Caught (up) in traffic

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Still on Katipunan

August 2011
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Katipunan is again the subject of attention thanks to the Sunday newspaper article by Prof. Randy David in his column at the Inquirer. The problem is not really new and I have been familiar with the congestion and its derivatives from the time I first studied in UP Diliman in 1988 and up to now when I continue to pass through the avenue between home and workplace.

I was able to dig up a 2003 study on Katipunan conducted by the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of UP for a consortium chaired by then DENR Secretary Bebet Gozun. The study was the group’s response to the MMDA’s effort to install their U-turn scheme along Katipunan, encouraged at the time by the scheme’s apparent success along Commonwealth and EDSA while not acknowledging the problems experienced along Quezon Avenue. The photos below were taken during the time when the study was being undertaken and are very much the same picture of Katipunan today during the peak periods.

Figure 1: Morning traffic congestion in 2003 along the northbound direction of Katipunan Avenue in front of the Ateneo De Manila University (notice that there was no U-turn slot near Gate 2 at the time)

Figure 2: Ateneo-bound vehicles blocking through traffic along the service road and the Aurora flyover

The study involved contributions from most if not all stakeholders including Ateneo and Miriam, the private sector and civil society groups, the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP), and some government agencies particularly the DENR, who convened the group to formulate an alternative to the MMDA’s initiative that was personally being pushed by its then Chair Bayani Fernando. I reproduce below, word for word, the conclusions and recommendations from that 2003 study:

{Conclusion}

“After a thorough evaluation of the traffic problems along Katipunan as well as the solicited and unsolicited solutions from stakeholders, it becomes clear that the answer to the Katipunan traffic question is not the introduction of the U-turn scheme into the system. Indeed, while the U-turn scheme has met with relative success along major thoroughfares including Marcos Highway and Commonwealth Avenue, it has also contributed if not created congestion along Quezon Avenue. The notion that “success in EDSA and Commonwealth means there is no reason why the scheme won’t work in Katipunan” would not hold water in the light of the requirements for effective implementation of U-turns. Simply said, the traffic volume along Katipunan during the peak periods alone will assure that the U-turn scheme will cause more congestion rather than mitigate it.  

{Recommendations}

  • Optimization of traffic signals – coordination of signals need to be implemented particularly for the intersection pairs identified in this report. The Traffic Engineering Center (TEC) must be consulted with respect to the operation of the traffic signals along Katipunan.
  • Restriction of roadside parking – parking restrictions must be strictly enforced and establishments along Katipunan should adhere to the required parking slots corresponding to the traffic they generate.
  • Removal of parts of the islands to improve flow – geometric improvements to ease flow (i.e., increase road capacity) may be explored. Note that this report is not entirely opposed to removal of parts of the islands. However, their outright removal with the trees for the sole purpose of the U-turn scheme is not acceptable to most stakeholders. This must be carefully evaluated.
  • Construction of an internal road between Ateneo and Miriam – the internal road will allow common vehicles to circulate within the campuses thereby eliminating traffic that would otherwise make several entries and exits to the campuses via Katipunan.
  • Open additional gate at Ateneo – the possibility of opening another gate at Ateneo between the existing Gates 2 and 3 must be explored.
  • Encourage carpooling or car-sharing – it is strongly recommended that Ateneo and Miriam consider carpooling or car-sharing schemes. It has been found that traffic along Katipunan is primarily composed of private vehicles will low occupancies bound for the two schools. While the surveys showed high return rates from grade school and high school students, very low returns came from college students. It is these people who account for a majority of the vehicles that clog Katipunan and they should take part in the formulation and implementation of such schemes that would lead to a significant improvement to traffic along Katipunan.
  • Strict implementation of the zoning laws – this last recommendation points to the inconsistency in the granting of building permits to developers of high-rise condominiums along Katipunan. This is a constant issue and a controversial one since residents in the area and the two major schools (Ateneo and Miriam) have always opposed the “spot zoning” practice along Katipunan.” (NCTS, Study on the Traffic Management of Katipunan Avenue, 2003)

The study recommended alternative solutions in lieu of the U-turn scheme for Katipunan Avenue that was at the time being pushed by the MMDA as the solution for traffic congestion in the area.  The recommended measures considered different aspects: traffic management per se, geometric improvements or road construction, travel demand management, land use, and other measures. However, it seems that 8 years after there has been practically no change in conditions along Katipunan Avenue.

The support and commitments of the different stakeholders (academic institutions, residents, business establishments, professional organizations, government agencies, and concerned citizens) are essential for the successful implementation of the recommendations contained herein. It is only through a strong partnership that sustainable and long-term solutions to the traffic problems in Katipunan Avenue can be achieved.

However, it is realized that there should be some sacrifices involved including a dramatic or drastic change in the travel behavior of those mainly responsible for the congestion. The vehicle trip generation of both Ateneo and Miriam are the roots of the problem and their continuing resistance to proposed solutions while not offering any viable countermeasures or proposals will only serve to perpetuate congestion in the area even as the external costs associated with the traffic they generate spread to a larger area. Recent studies at the UP Diliman, which is an open campus, has shown that private vehicle through traffic (i.e., traffic that has nothing to do with UP) has also grown and most of these are Ateneo and Miriam-bound trips.

It seems awkward and even confusing to see that 8 years after what was perhaps the last (maybe even the first?) serious look into Katipunan traffic, conditions have only worsened. This is due to additional developments in the area including high density residential projects that also tend to generate a lot of traffic, and commercial establishments that do not provide sufficient parking spaces. But although these contribute to congestion, their vehicle generation pale in comparison to that of the schools in the area. This is perhaps a case where one is able to see the flaws of others and yet refuses to look in the mirror to see for oneself something that needs critical attention.


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