(PIA) -- Loud honking of horns, bumper-to-bumper cars, and long lines of seemingly still vehicles greet Baguio residents in going to work, school, or going back home.
Traffic is not an unusual scenario for the ordinary Filipino especially in busy cities like Metro Manila, Cebu, and Baguio. In fact, it has been an everyday experience, an everyday struggle, and an everyday display of unregulated urban growth.
Carrying Capacity Issue
Baguio City is the regional center of the Cordillera and an educational hub for Northern Luzon. Students, business people, and employees from the Cordillera provinces and neighboring municipalities reside, either permanently or transiently, in the city.
The 2015 Annual Report of the Commission on Population shows that Baguio City has a population of 345,366 with 1.61 percent annual population growth rate. Including the transient residents and tourists, the city’s population can play between 300,000 to 500,000 in a day.
In 2011, the number of registered vehicles in the city has also climbed up from 33, 394 to 35, 414 motor vehicles.
During a Sustainable Mobility Forum at the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio on April 20, Master of Urban Development student Michelle Garcia shared that a person needs at least five square meters to move stress-free in a public space. Vehicles like cars require at least 12 sq. m., 18 sq. m. for jeepneys, and 10 sq. m. for motorbikes.
Adding up the city and vehicle population, at least 1.7 million sq. m. is needed to move around the city stress- free. However, the total road network of the Central Business District (CBD) of the city is only 67, 500 sq. m. resulting to traffic and road congestion in the CBD.
Garcia said the city’s carrying capacity issue particularly traffic has caused the loss of at least P14.2 million for business establishments in Session Road and P1.7 M for the city government.
With the number of available road network at constant and the population of people and vehicle in Baguio City increasing, the city government proposed a parking building project to decongest the CBD area of the city.
Business Process Analyst Joseph Claridades shared addressing the issue of congestion in the city needs an effective traffic scheme to smoothly move people around the area instead of building a parking podium that does not conform to regulatory guidelines and mandates of the local government unit.
Claridades explained that sustainable mobility, a concept which prioritizes people in coming up with road network plans, can be achieved in Baguio City through three stages.
The first stage aims to develop smarter roads through streamlining road networks thus, reducing delays for passengers.
Second is to move people smarter through delivering efficient jeepney and taxi processes to enable people to plan their day better.
Last is to provide standard bus line that provides alternative mode of transportation in the CBD.
The three stages to sustainable mobility in the city do not only address congestion in the CBD area but also benefit the environment through reducing vehicle use and fuel consumption.
Going Back to Basics
The Cordillera is popular for its thriving culture nurtured by the people who value their indigenous traditions.
UP Baguio Architect Aries Go emphasized that aside from indigenous dances, practices, and clothing, indigenous architecture and urban form in the Cordillera deserves more attention especially in solving the current issues on urban planning.
“We need to go back even further; the Burnham Park plan is not for Baguio.”
Go explained that the imperialistic nature of urban planning has moved us away from the indigenous urban form fitted for the Cordilleras. These indigenous architectures which include small “dap-ayan” or gathering places encourage social interaction and relaxation among people in the communities.
However, with the fast-paced urbanization of the city, public spaces are being replaced with towering buildings and hotels and people lost track of human interaction.
Go encouraged everyone to promote the importance of social interaction and a close-knit community, a characteristic which makes Baguio unique from other cities.
Starting with redesigning barangay halls to stimulate more interaction in the community, Go urged that we must plan “not the Baguio we want, but the Baguio we need.” Jamie Joie Malingan (ALT/JPM- PIA CAR)