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Urban gondolas for Metro Manila

IT is indeed time to think out of the box if we are to solve some of the worst problems in our country that have survived the best efforts of previous administrations. The idea of having cable cars in the Pasig City area and a line between Makati City and Sta. Rosa, Laguna, is one possibility, according to the new Secretary of Transportation Arthur Tugade.

They are known as urban gondolas in many cities in Europe as in Austria where a ski resort reportedly set a record of moving 298,000 people per hour on a train of gondolas on steel cables strung between towers. Bolivia in South America started with a ten-kilometer line moving 163,000 passengers a day and is now building two more lines.

The big advantage of a system of cable cars or urban gondolas is the relatively low cost of construction and maintenance, compared to skyways for buses and tracks for light rail coaches. It could also be set up in one and a half years, with minimal disruption of existing traffic, as the needed infrastructure is mostly steel towers every 200 to 1,000 meters.

There is also the proposal for greater use of the Pasig River through a system of ferries with schedules as regular and systematic as the trains of the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit. This, however, may need a coordinating program to clean up the Pasig and its esteros and Manila Bay itself, to make river travel more pleasant than it is today.

Air travel by cable car and water travel by ferries will not only bypass the traffic jams that now beset Metro Manila. They will be an added attraction for tourists, as they are now in many cities in Europe.

The previous administration tried its hand at solving the Metro traffic problem with Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras taking over from officials of the Metro Manila Development Authority to introduce changes, including traffic enforcement by the Highway Patrol Group of the Philippine National Police. Traffic in some areas along EDSA did improve for a while, but it is now back to “normal” – which is two to three hours to get from one end of Metro Manila to the other.

Clearly, Metro Manila traffic remains as slow and taxing as ever. President Duterte is considering asking for emergency powers to solve it. Every possible solution must be considered as the previous ones have not made any significant dent on the problem. The cable car or urban gondola proposal could be a feasible part of a comprehensive traffic plan for Greater Manila and surrounding areas.

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