Urban Planning Issues in the Philippines

What the Dream EDSAs of Urban Planners and Architects Look Like (2020 Update!)

How EDSA can be better, according to Filipino urban planners and architects.

How do you think can EDSA be better?

CNN Philippines asked 9 groups of planners and architects to illustrate their ideal perspectives of Epifanio De los Santos Avenue (EDSA).

EDSA is arguably the most important thoroughfare in Metro Manila.

As an Environmental Planner, I analyzed these “Dream EDSAs” to identify common urban planning themes.

I used rapid thematic analysis.

I listed important keywords from each perspective. Then, I clustered related words.

Through rapid analysis, I identified four urban planning themes.

Urban Planning Theme 1: Mass public transportation with high capacity

All groups envision versions of EDSA that put premium on high capacity mass public transportation.

dedicated lane
Urban Planning Theme 1: Mass public transportation with high capacity

Joel Luna Planning and Design and Archiglobal Manila (JLPDAM) remarks the need to increase the capacity of the present MRT system.

The most recent report estimates the capacity of the MRT system to only 350,000 passengers  while currently servicing 550,000 commuters daily.

With available high capacity public transportation, the groups dream of a commuter population that has shifted to public transportation.

Read: Dedication to public transit is one of the themes of “Happy City.”

Palafox associates expound on providing dedicated lanes for various transportation modes – “bus trams, provincial buses, vehicles, bikes and pedestrians.”

Ross Pabustan includes four lanes of railway to “make EDSA an important thoroughfare.”

Gomez and Guilles proposes the operation of a double-deck BRT system to enhance the carrying capacity of EDSA.

JLPDAM foresees that with systematic bus transport and enhanced MRT capacity, at least one lane per direction can be reclaimed to “improve the pedestrian environment.”

Urban Planning Theme 2: Top priority for pedestrians and their walking

Sign of pedestrian priority in Taiwan.
In Taiwan, “pedestrians have right of way” and everyone knows it.

Move people not cars” is an adage that these planners and architects clearly advocate.

Various designs of elevated walkways were cited by at least four groups.

The designs of Paulo Alcazaren and associates, “the Ortigas Greenways Project”  is especially targeted to make walking from the Ortigas MRT Station to the Ortigas CBD more comfortable.

pedestrian sign
Urban Planning Theme 2: Top priority for pedestrians and walking

Palafox associates proposes the location of pedestrian crossings every 800 meters along EDSA.

The planners and architects advocate “comfortable and safe walking experiences for diverse ages and mobilities.

Children, senior citizens, PWDs and women should have equally comfortable and safe walking experiences as regular pedestrians.

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With walking as the most accessible transport mode to commuters, it is crazy if walking is not comfortable and safe.

Walking is highest in the hierarchy of public transport modes.

Hierarchy of transport modes
Hierarchy of transport modes by d0ctrine

Prioritizing walking means less time spent looking through scarce parking spaces, less time spent waiting for unreliable public transportation, and less time spent crossing dangerous streets.

Urban Planning Theme 3: Shift away from car-oriented movement

With calls to make driving dangerous again, it is evident that cities are seeing car usage as an evil rather than a necessity.

Urban Planning Theme 3: Shift away from car-oriented movement

The private car is an unfair mode of transportation. Roads, highways, and expressways provide incentives to car ownership. Lane allocation in the Philippines also prioritizes private vehicles over public transport modes.

The unfairness of the private car. Human Transit
The unfairness of the private car. Human Transit

Palafox associates proposes a sharing scheme for EDSA lanes: 1/3 to pedestrians, 1/3 for landscaping, and 1/3 for vehicles, with subway stations below ground.

Ambisyon 2040 survey results reveal that the Filipino family’s comfortable life includes car ownership, similar to how developing cities and culturally oppressed societies view car ownership as a status symbol.

The vision of Filipino family, according to NEDA.
The vision of Filipino family, according to NEDA.

Update (07/2020): One of the features of “new EDSA” is a dedicated bus lane.

Urban Planning Theme 4: EDSA as more than a road

Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue.

Traditionally, avenues are “paths with a line of trees or large shrubs running along each side.”

The planners and architects want an EDSA like this!

venn diagram
Urban Planning Theme 4: EDSA as more than a road

JLPDAM argues that EDSA should be “less road, more place,” to which the Manila Creative adds that redesigning EDSA is a “chance…to reduce our dependence on [the] notorious highway.”

In EDSA, people and environment should be connected towards ecological equilibrium – where the state of the environment is balanced with the state of people’s wants.

Ecological equilibrium can be seen when EDSA is not for vehicles only and is more than a “transport corridor.”

Gan and associates states that more than 80% of Metro Manila population use EDSA as a public transportation route. With this fact, the Avenue must be “for the greatest service to the public.”

Read: 3 Ways How Safe Land Transportation Promotes Sustainable Cities

Being a good place (a place is a space with meaning according to Yi Fu Tuan), people stay in EDSA not because of traffic congestion but because of positive purposes.

good and great environmental planners
Good environmental planners organize spaces. Great environmental planners develop places.

Green open spaces and community hub provide social and health benefits. The 1/3 allotment for landscaping by Palafox Associates allows for other uses besides carriageway.

A situation where EDSA consists of indigenous native trees enhances social well-being and physiological health.


The emergent themes from this rapid content analysis are interrelated.

Putting top priority for pedestrians to save them time through high capacity transportation can reduce dependence on car usage.

These urban planning themes will allow the transformation of EDSA from a terrible time sink to an ecological hub.   EDSA’s meaning becomes positive and contribute to the sustainability of Philippine cities.

Read: There are sustainable cities in the Philippines!

The tropical climate of the country has become an excuse for putting walking as a priority.

I offer a counter argument: encouraging walking will reduce the use of motorized transport.

The use of motorized transport worsens the urban heat island effect through gas emissions.

The urban heat island effect increases temperature inside our business districts compared to outside places.

Read: 3 Requests for Elected Officials in the Philippines

Implementing any or a combination of these ideal perspectives certainly requires executive prowess, not necessarily emergency powers.

The 17 mayors of Metro Manila should treat the rehabilitation of EDSA like how they approached the 60-day #ReclaimPublicRoads deadline – a race against time.

If you are MMDA chairperson, what will be your priority action for EDSA?

Write your answer in the comments or leave a feedback!

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