Posted in Research

Short documentation on a lecture on “Technology and Data-Driven Transport”

Featured image was downloaded from the fanpage of UP Plano. Being an Urban Environmental Scientist, it is necessary for me to have a working knowledge of urban dynamics, particularly movement. I was excited to attend the lecture because of the implications of transport to pollution and land use change.

Introduction

The lecture on “Technology and Data-Driven Transport” was hosted by the UP Office of International Linkages, the British Embassy of the Manila and Chalk. The talk featured three lecturers, one Filipino for the context and two from the UK for the solutions. The lecture was held on February 23, 2017; 2PM -5:30PM at the Engineering Theatre, Melchor Hall, UP Diliman. Majority of the attendees were students; the emcees also acknowledged representatives from various government agencies like the DOST, DOTr, and DPWH; walk-in participants included non-UP persons.

The Forum is part of the UK’s “Education is GREAT!” program, an international movement. The Transport Forum is important to educate the audience of UK’s various approaches to resolving transport issues in their country. With the emergency powers for the President still in the limbo at the Senate, it is essential for various representatives of government agencies to plan how their respective mandates can align to inspiring transport solutions. The Forum also serves as a bench-marking activity, particularly in the case of transport and social media: Twitter is a landscape-modifier in the Philippines as evidenced by its effect to the local media. It is beneficial to learn how Twitter may be used for transport solutions.

Summary of Topics

The Transport Landscape in the Philippines by Dr. Crescencio Montalbo Jr.

Dr. Montalbo provided a context for the transport landscape of the Philippines, detailing statistics on urban population, public transport and private cars. Dr. Montalbo also commented on the lack of “dignity of travel” in Metro Manila: comfort, safety, convenience of transport choices are low and judgement of transport choices is critical.

Dr. Montalbo recommended a “carrot and stick” strategy for transport choice. The government must provide incentives for the use of public transport and penalties for the use of private cars. The transport network of the Metro Manila is highly fragmented and individualized, contrary to the nature of travel patterns that transcend municipal boundaries.

A Game of Two Cities: A Toll Setting Game Testing Transport Policy Options by Dr. Chandra Balijepalli

Dr. Balijepalli illustrated scenarios for cities and answered the question: “Should cities compete or cooperate?” The experiment rooted from the policy change of UK that led to the formation of regional partnerships. He presented the MARS model: a system dynamic model incorporating the land use responses and multimodal choices of two identical cities in UK.

The main conclusion of the study was that cities benefit with the optimal tolls through information-sharing and cooperation. The respective planning processes of the two cities were found to be influenced by benchmarking with other cities.

Big Data, Social Media and Transport by Dr. Caitlin Cottrill

Dr. Cottrill presented five case studies of how crowdsourced data collection through a special app and through Twitter generated transport interventions that resulted to positive results.

The five case studies presented by Dr. Cottrill illustrated the importance of “timely, relevant, accurate, and personalized” transport information for formulating better decisions. The studies evaluated the demand side: how travelers express their needs rather than how transport service providers communicate advisories. The use of crowd-sourcing apps and Twitter in data collection also demonstrated that the public trusts community data, even from strangers.

Side notes

In Dr. Cottrill’s presentation, she presented that transport information must be: Timely, Relevant, Accurate, Personalized. Arranged in this order, it could be “inferred” that the lack of transport information leads to a T.R.A.P.

Dr. Balijepalli’s study used system dynamics modelling with Vensim software. My own thesis was a system dynamics model also, albeit of solid waste management.

Dr. Cottrill cited a statement that could spur a lot of research directions: car use vs. car ownership. Spatial, time-bound, and cost-benefit analyses can be formulated with that one phrase alone.

Personal Comments

Existing applications in the Philippines

On the subject of “competition among cities,” the Philippines has the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index of the National Competitiveness Council. The Index has a category for “Infrastructure,” which features characteristics of cities that are related to transport.

Cities can facilitate information sharing through updated websites and open data. Uploading their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Comprehensive Development Plans will enable other cities to harmonize their corresponding infrastructure and transport plans.

Dr. Cottrill expressed her belief that Waze is an app for the driver and an app for the commuter is needed – the Filipino has one: sakay.ph. Sakay.ph is a local navigation app that integrates jeepney routes and train routes to navigation itineraries. Sakay.ph recently incorporated the status of LRT and MRT congestion into their services. A next step may be integrating information about the “colorum” services available in areas with poor “government-provided transport services”: Makati, Ortigas, BGC, MOA.

Possible next steps in Philippine transport

Transport is more politics than technology. With the shift to federalism more certain than not, Philippine transport faces another issue. Federalism may help with limiting the authoritative boundaries of local agencies, but may give problems in trans-boundary transport.

The campaign of the government to remove old jeepneys not only helps traffic management but also improves air quality. The government should tighten the policies that limit tricycles and pedicabs on major roads and promote walking for distances less than two kilometers.

Uber has also shared mobility data, making researchers and modelers excited for papers to write and studies to explore. One city in Metro Manila, particularly the Central Business District of Makati City, can be a starting point for the research in demand-driven transport.

Conclusion

Transport is the process of moving people, goods, or services from one point to another. The Philippines is a challenging laboratory, particularly the Metro Manila region. The topics covered have glimpses of application in the country already, yet politics hampers continuous growth and improvement in transport. Social media and crowd-sourced information gathering might be the new frontier for Philippine transport research, but solid transport solutions cannot be implemented without corresponding traffic management systems.

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Author:

I am an Environmental Scientist, Geographer, and Researcher. I am especially interested in urban phenomena and planning.

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