Transportation – Infrastructure or Service?
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - February 5, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 2 - Policy)

Last week, we started off with the question – “transportation – is it infrastructure or a service?” and we said it’s the latter. 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. But many would say: “But we need infrastructure for that!” That’s true. The issue here is not whether we need infrastructure or not, for we certainly need that. It’s rather how we approach the problem and address them.

Take for example the transport master plans crafted in yesteryears, and the ones being crafted nowadays. They start off showing the lack of infrastructure and ends with a list of needed infrastructure. But somehow, somewhere, there’s a certain disconnect in the actual experience of people. The new (better) paradigm is to start with question on the lack of services, or the existing poor services, and find ways to develop/improve them to make the greatest number of people happy. (Note: we can never make “all” happy).

This is a long discussion, but it’s one that had to be treated meticulously, if we are to generate a better chance of getting it right. So, let’s start off at the top, beginning with the desired transport principles and transport policy. At its barest, the goal of transportation is to move people. Some may ask about goods, and services. That too, but we can just relegate that to a separate discussion. A few years back, I wrote about some adjectives to describe what we want – comfort, affordability, reliability, efficiency, and safety. We coined the acronym CARES. C can also represent convenience and S for security, but the joke is, don’t rearrange because they also spell SCARE. We use these descriptions in moving people, mostly from our homes to our work, and vice-versa.

We do this through two ways – common transport carriers (public transport) or individual carriers (cars). So, if there is a foremost goal for any country or city, it would be a question of increasing dependency on cars or decreasing it. It’s easy to see the goal(s) of each country or city (just search the internet) – cities that wanted to lessen their dependency on cars specifically and glaringly declare it in their transport visions/master plans while those that don’t (ergo, they’re promoting car dependency) do not write or mention it at all! The former (those that want to decrease car dependency) will also likely state that they are promoting public transportation and will set targets to increase “modal share” in public transportation over “private car” trips over the years. The latter will boast of a number of expressways, new roads, and road widening to be built. The best way to see how a country or city thinks is to look at their public transport principles and policies, or the lack of them. After that, we can examine the targets and metrics (how we measure them).

The mantra “planning for people, not for cars,” is often parroted, but not followed. But it shows in how we speak, or post in social media. (To be continued)

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