase, even those who do planning as part of their job. But many do just that –parrot.

Eventually, we tried to redefine transportation to be more in line with the “people, not cars” theme, and new terms emerged – “mobility” and “accessibility.” And we try to define these by using the adjective “inclusive.” Transportation (that is, mobility and accessibility) should be for people, and thus, for everybody, including the disadvantaged sectors – old people, those with disabilities, women and children…and not “exclude” anybody. These terms crept into planning documents, especially on the “preface,” “introduction,” or “executive summary” pages. But inside the documents, sometimes, they don’t.

But let’s face it - the world of “transportation” is still strongly infrastructure-oriented. No sooner than you hear it, will most people imagine fast, sleek, and shiny trains, cable cars with breath-taking views, subways which miraculously transport us to the other side of the city in a flash, escaping the horn-blasting, inching traffic congestion above. We’re still the three-year-old boy salivating over a chugging, whistling, shiny miniature train in a toy store on Christmas. Especially the men who remained three-year-olds. Lol.

But we also need to be pragmatic and realistic. What do we really want? On the average, we work 260 days a year working and doing daily commute, - transportation, mobility, accessibility, or whatever we might call it – is one of the most troublesome moments of our lives. For all of us, and not only for the car-riding few, but most especially for the majority who must endure the inconvenience, suffering, and indignities that traffic congestion brings. At the end of the day, for most of us, it’s not what kind of infrastructure is built, but that we can be at our workplace in the most convenient way possible, at a reasonable price. What we need is a service, one that is mostly provided by government directly, or by government through the private sector. It’s one with the least hassle, minimum waiting time, minimum transfers, and which brings us to the safety and comfort of our domicile, in the arms of our families. This should be the ultimate goal – the best service possible, not just infrastructure. (To be continued)

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