Cable cars 'not the answer' for Metro Manila mass transit needs
MANILA, Philippines – For a growing population and Metro Manila traffic that's becoming more congested, the incoming transportation chief has a probable band-aid solution: cable cars.
Transportation experts, however, aren't 100% sure of incoming transportation chief Arthur Tugade's cable car system solution.
"[I]t merely replaces road-based trips, typically borne by jeepneys or tricycles. It is not suitable for corridors where Light Rail Transit (LRT) or Philippine National Railway lines are more efficient. Cable car is an answer, but not the answer for mass transit needs," Rene Santiago, president of infrastructure consultancy Bellwether Advisory Incorporated, said in an email to Rappler.
For Jose Regin Regidor, a research fellow at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines, there are still several factors to consider, like capacity and demand.
"The first thing that came to my mind are capacity and demand. What would be the capacity for such a system and what could be the demand given that you would have to determine where stations would be?" Regidor said.
Should Tugade push through with his plan, urban Filipinos would see cable cars soaring over cities such as Pasig and Makati. These would be built not just for tourists, but for everyone.
"I'm borrowing from the Bolivia experience where they use cable cars. We can start in the Pasig area and then move on to EDSA, use gondolas that can carry 35 passengers," Tugade told ANC's Headstart in Filipino on Tuesday, June 28.
Before implementing the plan, Regidor said Tugade and his team should factor in wind strength and even the fear of heights.
"There's also the fear factor as many people would not be comfortable riding a vehicle so high up in the air; and then of course, there's the wind that will obviously have to be factored in the operation of such cable cars," said Regidor, who also teaches at UP Diliman's Institute of Civil Engineering.
In 2014, Bolivia launched a cable car system with 3 lines – yellow, red, and green in honor of Bolivia's tricolor flag. The 11-kilometer gondola system ferries passengers from the city of La Paz to the neighboring El Alto.
How feasible is it?
Bellwether's Santiago said the Pasig City government last year asked his consultancy firm to do a feasibility study on a cable car system.
"The study is yet to start or commence, as the election held up the process of consultant selection. The supplier must have gotten the ears of Tugade, hence his utterance," he added.
Santiago said the cable car system is more suitable to Baguio City and Trinidad Valley because of the terrain.
"These two cities have the system in their plans more than a decade, but are simply unaware how to get it done," he added.
Tugade told ANC he is also eyeing a possible cable car system running from Sta Rosa, Laguna to Makati City.
For short trips within the Pasig-Makati central business districts, Santiago said a cable car system would help.
"It requires very little right of way and can be built within two years. Kuala Lumpur had a cable car system dubbed as Skytrain in 1980s, before it started constructing LRTs and monorails. Kuala Lumpur is now constructing a subway line," he added.
For Regidor, Metro Manila is still "very much a battleground for transport and traffic."
"I think the incoming Department of Transportation secretary should work on an urban mass transport project in one of our major cities, either Cebu or Davao," he replied when asked what should be Tugade's first project.
According to Regidor, these cities are slowly becoming like Metro Manila.
"These cities are already also congested and would need to have an urban transit system very soon in order to avoid becoming another Metro Manila," he said. – Rappler.com