Caught (up) in traffic

Home » 2011 (Page 2)

Yearly Archives: 2011

San Francisco’s Cable Cars

Part of the experience of traveling to and staying in San Francisco, CA was taking public transportation in that city. The public transportation system in SF is probably among the best I’ve used considering the layout and character of the city and it prides itself with what they term as “museums on the move.” The city’s transport system consists of electric trolley buses, hybrid and natural gas buses, LRT’s, electric street cars and its most famous cable cars. There is also the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) that passes through the city and connects it with the other cities and counties in the Bay Area. For transport in the SF, it is highly recommended that one take the 3-day or 8-day pass depending on the length of stay. In our case, we purchased a San Francisco City Pass that included unlimited use of municipal public transport (buses, light rail, street cars and cable cars) as well as entrance fees for museums, the California Academy of Science, and a cruise of the bay. Following is a photo journal of one of our many cable car rides.
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.

Cable car arriving at the end of the line near Market Street

The trip will pass through Powell Street, which is lines with many shops, restaurants and hotels.

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.

Borders closed shop but there are many other shops and stores in downtown SF.
During one part of our stay, we regularly walked the stretch from Market to Sutter Street. This assures one of a good exercise, especially the uphill part of the walk.
Cable car descending towards Sutter Street. Note that each cable car seems distinct from another.
Notice the tourist hanging on on the left side? She’s also taking photos along the way.
Pavement markings delineate where vehicles may park or travel and there are special markings designating the path of cable cars. In the horizon, one can already get a preview of the excellent view of the bay.
Descending towards the pier, whether towards Mason Street or Hyde Street, provides passengers with a breathtaking view of the bay.
The topography in this part of the city is quite unique and travelers get an excellent vista.
Cable car rounding a curve – there are two lines emanating from Market and Powell, one goes to Mason Street and the other to Hyde Street. These are clearly marked on each cable car for the guidance of passengers.
Street where cable cars run in the opposite direction
A close-up of the rails – the slot between the tracks are where the underground cables run through.
The topography assures us of many steep climbs necessitating the cable cars in the first place. The designer happens to be a mining engineer.
The route runs through many residential areas. That’s Mason Street ahead where the Powell & Mason cars will turn right towards the Pier. Our Powell & Hyde car will go straight and turn at Hyde.
The rail coming from the right are from the Cable Car Museum, which is along the Powell & Hyde route. It features real, functioning cable cars as well as typical museum stuff that tell the story of this system.
A typical intersection along the route.
That’s Hyde Street ahead and the final turn towards the Pier.
A closer look at the curve and the traffic signal. Cable cars follow the signals though I thought at first they were given priority over motor vehicles.
A tree-lined section of Hyde Street.
The cable car on the opposite side is filled with passengers. Most of those hanging on at the front portion of the cable car are tourists.
Crests and sags are quite common in SF given its topography.
The cable and rail designs allow for switching between tracks.
Lane markings designating the path of the cable car – the double yellow (no overtaking from either side of the road) is seriously enforced in San Francisco. Again, the passenger is afforded a preview of the spectacular view of the bay towards the end of the journey.
This is the stop at Lombard Street, famous for being the crookedest street in the world. The crooked section is at right starting from the corner with the American flag-inspired tarps covering construction work on one building.
Descent from Russian Hill and Lombard Street presents a highly anticipated view of the bay and harbor.
Ships and boats docked and with the Maritime Museum can be seen along with Alcatraz Island, the former prison.
It’s a steep descent from Russian Hill but the cable system and the skillful drivers ensure a safe journey. Yes, that’s a cutter with its sails on the left side of the photo. It is part of the SF Maritime Museum along with other ships and boats regularly visited by school children on educational tour.
Another view of the bay with Alcatraz on the upper right of the photo.
A view of a side street – many cable car stops are on in the middle of intersections. This is because the intersection is usually on even ground to facilitate the flow of vehicles, particularly turning movements.
Another side street along Hyde – I took the photo not because of the trailer but because of the sign stating that roadside parking is allowed, and the pavement markings designating bicycle paths.
Final stop – cable cars queue on the right side as they wait for their turn to go to the terminal where there is a turntable that enables cable car operators (There is always 2 – the driver and the conductor/brakeman.) to turn the vehicle around for the return trip.
Note that the cable cars are not tourist transport as some people might see them. They are part of a very functional and efficient public transport system and there are people who regularly use the cable cars for their commute. In fact, I spotted many who have passes for the cable cars, which have more expensive fares (US$ 6 per ride compared to the US$2 minimum for the trolley buses).

Pedestrian facilities around Saitama Shintoshin Station

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.

Tiled walkways with provisions for the blind (the yellow tiles) and protection from the elements

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.

Stairs are designed with hand rails to support physically challenged people including the elderly. Note the yellow strips prior to the first step down the stairs.

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.

Closer to the station and the arena.

There are plant boxes containing brushes and trees along the walkways, providing a more relaxing environment for pedestrians.

The walkways eventually lead to the complex where located is the Super Arena on one side to the train station in the middle and the commercial complex on the other side.

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 Saitama Super Arena is also host to a museum dedicated to the late Beatle John Lennon.

Inside the JR station plaza with kiosks on the left side and ticket machine to the right. Further on are more commercial establishments located in an upscale mall.


Fast ferries in the Philippines

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.

Typical fast ferry docked at the Cebu terminal of the Aboitiz Co.

Twin-hulled SuperCat approaching the Cebu port

Inside the fast ferry terminal, there are plenty of space and seats for waiting passengers. There are also concessionaires selling food, drinks and souvenir items.

Floating piers serve as the port’s extensions to accommodate fast craft operations

Passengers boarding the fast craft via bridge connecting the terminal to the floating piers

On-board the SuperCat, seats appear like those for long-distance buses complete with head rests for the comfort of passengers. The vessel cabin is fully air-conditioned.

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.

Transport mode shares in Metro Manila

Fairly recent surveys (first quarter of 2011) along major corridors in Metro Manila have yielded the following data on transport modes shares in the National Capital Region. Such data, while quite specific for the corridors surveyed, strongly indicate that most people take public transport. As such, it is quite logical that public transport be prioritized and perhaps provided with the road space they require to be more efficient in conveying passengers to their destinations. There are mixed results in terms of which types of vehicles tend to dominate the road and these are noted below. Note that data for rail is not included but should favor public transport as well. Taxis, in this case, are classified among private vehicles. Trucks are not considered here as passenger vehicles though they do carry people.

Person trip mode shares along Aurora Boulevard eastbound (to Rizal & Marikina) – jeepneys account for 79% of road-based transport while cars carry 10% of person trips. In terms of vehicle share of the road, cars account for about 25% of the road while jeepneys take up about 59% after converting jeepneys into passenger car units using the assumption of 1.7 pcu = 1 jeepney. Such assumption is also used in other estimates.

Person trip mode shares along Aurora Boulevard westbound (to Cubao/Quezon City) – jeepneys account for 76% of road-based transport while cars carry 14% of person trips. Meanwhile cars occupy 31% of the road while jeepneys use 57%.

Interesting for the above statistics is the fact that these numbers do not reflect the actual share of public transport given that there is a rail transit service along this corridor. LRT Line 2, however, terminates before reaching the Province of Rizal, which necessitates the transfer of passengers from rail to mainly jeepneys towards their final destinations.

Person trip mode shares along Ortigas Avenue eastbound (to Rizal Province) – jeepneys account for 55% , buses 13% and AUVs 12% of road-based transport (total of 80% for PT) while cars carry only 15% of person trips. Cars occupy 37% of the road while jeepneys eat up almost the same at about 37%. AUVs are quite significant along this corridor taking up 12% of the road. Surprisingly, buses only occupy about 5% assuming 2.5 pcu = 1 bus. Perhaps Ortigas can be decongested if public transport services along the corridor are rationalized with many jeepneys retired in favor of the higher capacity buses.

Person trip mode shares along Ortigas Avenue westbound (to Mandaluyong/Manila) – jeepneys account for 55% , buses 20% and AUVs 8% of road-based transport (total of 83% for PT) while cars carry only 13% of person trips. Cars take up 38% of the road, jeepneys also 38%, AUVs 9% and buses only 4.5%.

Person trip mode shares along Commonwealth Avenue northbound (to Novaliches) – jeepneys account for 30% , buses 35% and AUVs 5% of road-based transport (total of 70% for PT) while cars carry 26% of person trips. Cars take up 57% of the road, jeepneys 17%, AUVs 6% and buses about 12%. Meanwhile, motorcycle account for about 8% of road space along Commonwealth NB. Note that Commonwealth is the widest road in the country with sections having up to 10 lanes per direction. The two outermost lanes are typically designated for PUVs while the 4th lane from the roadside is designated as a motorcycle lane.

Person trip mode shares along Commonwealth Avenue southbound (to Elliptical) –

Note that there is a proposed MRT 7 to be constructed along Commonwealth and that system will also favor public transport users. Such a system should be more efficient in carrying passengers along the corridor and should provide an opportunity to rationalize PUJ and PUB numbers along Commonwealth. And such an opportunity should be taken and not passed up if government is really serious in improving transport in Metro Manila.

Person trip mode shares throughout the country will surely have similar numbers if not higher shares for public transport compared to Metro Manila. This more than underlines the impetus for providing safe, efficient public transport services for Filipinos – a commitment that should not only be stated or printed but actively pursued with government in the forefront rather than on the sidelines.

Graphs and other stats mentioned derived from data from surveys for the Mega Manila Public Transport Planning Support System (MMPTPSS), 2011.

Domestic Airport at Roxas City

There are many domestic airports around the country that need to be upgraded. Among them are Cagayan De Oro, Tagbilaran and Roxas City. With the exception of Roxas City, the other two cities I mentioned are in dire need of larger passenger terminals given the demand and longer runways to be able to handle larger aircraft. In the case of Roxas City, passenger demand is surely increasing but not as rapidly as CDO or Tagbilaran. CDO, after all, is the main gateway to northern Mindanao while Tagbilaran is a major tourist destination. In the case of Roxas City, it has to compete with larger and more modern airports in the island of Panay particularly the Iloilo and Kalibo airports. For the neighboring province of Aklan, there is actually another modern airport that serves primarily the demand for travel to the attraction that is Boracay Island. Still, there is a need to refurbish, at the very least, Roxas City’s passenger terminal for many reasons. Primary among these reasons are the need for a more comfortable departure lounge and a secure terminal facility. Of course, it will be most welcome if the runway could also be improved. Following are a few photos from a trip back in 2010.

The departure area is crowded and would not be able to handle two plane loads of passengers given the typical schedule of flights to Roxas.

It was a good thing the airconditioning was working and the area was generally clean. The toilets were satisfactory. The TVs were also functioning but one couldn’t really hear anything from the ambient sounds (or noise) from the collective conversations of those in the lounge.

The airport reminded me a lot of the old processes in the old domestic airports including Manila’s. Boarding was organized according to the “diagonal lines” indicated on the boarding passes. There are still signs in the terminal with these conventions as shown above near the clock.

The domestic airport provided the basic facilities for such terminals. These terminals do not have air bridges like the airports I have written about. In the photo shown above, fabricated stairs or ladders are used for boarding or deplaning.

iBus – bus system reinvented?

In the recent British Invention Show, a Filipina won a gold medal for something that is probably much needed to solve the transport woes of this country – the iBus. It is of course initially conspicuously like your regular bus system but upon closer look at the slideshow from the news article, there are many things about the system that’s high tech. The high tech aspects of the iBus are actually example applications of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) as implemented for public transport.

I am not privy to the details for the iBus but I did see part of its progress after meeting a few times with its proponents since last year. With the award, I hope that perhaps our DOTC, LTFRB or MMDA will become interested in the system and perhaps that interest will translate into the deployment of the system in a test corridor as a proof of concept. I would even dare propose that should the demo be successful that it be applied immediately in Philippine cities requiring modern transit systems.

Passing the blame for our traffic mess

We like to bash and criticize public transport drivers for their behavior when we only need to look in the mirror to see who is part of the traffic problem in this country. A lot of private car drivers here and elsewhere in the country tend to attribute traffic congestion to buses, jeepneys, AUVs and taxis while practically washing their hands off the congestion and reckless driving habits that we see everyday along Philippine highways and streets. Many tend to think that only PUV drivers are to blame for our traffic mess when in reality and data-wise there are surely more private traffic on our roads compared with public. Such statistics including mode shares for both vehicular and person trips along major corridors in Metro Manila I will share in another post.

I drive from my home to the office and back almost everyday and I have observed driving behavior for much of my life including the times when I’m in cities in other countries. PUV drivers to me are more predictable than private car drivers in this country. In fact, we can know for sure that PUV drivers will weave their vehicles in traffic and we will always brace ourselves for the aggressive driving every time we encounter PUVs. Such errant behavior, of course, could have been addressed by a stricter and more reliable licensing system for drivers. But that’s another story altogether that’s worth an entire article.

Meanwhile, I share the observation of one friend that many SUV or high-end vehicle drivers “tend to drive like outlaws.” I had articulated in an interview before that many young drivers (and older ones as well) tend to imagine themselves as race car drivers – and proceed by trying to out-speed and/or out-maneuver other drivers the way stuntmen do in the movies. This you can observe whether along a congested street or a free flowing expressway. Evidence to this includes all the road crashes involving private vehicles (including motorcycles) that would certainly out-number those involving PUVs. One thing not going for the PUVsm, however, is that they happen to carry more passengers and therefore more responsibility as a requirement of their being issued franchises. Another proof to irresponsible behavior are postings of claims and photos on social media showing speedometers exceeding speed limits. And yes, there are those who routinely and consciously violate speed limits along expressways for them to be captured by speed cameras. The shots are then used as bragging rights attesting to the driver reaching a certain speed with his/her vehicle.

This morning, I almost got sideswiped by a car who cut my path to make an abrupt right turn to enter the gate of a major private university. I thought I had a clear path to change lanes as I estimated a good distance from the same vehicle who was trailing me on the other lane. Instead, the vehicle accelerated and with horns blaring asserted his right to the lane. I had to use my defensive driving skills to avert a collision. Seconds later, he was blocking my path as he made a right turn at the university’s gate. I could only shake my head in frustration with what happened while an MMDA enforcer looked helplessly as a witness to the incident. A few minutes later, a couple of SUVs coming from a posh subdivision along Katipunan cut our path to make an illegal left turn at a U-turn slot. Vehicles from this subdivision do so regularly and with impunity as if their passengers were more blessed and more important persons than the rest using this major highway.

The examples above are just some of what we usually encounter everyday while traveling or during our regular commutes. These are certainly being caught on video by the MMDA cameras spread out and observing traffic along major roads in Metro Manila. These same drivers might be the first to throw the proverbial stone to their fellow drivers whom they have judged to have committed sins of recklessness when the truth is that they themselves are guilty and only have to look in the mirror to see for themselves who are really to blame for our dangerous and congested roads. Truly, what’s wrong with traffic in this country may not necessarily be with the way we manage traffic or enforce rules and regulations. It might just be the nut behind the wheel that’s defective, after all.

Parking galore

I met Paul Barter not too long ago when he visited Manila to give a presentation on parking at the ADB. This was at the then annual ADB Transport Forum held around May every year at the ADB’s headquarters in Manila. He is a faculty member at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore. I keep forgetting that he is a regular blogger and writes a lot about sustainable transport and particularly about parking. And so I share this awareness to my readers about Paul’s blog Reinventing Parking.

Reinventing Parking is an excellent resource for a lot of articles and references on parking. Paul has researched on parking in most Asian countries and has been to major cities in the region where he has collected first hand data on parking policies and behavior. I find his materials well researched and his discussions and opinions on parking quite interesting as many of the issues he has delved into in his posts are very much applicable to our experience in the Philippines. I have had the pleasure of sitting down with him to talk about parking policies and standards (?) in this country for his comparative research and a paper he was doing at the time. I’m sure there’s a lot our planners and developers will learn from Paul’s work. Perhaps, even decision-makers or government officials in-charge of parking standards (e.g., National Building Code) can pick up a thing or two from his body of work.

Iloilo’s Airport at Cabatuan and Sta. Barbara

The current Iloilo Airport located mainly in the towns of Cabatuan and Sta. Barbara is a significant upgrade to the old one located in the Mandurriao District of the city. Like the old Bacolod Airport, the Mandurriao airport could no longer be expanded considering the requirements for a larger terminal and a longer runway. Planners also had to take into account prospects for further expansion in the future. The location of the airport is quite a curiosity since only the main access road is located in Sta. Barbara town, which comes before Cabatuan when traveling from the city. The terminal and the runway are laid out at Barangay Tiring of Cabatuan town. Since the Bacolod and Iloilo airports were constructed almost at the same time in 2004 and completed one after the other. Iloilo’s was completed a few months ahead of Bacolod’s in 2007 but the former was opened that same year while the latter started operations early in 2008.

Transit time between the airport and Iloilo City is typically 30 to 45 minutes depending on the destination within the city. There is a service road connecting the airport terminal to the Sta. Barbara bypass road national highway. From the airport, taking a right from the access road will bring the traveler towards the city. A left will lead travelers towards Cabatuan and in the general direction of Passi City and Capiz Province in the north.

Following are a few photos of the airport passenger terminal from past trips to the province. There are few as I keep procrastinating about taking more photos given that our home in Cabatuan is a short 20-minute drive from the airport. There are many other photos of the airport as well as the Bacolod-Silay airport that can be found in the internet.

The Iloilo and Bacolod airports are quite similar and the designs address many of the requirements of a modern airport. Both also take into account the typical Filipinos’ penchant for having many well-wishers accompanying the departing travelers to the airport or, for arrivals, fetching relatives and friends. As such, there is adequate space for people at the terminal (though again there seems to be a need for additional benches) and many parking spaces that can accommodate peak demands particularly during the holiday seasons of Holy Week and Christmas. It is easy to get a taxi or shuttle (usually AUVs or vans) from the airport.

The departure area is spacious, with the high ceiling obviously helping out in making passengers comfortable. The terminal is well-lighted, taking advantage of natural lighting, and clean toilets, and, as required by law, smoking rooms.

There are many concessionaires both inside and outside the airport. There are shops selling popular pasalubong like food items (try the pinasugbo, piaya, turrones and biscocho) and crafts (look for items made of hablon, an indigenous weave, or pineapple fiber). There are also eateries and cafes including one by the popular local bakeshop JD. It is never too late to try out a serving of Molo or Batchoy that may be ordered from the eateries.

There are four gates at the departure area that are typically assigned to the airlines servicing the airport including PAL, Ceb Pac and Air Philippines. Passenger demand for the airport is quite high as it also serves as the air transport hub not only for the province but for the towns of neighboring Antique, Capiz and Guimaras provinces. Antique and the island of Guimaras off Iloilo City have no airports, while Roxas City in Capiz has fewer flights. Aklan province is already served by two airports in the capital of Kalibo and the newly upgraded Caticlan that is the gateway to the popular tourist destination of Boracay Island.


Davao’s international airport and some comments on Philippine airports

There are three other major international airports operating in the Philippines aside from the NAIA. These are the airports in Cebu (Mactan Cebu International Airport), Davao (Francisco Bangoy International Airport) and Clark (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport). There are two others that handle international flights, Laoag (Ilocos Norte) and Subic (Zambales), which mainly cater to chartered flights from Hongkong, Taipei or Macau. Subic, of course, is the former US naval base that also used to be the Asian hub of logistics giant Fedex.

Mactan is the gateway to the central Philippines and is second to Manila in terms of international flights. The number of domestic flights flying in and out of Cebu is comparable to Manila considering that Cebu connects to many destinations in Mindanao (southern Philippines) that does not have flights linking to Manila. Davao is the gateway to the south and handles international flights, mostly via budget airlines, from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Clark or DMIA is the former US airbase and has already overtaken Davao in terms of the number of international flights handled. It is always mentioned as a possible replacement for NAIA as the primary international airport for the country, with discussions comparing NAIA-DMIA to Haneda-Narita. Of course, DMIA will require a much larger terminal to be able to handle the number of passengers who are expected to use the airport should it become the main gateway. And, there should be a good transport system linking the National Capital Region with Clark, which also should be like the transport systems making Narita accessible (e.g., Narita Express trains, limousine bus services, etc.).

The pre-departure area of the airport is also spacious and should be sufficient for the projected demand for the airport. The area is squeaky clean, well-lighted and the staff are respectful and efficient.

Check-in counters of the various local airlines are sufficient in number. All local airlines operate from Davao, which is the top destination in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Davao is actually the largest city in the Philippines in terms of land area.

Up the stairs – the escalators are functioning and the so are the other facilities in the terminal. The comfort rooms are clean and larger than many other airports including NAIA T1 and T2.

The spacious pre-departure area is sufficient for the number passengers typically handled by the airport particularly for domestic operations (There aren’t so many international flights.). Nevertheless, the area could use more benches considering the number of waiting passengers. The well-wishers’ area outside the terminal doesn’t have much furniture. Perhaps this is to discourage loitering or tambays in the airport terminal’s premises? These are understandably among the security concerns that the airport officials addressed with memories of the Davao airport (the old one) bombing a number of years ago.

There are many concessionaires inside the airport but some of them appear more like tiangge or informal. There is a booth where people can purchase vacuum-packed seafoods that can be taken as carry-on (if not purchased in large quantities). All the other shops sell pasalubong with the typical food items and crafts Davao is known for. That includes fruits like suha (pomelo) and mangosteen. There is, of course, durian being sold and you can even buy them vacuum-packed so you can take them in the plane. Fresh durian is not allowed as carry-on for obvious reasons – the scent.

There are a couple of coffee shops inside the airport but they don’t seem to be as attractive as the ones in Bacolod, Cebu or Iloilo. Nevertheless, they are good enough for hungry stomachs or thirsty throats. I am not including photos taken at one coffee shop as they show some colleagues joking around.

Departure area – the guy in the white barong is a distinguished gentleman from Mindanao who seem to prefer the spacious departure area from the VIP lounge usually reserved for people of his stature (good form sir!). Conferring with his staff, his being comfortable here seems to indicate that the area is good enough for everyone else including those who might think they deserve better.

The airbridge is extendable and should be able to handle wide-bodied aircraft like the A330’s that PAL usually deploys to Davao. The city generates much air traffic passengers considering it is a major tourist and business destination in the country.

The scenes above of Davao’s international airport gives us hope that we can actually have decent terminal facilities. The floors of the terminal are so clean that I’m sure anyone blogging about this would agree they are worthy of “sleeping on.” The same goes with the Bacolod-Silay airport that I wrote about in the previous post and other airports that have been upgraded if not recently constructed or relocated. It’s not too late for NAIA’s terminals but the government should really pour some resources into it and perhaps take the cue from people who have offered their services pro bono in order to address the state of the terminals, especially T1. But then again, I would like to see the government finally make a firm stand, a commitment, regarding the futures of NAIA and DMIA. Alin ba talaga ang gusto nating maging premier gateway? And note that DMIA is indeed strategic and has enough space for expansion but will require a larger, modern passenger terminal to handle traffic that is currently flying in and out of NAIA, and more in the future.