Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Road crashes along Katipunan Avenue

Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City has claimed a lot of lives and injured a many more people over the past years particularly due to aggressive and often reckless driving or riding by motorists using the road. Especially dangerous is the section stretching from the flyover to the U-turn slot just after Ateneo’s Gate 2 since many vehicles tend to (over)speed from the wide overpass and unto the section fronting Ateneo De Manila University. On the other side of the road, motorists also tend to speed up towards the overpass, unmindful of vehicles shifting from the outer lanes of the road towards the U-turn slot. In many cases, some vehicles cross from the establishments along Katipunan towards the U-turn slot. These conditions significantly increase the likelihood of occurrence of road crashes.

This morning, I noticed during my drive to UP that the concrete barriers of the U-turn slot along Katipunan northbound were again witnesses to another crash. The driver was most likely speeding if not flying from the overpass and miscalculated on his/her maneuver upon discovering the barriers along his/her path as he/she descended the overpass. It was more especially dangerous this morning as I can imagine the pavement conditions as well as the visibility given the heavy rains pouring around Metro Manila since last night. I took a quick photo of the damaged vehicle just when a truck was maneuvering in preparation to towing the vehicle.

Honda City with damaged front bumper – the vehicle hit one of the concrete barriers of the U-turn slot with a trajectory indicating it apparently came from the direction of the overpass. After passing the vehicle, I saw that the left front wheel is already missing and apparently destroyed when the car hit the barrier. The damage to the car indicated tremendous impact and I just hope the driver and other occupants (if any) were wearing their seatbelts when the car hit the barrier. It would have helped also if the car had airbags. These safety devices are not standard issue in many if not most vehicles in the Philippines allowing dealers to make airbags optional and giving the buyer the false perception of getting the vehicle with a cheaper price.

When will motorists learn from such incidents? When and how will the MMDA or whoever is in-charge finally, effectively and decisively address this issue? Is it simply a case of speeding and something that can be addressed by enforcing speed limits? Or does the infrastructure and layout encourage such behavior among motorists? Perhaps we should rethink how we design and place U-turn slots and the barriers we use in the scheme. Otherwise, we will just see the same scene happening all over again at the cost of more lives and limbs.

SM Marikina-Santolan Station pedestrian walkway

A good example of providing for pedestrian access for development is the walkway connecting LRT Line 2’s Santolan Station with SM City Marikina. Of course there’s an even better example in Makati City where the walkways at the Ayala CBD connect office buildings and the commercial center comprising Greenbelt and Glorietta. That system of walkways is probably the first of its kind in the country and has not been replicated elsewhere, at least as far as I know. The significance of the walkway that practically connects to points in two cities (SM is in Marikina while the LRT station is in Pasig) is that it is a good example of a facility that provides access to a transit station. Not too long ago and before Typhoon Ketsana laid waste to the area beneath the bridge and overpass, there was even a proposal for a public transport terminal to be developed here. If this was realized, then the area would have been a very busy hub similar to Crossing or Market!Market! but maybe not at the level of Cubao.

The elevated walkway across the bridge along Marcos Highway is wide and obviously designed to be able to handle the potential number of people generated by the mall.

The walkway provides a perfect position for observing traffic along the bridge. This is probably an ideal location for a station for conducting screenline traffic counts for Metro Manila. The driveway on the left side of the photo is for public transport loading and unloading bays commonly used by jeepneys bound for the towns of Rizal Province.

Another view from the walkway with a good perspective of the underpass connecting to a bridge to C5. Visible from this position is the area under the bridge that was proposed to be an eastern bus terminal during a previous dispensation at the MMDA.

The long walk to the MRT station – from this perspective, it seems the walkway connects directly and almost level with the station platform. It is not at all connected directly with the station. Instead, one has to walk towards the end of this path and then down the stairs that end at the sidewalk near the PUV loading/unloading area. To get to the station, one has to walk some more. The posts appear to be provisions for the installation of a roof over the walkway to shield people from the elements.

That’s the branch of the bridge emanating from C5 via the Riverbanks Road that was constructed on land expropriated from Camp Atienza, headquarters of the 51st Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army. The curved section carries traffic from C5 that feeds into eastbound lanes of Marcos Highway.

Commonwealth extension

Quezon City’s Commonwealth Avenue extends from its junction with the Elliptical Road (Quezon Memorial Circle) up to gate of Jordan Plaines Subdivision in Novaliches. Often labeled as a killer highway due to the frequent road crashes that have resulted in many deaths, it is perhaps the widest road in all of the Philippines, having 10 lanes per direction at its widest sections in the Diliman area. The avenue is still far from completion as the stretch from Jordan Plaines to Quirino Highway has taken quite sometime for construction. I took the following photos of the area last weekend to illustrate the situation.

Counterflow scheme a block away from the Jordan Plaines gate due to excavations and the civil works on a short bridge over a creek. Two weeks ago the counterflow scheme was implemented along the northbound side of the avenue.

Only a few people were working on the Sunday I passed by the area.While there are signs and a few barriers, the work area presented a lot of hazards to both motorists and pedestrians. It was a bit dry last Sunday due to the sunny weather but I can imagine the mud from the work site should rains fall in the area.

Connecting Commonwealth Avenue with Quirino Avenue will surely improve circulation in the area and would probably ease congestion in the Novaliches bayan area. Maybe there will even be an adjustment of some public transport routes once Commonwealth and Quirino are connected. The extension of the avenue is long overdue and a much delayed project considering that there are already developments along the right of way including a residential project by the Quezon City government. The completion of the avenue will perhaps also have a significant impact on land values in Novaliches.


Fine-tuning the motorcycle lanes

I tried following the motorcycle lanes along Commonwealth Avenue one weekend to see if the MMDA has been able to mark the designated lane (4th lane from the roadside) throughout the entire stretch of the highway. I was optimistic considering all the hype about the lanes but still crossed my fingers given past experiences on such schemes’ implementation in Metro Manila and other Philippine cities. I wasn’t happy with what I saw while traveling along Commonwealth, particularly at points where public utility vehicles stop to drop-off or pick-up passengers. In a previous post, I already explained that where buses, jeepneys and AUVs tend to congregate, they occupy several lanes and effectively block through traffic. Among the lanes occupied are the ones designated for motorcycles. In all my observations, traffic enforcers seem always helpless and inutile against errant motorists occupying the motorcycle lane and posing danger through their maneuvers.

Following are a few photos I took along Commonwealth to “survey” the motorcycle lanes.

Motorcycle lane along section past Toyota Commonwealth – note the “Motorsiklo” sign on the overpass indicating the lane designated for motorcycles

Motorcycle lane along section in vicinity of Diliman Prep School – the lane is identifiable by the alternating blue and white lines, as well as the sign (“Motorsiklo”) on the overpass. While motorcycles are required to use only this lane while traversing the highway, other vehicles like the taxi shown in the photo are allowed use of the lane. I believe this is something that should be discouraged as they create situations where there is a high probability of crashes occurring.

The lane disappears after the St. Peter church and there are no markings or signs that would help guide motorcyclists to stay on the lane and perhaps also guide other motorists as well against using the lane. Many motorists, especially private vehicles, seem to respect the “blue lane,” usually and consciously leaving this lane for motorcyclists. We need more of that respect and much of courtesy in our streets and highways!

Section past Sandiganbayan and approaching the Commonwealth and Fairview Markets – while some motorcycle riders can be observed as trying hard to follow the scheme, there are no markings to help guide them nor are there signs on the overpasses along the rest of the way. Perhaps the MMDA and the DPWH have not yet painted the markings or installed the signs along these sections? But then perhaps the implementation of the scheme is premature considering the lack of pertinent signs and markings?

A bit of mayhem along Commonwealth and Fairview Markets – buses and jeepneys are practically everywhere here and occupy around 4 lanes as they load/unload passengers at this very crowded area. Motorcycle riders understandably veer away from the outer lanes of Commonwealth

Section past the new rotonda along Commonwealth just before the overpass across the new Puregold branch – the highway was widened along this stretch and narrows to 3 lanes per direction after the overpass. There are no pavement markings yet for the newly added lanes and most of those for the previous lanes are already faded.

Junction of Commonwealth and Regalado – pavement markings are practically weathered and there are no indications of motorcycle lanes along these sections of Commonwealth

The formulation and implementation of motorcycle lanes along Commonwealth (and Macapagal Boulevard) are based on very good intentions (i.e., to reduce the incidence of road crashes involving motorcycles). However, the absence of pavement markings and signs to guide motorists and especially motorcyclists send the wrong signals in as far as enforcement is concerned. Add to this the serious matter of traffic management along PUV loading/unloading areas that is required to ensure that PUVs will not occupy motorcycle lanes and forcing riders to take to other lanes, thereby coming into conflict with private vehicle traveling along the inner lanes. These two issues clearly need to be addressed and fast so that the scheme can be effectively implemented throughout the entire length of Commonwealth Avenue.

The current situation pertaining to the implementation of motorcycle lanes in Metro Manila is perhaps another case where the agency implementing the scheme again “bit off more than it could chew.” As in the case of the 60 kph speed limit, effective enforcement throughout Commonwealth is limited by the availability and deployment of speed measurement equipment. As such, many vehicle still exceed 60 kph at sections where there obviously are no speed guns or radars. These situations and conditions are highly likely to lead ultimately to a ningas cogon outcome for such traffic management schemes.  Such is undesirable since motorists will only become jaded (if they are not yet at this point) about traffic management in Metro Manila and elsewhere. And yet there are already indications that, like the PUV lanes, the MMDA would eventually slack on the enforcement side after realizing it needs to employ and deploy much more trained/skilled enforcers to implement all these schemes at the same time.

More congestion due to Imelda Ave. water and road works

Days before the long weekend break for the days commemorating All Saints and All Souls (Undas), I was surprised to experience severe congestion during the evenings that I drive to my home in Antipolo. To me it was quite unusual knowing from experience that traffic should be lighter considering most schools were already on semestral break and, closer to the weekend, many people would have already gone on vacation leave to return to their hometowns. I took a couple of photos of the progress of civil works as I drove, quite slowly, to my parents’ home at a subdivision along Imelda Ave. I wanted to take more photos but there was a sudden rainfall that obscured vision over my windshield and it became dangerous to take chance photos while driving in the rain.

Water and road works at the junction of Imelda Ave. with the Sta. Lucia access road – the activity area effectively occupies a full lane of southbound direction of Imelda Ave. This has resulted in significant reduction in the capacity of the highway, and leads to sever congestion during the afternoon to evening peak periods. During these times, a very high volume of traffic including large trucks pass through the avenue from Marcos Highway and the resulting queues spill over and block traffic at the junction with Marco Highway. At its worst, the congestion extends towards Amang Rodriguez (Ligaya).

Single lane available to southbound (to Cainta Junction) traffic – all vehicles had to use one lane due to civil works being undertaken along the lane shown in the photo. New water pipes were laid down under the lane to increase capacity for the increasingly growing populations of the progressive towns of Rizal Province.

From the looks of the progress of work I’ve seen personally this weekend, I guess we can expect the congestion to start easing from the latter part of this week. The contractor tried to ease southbound traffic by employing a counter-flow scheme using one lane on the northbound side but the result was not as successful as the contractors desired as congestion quickly set in along this direction causing more misery to travelers along Imelda Ave. Apparently, the contractor underestimated the traffic along the avenue.