World Press

[Philipipnes_ManilaTimes] Models for urban planning: Top cities in the world

Date 2018-05-04 Writer ssunha

Models for urban planning: Top cities in the world

BY  ON Burnham plan for Manila

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In 1905, architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham planned Manila along the concept of the City Beautiful and City Efficient Movement. Taking inspiration from the Bay of Naples, the rivers of Paris, and the canals of Venice, the Philippines was envisioned to be the Pearl of the Orient Seas.

Burnham’s plan included revitalizing the waterfronts, and even using our rivers and esteros as part of the transportation system. Manila then was definitely one of the most beautifully planned cities, one of the first cities to have a railway system and airport. Other countries were even using Manila as a model for urban planning.

However, Burnham’s plan was abandoned after World War 2, leaving completed only some areas like the Manila City Hall and its vicinity, and Roxas Boulevard. Our city planning adopted instead the erroneous planning of Los Angeles, considered as car-centric, with poorly designed road networks to cater for the automobile. The problem, however, is that despite the increase in number of automobiles, our road capacities did not increase. Furthermore, mass transit systems proved time and time again to have over-exceeded their capacities. All of these are factors contributing to the massive traffic concern in the Philippines, particularly the c

Benchmarking from top cities

Every year, various organizations study many countries and cities to come up with lists of top cities, such as top green cities, top smart cities, and top livable cities, among others. They point is to better urban planning models out there which have been proven to be successful and more suitable for the Philippine context rather than Los Angeles. Asian cities such as Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong were able to make it to some of these lists; Manila can adopt these models instead.

The Greenest Cities list are mostly composed of European cities which have adopted and integrated green technologies into their city development. These cities have been aiming to be carbon neutral. Some cities in this list include Copenhagen, Reykjavik and Vancouver, among others (the, 2017). Vancouver has one of the best environment policies, operating more than 200 parks and open spaces. Parks and open spaces are the lungs of the city. Without them, our city cannot breathe, and this leads to the urban heat island effect.

Copenhagen is known for prioritizing biking as part of its transportation system. Its officials and CEOs even ride bikes and public transportation to work. Reykjavik is known for its large-scale use of geothermal and hydropower. The Philippines ranks second in geothermal energy; why is it that we are not maximizing this?

Among the top livable cities are Melbourne, Vienna, and Toronto (“The Global Livability Report 2017”). One of the similarities among these three is their prioritization of preserving culture and public spaces. Manila has a very colorful and rich history evident in its buildings. Instead of leaving these old worn-down structures become an urban blight, they should be revitalized instead.

The “Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017” reveals the list of cities with the most efficient and environment-friendly transportation systems. Among the Asian cities that made it to this list are Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore. In this century, instead of questioning how many cars can move at a given time at any road section, it is important to consider how many people we can move instead. Furthermore, walking and biking should be prioritized as modes of transportation. Automobiles should be placed last.

Cheonggyecheon Stream provides a great example of Seoul’s struggle to be a people-oriented city. A highway was built in the site, covering the original stream. In 2005, it was reopened, removing the highway and rehabilitating the stream. Despite criticisms, it proved to be a success. It became a popular tourist destination and traffic congestion was reduced.

From car-oriented to people-centric planning

It was found in a study by Stanford University that Filipinos are the fourth least active in walking. Why is it that Filipinos do not walk much?

Because from following the Los Angeles model, destinations are too far from each other, hence the city becomes unwalkable. There is a need to evolve into a more integrated neighborhood with compact and mixed land uses. Furthermore, security should improve in neighborhoods. Apart from CCTVs, there should be more “eyes on the road.” This concept implies that the more active a street is, the less likely it is tr be dangerous because pedestrians can act as witnesses. Also, blank walls should be avoided. Criminals are not afraid of walls; they can sneak in houses and there would be no witness. Adequate street lighting with white light also helps increase security.

Sidewalks should be for pedestrians and not for car parking, and should be designed to be walkable by all people with different abilities. Adequate width and landscaping should be provided as well. Sidewalks in Manila are very narrow; sometimes the whole width of the sidewalk is occupied by electricity and telecommunication poles. In addition, there are no trees, arcades and the like to shade pedestrians from the sun.

For sure, turning a city into a people-centric one is a long-term development which requires several years, but there are things that can be done within a short timeframe. The important thing is that there is strong political will, good governance, visionary leadership, appreciation for good design, and good planning.