Caught (up) in traffic
October 2021
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Safe streets for children

We have been working with UNICEF and several partner organizations on a project on Child Road Traffic Injury Prevention (CRTIP). The Final Reports for the two pilot cities, Valenzuela City and Zamboanga City, have been submitted and represents over 2 years work including during the lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The latter part of project implementation indeed became a challenge as we couldn’t travel and engage face-to-face or conduct field surveys like how we did in the first part of the project. Still, I believe we were able to accomplish much and most of what we initially set out to do. Here are the covers of the Final Reports we submitted to UNICEF and we understand will be officially or formally transmitted to the two cities.

The reports narrate the surveys conducted for 25 schools in Zamboanga and 41 schools in Valenzuela. Each initially had selected 25 schools but Valenzuela pushed for an additional 16 schools midway into the project. The SR4S tool developed by iRAP was used for the assessments of critical areas around the schools. The initial assessments were used to identify interventions to improve safety in these areas and recommendations were submitted for consideration of the cities as well as the DPWH where applicable (i.e., the DPWH has jurisdiction over national roads and improvements proposed along these). While some interventions were implemented, others and many were delayed mainly due to Covid-19.

We also conducted a survey to determine the commuting characteristics of schoolchildren in both cities. Since most schools were public schools, it was no surprise that most children lived near the schools or within the school district (which is basically the catchment area for these schools). Thus, it also came as no surprise that most schoolchildren came by foot (walking), motorcycles (riding with a parent) or motor tricycle. There’s a lot of information and takeaways from the data but unfortunately, we could get the bigger, more complete picture of Valenzuela City because they selected only elementary schools covering students from Grades 1 to 6. Zamboanga had a more robust data set with both elementary and high schools, covering Grades 1 to 12. The information derived from these surveys were also analyzed and related to the SR4S assessments. The commuting survey results and SR4S assessment are subject of two technical papers presented in the recent EASTS 2021 conference hosted by Hiroshima University.

What’s next? We are now drafting a proposal for a Phase 2 of the project. We hope to continue and reinforce and follow-up on the recommended interventions from Phase 1. We also hope to be able to work on the CRTIP data hub that was only partly completed due to the many constraints faced by that part of the project. I will post here from time to time about some of the outcomes from the surveys and assessments.

Is it difficult to understand the phenomena of induced demand?

I’m sharing a recent article that laments about how transport departments in the US seemingly don’t understand the concept and phenomena of induced demand. Is it really difficult to understand or are transport officials including highway planners and engineers deliberately ignoring what’s staring them in the face?

Zipper, D. (September 28, 2021) “The Unstoppable Appeal of Highway Expansion,” Bloomberg City Lab, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-09-28/why-widening-highways-doesn-t-bring-traffic-relief [Last accessed: 10/10/2021]

Partially completed road widening along a road in Batangas – was this necessary given the traffic in the area before, during and after this pandemic?

The topic in the article is very much applicable to our own Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The DPWH’s key performance indicators (KPIs) need to change from the typical “kilometers of road constructed” or “lane-kilometers of roads widened” to something like “travel time between points A and B”. Agencies like the DPWH always like to claim they are for solving traffic congestion but we already know widening roads just won’t cut it. It has to be more comprehensive than that and involve the entire transport system rather than just a part (i.e., the road). And it has to be a collaborative effort with various other agencies like the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and local government units. Unfortunately, too, these agencies like the DOTr and those under it, and many (not all) LGUs also like to go at it solo so we end up with piecemeal solutions that are also often out of context.

On rethinking transit for our cities

There’s a nice article recently published on The New York Times. It’s about how cities have been rethinking and developing their transit systems in light of climate change and the pandemic. Here is the article:

An interesting part of the article is on the call for the return of trams or street-level trains. These are very similar to the tranvia that used to be the preferred mode of public transport before World War 2. Would that be possible to build now in Metro Manila? Perhaps it would be a bit more challenging given the development but there are definitely corridors or areas where you can have trams…if the government wanted to. Among those would be along the Pasig River if the development will be similar to the esplanade and enough ROW can be acquired and allocated for these street-level transport. There is also the Botocan ROW, which we actually studied many years ago for Meralco, for the feasibility of a street-level transit system stretching from Katipunan to Quezon Institute. It could have been the revival of Meralco’s rail division of old.

What do you think?

On why people are afraid to bike

There is an interesting graphic shared by a friend on his social media account. I am also sharing it here. The source may be found at the bottom right of the graphic.

I think the graphic speaks for itself. How can we encourage people to bike whether for commuting or other utilitarian purpose if there are nuts behind the wheels of many motor vehicles? All the points raised in the graphic are true for the Philippines and are not limited to drivers of private vehicles. These are also the same for public transport drivers as well. And these cannot be solved or addressed overnight. You have to get to the roots of the problem, which are about the driver and rider education (i.e., training), and the licensing system of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

While there are driving and riding schools that have proliferated, many seem to just go through the motions of driver and rider education. Prospective motor vehicle drivers and riders often just learn enough to pass a flawed examination to get their licenses. Do they really learn about how to behave properly when driving or riding? It certainly does not show with how they deal with cyclists and pedestrians. As for enforcement, well that’s another topic to discuss in a separate post.

Why not rationalize other routes now?

There is an enduring discussion in various forums and platforms about the lack of supply of public transportation. I can’t help but notice though that many discussions consciously or unconsciously leave out the part of public transport rationalisation that calls for phasing out lower capacity vehicles in favour of higher capacity ones. I have written about this and explained the necessity particularly along corridors with high transport demand. Delaying what is required (not necessarily what is inevitable) means we fall short of transforming public transport services in this context.

 

There are definitely missed opportunities here but the current discussions and proposed resources for 2021 including funds for service contracting seems to suggest a status quo in terms of vehicles with the exception of the modernisation part. Perhaps this is because we are still in pandemic mode and survival is still the name of the game? Nevertheless, there should be initiatives and continued dialogue about ‘graduating’ from lower capacity vehicles to higher capacity ones. Of course, this discussion is more urgent for highly urbanised cities than smaller ones.

Air crash mysteries

I wrote about the Concorde recently and how I at one time dreamt of flying in one. I shared an article in that post about the air crash that doomed the Concorde. While it appears morbid to certain people, there is that fascination about air crashes not because of the deaths but because these often lead to better designs for aircraft and policies for the aviation industry. Here is a recent article about the still missing (vanished without a trace?) Malaysian Airlines Flight 307.

Admiral Cloudberg (March 27, 2021) “Call of the Void: Seven years on, what do we know about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370?”, Medium.com, https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/call-of-the-void-seven-years-on-what-do-we-know-about-the-disappearance-of-malaysia-airlines-77fa5244bf99 [Last accessed: 9/23/2021]

Unlike other disastrous crashes that include weather factors, pilot errors, instrument or engine failures, we cannot learn (much) from this crash as the black box or any other parts of the aircraft were never recovered. Of course, not in the same category as these types of crashes are those that were blown up or shot down whether by accident or deliberately such as the ill-fated Korean Airlines Flight 007. There are other lessons to be learned if not yet learned from those tragedies.

Papers from the Philippines presented in the EASTS 2021 conference

Here’s a list of papers from the Philippines presented at the recent 14th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS). The local society, the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP), is affiliated with EASTS being one of the founding societies for what is now the mother organization with members across Asia.

I thought the list would be helpful to those who come to this site to look for research topics. I guess it’s that time of the year for many university/college students who are looking for topics for their thesis or dissertation. There’s a nice mix of topics in the list and shows what are the current topics students and faculty from the different schools are engaged in. Many appear to be from research projects, which are a natural source for technical papers being submitted, presented and published in conferences or journals.

The TSSP is holding its own virtual conference in November 2021. I will also share about that and the papers to be presented in that conference in a future post. Currently, they have not finalized the program and papers submitted are still being reviewed.

On Transit, Urban Equity and Sustainability

Here is another quick share of an article about public transport, urban equity and sustainability:

Descant, S. (September 2021) “How Can Transit Deliver Urban Equity and Sustainability?”, Government Technology, https://www.govtech.com/transportation/how-can-transit-deliver-urban-equity-and-sustainability [Last accessed: 9/21/2021]

The article discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic clearly shows the role of public transportation in the lives of a lot of people. There is that opportunity to significantly if not radically improve public transportation now more than ever. Surely governments and their transit or regulating agencies have thought about this. While the pandemic led to situations that are not necessarily clean slates for many, there are definitely opportunities here and there to implement change that will increase benefits for transit users while attracting non-users to shift from their preferred modes (i.e., private vehicles). Here’s a takeaway from the article:

“We know that public transportation is the solution. So there needs to be a commitment at the federal level, not just in terms of funding, but also integrating public transportation deeper into the fabric of society, through land use policy and through other transportation access policies — the sidewalk and bike lane piece — with the data and payment apps as well…”

What improvements do you think should and can be done now given the pandemic situation? Are these still timely or have we figuratively “missed the bus”, so to speak?

Vintage bus and train cards

With the Tokyo Olympics recently concluded and me supposed to be in Hiroshima now and participating in an international conference, I am somewhat nostalgic about Japan. Having lived there for a few years while studying, and then staying again for a few months twice later (2001 and 2008) as a visiting researcher, I miss many of my haunts.

Another discovery one time I was searching for an item in my office drawers is a stash of cards from the various times I was staying in Japan. You can purchase these at the station, convenience stores or from the bus driver.

From top left (clockwise): Kyoto city single day bus pass, Tokyo single day bus pass, Kanto region (Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Chiba, Saitama, etc.) bus cards (1,100, 3,360 and 5,850 yen denominations), JR Suica card, and Yokohama Triennial Bus Card.

The bus cards already have discounts incorporated. The pink 1,100 bus card costs 1,000 yen so you get an extra 100 yen value. It’s +360 for the blue and +850 for the yellow. Since I was a regular commuter before, I usually got the yellow card. I’m not sure these cards are still there given the advances in technology and innovations over the past decade but it is likely that these were upgraded and are other options to more high tech ones using, for example, smartphones. Mobility as a service (MaaS) is now being promoted in Japan and as I have registered for my conference in Hiroshima, I have a three day transport pass included in my registration. This can be accessed through my phone and could have made a convenient companion going around the city.

EASTS 2021 Conference

I would have been in Hiroshima, Japan today if it weren’t for the pandemic. I would have been attending this conference from this weekend (September 12 to 14) where my colleagues and I will be presenting our papers at the respective sessions according to the topics of our work. This year, the conference is virtual and we submitted recorded presentations though presence during the sessions is still required to answer questions about the papers presented. A pre conference even was already held yesterday that attracted early career research in transportation. Here is the link to the conference hosted by Hiroshima University.

I have been to Hiroshima once but unfortunately it was a busy trip to the university and I could not go around. I had wanted to go the memorial to the atomic bomb attack on the city. The plan we had before the pandemic was to have a post conference trip to Kyoto and then proceed to Tokyo on what could have been another sentimental journey for me and close friends who have also studied in Japan. Perhaps there will be another opportunity soon and that we can already travel even with the restrictions or health protocols pertaining to Covid-19.