Things are looking up in the transport industry, one of the engines of growth which the government is banking on to drive the economy through the virus pandemic.
The private automotive sector is also starting to regain its footing, fired up by the growing need for enhanced mobility other than commuting on public transport.
The Edsa Carousel and PITX bus exchange and related systems have been installed and are working like clockwork despite some minor kinks. State-supervised railways have also been chugging along, ferrying front line workers and commuters whose number has to be limited given the lingering threat of COVID-19 infection.
Drawing inspiration from the mantra that is “build back better”, the private sector did its bit, although not to be sneezed at, and created road infrastructure one after the other flag shipped by the Skyway Project 3 of San Miguel Corporation’s Ramon S. Ang, President and chief executive officer. While still at it, the visionary Ang doubles down on his advocacies for enhanced mobility by initiating the AeroCity in Bulacan, which has just received formal approval from the government and is now preparing for the takeoffs. At the same time, Ang has drawn up the Pasig River Expressway, which is touted to connect East and West sections of Metro Manila, thus speeding up the transport of people and cargo in the next few years.
Another visionary, Manny V. Pangilinan of the MVP Group of companies has begun the spadework for the mega-buck project, Urban Ring Road that is envisioned to link north and south for seamless travel. MVP’s Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) is tasked with building a network of urban expressways to link up the west, east, north, and south sides of the entire Metro Manila area through interconnected tollways which will comprise a “ring around the metropolis
“That’s why we call it the ‘MPTC Urban Ring Road,’ which is designed to improve circulation and assure unimpeded traffic flow,” said Rodrigo E. Franco, MPTC President and CEO.
The MPTC Urban Ring Road solves city traffic by providing a high-speed, high-standard seamless network of expressways within and around Metro Manila, Franco says. It will decongest local roads and strengthen the road network configuration by separating local in-city trips from inter-city to inter-regional travel.
For its part, the Transportation department as regulator is seeing to it that all land-sea-air travel projects dovetail with government rules and regulations. Its latest project the Metro Manila Subway has taken delivery of major equipment, In the works are several key mass transport systems and high-capacity public transport vehicles, to move more people while using less vehicles and occupying less road space, Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
Most notable of these projects is the country’s first-ever subway system. Last Friday, the 74-ton cutterhead of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) “Kaunlaran” recently arrived in the country. Which signals that all systems are “go” for the Metro Manila Subway.
Nearing completion, Tugade said, are the extension works on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 Extension from Metro Manila to Cavite― stalled for almost two (2) decades, but is now targetted for partial operations by the 4th quarter of 2021; the LRT-2 East Extension from Santolan to Masinag, which will be completed in April; the PNR Clark Phase 1 (Tutuban to Malolos), that is targeted for partial operations by 4th quarter of 2021; the Common Station, which is expected to be completed by the 4th quarter of 2021; the MRT-7 from North Avenue, Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan, shall be ready for partial operations by 4th quarter of this year and for full completion by 2022; and the MRT-3 rehabilitation, which is slated for completion in July 2021.
The transport department is also pushing for the acquisition of new train sets for the MRT-3, LRT-1, and Philippine National Railways (PNR) lines to increase their respective capacities, among others. At least four (4) 4th Generation LRVs out of 120 for LRT-1 and its Cavite Extension; three (3) new Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives (DHL) and fifteen (15) passenger coaches are now being utilized.
Apart from these endeavors, the DOTr said it was putting in place mass public transportation as the principal means of mobility to reduce dependence on private vehicles, with the objective of reducing exhaust emissions, given that 70% of air pollution comes from vehicle emissions.
That has prompted the shift to clean energy of public buses and other public utility vehicles, which has become more relevant and timely with the pandemic.
The LTFRB has rationalized routes and has undertaken the Public Utility Modernization Program (PUVMP) to ensure order, efficiency, safety, and protection of the environment through clean fuel use in public land transport.
At the same time, PUV drivers through the Service Contracting program have been able to make up for lost income during the restrictions.
At present, the DOTr is expanding bicycle lanes in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao under the Bayanihan 2 Bike Lane Networks project. Around 29 kilometers of bike lanes were already established to date. Before the year ends, and 140 kilometers of bike lanes are expected to expand the bike lane network, apart from the 31 bike-sharing participants.
The concept of a “walkable community” is also on top of the transport list, with the EDSA Greenways Project Phase 1. The project aims to establish “greenways” or walkable nodes at different railway stations. It aims to serve 1.1 million pedestrians daily in 2023 and 1.2 million/day in 2051. Target partial operations of the project is by December 2021, and full operations by February 2023.
Outside Metro Manila, the concept of public and active transport on roads goes hand in hand with the establishment of bus systems.
In Cebu, the DOTr is pushing for the partial operability of one of the crucial segments (Package 1) of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (Cebu BRT) within 2021. DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade ordered a 24/7 construction work schedule for the project. The Cebu BRT’s Package 1, which covers the 2.6-kilometer busway, with four (4) stations, urban realm enhancement, and vital intersection improvements, is already at the procurement stage.
In Davao, a modern high priority bus system is mandated to provide an efficient, world-class, and affordable mode of transportation through the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project (DPTMP). Partial operations will commence this year as the parcellary works are currently ongoing following the awarding of its contract.