Over the weekend, I happened to pass by what used to be the north end of Commonwealth Avenue near the back entrance to Jordan Plains Subdivision. Public utility jeepneys and private cars commonly use the subdivision streets to go to and from the Novaliches town center (Bayan). As such, the subdivision bears much of the negative externalities brought about by mostly unwanted through traffic. These include vehicle emissions and noise from motor vehicles, and the incidence of crime (mostly burglaries) in the subdivision. Too long have they waited for Commonwealth and Quirino Highway to be connected to reduce through traffic and its unwanted derivatives in the subdivision.
After delays due to various reasons, the project was finally bidded out and implemented this year. The construction didn’t go without any problems and there were times particularly during rainy days when the site was quite difficult to traverse due to excavations, materials and a so-so traffic management scheme (mostly counterflows) that ensure vehicles traveling as if they were negotiating a labyrinth. Still, work went on and at least people saw that it continued unlike other projects that went untouched after some excavations were made (“naka-tengga”).
I guess it was quite rewarding and a relief to a lot of people that the project will be completed soon and hopefully within the year and apparently on schedule. Following are a few photos of the area I took last Sunday.
First look at the approach to the completed section of Commonwealth Avenue connecting to Quirino Highway.
Closer to what used to be a chaotic intersection towards Jordan Plains, it was clear that most of the major works have been completed and that the section to Quirino was passable. The only elements missing are the pavement markings and traffic signs.
Kudos to the contractor of this project and the DPWH and Quezon City government for the near completion of the project. Now, if only the contractors of roadworks along Marcos Highway and Ortigas Avenue will follow the Commonwealth example and get their acts together and work more efficiently, not to mention do a better job managing traffic along the way, then probably people using those roads will have less headaches during this season.
San Francisco has an extensive public transport system with the combination of buses, LRT’s and cable cars allowing its citizens and visitors both accessibility and mobility for much of the city. A friend says that the objective Muni set out to accomplish was for anyone using the system to be able to alight from a public transport vehicle at most one block from one’s final destination. A block already represents a very comfortable walking distance well within the 200 to 300 meters radius often mentioned by public transport planners for the catchment areas of stops or stations.
SF’s Muni operates several types of buses including what are probably among the last electric trolley buses in the world.
That’s a trolley bus in the photo above stopping near the BART station where I was waiting to be picked up by a friend. Note the flexible, long pantograph that is used to pick-up electricity from the overhead cables. The photo was taken in 2007 during a previous trip to the Bay Area.
Following are three photos I took back in 2007 at an intersection across the Balboa Park BART Station, where I thought I hit the jackpot in terms of watching the Muni’s various transport modes pass by. Think bird-watching but replace the birds with buses and LRTs.
The typical Muni bus has a number designating its route that can easily be found in transit maps to guide regular commuters and visitors alike. Most buses I saw had bicycle racks located in front of the bus that would enable cyclists to bring along their bikes during a long commute. Most buses these days run on natural gas. On the far right of the photo, one can get a glimpse of a LRT vehicle.
LRT crossing the intersection. LRTs are given priority at intersections and the traffic signals are programmed to facilitate the flow of these high capacity public transport mode. This is a reflection of prioritization of public transport over private transport, which should be the case rather than the other way around.
Inside a bus in San Francisco, there are seats provided for the elderly and the physically challenged. Entrance is via the front door where a passenger must first pay for the ride or show his pass for the driver to see. Exit is via the back door, which is wider to allow for the efficient unloading of passengers. To stop the bus at the designated stops along the route, a passenger should push a button (on the newer buses) or pull on a cable (on older buses) to activate a signal for the driver. To open the rear doors, one need only to push the bars across the doors.
Another look at the interior of a Muni bus. Although the bus appears to be old, it is clean/tidy. There are the occasional vandalism and there are signs asking passengers to report incidence of vandalism on the bus. There are also signs stating that conversations may be recorded and that the bus is under video surveillance. These seem to be standard security features of public transport in the US especially after the incidents of 9/11. Such information is welcome considering everyone would prefer to travel safely.
I noticed a lot of interest on the “truck ban” scheme from the statistics provided by WordPress on my dashboard. It seems there are very limited material available on the scheme especially in the Philippines where there have been variations of and misconceptions on this travel demand management (TDM) measure. Why do cities like Metro Manila implement a truck ban? Or better yet, why are there designated truck routes in cities? The answer can be quite simple if viewed from the perspective of asset preservation. That is, by restricting trucks to use specific roads, we are also limiting their impacts (read: damage) to the road infrastructure. Such impacts come in the way of damaged pavements and/or bridges that bear the brunt of the weights carried by heavy vehicles. But such argument begs the question of why, in the first place, shouldn’t we design our pavements and bridges so that they may be able to withstand the cumulative loads of heavy vehicle traffic over a prescribed period of time, say 20 years, give and take a few years for variability and reliability in design and construction methods? Such is a question that needs to be answered, and clearly, by our DPWH, at least for the case of our national roads and bridges. It is really not a simple matter and certainly not something that cannot be blamed solely on the fact that evidences in the Philippines point to truck overloading as one of the culprits for damaged pavements and bridges.
The website of the Department of Public Works and Highways provides information on the axle load and truck weight limits for national roads. The matrix of weights may easily be downloaded and is provided in the following document:
The maximum single axle loads for different countries around the world are provided below:
I found another table of values this time for European countries. Based on the table on weight limits in European Union Countries, France seems to have the heaviest single axle load limit.
Still, the question running in the minds of most people involved in policymaking, monitoring and enforcement, and research is “How did we come up with the 13.5-metric ton maximum single axle load value in the first place?” Surely, it wasn’t a number that was plucked out from the air?
The 13.5-metric ton was most probably derived from an axle load study conducted in the 1990’s. Such a study could have, among others, determined the appropriate maximum axle loads that could be adopted by the country in lieu of the limits at the time that were already deemed obsolete given the evolution of trucks over time (i.e., they’re bigger now compared to, say, 30 years ago). What is problematic is that it seems the study was only able to derive the maximum single axle load and was not able to estimate maximum loads for tandem and tridem axles. Tandem axles are two axles positioned one after the other while tridems are three axles grouped together. These tandems and tridems are typical configurations for the rear axles of large trucks and trailers, enabling them to support heavy loads that typically are distributed more towards the rear axles.
The photos show a particular journey aboard a Powell & Hyde cable car from Market Street (near Union Square) to Hyde Street (near Argonaut Hotel). The trip takes one through notable spots like Union Square, Chinatown, Nob Hill and Russian Hill, including a stop at Lombard Street that has that famous crooked section popular with tourists and residents alike. There are also breathtaking views of the bay as the cable car descends towards Mason or Hyde Streets, towards the pier.
To the right is Union Square famous for its Christmas Tree. However, there is that monument at the square that people tend to take for granted. Filipinos should be aware that it is one commemorating the victory of one Comm. Dewey and the US Fleet over Adm. Montojo and the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay back in 1898, a significant part of Philippine and American histories.
I have found many examples of excellent pedestrian facilities during my visits to Japan. Among the best are those integrated with the Saitama Shintoshin Station along the JR Keihin Tohoku Line. I had the good fortune of staying at a hotel near the station, from where I could easily catch a train to go to Saitama University via Kita Urawa Station where I transfer for a short bus ride to the university. Following are photos taken in September 2008 showing the walkways connecting my hotel with the JR station. Along the way the walkway connects other buildings such as those hosting government offices and the Saitama Super Arena, a major venue for indoor sports events like the Asian basketball tournaments that determine the continent’s representatives to the Olympics and World Championships.
The walkways are wide and should be able to accommodate a high volume of pedestrian traffic. This section leads to the Saitama prefectural government offices located in the building on the background.
The yellow tiles forming the paths for blind pedestrians are designed to be under the shed and extends to the stairs from which the pedestrian could access the sidewalks and establishments at the ground level of the complex/area.
Pedestrian need to have access to information and maps and directional signs provide guidance for people especially those unfamiliar with the area (e.g., visitors or tourists). Most signs in the urban areas of Japan have English translations like what is shown beneath the Japanese in the signs above.
Some maps have interactive features. In this case, there are buttons that provide audio description of places of interest on the map. Today, there are already touchscreen maps in malls and there should be outdoor versions of such facilities.
Another photo of the spacious walkways in the Saitama Shintoshin area. One could see the roof of the Saitama Super Arena on the upper left part of the photo and the building housing the elevators for those using wheelchairs or carrying heavy items.
Walking from the station to the commercial establishments and office after the Super Arena (at right in the photo), there is a wide space for visitors (e.g., fans, spectators, etc.). There are many coffee shops and restaurants in the area where people could meet up for coffee or tea aside from grab a quick or leisurely meal.
This the view of a pedestrian approaching the Saitama Shintoshin JR station. Shops are located along the right side of the promenade while the arches form the roof structure of the station, reflecting the modern architecture of the transit station.
The Philippines is an archipelago, meaning it is comprised of islands, some 7,107 of them. As it is impractical (read: too expensive) to connect the larger islands by bridges or tunnels, the connections would have to be made via either maritime or air transport. In previous postings, I have already written about some of the more modern airports in the country like the Bacolod/Silay, Iloilo and Davao airports. What I have not written about in this blog is something in maritime transport.
To get a feel of the current state of commercial maritime inter-island transport (i.e., not including those using motorized or human-powered boats or bancas), I thought it most appropriate to feature fast ferry/fast craft services that are quite popular in the Visayas and Mindanao. I will write on roll-on, roll-off (RORO) services and the nautical highway in the future.
There have been much progress in the upgrading of maritime transport services between islands in the Visayas and Mindanao. This was made possible with the introduction in the 1990’s of fast craft or fast ferries popularly called Supercat with the cat in reference to the catamaran-type vessels plying routes like Bacolod-Iloilo, Cebu-Tagbilaran and Cebu-Dumaguete. These fast crafts effectively cut down travel times by half with the Bacolod-Iloilo run trimmed down from 2-2.5 hours to 1 hour. Following are a few photos of fast crafts and terminal facilities in Cebu City.
Another view of the seats inside the vessel show comfortable seating for passengers as well as wide windows for those wanting to have a view of the islands. There is also a snack bar inside the vessel serving food and drinks to hungry or thirsty passengers.
Fast ferry/fast craft services are quite popular in the Visayas and Mindanao and provide a less expensive option to air travel. These complement the RORO services that are more about long-distance travels between cities in different parts of the Philippines, like for example Manila to Iloilo. Such services offered by fast craft are essential for both commerce and tourism and should be encouraged for further development or upgrading, especially in terms of terminal facilities that are still wanting or deficient in many ports in the Philippines.