Cable cars: A step closer


What the numbers say

Last week, a land transportation sector aspiration took a small but important step towards its realization.

In a meeting held in Antipolo City, last April 18, foreign consultants of the Department of Transportation briefed us on the progress of their work in the pre-feasibility study phase of a proposed project involving the installation of cable cars that will bring commuters from the city of Antipolo to several business districts and transportation hubs. We left the briefing with a feeling that the project is still far on the horizon, but is closer more than ever to reality.

The meeting involved consultants that were brought on board the projects, thanks to the pre-feasibility phase funding of US$261,000 made available by the Asian Development Bank.

At the meeting, the discussion and presentation focused on the question, “As soon as we have proven that the cable car service is feasible from all angles, how are we to build it?” We were no longer talking about whether it should be built or not, nor is this something we must build or not. The idea of cable car services in the country, it appears, has gone beyond the imagination stage. We are ready to move it forward.

The consultants showed us what the cable cars would look like (and they do resemble the cable cars of Hong Kong’s Ocean Park or the one that brings tourists from the island’s Tung Chung train station to Lantau Island). They resemble mini-versions of our newer LRT trains.

The foreign consultants also briefed us on where the cable car stations might be built. The possibilities are within the compound of the Rizal Provincial Capitol and the Antipolo City campus of the University of Rizal System. The idea is for the cable cars from these stations would connect commuters to two or three stations of MRT 4 – the line being built which will ply the Ortigas Avenue Extension route.

This makes the cable car service a “feeder system” – meaning, it will not compete for ridership with the planned MRT line 4 but will instead complement the latter. With a cable car service, it should take commuters just a few minutes to go from Antipolo to an MRT 4 station. That could potentially mean decreasing the volume of vehicles coming down from Antipolo to Tikling, particularly during rush hour.

More important, it would bring commuters faster to their schools and work destinations.

They would be spending less time traveling and more time on productive endeavors.

The consultants were accompanied by rail transport officials of the Department of Transportation. Their presence signaled to us that the administration of President Bongbong Marcos Jr. is determined to turn the dream of a cable car service into a reality.

In our column of September last year, we mentioned that the proposal to install cable cars was brought up by former Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade. Prior to assuming office in 2016, the ex-transportation czar already mentioned that he will advance the idea of cable cars as soon as he was sworn into office.

Two years later, in 2018, he announced to the media that he was talking to a number of proponents. He said he was convincing proponents to make sure that the fare for a cable car ride should approximate that which is charged by the means of public transportation most often used by ordinary Filipinos.

We also mentioned that the idea of a cable car service as a complementary form of transportation in the country also received valuable support from renowned and international-recognized urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox, Jr. who voiced support for it as early as 2019.

Palafox has been quoted as saying that the adoption of cable cars as a means of transportation is “becoming a global trend,” and could “future-proof our country from perennial traffic problems.”

In several countries today, cable cars are no longer mere tourist attractions. As early as 2004, Colombia integrated cable cars into its transportation system. New York, Venezuela, Algeria, Bolivia, Vietnam, and a few others have followed suit.

In 2019, Palafox pointed to the installation of cable cars that would ply the Antipolo-Ortigas-Makati route as “an excellent possibility.”

We are also interested in the impact of a cable car service on the environment. Would this mode of transportation reduce the need for fossil fuel-run vehicles? If yes, by how much could it possibly reduce the emission of carbon in a geographical area?

When the idea of a cable car system in our country was resurrected by Senator Robin Padilla last year, he was met with criticism and unwarranted negative remarks on social media.

Recent developments show that Senator Padilla and our transportation officials – both in the present and recent administrations – are on the right track. Here is one situation where our transportation planners have decided to think “out of the box.” And they are right – sometimes the solution we are looking for is not inside a box.
We are confident that the day will come when people would hear these lines from an old song and think not only of San Francisco, California but also of Antipolo.

“To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the sky.”
(For feedback, please email it toantipolocitygov@gmail.comor send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 cor. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City, Rizal.)