Caught (up) in traffic
August 2022
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On university-community collaborations

I’m not a stranger to university-community collaborations. In fact, I even helped draft a proposal for the World Bank to support such collaborations, which I believe would be sustainable and therefore worthwhile to be pursued by potential partner universities and local government units. There are actually many such collaborations but most of these are probably informal with certain faculty members of universities (usually state universities or colleges) being involved in committees or moonlighting in projects implemented or funded by LGUs. I say informal because technically, the school is not involved in the project and it is only incidental that the person or persons involved are affiliated with the university or college.

Here is an article showing an example of university-community collaborations:

National Institute for Transportation and Communities (2022) “Transportation recovery after disasters: A collaborative university/community model,”  phys.org, https://phys.org/news/2022-08-recovery-disasters-collaborative-universitycommunity.html [Last accessed: 8/15/2022]

The authors wrote about actions that could be done “to build future economic resilience.” To quote from the article:

  • Increasing pre-disaster investment in resilient transportation infrastructure to reduce the cost of eventual recovery;

  • Improving business resilience practices for high-impact industrial sectors, through education and outreach;

  • Identifying structural barriers to adoption of resilient business practices, and promoting mitigation through recovery.

  • Mainstreaming disaster resilience into economic development by breaking the siloed approach to emergency management and economic development.

While these actions were framed for the community engaged by the University of Utah, they are general enough to be applicable to other communities as well.

I mentioned earlier about the need for formality. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) encourages and supports what are termed as Extension Works or Extension Projects by higher education institutions. These may be in various forms including committee work, advisory, capacity building/training, or even professional work/services provided to the province, city or municipality (even barangay). But there should be accountability here as well as the proper assignment or allocation of resources.

Just compensation is one of the more sensitive or tricky elements or items here as often, LGUs would like to get something for free or assume that certain services are free. They are not and time and effort should be compensated; just not the international rates you might expect for consulting work from the likes of World Bank or Asian Development Bank.

Here is where contracts (e.g., in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)) can be useful to establish the terms of engagement that includes budgets for Personnel Services (PS), Equipment Outlay (EO) and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE). The latter categories should be familiar with LGUs because these are standard items under which details are provided for their programs and projects. State universities and colleges are also familiar with these as standard government terminologies for budgets. Of course, that goes without saying that in certain engagements, there may be third parties such as donor or funding institutions that will should all, most, or part of the costs for collaborative work.

Opinions on the current transportation situation?

Some people were asking me about what I thought about certain issues and reports on transportation. To be honest, while I am involved in some projects including one on road safety, I have been busy (or swamped is probably a more suitable term) with administrative duties at the university. While I take a peek from time to time, as is my habit, to see what’s happening, I have much less time to really engage or get involved in discussions. Whereas before, I easily get myself into typing comments and engaging in some discussions about transport issues particularly in social media, I now quite easily turn away and let it be. There are, after all, a lot of people experts, pundits, advocates, even trolls who are “slugging it out” with their opinions on just about anything on transport.

While I am amused at many discussions or posts, I now find myself not at all wanting to get involved unlike before. I think perhaps I have done my part and continue to do so in ways and avenues where I am more effective and where my time and effort is not wasted and more appreciated. I have never been the loud person in a room and have always tried to have my work speak for myself.

The indifference is the product of many factors and circumstances including becoming tired of doing interviews with conventional media. Nowadays especially, when media seems engrossed on having content by the minute; never mind the substance. Basta may ma-report or ma-post (As long as their is something to report or post).

Well, here’s a few thoughts about what seem to be trending these days:

  1. There is still a lack of public transportation supply considering the increasing demand (more people are back to their workplaces and schools are already reopening!). Government agencies still seem to be clueless or perhaps just want to push the original rationalization and modernization programs despite the pandemic changing the game for commuting demand. Due to the lack of public transport, more people are taking to private vehicles but certain observers apparently see only cars (which they automatically equate to ‘private vehicles’). Motorcycles are also increasing in numbers and allowing motorcycle taxis will mean people will turn to these for commuting/transport needs.
  2. Cable cars won’t solve Metro Manila transport or traffic woes. Even if one will consider where they will fit or may be suitable, this is still a band aid solution considering all the solutions including the ones that are obvious or staring us in our faces (yes, allow the conventional jeepneys and buses back for now) that are available but government stubbornly rejects. As for the senator who broached the idea, I think he did so mainly for media mileage (and the mainstream media quickly snapped it up!) – para mapag-usapan. As they say – it’s so showbiz!
  3. I still believe that the experiences from the pandemic strongly provide us with the evidence to support a continuation and sustaining work-from-home or remote work set-ups. This actually ‘solved’ traffic during the heights of the pandemic and yet we choose to revert to the old normal set-up. People are languishing, suffering as they spend long travel times in their commutes. These are unproductive time that people could have spent more efficiently and productively (not to mention more meaningful) at home.
  4. I support children going back to school but not for 100% of their times. We definitely know that a 100% study-at-home set-up is not for everyone and the last two years have affected our children including their need for face-to-face interaction with other children (classmates) and adults (teachers). Still, we can have a blended set-up where perhaps we can have children come to school 2 to 3 days in a week rather than the old normal of 5 to 6 (even 7 in some schools) days. Other tasks and learning activities can be done effectively at home. This also could help ease traffic and travel demand especially in urbanized areas.

More opinions in future posts!

 

Another look at the Zamboanga Airport – arrival

We traveled to Zamboanga earlier last month and it was our first trip to the city since the first lockdowns in 2020. We were supposed to travel in March 2020 to conduct data collection for a full week but then there was the nationwide lockdown implemented to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. If we were already there when the lockdowns were implemented, we could have been stranded at our hotel and perhaps spent a few weeks to perhaps a month before we could return to Manila.

We disembarked from the plan using the more sophisticated and senior citizen- and PWD-friendly ramps.

It took longer to get down both in terms of distance and disembarking time.

Other stairs and ramps are shown in the background. I recall only Cebu Pacific had these for their aircraft.

Our first look at the renovated Zamboanga International Airport (Aeropuerto International de Zamboanga in the local language – Chavacano) since February 2020. At the time the roof was already falling apart at different locations.

A look back at the ramp

Passengers walk towards the arrival area of the airport

The baggage claim area is practically the same as in 2020. The only notables are the signs encouraging physical distancing as well as the stickers on the floor that designated where passengers were to position themselves.

As you one can see, people no longer really observe social distancing but all are wearing face masks.

A closer and clearer look at the sign and the floor sticker asking people to practice social distancing

The main driveway of the airport remains closed to general traffic. This is used only for special occasions and VIPs.

A look back to the terminal’s arrival area as we walked to meet up with the driver of our service vehicle while in the city.

Photos from the departure/return leg of our trip in the next post.

On using advanced tools for infrastructure assessments

I came upon this article on how transportation departments in the US are using tools such as drones to assess critical infrastructure including roads and bridges. This is very relevant to us especially as many similar infra are aging and would need to be assessed to determine how to reinforce, retrofit or even rehabilitate certain infrastructure vs. naturally occurring phenomena like earthquakes and typhoons.

Reed, J. (August 2, 2022) “How Transportation Departments Are Using Advanced Drone Technology for Infrastructure Assessments,” Aviation Today, https://www.aviationtoday.com/2022/08/02/transportation-departments-using-advanced-drone-technology-infrastructure-inspections/ [Last accessed: 8/4/2022]

To quote from the article:

“The WVDOT may expand its drone programs to perform road safety assessments and to assist in designing new road routes by providing topographical maps.”

I recall that there have been road-based surveys involving Lidar to map the road and adjacent land surfaces about a decade ago (maybe less). This was a nationwide project funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and implemented by the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Department of Geodetic Engineering. I’m not sure where that data is stored or hosted but the DGE should have a back-up somewhere that can be used or further processed for road safety assessment applications. This could be an interesting and fruitful research area that can involve people from various disciplines.

On “beautiful” train stations

Here’s another article I am sharing that presents a list of some of the world’s most beautiful train stations. I say some because in my opinion, there are many others that we can consider beautiful according to various criteria and preferences. After all and as they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Funderburg, L., Cott, A. and Cherner, J. (August 1, 2022) “The 37 Most Beautiful Train Stations in the World,” Architectural Digest, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/best-train-station-architecture-slideshow?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_080122_1&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight [Last accessed: 8/2/2022]

I’ve seen many of these stations particularly the ones in the Netherlands, Australia and the US. The wife also sent me photos of other stations in her travels in Europe and the Americas. But there are many else to include in the list depending on your taste. Southeast Asia has many though perhaps for restoration. Japan definitely has many classic and contemporary/modern designs. And Central Asia should also have many that can be compiled into a list. I wonder what we can include or if there’s something in the future to look forward to in the Philippines.

Here are a couple in my list that aren’t in the article:

Den Haag Station, The Netherlands

Santa Fe Station, San Diego, USA

Free public transportation services?

We start August with an article share. Much has been said and written about public transportation being a basic right for people. And the experiences during this Covid-19 pandemic have shown us just how efficient and adequate public transportation can help make our lives better in terms of addressing our commuting or travel needs. Here is a very informative article that should make sense from the perspective of the general commuting public:

Konbie, N. (July 29, 2022) “The Case for Making Public Transit Free Everywhere,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/free-public-transit/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=AUTO_OTHER&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_content=WIR_Daily_072922&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_072922&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=P7 [Last accessed: 8/1/2022]

To quote:

“Free fares might not get everyone out of cars, but will convert some journeys, which benefits everyone in terms of carbon reduction and improving local air quality—and even helps drivers by calming traffic. Free fares won’t pull low-income people out of poverty, but will keep money in their pockets and ensure everyone can travel when they need to. Ditching fares comes at a cost, but there are savings to be had by not investing in expensive ticketing systems and wider logistical and societal benefits…
Public transport should be considered a human right, alongside access to health and education.”

Of course, service quality is a major concern here in the Philippines but isn’t it everywhere else? The question of sustainability should be a rather complex one considering we haven’t truly understood and translated the benefits that can be obtained from providing high quality public transport services vs. being car-oriented. Congestion pricing, for example, could very well provide the funds to improve, upgrade and maintain desirable public transport services (i.e., desirable from the perspective of most commuters and not just the lower and middle income people who more regularly or likely to take public transport than other modes of transport).

What do you think?

Bike lanes at the UP Diliman campus – Part 2

The bike lanes in UP Diliman are not limited to the Academic Oval. There are now also bike lanes along other major roads including Magsaysay Avenue, which is road immediately after the portal at the Asian Center and allowing direct entrance and exit via Katipunan Avenue (C-5). The bike lanes are along either side of Magsaysay Avenue and are of Class II – Type B (separated bike lanes) but there are no  LED markers that are ideally placed along the delineation for the bike lanes.

Painted bike lanes along Magsaysay Avenue, which is the road behind Malcolm and Melchor Halls. To the left is the Department of Mechanical Engineering Building and the Computer Center. To the right is the Resilience Institute.

To the right is what used to be the Chemical Engineering Lab behind Melchor Hall. To the right is the Ipil and Yakal Dormitories.

What are closed and what are open – NAIA Terminal 3 arrival

I previously wrote about what shops and restaurants were open or closed at NAIA Terminal 3. This time, I am sharing photos of the arrival level of T3.

Exiting the baggage claim area, we come upon what looks like the same scenes at the arrival level before the pandemic – lots of people walking around, shops and banks/money changers open for business.

The crowd density was not really the same as pre-pandemic levels but perhaps this was also because we arrived during a relatively off-peak period in airport operations. There were no international flights that arrived at about the same time we landed. Otherwise, there will be a lot of well-wishers or people fetching (“sundo”) arriving passengers.

The exchange rate when we arrived hovered just above 56 pesos : 1 USD.

Most people are wearing masks, which is a good thing considering we are not yet over with the Covid-19 pandemic. I can only imagine how it was when the airports were just reopening and people were also required to wear face shields. And only those who were really traveling were allowed in the terminal.

Most shops and restaurants at the arrival level were open and many people who were mostly waiting for arriving passengers were there to have a meal or snacks.

Walking towards the covered parking areas of Terminal 3, we see familiar fast-food Jollibee and Chowking with their typical patrons/customers.

Still closed is the large Duty Free Philippines shop at the arrival level of T3.

Returning to Mactan, Cebu

This weekend we are in Mactan to take a much needed break after a busy 2 weeks. I will write soon about the travel between Manila and Cebu including the conditions at the airports. For now, here’s a few photos upon deplaning from the aircraft.

A bus waited for us as we disembarked from the Airbus A321
Other passengers wait for the next bus

I look forward to the beach and a few side trips. Our plans for the weekend are quite flexible so its uncertain what places we get to visit or perhaps stay put at the resort where we are staying. I do want to see the completed bridge connecting Cordova with Cebu City (Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway or CCLEX).

More on the trip to Cebu in future posts.

Counting cars…and other vehicles as well

I saw a couple of these counting instruments set-u by the DPWH, one along Ortigas Avenue Extension and another along Sumulong Highway. These are mobile counting machines that are used to count vehicles along both directions of the roads. These are supposed to be calibrated to be able to distinguish among the various types of vehicles using the roads. I assume the classifications would be according to the types used by the DPWH and not simply a general count of the number of vehicles. I wonder though if these can accurately count smaller vehicles like motorcycles, bicycles and PMD’s like the one in the photo below.

If these can be calibrated to count bicycles and PMDs, it would allow for the establishment of baseline numbers and expansion or seasonal factors for what are now termed as micromobility modes. The recent bicycle counts done through volunteers and during peak hours cannot be expanded simply because there are no reference factors that can be used for this purpose. The available expansion or seasonal factors with DPWH derived from 24-hour counts at strategic locations along national roads only account for motor vehicles. These cover the variations of motor vehicle traffic over long periods of time (e.g., 24/7) that allows one to determine Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) as well as typical traffic during certain days of a week (e.g., traffic on a Monday or a Sunday).