Sen. Robin Padilla has proposed deploying cable cars in Metro Manila to solve the capital district's festering traffic problem, looking to the sky instead of cramped roads for a cure.
The actor who topped last May's senatorial elections, said the Marcos government only needs to pursue the plans laid out by its predecessor for the Manila Urban Car Cable Project.
"Napag-aralan na po ito ng mga eksperto galing sa bansang France sa pamumuno ng kanilang ambassador na nag-alok pa na sila ang gagawa nito at dito po ipinanganak ang idea ng 4.5 kilometers along the Santolan-Eastwood-Pasig corridor," he said on Facebook.
Padilla's suggestion spawned memes of cable cars in the Philippines, with Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla and former Antipolo mayor Andeng Ynares sharing how it would look like if they have cable cars in their provinces.
While Padilla's suggestion is "well meaning", what Metro Manila needs is to solve the urgent need of commuters as transport options remain limited under the new normal, said transport advocacy group The Passenger Forum.
Cable cars as mass transport?
Cable cars are among many forms of urban transport used in progressive cities like Singapore and Hong Kong. It's usually part of tourist tours for sightseeing, urban planner and architect Jun Palafox told TeleRadyo.
"Kahit sa London along the Thames River meron din sila cable car, ang nangyayari mas marami turista gumagamit kaysa commuter," he said Monday.
Aside from the Manila Urban Car Cable Project which aims to ferry passengers in eastern Metro Manila, there had been proposals to link Davao and Samal Island, Boracay and Caticlan, and even Mountain Province and La Union or Ilocos region, Palafox said.
Depending on its design, cable cars can carry up to 12 people per car, just like jeepneys, he said.
Palafox said investing in cable cars could help address traffic congestions, which cost the Philippines some P3.5 billion in lost opportunities daily in 2018, according to aid agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It could further balloon to P5.4 billion by 2035 if there were no interventions made, JICA said in 2018.
While DOTr isn't discounting any proposals, it might be difficult to implement, said Transportation Sec. Jaime Bautista.
"Analysis paralysis, lack of continuity, we need strong political will, visionary leadership with appreciation of good urban planning, design like architecture and engineering. 'Yun po medyo kulang sa atin na meron sa ibang bayan po," said Palafox.
“Medyo mabagal po tayo. Saka mahina tayo sa reforms and global trends," Palafox said, citing proposals to build a subway as early as the 1970s.
It also can't immediately solve commuter problems as it will take years to build the infrastructure for cable cars, said Morillo. According to the MMDA, onsite classes starting August will bring some 436,000 vehicles in EDSA, some 30,000 more vehicles compared to pre-pandemic EDSA.
"Kung kinakailangan nating istorbohin 'yung ilang mga lugar, kailangan natin kumuha ng right of way, kailangan natin isara ang ilang lugar para sa construction, doon na tayo sa mga tren," he said.
"Ang pinakamalaking problema natin ay 'yung masasakyan ng mas maraming tao... Kung ang iniisip ng gobyerno at ni Sen. Padilla ay magkaron ng cable car sa Pilipinas, I think puwede naman pero baka hindi necessarily dito kung saan marami tayong problema sa transportation."
What can be done now?
Cable cars as mass transport can "alleviate the situation, but it won't solve traffic," said Palafox, who called to explore more transportation options including water transport.
Maximize Pasig River Ferry System
The Pasig River Ferry System, which offers free rides to commuters, has 13 stations in Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, and Pasig. It travels from east to west, not covered by the transportation solutions in EDSA which runs from north to south, said Morillo.
Improving its services won't disrupt EDSA traffic, nor would it add more roads because the river serves as its highway, he said. By rehabilitating the river and adding more lights for nighttime trips, it can ferry more passengers without spending too much on new infrastructure, said Morillo.
"Kung maayos Pasig River Ferry Service, magkakaroon ka river cruise option, pasok 'yung tourism. Mas maganda 'yung maseserbisyuhan at mas marami, 'di kasing-gastos ng cable car."
Give car owners options to ride mass transport without adding burden to the overwhelmed transport system by allowing more transport network vehicles services (TNVS) such as Grab, said Morillo. It's the usual preference of corporate workers or car owners who can pay more for convenience, he said.
Its dynamic pricing will control the number of vehicles on the road, he said. It's supply and demand at work: More cars catering to passengers will result in lower fares. This will also deter car owners from purchasing another car to circumvent number coding rules.
24/7 commuting options
DOTr should make good on 24/7 operating hours after the MRT joked, then deleted, its satire post about nonstop operations, said Morillo. More transportation options means more employees can work onsite, which can help stimulate the economy, the DTI earlier said.
More jeepneys on the road
Since 2020, some traditional jeepneys ceased to operate due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's modernization program, said Morillo. Bringing them back to pre-pandemic operations will cut short the long queues of passengers waiting for a ride, he said. It will also address the unemployment woes of jeepney drivers.
For Morillo, it's important for commuter to speak up about their commuting experience. While resilience is a virtue, it won't solve traffic issues.
"Tingin ko kailangan magsimula na magsalita 'yung mas marami. Huwag tayo umasa sa mga may grupo na magsasalita for us. Alam natin bilang commuter na nagko-cope lang tayo," Morillo said.
"Sana 'wag na natin antayin mag-fail, magsalita na tayo ngayon para papunta tayo sa solusyon, 'di na mag-worsen ang sitwasyon na maging magulo 'yung lipunan natin."