Every day at rush hour, in any major intersection in Metro Manila, you’ll be greeted by the same familiar scene — throngs of people lined up along the streets trying to catch a ride home. It’s a reality that has perplexed urban planners, transportation providers, and local government alike. But for Megawide Construction Corp., the answer is in data science, and a three-hectare plot of land along Manila Bay, the site of what would become Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX).
The scale of PITX is mind-boggling, and its imposing, four-tower structure is impossible to miss while driving along Coastal Road, Parañaque. It combines intermodal transport with offices, retail, and food and beverage outlets. The complex itself measures half a kilometer in length, 100,000 square meters in floor area, and has the capacity for 200,000 passengers to pass through its turnstiles every day.
The intention, according to Jim Feliciano, president of MWM Terminals Inc. Megawide’s transport arm, is to “rationalize the availability of transport” by providing a place for city and provincial buses, all types of jeepneys, and taxis to shuttle passengers without clogging the streets of the city center. According to Megawide’s analysis, there is more than enough supply of transport options in Metro Manila, but they are just not deployed at the right time to match demand.
“At peak hour, everyone’s there, but when it gets to off-peak, nobody’s there,” says Feliciano. “The answer might be that we don’t need 2,000 buses a day in a given area, we just need 1,200 at the right time so we don’t congest the roads.”
Applying data science and technology to transport is at the heart of Megawide’s transportation strategy, and indeed PITX. Feliciano and his team apply supply and demand analysis to determine when to schedule routes to maximize occupancy, and pass these insights to transportation providers and regulators like the LTFRB.
At PITX, commuters are greeted by technology that rivals world-class airports, from Public Information Displays that show schedules and routes, to a ticketing system that allows passengers to book online, choose their seats, and scan their boarding passes at the gates.
But why situate a transport terminal so far from the congestion of the inner city? The key is in the “hub and spoke” concept, says Feliciano: Placing large hubs like PITX away from the city center where there’s more space, while placing smaller spokes in denser areas to line the routes radiating from the hub.
Locating PITX on a previously undeveloped area along the coast has had another effect: gentrification.
“Before, the area was primarily grassland,” says Feliciano. “Now we have several buildings beside PITX about to be completed, including the new Parañaque government center. The landscape has completely changed, and property prices have doubled or tripled.”
For all its benefits in enhancing mobility, PITX was also designed as a place to maximize convenience and comfort. It houses four towers of offices above the terminal to provide workers with a seamless commute.
“One of the most vital criteria for an office is access to transport. With PITX, you have a guaranteed ride to work,” says Feliciano. And the wealth of retail and F&B outlets, and amenities like shower rooms in the terminal ensure that passengers are comfortable and safe while waiting for their ride, a far cry from the crowded streets commuters congregated in before.
In the long term, more transport options will connect to PITX, says Feliciano. The Cavite extension of LRT-1 will place a station right next to the terminal. And its accessibility to Manila Bay shows potential for a link to sea ports.
As for Megawide, the success of PITX has prompted local governments to approach the company in the hopes of setting up similar transport terminals in their own cities. The company has proposals in the works for Cavite, Clark Freeport Zone, and Baguio.
Ultimately, the goal for PITX and other Public-Private Partnerships like it is to distribute economic opportunity across a wider swath of the country. “The government provided the land, and we provided the expertise in terms of construction, management, and operations that enabled us to deliver a project like this faster and in a more efficient manner,” says Feliciano. For commuters and residents across Metro Manila’s south and beyond, it’s another step in the direction of a more mobile and dynamic future.