Caught (up) in traffic
July 2017
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TSSP 2017 Conference

The Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP) holds its 24th Annual Conference tomorrow, July 21, 2017. It will be held at the National Center for Transportation Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. More than a hundred participants are expected to attend this 1-day affair.

The final program for the conference may be found in the following link:

http://ncts.upd.edu.ph/tssp/index.php/2017/07/17/tssp-conference-program/

The theme for this year’s conference is “Improving Quality of Life in Urban and Rural Areas Through Inclusive Transportation.” This is also the theme for the panel discussion in the morning. The afternoon will feature four parallel technical sessions where 18 papers will be presented.

The keynote lecture will be delivered at the start of the conference by Prof. Tetsuo Yai of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who is also the current President of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) under whose umbrella the TSSP is part of. TSSP is a founding member of EASTS and actually preceded EASTS by a year.

On the Uber and Grab predicament

A lot has been said and written for or against Uber and Grab. Social media made sure the more popular but not necessarily the truthful ones are spread. One popular personality associated with motoring has even led an online petition against the rulings by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). An objective check of the facts reveal that LTFRB is not solely at fault here. Uber and Grab should not have promoted themselves and took in additional drivers (nagpaasa ng mga drivers) after the agency issued a moratorium last year. Estimates vary but it seems they have taken in tens of thousands of drivers (20.000? 30,000? 40,000?) and earned revenues along the way to what is now an historic penalty levied upon Uber and Grab by the LTFRB.

Perhaps the most level-headed article I’ve seen online is the following:

The thing about Grab, Uber and the LTFRB [by Vince Pornelos, July 18, 2017, https://www.autoindustriya.com/editors-note/the-thing-about-grab-uber-and-the-ltfrb.html]

It seems all is well, for now, as meetings were held between the DOTr, LTFRB and the concerned parties (Uber and Grab). In one of the meetings, a couple of Senators seem to have brokered a deal to resolve what appeared to be an impasse that a lot of people on social media reacted to. There are definitely a lot of vested (and veiled) interests involved here including those by various “operators” in the transport sector on both the sides of government and private sector. One takeaway though that I observed is that many appear to be against LTFRB even though the agency was truthful about their statements regarding the illegally operating transport vehicles. They seem to have made up their minds about the LTFRB and this is not surprising as transport problems have been festering for decades with little progress in terms of improving transport, conventional or innovative. Most people seem to have lost their patience about transport services and regulation, and perhaps this is a good thing if it translated to demanding for mass transit, too.

Ortigas Center walkways under construction

Currently under construction at the Ortigas Center are elevated walkways that are part of the Ortigas Greenways Project. Following are some photos I took a few weeks back (they’re old!), and so the current state should show significant progress from what is in the photos.

Elevated walkways are currently under construction at the Ortigas Center. This part can be seen along Julia Vargas Ave. at the intersection with Garnet St.

Structure at F. Ortigas, Jr.

Close-up of the F. Ortigas part of the elevated walkways

Walkway section under construction along the approach of ADB Ave./San Miguel Ave.

Crossing under construction at the intersection of Julia Vargas with San Miguel Ave. (to the left) and ADB Ave. (to the right).

View of the F. Ortigas crossing walkway along the eastbound direction of Julia Vargas Ave.

This project is perhaps one of the most hyped pedestrian facilities in Metro Manila and if I recall right, the concept for this can be traced to workshops conducted during one of the Transport Forums organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose headquarters are located in Ortigas Center. It took a while to be realized but should be completed soon. This won’t be the first of its kind in Metro Manila as Makati already has one connecting office and residential buildings to Greenbelt and Glorietta. I really do hope it is able to reduce congestion in the area but this would require studies after the facilities are opened for public use. We need more of these around Metro Manila as well as other major cities. We direly need facilities to encourage walking as a preferred mode over motorized transport.

More major traffic generators along Ortigas Ave. Extension?

There’s another mall being constructed along the westbound side of Ortigas Avenue Extension just before the Lucky Gold Plaza and across from the One Oasis residential enclave. That area is already very congested as will be attested to by the thousands who pass this way especially during the morning rush. Here’s a photo of the mall that is currently under construction as seen from the bridge crossing the Manggahan Floodway. The steel frame on the left and behind the pedestrian bridge is the mall’s.

That’s another mall being built across the Bali Oasis near the Manggahan Floodway

Among the future major traffic generators that will likely make traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue worse are the following:

  • Residential development across Countryside subdivision
  • Town center development near Valley Golf

Commuters using this corridor will likely find traffic worsen (could it really get worse than what it is now?) and traffic schemes by the LGUs along the corridor (i.e., Pasig, Cainta and Taytay) will not be enough to alleviate traffic over the medium to long term.  Only a dedicated mass transit line can provide significant improvements for travel along this corridor.

I am still wondering about the mass transit solution for this corridor. There are arguably more people traveling along Ortigas Avenue compared to Marcos Highway that already has Line 2 under construction. I’m sure if you asked people when a mass transit line’s needed along Ortigas, they will reply “years ago”. Being one who has traveled along this corridor since the 1970s (I was a resident of Cainta and then of Antipolo), I can say that traffic indeed has worsened over the last 3 decades. Travel demand management (TDM) measures such as number coding and transport systems management (TSM) schemes such as Pasig’s one-way scheme will not be enough to address the growth along the corridor as they were and are not enough in the first place.

Public transport’s importance to a city

I found an “old” article on public transportation and its importance to cities:

Public Transport is Worth Way More to a City Than you Might Think, [by Eric Jaffe in http://www.citylab.com, August 14, 2013]

While much attention has been on walking and cycling, which are essential modes of transport, I believe public transport has an even much more value especially given the land use in many cities. This is particularly true in the Philippines where land use planning is basically a term since implementation is generally weak. This is very much evident in the case of residential development and the limited choices for transport. Many people, for example, reside in the periphery of Metro Manila and its surrounding areas. They often commute over long distances and incur long travel times due to congestion roads. Mass transit infrastructure could have made commutes faster, saving precious time that translates into economic value.

New ruralism, anyone?

I found this interesting article that tackles what to me is a new concept although it shouldn’t be. The concept of new ruralism to me is somewhat going back to the basics. While urbanization seems to be an unstoppable force, there is still the need to preserve rural areas and also the way of life as well as the industries that we need to sustain urban living. Food production, for example, is something that is being advocated or promoted in urban areas but hasn’t really caught on. Farming seems to have lost a lot of people as it is perceived as backward and yet it is essential.

New Ruralism: Solutions for Struggling Small Towns [by Jared Green in The Dirt, June 14, 2017]

What do you think about this concept of new ruralism? Is it something that’s also applicable to the Philippines or is will it be just a fad?

Challenges for students commuting to/from schools

Its our first day of school for our daughter today. But unlike her, I recall that I had to wake up early when I was in grade school and high school because the ‘service’ providing transport  to and from school had to pick me up and then others. That usually meant a 5:30 AM wake up, a quick shower, dress-up (we wore uniforms) and breakfast before the ‘service’, an AUV, picked me up at home. School started at 7:30 AM and it took something like 45 minutes (depending on traffic) from our last pick-up to get to school at exactly 7:30. If our vehicle is able to finish pick-ups earlier, that meant we were assured of not being late for homeroom period. If the other kids (and there are many) are running late and we end up waiting longer for each, then we would likely be late. In many cases, our driver would have to resort to being reckless in order to make the time.

Nowadays, I think its much more difficult for kids due to the worsening traffic congestion. What was a 30 to 45-minute travel time between our home in Cainta to Pasig/Mandaluyong is now easily twice or longer that. And I am only referring to a direct trip. Even with Waze available, one can only have few options for routes between home and school.

While there are still many school ‘service’ vehicles (and not so many actually buses), many parents seem to have opted to Ateneo, for example, used to have a fleet of buses transporting students. These were replaced by AUVs and vans accredited by the school, and the many (too many?) private vehicles ferrying mostly individual students to and from their Quezon City campus.

School children have to wake up early to go to school. Some probably take their breakfasts as baon in order to save time for traveling. Some take their breakfasts at nearby eateries or fast-food restaurants.

Many children may be at risk as they are ferried to school via motorcycles and usually without helmets. In other cases, there are tricycles acting as school service vehicles. Often these are overloaded with children and their school bags.

Pedestrian facilities are also lacking in many cases and particularly in rural areas where public schools are located along highways that have no sidewalks or cities where pedestrian walkways are not built to standards for one reason or another. These are issues that need to be addressed and would be nice topics for research, especially those with practical and safety applications.