Caught (up) in traffic
October 2018
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On hospital parking spaces

I had a nice view of the parking lot of the hospital where my mother-in-law was staying for a couple of days to recover from a bad case of dehydration. The doctors wouldn’t say it was severe but because Mama was 75 years old, they had to treat her condition. But that isn’t what I’d like to write about in this post. It’s really about parking.

I noticed from my times on hospital watch (relieving my wife who spent the couple of nights with her) that the parking lot didn’t get full during the day. The hospital was a good sized one and generated a lot of trips but mostly those taking public transport (mainly tricycles). But this was more a community hospital than one in the league of the St. Luke’s and Medical City, which generate much more private traffic and requires much more parking spaces.

A view of the parking lot of Clinica Antipolo

Friends have always made the observation that parking is difficult in the major private (e.g., St. Luke’s, Medical City, Makati Med,etc.) and public hospitals (e.g., PGH, NKTI, Philippine Heart Center, etc.). I agree with these observations as we have our own experiences where it was difficult to get parking spaces for when we go to these hospitals for check-ups or to visit relatives or friends admitted there. For one, these hospitals are the “go to” places for specialists and modern medical equipment, never mind that these are also the most expensive in terms of medical and laboratory/test expenses. I guess that to be a doctor with their practices in these hospitals means a lot and ups the prices of their services? I say that based also on observations that standard tests (blood, urine, stool, etc.) are much cheaper in other hospitals or clinics. Doctor’s professional fees, too, tend to be less expensive for when you consult with them in the ‘minor’ hospitals.

Major hospitals can also be teaching hospitals and I’m not just referring to internships or residents but medical schools hosted by the hospitals. And many did not consider these schools when the hospital buildings were initially built so schools don’t have their own parking spaces and patients, doctors, hospital staff and students end up competing for parking spaces. Medical City, for example, even instituted some parking fee measures to deter long term parking or those who appeared to have attempted to park for free and therefore occupying slots that would have otherwise have been revenue-generating for the hospital.

Of course, there would be those who would be reacting to this situation and say that people going to the hospital should be taking public transportation. Perhaps this is easier said than done for many cases in Metro Manila? I’m not familiar with similar conditions in other cities like Cebu, Iloilo and Davao but perhaps it is not as severe as those in major hospitals in the capital region. Major hospitals in Metro Manila also attract a lot of people from surrounding provinces like Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite. Again, this is because of the reputations of these hospitals. Even the current President went to Cardinal Santos Medical Center for his recent check-up.

And so the parking problem will persist unless there are better options for public transportation. Incidentally, ridesharing may have helped ease the parking dilemma since TNVS provides a very good alternative to the private car for such hospital trips. I do know Grab, for example, has booking booths at Medical City, Cardinal Santos and St. Luke’s. I personally don’t think additional parking spaces (or buildings) are required. It would be more like a parking management challenge for these hospitals. And in any case, these parking spaces would be mostly empty and therefore idle at night time and Sundays.

On the unpredictability of EDSA traffic

Much has been written about the traffic along EDSA, which is perhaps Metro Manila’s most famous (some would say infamous) thoroughfare. These include the unpredictability of congestion along this road. While it is hard to believe that traffic congestion is unpredictable for EDSA because very often it is congested, there are times when you just marvel that its free-flowing during the day or shocked that its packed with cars close to midnight. Last week, we experienced both predictability and unpredictability in the sense that we did expect EDSA to be congested near Ortigas (due to the dismissals of schools in the vicinity) but didn’t expect it to be packed during what we thought was “alanganin na oras” that was around 3PM.

 

EDSA northbound traffic taken at Guadalupe last October 1, 2018 at 3:30PM.

Interestingly, there was no congestion after Ortigas Avenue and we quickly made up for the time lost in the congestion we experienced from Gil Puyat Avenue. Is this another case of the phantom congestion where the simple disturbances in the traffic stream can create a ripple effect resulting in congestion? Or is this somewhat like an everyday thing? EDSA is not part of my daily commute so I am not so sure about the regularity of this situation but at least the weather didn’t factor in the equation. Heavy rains usually lead to flash floods along this thoroughfare, and these floods will definitely lead intense congestion.

On interviews and propaganda

A colleague once mentioned that he didn’t want to grant interviews to the media because of a then recent experience of one channel splicing up his interview and making it appear as if he were arguing with a government official. True enough, these productions can be made like that in order to generate more interest on the subject. People watching that channel’s programs on news are hooked to the latter because of their sensationalised style of reporting.

When I was Director of our transport center at the University of the Philippines, I maintained a generally media-friendly policy but was selective of those I would grant interviews to or whom I would refer to colleagues whom I had to assure about the interviews not becoming similar to those a former colleague referred to. After all, we knew which programs tended to be on the sensational side. For one, you can base the “media filter” on the personalities behind these programs. At the very least, you’ve done some damage control by pre-empting

Fast forward to the present and a close friend pointed to what first appeared as propaganda material made by online supporters of the current administration (i.e., the troll army). However, upon closer review we determined to be an official production of the government. It included a lengthy part of an interview one of our former directors granted to the government station a while back when the government was embarking on its “Build, Build, Build” program. To be fair, if taken without the tags and labels attached by what people would call fanatics or die-hard supporters of the current administration, then the production is simply a information material. Sure, it can be used as propaganda material but then taken as is, it is certainly not “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view” as the term “propaganda” is defined in dictionaries. In fact, a major part of the interview specifically mentioned failures of an authoritarian regime in building transport infrastructure that could have averted a lot of the problems we now experience. Context is very important and I thought that the labels attached to the video that made it look like it was something being peddled by the troll army definitely made it look bad.

I think this should be another lesson with our dealings with mainstream media and perhaps with social media, too. You cannot be too careful or meticulous about these interviews but then it is still a responsibility that should be taken on. Otherwise, we commit a sin of omission by not engaging in such activities. While we should not let our guard down in selecting which interviews to grant, there will be times when we just have to assume good faith and trust that the end product will not be fake news.

A quick update on the Line 2 Emerald Station construction

Here are a couple of photos of Line 2’s Emerald Station, which is under construction. There’s significant progress in the construction but this will definitely take months to complete along with the Masinag Station, which is in a similar state of progress in construction.

Here is what the Emerald Station, which is just across from Robinsons Metro East and Sta. Lucia Mall, looks like. It’s still far from being completed but you can already see what seems to be an area underneath the tracks where people can cross from one side to the other. Stairs have been constructed to connect what could be a station concourse to the street level. The building under construction to the right in the photo is Sta. Lucia’s. From the looks of it, this will be an office building, likely to host a BPO office. We hope that the station will have direct connections with the two malls as well as this office.

Right after the station is the intersection of Marcos Highway with Felix Avenue and Gil Fernando Avenue where there is still pedestrian overpass that allows people to cross the wide roads safely. There are only rare instances when people attempt to cross at street level here but there were some security concerns as there was a spate of snatching incidents on the overpass. Cainta authorities seem to have addressed this despite some border issues with Marikina and the former has posted policemen to deter crime on the overpass.

The last image connects to the first one in the sense that there should be a connectivity for the existing pedestrian infrastructure (i.e., overpass and sidewalks) with the future Emerald Station. This connectivity would be in the form of suitably designed walkways that can and should include provisions for cyclists, too. Perhaps the two malls can pitch in to make these designs a reality and not just be content with token steel structures like what are usually constructed elsewhere and at the junction near the station. There is a good opportunity here to come up with good design that can become a good example for replication.

On the need for more facilities for cycling and ensuring they will be used for cycling

I read and hear a lot of comments about two particular items: pedestrian overpasses and bike lanes. Most of the comments call for pedestrians and cyclists to have priority over cars and for the latter to give way to pedestrians and cyclists every time. The hardline stance for some is for the pedestrians to be allowed to cross anywhere and for cyclists to be able to bike on any lane they choose to. Of course, the concerns about these are quite obvious and safety still calls for people, no matter what mode they choose, to use the appropriate spaces. What few actually discuss and delve into are design solutions to these problems. Many cite good practices elsewhere but stop at sharing these and not really going into in-depth and constructive discussions on how to implement these good designs here. Most of the time its just “the government must do this” and “the government must do like what (insert city or country) is doing”. Worse are those who tend to simplify it as an “architect vs. civil engineer vs. planner” kind of conflict. Playing the blame game doesn’t get us anywhere if we wanted the planning and design of transportation infrastructure improved.

Cyclists use the overpasses to cross the wide Marcos Highway between Pasig and Marikina. There are only 2 ramps, one each on either side of the highway and it partly occupies the sidewalk beneath. Could there be a better design for such overpasses?

Motorcycles using the bike lanes along Ortigas Avenue. How do we make sure that spaces are utilised according to their intended users? How do we design these spaces to include elements that will deter such incursions?

There are many references out there showing us what good design should be from the technical and social perspectives. Surely these can be taken up not only at the workplace for architects, engineers and planners but in schools where such principles are supposed to be learned and inculcated into the minds of future architects, engineers and planners.

Another look at NAIA Terminal 4 departure

Here’s another set of photos care of a good friend who recently went through NAIA’s Terminal 4 en route to Palawan. Terminal 4 was what many people used to call the Manila Domestic Terminal. This was because it used to be the terminal for all domestic flights via Manila.

The concierge’s desk greets travelers as they enter the terminal.

The terminal’s airline check-in  area appears to be very spacious.

It was an early morning flight for my friend and that’s probably why, she says, it was much less crowded at the time she checked-in for her flight.

Passengers waiting for their boarding calls – the concessionaires are visible to the back in the photo.

What the DPWH says about the installation of ads including those masquerading as signs

So what does the DPWH say about signs and their installation? The DPWH in their Highway Safety Design Standards (Part 2: Road Signs and Pavement Markings Manual) states the following:

 

It’s plain and simple and yet we find a proliferation of ads masquerading as signs and entities such as the MMDA and LGUs not properly (or strictly) implementing the provisions of the DPWH manual. It is also sad to see practitioners actively trying (and succeeding) to circumvent this provision in the DPWH manual.