Shaping The Future Of Smart Urban Mobility In The Philippines

CEO and President of MPT Mobility discusses the future of smart urban mobility solutions in the Philippines.

Shaping the future of smart urban mobility in the Philippines

In many cities around the world, the efficiency of transport systems and the trouble-free movement of people and goods are the benchmark of a progressive and modern urban centers.  In stark contrast are Metro Manila, and many of our country’s urban centers. This reality can be very inconvenient for citizens—heavy traffic and other similar daily hassles can take up their valuable time, consume the resources of people, businesses, and the government, and paint an unflattering picture for potential investors and economically productive residents.

“Time spent sitting in traffic is a major drain for commuters’ overall productivity and quality of life, and it costs the country P3.5 billion in lost opportunities daily,” said Rodrigo Franco, President and CEO of Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC). “Congestion brings about issues on public safety, such as road accidents, that result in death, injuries, and damages, as well as public health where the stop-and-go traffic increases the volume of microscopic particulates in vehicle exhaust.”

A new mobility culture

How motorists and commuters move for recreation, to get to work, or as part of day-to-day business operations are critical factors in one’s wellbeing and in a city’s ability to remain viable and attractive for businesses and communities to thrive. One way to enable a new mobility culture—one that is smarter, designed for efficiency with users and communities at the core, and powered by technology—is for the private sector to invest via Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that will benefit the government by way of providing the much-needed expertise and funds to plan, develop and bankroll major projects, and ultimately, effecting the needed change for the Filipino. The government in turn continues to provide the policy and regulatory framework that supports and sustains these new ways of doing things.

It is assuring that the Department of Transport (DOTr) is committed to help usher in a better transport future by turning to PPPs to elevate levels of mobility in the road, railways, maritime, and aviation sectors. This direction will contribute greatly to reshaping our cities and countryside with smarter public transport, more efficient use of road networks, seamless transportation technology  -all the elements of smart urban mobility.

“We are determined to do this by ensuring our transport systems are safe, affordable, accessible, and comfortable,” shared Jaime J. Bautista, DOTr Secretary during the “MoBUILDity: Synergized, Smart, and Sustainable” multi-stakeholder dialogue of MPTC and MPT Mobility last October 21, 2022. “In this post-pandemic era, we are taking a sustained approach to promote mobility for both ease of travel and efficient transport of goods.”


Smart urban mobility

As technology continues to evolve, a bright future for the transport sector is on the horizon in the form of smart urban mobility. Beyond the improvement of physical infrastructure i.e. roads and expressways — which Metro Manila has had many in recent years and will continue to see in the coming years—smart urban mobility is an integrated approach to transportation. It will address and help resolve the pain points for every type of commuter and motorist. It has the potential to encompass every aspect of the mobility journey—from taking the jeepney or bus on weekdays to work, driving the family to a weekend getaway, moving essential goods in and around cities and even provinces, finding parking slots, and more. Improving mobility through strategic transport and infrastructure development, supported by innovative technology designed with users and their behavior at the core, can lead to savings in valuable resources such as time and fuel, improved accessibility, and efficiencies in traveling and aspects related to. It is an approach that integrates proper planning; the power of digital technologies and innovative solutions to transform how we all move. The result will be greater convenience and comfort for both motorists and commuters, improved reliability of transport, and more support for all traversing the roads.

“We listened to industry trends, Analysts say the future is ACES—mobility will be autonomous, connected, electric, and shared. With ACES in place, the transport system will become socially inclusive, environmentally friendly, safe, cost-effective, and integrated, giving the road users the power of data in their hands, on an infrastructure network that is strategic, sound, safe, and smart,” Franco concluded.


Connected transportation systems and transport-oriented development

A critical first step in realizing smart urban mobility is connected transportation systems. This involves enhanced public transportation systems to improve commuter experience thru efficient public transportation operations.

Technology can address this issue, the problems borne of it, and more—for example, MPT Mobility’s affiliate Byahe is a modern jeepney operator that is focused on changing not only the dilapidated jeepneys, but more importantly, the way these jeepneys are operated and deployed on a route. It will enter the EV public transport space and expand its operations to 35 routes and 530 modern jeepney units in key areas. Moreover, Byahe employs its drivers, paying them a regular wage with benefits and standard government benefits, effectively eliminating the boundary system and the need to compete on the road. Byahe practices a headway dispatch system with designated stops. This is a sequenced cadence of deployment of jeepneys that is dependent on shifting demand. Other innovative features are also planned in the near future to make its operations even more efficient. On top of the list is developing a mobile app wherein commuters can monitor jeepney schedules right from the app, granting them more control and visibility over their daily commute. Passengers are informed of the vehicles’ arrivals and departures - reducing waiting times and queues, and allowing commuters to fully utilize their time.

Local government units, like the City of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, are taking bold steps in realizing smart urban mobility, beginning with their thrust toward transit-oriented development (TOD). This approach involves designing urban places to bring people, activities, buildings, and public spaces together by ensuring that people can easily walk, cycle, and access efficient transit services to get around the area and to the rest of the city.

“It means inclusive access for all to local and city-wide opportunities and resources by the most efficient and healthy combination of mobility modes, at the lowest financial and environmental cost, and with the highest resilience to disruptive events,” said Sta. Rosa City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas in a video message shared at the MoBUILDity dialogue. “Inclusive TOD is a necessary foundation for long-term sustainability, equity, shared prosperity, and civil peace in cities.”

Sta. Rosa’s TOD-informed approach is imbuing greater purpose to the North-South Railway Project’s Sta. Rosa Station, which is easily accessible to and from the city’s key recreational, educational, industrial, and commercial areas. The city is now building a multi-level parking facility to offer “park and ride” options to its citizens and take advantage of the upcoming connection to Mega Manila’s key train systems.

Inclusivity is a key pillar for Mayor Arcillas and the city’s vision of smart urban mobility—which involves motorists, commuters, cyclists, transport operators and drivers, and yes, even pedestrians.

“A walkable city is a safe and sustainable city,” she added.

Under Mayor Arcillas’ leadership, Sta. Rosa is also in the process of implementing a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Development Plan with 30 kilometers of road pedestrians and cyclists can safely use, without the fear of being run over by bigger vehicles, to go to nearby destinations within the city.


Covering all bases of the mobility journey

The Philippines is also experiencing an all-time high in the number of cars on the road, which entails more parking spots in high-density spaces during peak hours. Smarter parking management will not only make parking more convenient and fuel-efficient for motorists, but can also help create additional revenue streams for local government units. Dibz is an app MPT Mobility is developing that will allow users to search and pre-book parking slots in their desired destinations, reducing the need and effort to circle around parking areas to find a slot. And when it’s time to leave, users can settle their fees easily via cashless methods—reducing the lines at the exit and even the manpower required to man payment booths.

Another innovation that can help Filipino motorists reduce the hassles they encounter on the road is MPT DriveHub, a travel companion app packed with features that integrate motoring and travel services in a single digital platform. Expressway users can use the app to check their balance and reload their RFID accounts, compute the toll fees they need to pay for their trip, get real-time traffic alerts, easily find gas stations and rest facilities, and even call for help during roadside emergencies. With DriveHub, motorists can smartly and conveniently plan their trips and lower the chances of unpleasant surprises while they are traversing the expressways.

“Smart mobility has proven benefits that improve quality of life,” shared Jon Canto, Managing Director for McKinsey and Company Philippines, in his speech at the multi-stakeholder dialogue. “It can save us time, make us feel safe and more connected, it’s more integrated, it has benefits to the environment, reduces costs of fare, and it offers us flexibility and convenience in ways of working.”

McKinsey’s research also shows that smart urban mobility can contribute to reducing noise pollution and carbon emissions, pollutants in the air, emergency response times, and fatalities on the road.

But technology is just one piece of the puzzle—collectively, public institutions and private organizations need to work together to breathe life into the promise of smart urban mobility for Filipinos.

“Smart urban mobility will only happen through the collaboration of the LGUs, the regulatory and legislative sectors, private investors, and the implementation experts. When these cogs work together, it creates huge opportunities for business, sustainability, disaster prevention, public safety, and quality of life for all,” Franco concluded.


What makes for efficient transport management?

Learning from Singapore’s best-practice smart mobility solutions

Beyond its fame as the economic, aviation, and shipping hub of Southeast Asia, Singapore—a small island country only slightly larger than Metro Manila—is a paragon of efficiency in urban mobility. The well-designed Singapore public transport system is not only a massive boon to its residents, but also a source of fascination and delight for visitors coming in from all over the world.

Singapore’s success in urban planning and mobility was not instant and is constantly a work in progress to improve efficiency and convenience for its residents and tourists. In the “MoBUILDity: Synergized, Smart, and Sustainable” multi-stakeholder dialogue hosted by MPTC and MPT Mobility last October 21, 2022, Dr. Chin Kian Keong, then recently retired from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority and now at Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering shared the challenges that led to innovative mobility solutions used to continuously improve and evolve user experiences.


Challenges of an evolving country

In the 1980s and 90s, Singapore undertook massive infrastructure development that resulted in an intricate yet accessible network of trains, buses, and roads. However, as times changed, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been adapting to meet the changing needs of a growing population in a city where 12% of the total land area is already used for road and land transport infrastructure.

Diversity is one of the key strengths of Singapore as a nation—but it’s a national characteristic that poses a tough challenge when it comes to planning for mobility solutions today and into the future. Their citizens and residents are undergoing changes in their lifestyles and needs, with a quarter of the population reaching 65 and above by 2030. An ageing population will present more challenges when it comes to physical mobility and accessibility. These two trends in Singapore’s population is also leading to manpower challenges in the transport sector, which is now facing a shortage in workers such as truck, lorry, and bus drivers.

In a world where environmental consciousness is the norm, Singapore is looking to create a more sustainable transport ecosystem that increases the use of public transport, cuts back on the people’s reliance on private vehicles while making them greener and encourages more to cycle and walk whenever they can.


Strategic, inclusive, and sustainable mobility roadmap

The LTA identified smart urban mobility as a strategic national project that can address their current and future challenges—all while setting the bar for a transport masterplan in the region.

The agency has developed a Land Transport Masterplan 2040, which will create a convenient, well-connected, and efficient land transport system for Singapore’s citizens and residents. It is a system that makes for a gracious, more inclusive, healthier, and safer commuter experience for all, regardless of age, gender, and economic status.

The first pillar of this landmark plan is the creation of “20-Minute Towns” and a “45-Minute City,” under which the LTA sees people reaching their nearest neighborhood center within 20 minutes for their immediate essential and lifestyle needs. The journey between the home and the workplace is a significant aspect of mobility for many Singaporeans and residents, and the agency is looking to keep this journey under 45 minutes, even during peak hours.

Apart from making changes on the sidewalks and pathways, the LTA is also looking to provide better roads and public transport facilities (buses, taxis, MRTs, and shared rides) to realize their vision of a 45-minute city. But more than infrastructure, the ubiquitous use of smartphones by citizens and residents, as well as enhanced Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), can deliver good-quality information that the agency can leverage for further improvements.

Furthermore, LTA is working to enhance the integration of their ITS—harnessing the power of IoT and the potential of 5G and other communication technologies to bring together sensors, equipment, and platforms for better traffic control, monitoring, and operations.

“Data is king,” Dr. Chin shared. “We need systems to capture and process consistent, accurate, reliable, and exchangeable data, which can then be transformed into travel information that is relevant, timely, and simple-to-understand to share with citizens and residents.”


Looking forward to a brilliantly designed seamless transport system

Smart urban mobility is a process of consistent and continuous improvement—and the LTA seems to be committed to this process for the long-term.

“The availability of intelligent transport systems, high-quality sensors, communications, and intelligent applications will go a long way to continue the improvements we need to enhance our transport system,” Dr. Chin said. “We work with international and local partners, understanding what’s going on elsewhere, and adapting what we learned to meet our local needs.”

Continuously improving safety and sustainability is a critical priority for the LTA and are looking to meet their goal of no new internal combustion engines (ICEs) vehicles by 2040, which can significantly reduce the country’s carbon footprint. With the emergence of improved and more affordable electric vehicle technologies, Singaporeans and residents can take advantage of its many benefits while contributing to sustainability goals.

Finally, inclusiveness and embracing the diversity of needs and circumstances remain at the core of Singapore’s transport masterplan. Dr. Chin believes that transport inclusivity is where everyone can benefit, with affordability and usability in mind to cater to all segments of the population.


Advice to Filipinos

After presenting the developments happening in his country presently and in the near future, Dr. Chin also shared his advice for Filipino agencies, companies, and individuals when it comes to envisioning and executing an efficient transport masterplan:

“No two cities are the same, each city is unique and therefore what you do for one city cannot just be replicated in another. A masterplan is important and having that in place, it’s important that everyone keeps to it. You should look at it from the whole spectrum of transport needs, from providing infrastructure, good service, public transport, efficient network, demand management and so on. All these have to work hand in hand, none of them can exist effectively on its own.”

MPT Mobility, the innovations arm of Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) dedicated to enhancing every aspect of the Filipinos’ transport journey, shares the same smart mobility philosophy as Dr. Chin and the Singapore’s LTA. Driven by a desire to enable easier transport for millions of Filipinos, MPT Mobility is creating innovative and technology-driven solutions through strategic partnerships, plans, and projects. Among their data-powered digital mobility solutions are modern jeepney operations Byahe, parking management solution app and provider Dibz, and travel companion app and digital wallet MPT DriveHub.

“It’s hard to ignore the many benefits of transforming our urban cities to offer smart mobility,” said Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) President and CEO Rodrigo E. Franco. “Smart urban mobility will only happen through the collaboration of the LGUs, the regulatory and legislative sector, the private investors, and the implementation experts. When these cogs work seamlessly, it creates huge opportunities for business, sustainability, disaster prevention, public safety, and quality of life for all.”


Watch the complete MoBUILDity: Synergized, Smart, and Sustainable multi-stakeholder dialogue of MPTC and MPT Mobility here: MPTC | MPT Mobility Multi-stakeholder Dialogue 2022 MPT Mobility (Metro Pacific Tollway Company) UA-223768869-1 [] news News {"id_events_item":"57","date_cal":"18-9-2016"} {"id_events_item":"56","date_cal":"1-7-2016"}