Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Philippine participation in EASTS 2011

The 9th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) was recently held in Jeju, Korea. The conference was well attended with over 700 participants from at least 12 countries including those from member societies in eastern Asia. The Philippines was represented by academics and researchers coming mainly from the UP Diliman, Mapua Institute of Technology and St. Louis University (Baguio City).

Following is a photo taken during the Welcome Dinner last June 20, 2011 held at the Jeju International Convention Center.

Seated [L-R]: Grace Padayhag (ITPS), Regin Regidor (UP); Standing [L-R]: Mark De Guzman (SLU, partially obscured), Riches Bacero, Aldrine Uy (Mapua), Francis Villareal, Dr Shigeru Morichi (ITPS), Jun Castro (UP), Ric Sigua (UP) and Ernie Abaya (UP)

The next photo shows Philippine participants taking a break at a cafeteria at the Jeju ICC:

[L-R]: Riches Bacero, Ric Sigua, Regin Regidor, Aldrine Uy, Grace Padayhag, Reigna Macabbabad, and Mark De Guzman

School traffic generation – Part 1

One thing I will miss about summers is the relatively light traffic along Katipunan Avenue, which is where I pass through almost everyday between my home and workplace. There is still some congestion during the mid-day and the afternoons but these are typically due to truck traffic as Circumferential Road 5 (C5) is a truck route. During the rest of the year, however, with the exception of most weekends and holidays, severe congestion is experienced along Katipunan during the peak periods, particularly in the mornings between 6:30 AM and 7:30 AM. This is due primarily to the traffic generated by schools along Katipunan Avenue, most notably the Ateneo De Manila University and Miriam College. The following photos show typical traffic conditions along C5 during the peak periods.

Slow-moving vehicles along the northbound side of Katipunan Avenue

Congestion along the northbound direction of Katipunan atop the Aurora Blvd. overpass

Congestion along the Katipunan southbound service road leading to the U-turn slot underneath the Aurora Blvd. overpass

Traffic along the southbound service road leads to a U-turn slot under the overpass where many vehicles turn, heading in the general direction of Ateneo. Most turn here in order to enter the university via its Gate 1, which is the main access to the Grade School. On most times, congestion is caused by these vehicles turning right at Gate 1 as they effectively occupy the two lanes of the northbound service road and block all other traffic. This is shown in the following photo where it is clear that vehicles bound for Ateneo and turning at Gate 1 are the main cause of congestion. Beyond Gate 1, the traffic lanes are practically free of congestion.

Vehicles turning right to Ateneo’s Gate 1 blocking traffic along the Katipunan northbound service road

The afternoon peak is exacerbated by traffic generated by these schools that lead to longer periods of congestion as the number of private vehicle traffic dramatically increases when there are classes between June and April. Meanwhile, there is a noticeable decrease in traffic during the weekends and holidays. Such phenomenon is mostly attributable to the trip generation characteristics of schools, and especially those that tend towards the generation of much private vehicles. Ateneo and Miriam along Katipunan are just two examples. The traffic they generate and the consequential congestion is replicated in other places as well, giving headaches to motorists and commuters passing along major roads affected by these schools. Ortigas Avenue, for example, is usually congested during the weekdays because of traffic generated by LaSalle Greenhills, and ADB Avenue at the Ortigas Center is usually congested due to traffic attributed to Poveda.

Vehicle development and safety

As I drove to work this morning, I chanced upon a new model Korean-brand SUV along the highway. I couldn’t help but notice the sleek exteriors and was again impressed by what seemed to me, at least from where I was sitting, was a nicely performing vehicle along a road that was already starting to congest with morning traffic and with pavements still under rehabilitation. As I pulled ahead of the vehicle, I was able to appreciate its front design (the snout in particular) and noticed its lights that were very much similar to those already being used by late model German cars. Of course, the initial reaction would be that perhaps the Korean vehicle was a copy of the original European one. However, I was also aware that Korea already had strong partnerships with leading German automakers and routinely benchmarked their vehicles with their German counterparts. In fact, there are models of German vehicles that were and are developed and tested in Korea, which

I believe that much of the Korean vehicle manufacturers’ success in the design and development of vehicles that are at par if not better than its European counterparts may be attributed to Korea’s testing and research facilities. At the head of the effort for vehicle development and testing is the Korea Transportation Safety Authority or TS, and they work closely with other institutions including the very influential Korea Transport Institute (KOTI). It is a good example of a successful working relationship between government, the private sector and the academe.

I was fortunate to have been able to visit the Korean testing and research facilities back in 2009. At that time, I was part of a small party from the Philippines attending the Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Forum in Seoul, and was among those invited by Korean Transportation Safety Authority (TS) to visit the Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute. We were very impressed with their facilities and perhaps could only dream of having a similar one in the Philippines. We were toured around the different areas where various tests were being conducted and I was particularly interested in the proving grounds where new models were being tested for various operating conditions. I have some photos taken of the research and testing facilities but I defer from posting these here as there might be some restrictions applicable. Also, I’m afraid my photos won’t do justice to the impressive facilities at KATRI. Nevertheless, I have provided the links to the websites of the institutions I mentioned above for easy reference for anyone interested in their activities. The details may be found there and there are many photos and illustrations that would allow anyone who would at least browse their website to have an idea of just how far Korea has made progress in vehicle development and how much effort they put in to ensure safety on the part of the vehicle.

Traffic Congestion in Metro Manila: Is the UVVRP Still Effective? -Conclusion

The MMDA always reports what it claims as improvements of travel speeds along EDSA that past years. They have pointed to this as evidence that traffic congestion is being addressed and that programs like the UVVRP are effective in curbing congestion. However, many traffic experts have cautioned against making sweeping generalizations pertaining to the effectiveness of schemes especially if the evidence put forward is limited and where data seems to have been collected under undesirable (read: unscientific) circumstances.

The MMDA also has been using and to some extent overextending its use of a micro-simulation software that is employs to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of its proposed traffic schemes. The software has an excellent animation feature that can make the untrained eye believe in what is being shown as The problem here is when one realizes that computer software will only show what the programmer/operator wants, and is perhaps an example where the term “garbage in, garbage out” is very much applicable. And this is especially true should the computer model be uncalibrated and unvalidated according to guidelines that are well established, and extensively discussed and deliberated in a wealth of academic references. The fallacy of employing advanced tools to demonstrate how one’s proposal is better than another was highlighted when the DPWH acquired the same tool and came up with an entirely different result for an analysis being made for the same project by that agency and the MMDA. Surely this resulted in confusion as the outcomes of the simulation efforts of both agencies practically negated each other.

It should be pointed out that such micro-simulation software is unsuitable for the task of determining whether metro-wide schemes such as the UVVRP is still effective given the actions of those affected by the scheme. What is required is a macroscopic model that would take into account the travel characteristics of populations in Metro Manila and its surrounding areas (cities and towns in the provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna). There are quite a few of these models available but most if not all were derived from the one developed under the Metro Manila Urban Transport Integration Study (MMUTIS) that was completed in 1999. The main beneficiary from the outcomes of MMUTIS happens to be the MMDA but for some reason, that agency failed to build capacity for maintaining and updating/upgrading the model. As such, the agency missed a great opportunity to invest in something that they could have used to develop and evaluate traffic schemes to address congestion and other traffic issues in Metro Manila, as well as to assess the impacts of new developments.

Metro Manila has come to a point where its options for alleviating congestion are becoming more and more limited. The combination of a still increasing rate of motorization and private vehicle use have definitely contributed to congestion while there are also perceptions of a decline in public transport use in the metropolis. The share of public transport users in most Philippine cities and municipalities range from 80 – 90 %, while in many highly urbanized cities the tendency seems to be a decline for this share as more people are choosing to purchase motorcycles to enhance their mobility and as a substitute to cars. This trend towards motorcycle use cannot be denied based on the steep increase in ownership and the sheer number of motorcycles we observe in traffic everyday.

Metro Manila needs to retain the substantial public transport share while accepting that motorcycle ownership will continue to chip off commuters. The latter phenomenon can be slowed down should authorities strictly enforce traffic rules and regulations on motorcyclists, effectively erasing the notion that the latter group is “exempted” from such. The bigger and more urgent issue is how to put up long overdue mass transport infrastructure that is direly needed in order to create another opportunity for rationalization transport services. We seem to like that word “rationalization” without really understanding and acting on what is required to once and for all address transport problems in the metropolis. We are not lacking for examples of good practices that are both effective and sustainable including those in the capital cities of our ASEAN neighbors. However, we seem to be unable to deliver on the infrastructure part that we have tended to over-rely on a TDM scheme that has long lost much of its effectiveness. The evidence is quite strong for this conclusion and perhaps we should stop being in denial in as far as the UVVRP’s effectiveness is concerned. Efforts should be turned towards building the necessary infrastructure and making public transport attractive so that private car and motorcycle users will be left with no excuse to shift to public transport use. It is inevitable that at some time they will understand the cost of congestion and that they will have to pay for their part in congestion like what is being done along tollways or, in the more sophisticated and mature example, Singapore. But this cannot be realized if we continue to fail in putting up the infrastructure Metro Manila so direly requires.