I just thought this article is worth sharing from one of my favorite
opinion writers in the Philippines as well as what my brother's friend is
doing regarding this matter.
Have a great and hopefully, car-free weekend ahead : )
There's The Rub : Carless
Updated 00:41am (Mla time) Sept 23, 2004
By Conrado de Quiros
Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the September 23, 2004 issue of
the Philippine Daily Inquirer
I SAW my friend Jack Yabut on the ANC television channel last Monday. He
was plugging for the World Carless Day, which is tomorrow. Like Earth Day
and No Smoking Day, World Carless Day means to draw attention to a bane, in
this case smog and traffic caused by motor vehicles, and to find ways to
Jack himself had several suggestions -- organizing car pools, taking
public transport (chief of them the overhead Metro Rail Transit and Light
Rail Transit), biking, and walking to the office or home if they are not too
far off. The trick is to take things one step at a time, he said, but to do
them with some regularity. Maybe you can take public transport once a week,
quite apart from your car-ban day. You do that regularly, it becomes a
habit, and habits make for attitudinal changes.
Asked what inspired him to take up this crusade, Jack said that honestly
it wasn't lofty heroism but plain self-interest. He wants to breathe
reasonably clean air, a fact that has become less
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and less possible in Metro Manila today.
His concern is not exaggerated. I myself have a graphic image of Metro
Manila's pollution in my head. I was on an out-of-town trip one summer's day
some years ago, and as usual I took the dawn flight. I do that because I can
no longer tolerate traffic, it wastes my time and frays my nerves. The plane
had just taken off and I could see gray light breaking in the east. Then to
my surprise, I saw a line streaking across the horizon just above the
sleeping city. Everything below it was dark as soot and everything above it
was clear as sky. It took some moments for me to realize what that line was.
It was where the smog began, or rose up to. It startled me to realize I
lived in the very depths of that dark soot. I was glad I was leaving it, if
The biggest contributor there are, of course, the motor vehicles. And
private cars -- however more efficient their exhausts are compared to those
of buses and jeepneys -- are the main culprit. That is so because of their
sheer inefficiency in ferrying one or two persons from Point A to Point B at
any given time compared to buses and jeepneys and trains that haul a horde
of bedraggled carcasses over the same time and space. Private cars are also
easily the biggest contributor to traffic by the same token. Too much space,
too few people.
I myself drive, but I feel no small pangs of conscience when I see
tricycles and buses groaning with human cargo. I still get pissed off when
the tricycles ply the main roads, holding up traffic for the faster
vehicles, and the buses block my path, particularly in the part of the SM
mall that leads out to EDSA highway (a simple problem the half dozen or so
traffic aides there can't seem to solve); but the recognition I am lugging
my sole carcass over some distance while they are doing so hundreds of them
gives me pause.
I do take the MRT, as I've said in an earlier column, going to Makati, at
least on the occasions I am persuaded to go there. It is not my favorite
part of the metropolis; Manila is, for reasons that have nothing to do with
Atienza. It is not merely that I manage to escape the huge parking lot known
as Edsa-one of the joys of taking the Metro Rail Transit is looking down at
all the cars not moving below and knowing you are not there -- it is that I
manage to escape the cares of finding a place to park in the huge
non-parking lot known as Makati City. Jack is right: Sometimes, enlightened
self-interest does the trick.
I know the arguments that have been raised against public transport.
Mainly, that it sucks. It is crowded, it is slow and it is a pickpocket's or
holdup man's paradise. The argument is not without merit, although, like the
issue of leaving the country and working abroad, it is a chicken-and-egg
tangle. The solution is itself the problem. We leave the country, the
country gets worse, others find more reason to leave it. We buy more and
more cars, public transport is left to the dogs or the poor, we buy more and
more cars. And kill ourselves -- and our children -- with lung problems.
Or cancer: Haven't you noticed that's been on the rise over the years? But
that's another story.
Clearly, government must do its job of improving public transport. Chief
of them by running more trains. Omar Lopez had an interesting letter the
other day (Inquirer, Sept. 21, 2004) saying we are the only country on Earth
that doesn't have a decent train system and enumerating the many merits of
having one. Chief of them making travel easier to and from the provinces,
thereby decongesting Metro Manila.
I've said the same thing a number of times. The problem isn't the
demonstrable lack of merit of trains, it is the demonstrable lack of will of
government. The one thing that stands formidably in its way is the car
lobby, which includes the sellers of cars, gasoline, tires and other
car-related products as well as the public officials, elective or
appointive, who corner funds with which to build substandard, or even
non-existent, roads and bridges.
Government must do its job, but we have to do ours, too. Cars aren't just
a means of transport in this country, they are a state of mind. They carry
with them a culture -- a "car culture" -- that has our urban dwellers agog
over Ford's invention. Jack is right, too about taking things one step at a
time. Literally, in the case of walking. That is something by the way you
learn when you visit Europe and other countries: though their dwellers live
far more luxuriously than we do, they have not forgotten how to walk. Their
own car culture has not wrecked their walking culture. A fellow Filipino
once complained to me in one such sojourn: "Don't they ever think of having
tricycles here?" No, my dear, they don't. Which is why they live far more
luxuriously than we do.
Carless is not the end of the world. It's just the start of it.
Marie Danielle Guillen
Urban Transport Lab.
Doctoral Program in Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba
Tennodai 1-1-1, Tsukuba City
Ibaraki, Japan 305-0821
Email Add: guillen@...