Caught (up) in traffic
April 2023


Back to ‘old’ normal for air travel in the Philippines

Before we embark on another trip this week, I just wanted to share that it seems all is back to the old normal in as far as air travel is concerned in the Philippines. There are few, if any, exceptions based on what I and colleagues have experienced while traveling domestically. The only difference now from pre-COVID-19 air travel is that people are required to wear face masks inside the aircraft. Inside the airports, masks appear to be optional though most people wear them.

The March-April 2023 issue of Cebu Pacific’s Smile Magazine features places to go while in Tokyo, Japan, a popular destination these days as foreign travel restrictions have eased.

Cebu Pacific provides passengers with their Smile magazine on-board their aircraft. Philippine Airlines domestic flights don’t have magazines (unless they do on Business or First Class) for Economy passengers. I noticed also that PAL did not have duty free items on-board their aircraft (at least for the MNL-SIN-MNL trips we had recently). I know that other airlines have resumed duty free sales on-board so perhaps this is just a cost-cutting thing for PAL. Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific’s inflight shop is open and selling souvenir items on their domestic flights.

Noise, air pollution and your health

Here is another quick share of an article relating transportation and health:

Hunter, M. (March 27, 2023) “Road Noise Might Be One Reason Why Your Blood Pressure is High,”, [Last accessed: 3/29/2023]

To quote from the article:

“After a median of 8.1 years, the researchers discovered a dose-response relationship: The higher the noise exposure, the greater the risk of having a diagnosis of hypertension.

For every 10 decibel increase (in average 24-hour road traffic noise level), there was a 1.07 times rise in the chances of having high blood pressure. The researchers adjusted the data for fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exposure.

Exposure to air pollution and traffic noise exposure led to the highest high blood pressure risk.”

Both air pollution and noise are mentioned as issues to be addressed by implementing programs for sustainable transport. Sustainable transport includes low carbon transport as well as the reduction of noise generated by traffic.

Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx)

The recently opened Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx) is a freeway spanning the provinces of Tarlac and Nueva Ecija towards the Cagayan Valley side of Luzon. With the ends at Tarlac City, Tarlac and San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, Phase 1 currently terminates at Aliaga town; connecting to the Guimba-Aliaga Road. That is 18 kilometers of the planned 30.7 kilometers of the first phase, which is to end at Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. Here are some photos taken by colleagues as they traveled to Tuguegarao this weekend.

Section of SCTEX leading to the junction where the road branches to either the TPLEX or the CLLEx. SCTEX is a tollway operated by Metro Pacific via its Manila North Tollways Corp. while TPLEX is a tollway operated by San Miguel Corp. CLLEx is currently a freeway under the DPWH.

SCTEX off-ramps to CLLEx (left) or Tarlac City (right)

The expressway currently has 2 lanes per direction plus shoulder along either direction. The median barrier is a post & rail semi-rigid structure.

Many of the traffic signs have yet to be installed

Not so much traffic along the freeway as shown in the photos. These were taken on a Sunday though and we wonder if there will be more vehicles during the weekdays.

As the freeway is still uncompleted, the end section in Nueva Ecija is two lane-two way with only cones and bollards separating opposing traffic.

Exit ramp towards the Guimba-Aliaga Road

There are no stops yet along the freeway. I am not aware if there is a timetable for it to become a tollway. Traffic is still quite low so perhaps making it a tollway will take some time as it might be difficult to have a profitable operation. It would be good to have it as a limited access freeway to establish demand and use for the road.

Quezon City’s bike ramps

This is a very late post on bicycle facilities. I took a few photos of the bike ramps Quezon City installed on the stairs of pedestrian footbridges in the city. I am sharing a couple of these photos here for reference.

The bike ramp allows one to roll his/her bicycle with relative ease up and down the footbridge. Otherwise or without the ramps, cyclists would have to carry their bikes up and down the stairs. 

The landing for the the bike ramp at the foot of the stairs.

It’s quite obvious in the photos that the space along the stairs is quite constrained. Ideally, perhaps there should be two ramps – one for going up and another for going down. One ramp means one cyclist will have to wait for another or others to go up or down before proceeding to use the ramp. Perhaps this highlights the need to re-imagine the designs of footbridges. The current designs are not inclusive or equitable for all users. But whether footbridges are required in the first place is another matter.

A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts

Here is a quick share for today. This is an article by Todd Litman critiquing congestion costs and induced vehicle travel impacts:

Quoting from the article:

It is time for planners to rethink the way we evaluate congestion problems and solutions. Vehicle travel is not an end in itself; our ultimate goal is to improve accessibility. Traffic congestion is one constraint on accessibility, but others are more important. For example, the study, “Does Accessibility Require Density or Speed?” found that a given increase in urban density, and therefore proximity, has a far greater impact on overall accessibility than an increase in travel speed, and therefore congestion reductions. This is particularly true of disadvantaged groups who cannot drive or are financially burdened by vehicle expenses.

It is irresponsible for transportation agencies to expand highways in ways that contradict other community goals. If they do nothing, at worst, traffic congestion will maintain equilibrium; people will manage within its constraints. Even better, transportation agencies can invest in resource-efficient alternatives—better walking, bicycling, public transit, and telework opportunities—that improve accessibility, increasing transportation system efficiency.

If we truly want to truly optimize our transportation systems, we need a more comprehensive analysis of impacts and options, including the full costs of urban highway expansions and the full benefits of non-auto mode improvements and TDM incentives. Highway expansion should be a solution of last resort, only implemented when all other solutions have failed and users are willing to pay the full costs through tolls.

It’s time to stop obsessing about congestion and instead strive for efficient accessibility that serves everybody in the community.

Source: A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts

Queues on arrival at NAIA Terminal 2

Arriving at NAIA’s Terminal 2, one has to prepare the QR code generated via the e-travel site of the Philippine government. Doing this prior to you flight or your arrival will save you the hassle of accomplishing the form upon arrival. The queues for both the e-arrival processing and immigration are bad enough for experience that you don’t want to add spending more time in a crowded area to that.

Area and booths for the e-travel (e-arrival) processing

Arriving passengers have their e-travel QR codes scanned at one of the booths set-up at the area in the middle of the international and domestic wings of the terminal.

Passengers queuing from their arrival gate to one end of the international wing (right) and after their e-travel QR codes are scanned, proceed to the immigration counters via the other end of the terminal (left).

Arriving passengers may queue at the manual immigration counters or the new machines now installed at Terminal 2. Foreigners only have the option to queue for the manual process. The queues for the machines though can get long fast if the person transacting is not familiar with the automated process or has trouble scanning his/her passport that it takes more time per transaction.

Signs of the times? A COVID-19 test vending machine at the airport

I just wanted to share this photo that I took of a vending machine dispensing COVID-19 antigen self-test kits at NAIA Terminal 3. I took this photo as we exited the baggage claim area and headed for the multi-level parking of the terminal.

There are many vending machines at airports including the most typical ones for drinks and food. Some dispense souvenirs and even electronics. This was the first time I encountered this type of machine. I didn’t see one while in Changi or in NAIA Terminal 2, and even in Panglao, Mactan, Zamboanga or Laguindingan airports where I have been recently. Perhaps there are machines like this there or in there airports but I just didn’t see them. I guess these are here to stay considering COVID-19 is not yet completely out of the picture so to speak.

Crowded NAIA Terminal 2

Before the pandemic, NAIA’s airport terminals were already very crowded. Recently, I’ve been to both Terminals 2 and 3, and I can say that they are practically back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of their being crowded or congested. There are the long lines at the check-in counters and travelers and well-wishers ‘encamped’ or circulating around the terminals.

The area just after the final security check does not seem to be crowded. People don’t usually congregate or linger in the area.

The empty seats belie a crowded Terminal 2. That white wall eventually turned out to be the area for where arriving international passengers have to have their e-arrival QR codes scanned.

This is what is behind the white wall in the previous photo.

Arriving passengers (right) queue towards the e-arrival scans. Those finished with their e-arrival scans (left) proceed to the immigration counters via the other end of the terminal.

A brief history of transport strikes – Part 4: impacts and implications

What was supposed to be a week-long transport strike by jeepney drivers and operators was called off yesterday. Frontpage news showed a photo of representatives of protestors with government officials. Government official statements also declare that the government will be talking with the transport sector to sort out issues and to try to address these in relation to the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP). One day earlier, government was quick to state that the strike had no impact on transport. Were there really no impacts?

I think the fact that schools went back to online mode and offices allowed employees to work from home show the impacts of the transport strike. If you haven’t noticed, the government has been using the tactic of cancellation of classes for quite some time now. To reduce the impacts of transport strikes on commuters, classes on all levels were canceled, thereby reducing transport demand. The only difference now is that there is capacity for online classes due to adjustments made during the height of the pandemic. So instead of cancelling classes altogether, schools reverted to online mode. Meanwhile, for those who needed to go to their workplaces and did not have their own vehicles, there were various free rides (libreng sakay) services provided by national and local government agencies. Cities like Quezon City already operated their own bus services so people could take these instead of their usual PUV modes for commuting.

What are the implications of the shortened strike? The shortened strike has various implications. One is that it showed the protesters did not have enough resources to sustain the strike. It also showed that transport leaders appear to just want some attention from government. A colleague commented about this being something like a show or the strike being part of a game of “bad cop, good cop” among government officials and agencies. If you haven’t noticed, this has been going on for some time now. Government already knows how to reduce the potential impacts of protests like this. Suspending classes in schools significantly reduces the travel demand on a typical weekday. Offices giving their employees the option to work from home during the strike also adds to the reduction in travel demand. And libreng sakay vehicles are easier to deploy as agencies and LGUs have vehicles for this purpose. Meanwhile, the continuing rise in motorcycle ownership also contributed to people being able to still commute (i.e., having the motorcycle taxi option). At least for Metro Manila, once the railway projects are completed, there will be a railway option for commutes. Barring a simultaneous strike with buses and vans, protests from the jeepney sector will surely be diminished.

A brief history of transport strikes – Part 3: advocacy and bandwagon

You see a lot of posts on social media stating people supporting the current transport strike. There are cartoons and memes that dramatize if not romanticize the plight of drivers. One cartoon I saw has a girl asking her driver-father if he will join the strike. The father replies he is unsure as they won’t have any income to cover their needs. One panel shows the driver’s cash box with graduation photos of what appear to be his other children. Of course, this suggests that the jeepney driver was able to support his children in their education while also suggesting about the uncertainties for the other child (who is in the comic). The comic obviously appeals to the emotions of the reader. It is a fallacy but one that is very close to and appeals to the psyche of the Filipino.

Another cartoon appears to be comparing modernization with replacing office computers. It states that the government’s modernization program is like an office requiring its employees to replace their old notebooks with high end ones. Only, the office is not paying for the new units and will have these charged to the employees’ salaries. I thought that was an oversimplification. Jeepneys are public utility vehicles  and not private. There are rules and regulations governing PUV acquisition, franchising and operations, unlike your typical office computer.

I think we should draw the line between advocacy and simply jumping onto the bandwagon that is supporting a transport strike without knowing and understanding the details about it. Otherwise, we end up giving unconditional support to what others will refer to as a backward public transportation system. There are always two sides to a coin and while there are good stories about the jeepney and how it has supported many families, there are also bad ones that have allowed them to remain practically unchanged over so many decades. The same applies to the opposition – those who call for a phase-out or outright modernization without understanding the terms given to drivers and operators and the overall context and situation regarding the modernization program. It is easy to take sides. The question is if you are aware and understand the details about the issues here.