Caught (up) in traffic
January 2020
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National Transport Policy is out!

The National Transport Policy is out and there’s a lot of buzz about the wording of the policy. NEDA released the following infographics on their official Facebook page:

Definition of what the policy is about

Hierarchy of transport modes (note the emphasis on walking and cycling)

Checklist for programs and projects: I am already anticipating what proponents will be writing to justify projects according to this checklist.

I will reserve my commentaries for future blogs. There is really a lot to discuss about this policy and how it will implemented (properly or improperly), There are lots of different ideas, advocacies, interests and agendas on transportation that come into play here. And we can only hope that the policy and its implementing rules and regulations will be clear enough (not vague as to have so many loopholes) for this policy to effect transformation and inclusive and sustainable development.

On Taal and Tagaytay

We were frequent visitors to Tagaytay the years prior to the rapid commercialization and (over)development of the city. While we still go there occasionally, We have not been able to enjoy the city and its environs as much as we did before. Nevertheless, we genuinely feel for the people (the real residents but not necessarily for the carpetbaggers) of Tagaytay and other cities and towns affected by the eruption of the volcano. They deserve better and yet they should also heed the advice of science over those of politicians who have taken advantage of them and now claim innocence over what is perceived as a lack of preparedness for such a calamity.

Dawn over Taal – I took this photo from the balcony of what was our favorite bed & breakfast hotel in Tagaytay. I thought this showed a rather peaceful scene complete with the background of roosters giving everyone a wake-up call.

I had wanted to post an aerial shot of Taal volcano. I have one or more somewhere in an old folder when the planes (not sure our origin) I were on flew over the volcano. Unfortunately, these are probably in my older computers or portable drives. I will for these and post them soon.

Comments on current transport issues – Part 3: On the obstacles to the PNR trains

2) On the obstacles to the PNR operations

We have done studies before when studies on the PNR were not considered fashionable. People who did research on rail transport were more interested in Lines 1, 2 and 3, and dismissed the PNR as a lost cause. There were many transportation experts who ridiculed it and even taunted PNR about their poor service. And yet we did our studies because we had an appreciation of the importance of this line and how it could play a major role in commuting if given the resources to improve their facilities. It was shown that the line could be more advantageous for commuters particularly those traveling between the southern parts of Metro Manila and Makati and Manila. These would be both workers and students who will benefit from the shorter travel times and less expensive fares. The downside then (and still at the present time) was the long headways between trains. That is, you can only catch a train every 30 minutes.

This photo taken more than a decade ago show the typical conditions along many sections of the PNR. It is pretty much the same today and the agencies involved (DOTr and PNR) have done little to reduce the informal settlers along the line. No, they didn’t just appear now, and are throwing garbage, rocks and other debris on the trains. This was already happening years ago.

Fast forward to the present and they seem to be getting a lot more resources than the last 30+ years. A Philippine Railway Institute (PRI) has been created. New train sets have just been delivered and went into operation. Unfortunately, the new trains were met with rocks and other debris as they traveled along sections occupied by informal settlers. The incident damaging the new trains puts further emphasis on the need to the need to address the squatter problem along the PNR line. Should fences be built to protect the trains and passengers? Should people be relocated? I think both need to be done in order to secure the line and in preparation for service upgrades including more frequent train services (i.e., shorter intervals between trains). And we hope to see the DOTr and PNR working on this as they attempt to attract more passengers to use their trains.

Comments on current transport issues – Part 2: On motorcycle taxis

I continue with my comments on current and persistent transport issues. This time, I focus on one of two hot topics – motorcycle taxis or “habal-habal”.

1) On motorcycle taxis:

I am not a member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that’s supposed to be evaluating the trial operations. I know one or two of the key members of the TWG and am surprised that they have not referred to the academe for studies that may have already been done about this mode of transport. I know there have been studies about it in UP and DLSU. Perhaps there are more from other universities in the country. Motorcycle taxis or “habal-habal”, after all, are practically everywhere and would be hard to ignore. Surely, researchers and particularly students would be at least curious about their operations? Such is the case elsewhere and many studies on motorcycle taxis have been made in the region particularly in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, where these modes also proliferate.

The terms “trial”, “experimental” or “pilot” are actually misleading because motorcycle taxis have been operating across the country for so many years now. They are supposed to be illegal and yet they serve a purpose in the areas where they are popular. What is often referred to as an informal transport mode is ‘formal’ to many people who are not being served by so-called formal modes including the tricycle. Of course, one can argue that these terms (i.e., trial, experimental and pilot) refer to the app that are supposed to enhance the existing habal-habal operations.

I would strongly endorse motorcycle taxis but companies need to be held accountable should there be fatal crashes involving their riders. They are supposed to have trained and accredited them. The companies should also have insurance coverage for riders and passengers. LGUs tolerant of these should be watchful and do their part in enforcing traffic rules and regulations pertaining to motorcycle operations in favor of safe riding. This is to reduce if not minimize the incidence of road crashes involving motorcycle taxis.

I think one of the problems with motorcycle taxis is not really their being a mode of choice but the behavior of their drivers. While companies like Angkas and Joyride conduct training sessions with their riders, many revert to reckless on-road behavior including executing risky maneuvers in order to overtake other vehicles on the road. This is actually a given with many ‘informal’ motorcycle taxis (i.e., those not affiliated with the recognized app companies). But then this is also an enforcement issue because we do have traffic rules and regulations that are poorly enforced by authorities. Thus, there is practically no deterrent to reckless riding except perhaps the prospect of being involved in a crash.

I will refrain to include the politics involved in the issue of motorcycle taxis. I will just write about this in another article.

 

Coming up soon: hot topic #2 – Obstacles to the PNR operations

The problem with public transport in the Philippines…

There is a collage of two photos, one taken in 1975 and another in 2019, showing buses that managed to squeeze themselves into a jam. The 1975 photo was taken at the ramp of the overpass near Liwasang Bonifacio (Quiapo, Manila). There is a commentary describing the photo that attributes ‘monstrous daily traffic jams’ to the behavior of Filipino drivers. Special mention was made of public transport drivers and the photo showed proof of this. This was 1975 and motorization had not reached the levels we are at now so the

The problems pertaining to driver behavior persist today and probably even worsened along with the general conditions of traffic in Philippine roads. I say so since the volume of vehicular traffic has increased significantly from 1975 to the present and there are much more interactions among vehicles and people that have led to a deterioration of road safety as well. Traffic congestion and road crashes are asymptomatic of the root causes of most of our transport problems. And so far, it seems we have had little headway into the solutions. The photos speak for themselves in terms of how many people can easily put the blame on poor public transport services despite the fact that cars are hogging much of the road space. And what have authorities done in order to address the behavioral issues that lead to these incidents?

Someone joked that the guy in the 1975 photo who appeared to be posing in disbelief of what happened is a time traveler. The 2019 photo shows a similar guy with a similar pose though with more people around. Maybe he can tell us a thing or so about what’s wrong with transportation in the Philippines and provide insights to the solutions to the mess we have.

New jitneys for the Cubao-Rosario route

The Cubao-Rosario jeepney route is among the older ones in Metro Manila connecting a major commercial center (Cubao) to a growth area (Ortigas Avenue corridor). The route also includes a significant part of C-5 (then called E. Rodriguez Ave.) that now has Megaworld’s Eastwood, Robinsons’ Bridgetown, and another development (joint venture between Ayala and Eton). At the corner of C-5 and Ortigas on the eastbound side is an SM project.

The route is now Cubao – Sta. Lucia (Pasig). This is not to confuse it with another Sta. Lucia, which is in Cainta. The jitneys now terminate and turnaround at the border of Cainta and Pasig between SM East Ortigas and BF Cainta. The jeepneys used to turn around near C. Raymundo and then under the Manggahan Floodway Bridge.

New vehicle but same drivers (behavior and attitude)? A driver returns to his illegally parked vehicle (it’s on the sidewalk) after what looks like him just finished answering the call of nature in the bushes beside the vehicle. Operations are basically the same with the only difference being the vehicles. The same goes with P2P buses driven by the same drivers of ordinary buses.

The old signboards of the jeepneys plying this route included Libis and Murphy, which were the area landmarks for the route. Libis is a Barangay in Quezon City where part of Eastwood is located. Murphy was Camp Murphy, the old name of what is not Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame. It was a single camp during the American Period. There are still jeepneys bearing those signboards and printed at the sides of the vehicles.

Zamboanga City Integrated Bus Terminal

I open the year by sharing photos of the Zamboanga City Bus Terminal. It is a ‘central’ terminal as most most buses terminate here and cannot proceed to the city center. At the terminal, passengers may transfer between buses, jeepneys and vans.

View of the terminal from the national highway. There are driveways leading to and from the terminal from the highway and one can appreciate the expanse between the facility and the main access road.

There are covered walks connecting the terminal to the national road.

Provincial buses and long-distance vans at the terminal

Provincial bus arriving at the terminal

Jeepneys at the terminal

Motorcycles parked along a shaded area. The lamp’s vintage design seems to be a good accent to the terminal.

Close-up showing the spacious parking area shared by cars, jeepneys, motorcycles and even tricycles

Another look at the covered walkways leading to the national highway. Not all public transport go to the terminal because of the fees and the distance for the diversion from the highway. 

Jeepneys waiting to be filled with passengers prior to departure

A look at the front of the terminal shows a wide driveway and the connection of the covered walkway to the main entrance

Another look at the integrated terminal from the highway

We will be evaluating the terminal soon as part of a study we are doing for the city. More photos and some assessments about its features soon!