February 28, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

Companies that intend to help Baguio address its traffic congestion woes presented their proposals under the city government’s Smart Urban Mobility Project during the investment summit on Oct. 4 and 5.

The Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC), through its subsidiary MPT Mobility, plans to implement a congestion charging scheme, smart parking and traffic management, and implement a single dispatch system.

MPT Mobility Vice President Mark de Leon said the congestion charging scheme intends to reduce the number of private cars plying the road during certain hours of the day and in certain areas of the city.

With the scheme, which is being implemented in Singapore and London, private cars that enter the central business district during the rush hours will pay congestion charges.

De Leon said this will not curtail the rights of private car owners to travel, but only to encourage them to do so during off peak hours of travel or to use the routes where there is less volume of vehicles.

“The scheme does not suppress the right to travel. It just encourages private car owners to travel outside the rush hours. If they cannot avoid travelling to the CBD during the peak hours, they will have to pay the congestion fee,” de Leon said.

Aside from congestion charging scheme, MPT Mobility plans to implement a single dispatch system aided by artificial intelligence (AI) to help the city manage the dispatch of all modes of transport.

De Leon said through a mobile application where the dispatch system for public transport is integrated, passengers will be able to know when a jeepney will arrive at the same time, cabs will be able to know the areas where passengers are waiting.

For the smart parking system, the concept is to provide a platform that integrates parking areas into an app that will let the driver know where the available parking slots are and provide a system for cashless payment of parking fees. De Leon said this will work best with the city’s plan of building parking structures.

“This will minimize the time used looking around for a parking area, thereby reducing carbon emissions and not contributing to traffic congestion,” de Leon said.

To make these systems work, de Leon said there is also a need to make the city’s traffic signal management smart.

He said instead of deploying traffic enforcement personnel, MPT Mobility will provide CCTV surveillance cameras that will show the areas where there is traffic buildup.

Also, instead of using timers in intersections, the smart traffic system will operate based on traffic volume, which means the lane where there is buildup of cars will be given the “go” signal and the lane where there is less vehicles will be signaled to stop.

De Leon said MPT Mobility is investing roughly P2 billion on the infrastructure component of its proposal. The exact amount will depend on the outcome of the negotiations with the city.

Metro Global Holdings Corporation, meanwhile, plans to establish an electric monorail and bus transport system for the city through its subsidiary, Metro Renewable Transport Solutions, Inc.

Metro Renewable Transport Solutions President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime Cacho said the company intends to build a four-kilometer elevated monorail system covering eight locations within the CBD.

The monorail route will start from the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center and will extend to Camp John Hay.

Cacho said the company will also provide 300 electric buses to service transport routes in “high density” residential areas and connect this to the CBD monorail.

He said the monorail will help address air pollution as it runs purely on electricity and will lessen the volume of cars plying the CBD, particularly Session Road and making it pedestrian-friendly.

The company is infusing P11B for the project.

Another project that aims to help decongest the CBD is the proposed intermodal transport terminal of Megawide Construction Corporation, which consolidates south-bound provincial buses and vans into one area.

The proposal is to transfer the staging area of buses and vans from Gov. Pack Road to Barangay Dontogan.

Megawide Construction Business Development Officer Matt Jaramillo said the proposed intermodal terminal worth P1B is projected to serve 25,000 passengers daily with around 300 to 400 buses in the area daily.

He said the terminal will offer better passenger amenities with comfortable and spacious waiting areas, dedicated loading and unloading area, and a parking area.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong said these proposals do not intend to remove the livelihood sources of those in the public transport sector.

He said the projects will enhance public transport since the improved infrastructure and smart systems will encourage owners of private car owners to patronize mass transport.

The companies that presented were granted original proponent status pursuant to the city government’s Public-Private Partnership for the People Initiative or P4 Ordinance.

Magalong said nothing is final yet with the proposals since the city and the proponents will still undergo series of engagements and stakeholder consultations.