The Right Side of the Tracks
A modern, efficient, and sustainable transport system is essential in the life of a metropolis. Population growth and urbanization have a tendency to choke modern cities that in turn reduce the quality of life of its residents. More people are leaving their rural hometowns and living in cities. According to the United Nations 4.4 billion people live in cities. That is a staggering 56 percent of the total world population! And to think that in 1950 that rate was only 25 percent. The UN further projected that by 2050 “nearly seven of 10 people will live in cities.”
This is the reason why cities need to be planned and managed such that economic growth is balanced with good quality of life for all inhabitants. One key element of building a modern and sustainable city is by providing efficient railway transportation. Railways can efficiently move people and goods so they can promote growth. At the same time, railways can be environment-friendly as it cuts greenhouse gas emissions. When managed well, rails are a clean and compact way to promote growth and maintain good quality of life for residents.
I have been thinking about this as I began imagining the city of my dreams — Villar City. This city of my dreams is a 3,500-hectare masterplan that I envision to become Metro Manila’s new center of gravity, an integrated development that will traverse 15 satellite cities where economic, lifestyle, cultural, and leisure activities converge. I realized that in order to avoid the mistakes of previous urban developments, we need to ensure that it is built with an efficient road and railway network. There is a need to plan ahead and anticipate the needs of a burgeoning metropolis rather than dealing with urban problems when it is there already.
We have recently acquired the ₱3.8-billion, four-kilometer Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway that links Daang Hari and Daang Reyna to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). We have also inaugurated Villar Avenue, a 10-kilometer, 10-lane road that we envision will help decongest traffic and reduce travel time from Las Piñas City to portions of Bacoor and Dasmariñas in Cavite province. It will connect the 15 satellite cities of Villar City, and will feature dedicated bike lanes as well as a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
We want to build our first ever railway project that will link Metro Manila to Villar City. And this will come at no cost to the government and I really think this is doable because since I own the land there will be no right-of-way issues that tend to get in the way of some infrastructure projects. During an interview with some business reporters, I said that trains are a real estate play. It’s not a transportation play. I said this because railways are more than just a form of transportation that moves people from point A to point B. It has a positive impact on property values and more importantly, when done properly an efficient transport will lead to new and vibrant neighborhoods, opportunities for small businesses, and the conservation of open space. This is all part of my vision for my legacy project.
I remember the first time I saw a Philippine National Railway (PNR) train at the historic Tutuban Station. I was amazed by the sight and the sounds of this behemoth of a transport system. Nowadays, trains are more modern and more efficient. I never thought that one day I will be building railways in a city from the ground up. Or maybe I did. Maybe I daydreamed about it in one of those childhood afternoons I spent looking outside our Tondo house while my brothers played on the street. I do not know. What I know for sure is that this project has got me all exhilarated like a kid on his first day of school or a fresh graduate on his first interview. Is that butterflies in my stomach or fire in my belly?