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More than roads

The Asian Development Bank said in a recent report that country’s capital and other urban cities need to provide quality public transportation to improve livability and not just construct roads that would eventually lead to congestion.

The Manila-based multilateral bank said urban areas in the region, such as Manila, need to offer more and better public transport options to cut traffic jams and pollution. ADB Transport Sector Group chief James Leather said that merely constructing roads is not the solution, as it only encourages a downward spiral of increased purchases and use of private vehicles which eventually leads to more congestion.

“One of the solutions is more, and better, public transport. This is especially true in Asian cities where the population densities and the number of large or mega cities makes mass public transport systems the only viable option to move large numbers of people in such limited public space,” Leather said.

“Public transport is so much more than simply a way to get around, it is a key economic driver that can improve the livability of cities across Asia and the Pacific,” he added. He said Manila and other cities like Bangkok and Jakarta have shown how to stimulate sustainable transport options centered on public transport.

ADB estimates that road congestion is costing Asian economies as much as five percent of gross domestic product every year due to lost time and higher transport costs. The region’s cities also suffer from the highest air pollution levels in the world, with as much as 80 percent attributable to transport. Further, urban transport does not only support economic activity, but is also a major source of employment.

Leather adds that there are also less obvious, but no less valuable socioeconomic benefits such as greater and more inclusive access, creating livable cities and reclaiming public spaces for the people.

Merely building roads does not equate to building a working public transportation system. Numerous roads may have been built, widened and repaired in Metro Manila and all over the country, but there has been no significant investment in the upgrade of public transportation.

Highly metropolitan and urbanized areas have to start looking into public transportation systems that can make cities more livable. This will be much more difficult than simply building roads but the quality of public transportation will be the difference maker between cities that are doomed to remain stuck in the past and those that are ready to face the future.

The good news is that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the quality of public transportation in the Philippines. All we need are leaders who agree that more roads are not a sustainable solution and are willing to take the extra step to address that problem.*

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