CNN Philippines asked nine groups of planners and architects to illustrate their ideal perspectives of the most important thoroughfare in Metro Manila, Epifanio De los Santos Avenue.

(Read full CNN Philippines article here.)

A Philippine Star Editorial of EDSA in 2017. Two years later, the same issues.

As an Environmental Planner, I analyzed these ideal perspectives and identified 4 common themes used by the participants in describing their proposals.

I attended a transport-related lecture in 2017, from which I also derive some principles.

I used rapid thematic analysis: I listed important keywords from each perspective then clustered related words.

Through rapid analysis, identified the following four themes from the ideal EDSAs.

  1. Mass public transportation with high capacity
  2. Top priority for pedestrians and their walking
  3. Shift away from car-oriented movement
  4. EDSA as more than a road

Mass public transportation with high capacity

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All groups envision versions of EDSA that put premium on high capacity mass public transportation.

Joel Luna Planning and Design and Archiglobal Manila (JLPDAM) remarks the need to increase the capacity of the present MRT system. The most recent report estimates the capacity of the MRT system to only 350,000 passengers  while currently servicing 550,000 commuters daily.

With available high capacity public transportation, the groups dream of a commuter population that has shifted to public transportation.

Read: Dedication to public transit is one of the themes of “Happy City.”

Palafox associates expound on providing dedicated lanes for various transportation modes – “bus trams, provincial buses, vehicles, bikes and pedestrians.”

Ross Pabustan includes four lanes of railway to “make EDSA an important thoroughfare.”

Gomez and Guilles proposes the operation of a double-deck BRT system to enhance the carrying capacity of EDSA.

JLPDAM foresees that with systematic bus transport and enhanced MRT capacity, at least one lane per direction can be reclaimed to “improve the pedestrian environment.”

Top priority for pedestrians and their walking

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In Taiwan, "pedestrians have right of way" and everyone knows it.
In Taiwan, “pedestrians have right of way” and everyone knows it.

Move people not cars” is an adage that these planners and architects clearly advocate.

Various designs of elevated walkways were cited by at least four groups. The designs of Paulo Alcazaren and associates, “the Ortigas Greenways Project”  is especially targeted to make walking from the Ortigas MRT Station to the Ortigas CBD more comfortable.

Palafox associates proposes the location of pedestrian crossings every 800 meters along EDSA.

The planners and architects advocate “comfortable and safe walking experiences for diverse ages and mobilities.” Children, senior citizens, PWDs and women should have equal comfortable and safe walking experiences as regular pedestrians.

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With walking as the most accessible transport mode to commuters, it is crazy if walking is not comfortable and safe. Walking is highest in the hierarchy of public transport modes.

Canberra’s Integrated Transport Strategy.

Prioritizing walking means less time spent looking through scarce parking spaces, less time spent waiting for unreliable public transportation, and less time spent crossing dangerous streets.

Shift away from car-oriented movement

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With calls to make driving dangerous again, it is evident that cities are seeing car usage as an evil rather than a necessity.

Palafox associates proposes a sharing scheme for EDSA lanes: 1/3 to pedestrians, 1/3 for landscaping, and 1/3 for vehicles, with subway stations below ground.

The famous hierarchy of modes image justifies hatred for private car use. The private car is an unfair mode of transportation.

Private cars are unfair modes of transportation. Human Transit.
Private cars are unfair modes of transportation. Human Transit.

Ambisyon 2040 survey results reveal that the Filipino family’s comfortable life includes car ownership, similar to how developing cities and culturally oppressed societies view car ownership as a status symbol.

Filipinos visualize a comfortable life as having “at least one car.” NEDA.

EDSA as more than a road

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Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue.

Traditionally, avenues are “paths with a line of trees or large shrubs running along each side.” The planners and architects want EDSA to match this supposed description!

JLPDAM argues that EDSA should be “less road, more place,” to which the Manila Creative adds that redesigning EDSA is a “chance…to reduce our dependence on [the] notorious highway.”

In EDSA, people and environment should be connected towards ecological equilibrium – where the state of the environment is balanced with the state of people’s wants.

Ecological equilibrium – when the state of the environment is balanced with the state of people’s wants

Read: If Environmental Scientists had More Influence

Ecological equilibrium can be seen when EDSA is not for vehicles only and is more than a “transport corridor.”

Being a good place (a place is a space with meaning according to Yi Fu Tuan), people stay in EDSA not because of traffic congestion but because of positive purposes.

Green open spaces and community hub provide social and health benefits. The 1/3 allotment for landscaping by Palafox Associates allows for other uses besides carriageway.

A situation where EDSA consists of indigenous native trees enhances social well-being and physiological health.

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Conclusion

The emergent themes from this rapid content analysis are interrelated.

Putting top priority for pedestrians to save them time through high capacity transportation can reduce dependence on car usage.

These themes will allow the transformation of EDSA from a terrible time sink to an ecological hub.   EDSA’s meaning becomes positive and contribute to the sustainability of Philippine cities.

Read: There are sustainable cities in the Philippines!

The tropical climate of the country has become an excuse for putting walking as a priority.

I offer a counter argument: encouraging walking will reduce the use of motorized transport.

Motorized transport increases temperatures inside urban areas. Green Ribbon.

The use of motorized transport worsens the urban heat island effect through gas emissions. The urban heat island effect increasing temperature inside our business districts compared to outside places.

Gan and associates states that more than 80% of Metro Manila population use EDSA as a public transportation route. With this fact, the Avenue must be “for the greatest service to the public.”

Read: 3 Requests for Elected Officials in the Philippines

Implementing any or a combination of these ideal perspectives certainly requires executive prowess, not necessarily emergency powers.

The 17 mayors of Metro Manila should treat the rehabilitation of EDSA like how they approached the 60-day #ReclaimPublicRoads deadline – a race against time.

The rehabilitation of EDSA is a race against time.

If you are MMDA chairperson, what will be your priority action?

Write your answer in the comments!

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