Future Cities Design Talk: Manila's Traffic Problem Can Be Solved With Improved Public Transport

Future Cities was on the agenda at the International Design Conference 2019

(SPOT.ph) You may think that the terrible traffic and the almost-weekly Carmaggedon we all suffer through are native only to Metro Manila. But a Hong Kong native reveals that it happens in other countries, and is a symptom of cities with a developing economy, and there are valid solutions.

Alexander Chan, one of the speakers invited by the Design Center of the Philippines to talk about “Future Cities” for the International Design Conference in Makati City on September 20, admitted at a press conference that what greeted him upon his arrival in the Philippines was heavy traffic from the airport. Chan took his Masters in Public Policy at the University of Oxford, and has run various community service projects in Hong Kong focusing on social mobility, and was a member of Social Impact Practice in Greater China. He is also co-director of Mills Fabrica, an incubation hub and investment platform in Hong Kong. With his experience, he shared some of his insights on traffic in other cities.

At the International Design Conference press conference, left to right: host Jodi Aguillon, speakers Sebastien Maleville of Jacob Jensen Design, Kevin Martin of Unspun, Rhea Matute of Design Center of the Philippines, Alexander Chan of Mills Fabrica, and Andrew Dent, PhD of Materials Connexion.
PHOTO courtesy of the design Center of the Philippines
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A focus on improving public transportation

Chan, who lived in Beijing for some time, says that China also had the same traffic problem. “If I was going anywhere in Beijing, I had to leave two hours in advance. Whether by car, by train, it takes up to two hours. The challenge in every city is, when the economy takes off, so does the traffic.”

The traffic situation improved when changes were made, specifically to public transportation. “So, they started changing the regulations for cars and public transportation, and they put more emphasis in terms of having extensive public transport.” He also adds that the buses are now electric vehicles with WiFi onboard, are clean, and have zero emissions. “It was really about changing public transportation to reduce car ownership.”  

Working together for the future of transportation

Another revelation from Chan: ride-sharing apps don’t really solve the traffic problem. “With the apps, it makes it so easy to take a cab, but all it does is actually increase congestion,” he says. “Sometimes I’d think that these companies should work with local governments on solving the traffic instead—like how the roads and routes can be improved. But also, the government should put pressure on these companies to think of different options of transportation.”


The concept of decentralization

Another cause of traffic congestion in Metro Manila is that almost all the commercial and business districts are located here. Chan cites Hong Kong as having the same problem. “Almost everyone in Hong Kong goes to work in the same place. I’d say, 60% of the people who work on Hong Kong Island live elsewhere. It would make sense to have alternative areas to work in to divert the traffic, and so that things would be more regional rather than concentrated in a certain area.”

Chan explains that with ideas for future cities, most think immediately of technology playing a big role in it, but essentially it is all about human interaction. “Because cities are about people,” he says. And in the discussion about traffic, he adds: “There are a lot of things that could be done, but ideally, the role of the government is to bring a holistic solution and think about the future of transportation.” 


For more information about the International Design Conference, follow Design Center of the Philippines on Facebook.

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