Inclusive mobility, not traffic
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - July 2, 2019 - 12:00am

If there is something common among the issues the newly-elected or re-elected leaders in our cities want to address in their first 100 days, two of these would be traffic and flooding. Anywhere in the country, but more so in bigger cities. In fact, the whole world seems to agree, if you just surf through the net on what their cities are also plagued with, especially traffic. If there are exceptions, you can count them with your fingers and these are usually those with a hundred thousand people only.

But is traffic really a problem, much more a priority? Or are we looking at a mirage? I yet have to see a specific law or policy that directly states that it is the government’s inherent responsibility and accountability to address traffic. Politically, elected officials would believe so, because people are complaining. But sometimes, human as we all are, we might be complaining about the wrong problems, too. Or more specifically, complaining about the symptoms, rather than the problem.

Isn’t it the primordial duty of government to ensure that its people get to go where they want to go, especially in the course of their daily work? Even the metrics used for economic losses due to traffic congestion is in terms of productivity. Meaning, we lose economic output because travel time to work is stretched. So, if there is anything that the government is obligated to do, it is to ensure that its people will get to work in the morning reasonably fast, and go home in the evening at an acceptable travel time. Even this exact measure is debatable because people nowadays want instant noodles.

The rather correct governance issue is mobility, and not traffic. Mobility is the ability of citizens to go wherever they want to go, but more specifically to work at home, the most reasonable time possible, yet, also that which is reliable, comfortable, and affordable.

But more importantly, the government has to ensure inclusive mobility, that is to ensure that all walks of life have the access to whatever mobility options they might need or want. Government should not be biased in serving, which it always is, looking only after the needs of the few. Few leaders realize this because it’s a matter of perspective. We see the world not as what it is but because of who we are. And it needs a paradigm shift to see the reality of an inclusive accessible city.

Most big cities have a hard time getting it, even when a few small cities in the world already demonstrated to all how these things can be done reasonably. And we always put up a fence of “reasons” why we can’t do what the inclusive cities are doing – a litany of objections or justifications, and continue on the ways where other cities have already decisively failed in the past. Even the old cities of the world are slowly getting these realizations. In the Philippines, we still insist on non-inclusive ways. (To be continued)

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