There is a general observation that urban planning in the Philippines, including planning and design for transport, revolves around motor vehicles. In fact, much of what we think are sound policies and guidelines, even rules of thumb, are car-oriented rather than people-oriented. Our love for the car is often traced to our being a colony of the United States and our orientation to cars have been reinforced over the years by policies, plans and projects that seem to be biased for car users while detrimental to commuters in general. In fact, we have been used to having roads built and widened that these types of projects seem automatic, no brainer solutions to the traffic problems we encounter everyday. Not that this is a bad thing, considering that we do have many missing links to complete and infrastructure to build where they are needed. Yet, for many of our highly urbanized cities, public transport infrastructure has been too slow to address the demand for movement.
Metro Manila is already choking in as far as traffic is concerned and our proposed solutions still are road widening and the call for elevated expressways. Meanwhile, we have poor road public transport services and a limited rail or mass transit network. It seems that most of the plans for trains and BRTs have never left the proverbial pipeline and as such, we continue to languish in I would like to think that a lot of people would want to take public transport if only the quality of service is similar to systems in Singapore, Hongkong, Kuala Lumpur or even Bangkok or Jakarta. We have to deliver on this end, which will also see our streets begin to become decongested as vehicles will naturally decrease with people choosing PT over their cars, especially in this period of increasing fuel prices.
Of course, these public transport infrastructure carry hefty price tags. And so to complete the picture and solve the puzzle of transport in cities like Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao, we would need to address what is perhaps the most basic for of transport that is often forgotten when talks center on highways and mass transit – walking. It is a fact that walking is the mode with the highest share for transport; dwarfing all other modes since we all walk at some point of our trips (e.g., Car users still have to walk to and from the parking spaces.) Unfortunately, we seem to have become lazy, preferring to ride than to walk and making so many excuses even when the facilities for walking are already provided and conditions favor walking over motorized transport. Of course, the main challenges for ensuring the safety and comfort of those who choose to walk remain and investments are required for more infrastructure to encourage walking. There are good practice examples like the walkways connecting buildings at the Makati CDB and the sidewalks of Quezon City. These are, however, more the exception than the rule and so there is still a need to actually “formalize” walking as a mode of transport and one that could probably save us a lot of fuel, reduce emissions and, most importantly, improve our health and well-being.
Following are excellent articles for reading, and for consideration when we re-think what we are doing to improve transport and mobility in our cities. A re-orientation is in order for us to address
(Note: the sources and links to the online articles are shown below and in the files. These are made downloadable here only to facilitate access to the articles. There is no intent for any copyright infringements.)
With America and the rest of the world taking a second and perhaps critical look into how they are planning their transport systems and focusing on encouraging people to walk, we should perhaps take this as our cue to also re-think how we are planning and designing our systems. We should, and not be too dependent on the recommendations of studies past and present that seemingly try to simplify our plights as something that can be solved by roads and cars alone.
We were early at the venue of the seminar we organized before the Holy Week. The seminar venue was on the top floor of a tall building in the Ortigas Center area and afforded us an almost 360 degree view of the surrounding areas and beyond. At 6:45 AM, the sun was steadily rising and it was already bright enough to look into the horizon from different parts of the venue. I took the following shots while we were setting up for the seminar and it is clear that air quality is really bad in Metro Manila and its surrounding areas. Most of this may be attributed to vehicle emissions as the DENR estimates 65% of air pollutants coming from mobile sources while only 21% are from stationary sources (i.e., factories) and 14% from area sources (e.g., burning of garbage or grass).
Golf anyone? – from one side of the building, you could see Wack-wack golf and the EDSA-MRT as well as the roof top of the ADB headquarters. One can also see the thick band of dark brown (or is it brownish black) that is the smog covering much of Metro Manila. Early morning golfers and joggers probably are not aware of the health implications of their activities that morning. The building where the DOTC has its offices is located is also visible in the photo (middle of the right edge of the picture).
Makati skyline – visible in the horizon in the center of the photo is the Makati CBD with its tall buildings. People looking from atop a building on that side will see the Ortigas skyline and a band of brown. Contrast this with the blue sky and clouds at the top of the photo.
The south – beyond the Tektite Towers and other prominent buildings along San Miguel Avenue is the south (Paranaque, Las Pinas and Muntinlupa). Also, there is Taguig and Pateros along the line of sight from this photo. There are buildings of Bonifacio Global City visible on the right in the horizon.
The sun rises from the east – as with Manila Bay sunsets, the colors produced by the sun become quite dramatic when combined with the pollution (Yes. The dramatic reds and oranges you get from sunsets may be attributed to the air pollution.). One is supposed to see the mountains of Antipolo in the horizon but because of the smog and the exposure of the shot, you can only see an outline of the mountains and an idea of what people in the lower parts of Rizal breathe everyday. The Ortigas Center is located in Pasig City and the areas between Rizal and our location are all within that city.
Quezon City and beyond – right next to Pasig to the north is Quezon City, and beyond along the line of sight is the Marikina Valley and the mountains of San Mateo and Montalban (now Rodriguez). That’s Eastwood with its tall buildings barely seen in the smog to the left of the photo.
Take two – a closer look of Eastwood and the outlines of the Sierra Madre mountains. The smog seems thicker over the Marikina Valley and Quezon City as any other structure is practically hidden by it beyond Eastwood.
The photos above are on-the-ground validations of aerial observations I earlier posted. It can only go worse given the onset of the driest part of the year and behavior of air circulation at this time of the year. Of course, one isolated typhoon or weather system passing through Metro Manila can dissipate this smog but it will only return to wreak havoc on our health. So much for the Clean Air Act and other initiatives? We should try harder including doing our part in reducing our carbon footprints. Perhaps we should be honest in the way we maintain our vehicles. Perhaps we should demand more from public transport operators and truckers as they constitute a significant part of visible and observable smoke belching. Perhaps we should not encourage the proliferation of motor tricycles but instead replace most of these with non-motorized ones especially in residential areas. Air may be free but we are all at risk even in the perceived safety of our homes.
Singapore has the best airport in the world, a distinction it has maintained despite challenges from similar world-class airports like the ones in Hongkong and Incheon. It currently has 3 huge terminals for mainly full service airlines including the very impressive Terminal 3. Singapore also has a Budget Terminal, which I have observed as serving only 2 airlines, both budget – Tiger Airways and Cebu Pacific. The Budget Terminal has most of the amenities of the three other main terminals and is also excellently maintained with its sparkling clean floors and toilets. In fact, when one arrives at the airport for an early flight, you will notice that there are people (mostly caucasians) lying on the floor somewhere taking a nap while waiting for their counters to open. I guess it beats renting a room at a hotel considering you can burn time at the airport with all its facilities available, 24 hours. Following are a few photos I was able to take while waiting for the airline counter for my flight to open and also while waiting for my boarding call.
I have learned from friends and acquaintances that there are plans to scrap the Budget Terminal. In its place, a Terminal 4 will be built and all budget airlines will be served by the collective of four terminals at Changi. There has been mention of a 5th terminal but I guess that will be further in the future. One can’t be certain though since air traffic at Changi is still steadily increasing along with the travelers handled by the airport. Singapore knows it has to maintain its advantage as a hub connecting Asian destinations with the rest of the world and Changi is at the forefront of the city-state’s efforts to also maintain its leverage and status as a global center for business in the region.
Part of our recent field visit at the PNR included a tour of the depot where the maintenance and refurbishing works are undertaken. Among the cars we saw were those intended for train sets to serve the recently revived Bicol Express. The service to Bicol was recently re-started with a once-a-day trip to Naga City in Camarines Sur, which was eventually extended all the way to Ligao, Albay. The revival hopefully could be the start of something big – a renaissance – for the once famed Bicol Express. For older people, this could be a nostalgic service while for younger people it could be an adventure of sorts. Perhaps it would be a welcome alternative to air and road travel to the region given that the PNR ROW offers a better view along the way into Bicol including breathtaking Vistas of Mayon Volcano, the Pacific Ocean, Lamon Bay, Ragay Gulf and the Bicol countryside. Unfortunately, for now Bicol Express trains travel mainly at night from Manila and so the views will come up only after Naga City, which the train reaches at around 6:00 AM in the morning, and from there proceeds to Legazpi City for the next few hours.
Technical tours – our hosts were very gracious and generous to provide us with a grand tour of the depot and the rolling stock. Such tours help our students to understand railway engineering “from the source.” Perhaps some students may be inspired to join a rail company.
Upper deck – the cabins have 2 double deck beds with the upper deck bed having straps to prevent passengers from falling. While much of the PNR’s tracks have been rehabilitated, they are said to be still far from providing the smooth ride of their Japanese counterparts.
Hallway – our students pose for photo along the corridor to illustrate the space in a sleeper car. There is a small seat that can be unfolded from the side wall across from each cabin door. Perhaps this is not really for use by the conductor but an extra seat for groups having a huddle or individuals wanting a seat to get a good view from the other side of the train. There’s are thick curtains that serve to provide privacy for each cabin. Each car is connected to each other so it is certain that passengers from other cars may be walking along these corridors.
Dirty toilets? – not really because this train has not yet been put into operation. The amenities like toilets and sinks are part of the refurbishing activities, we were told. Of course, this would have to be validated by actual passengers who would, by now, have taken the Bicol Express trains to/from Bicol during these Holy Week holidays.
Double-deckers – the photo affords a better view of the double deck beds in a family cabin. The handles on the vertical bar on the center when pulled apart will reveal steps for persons to climb to the upper deck beds. There are also curtains for persons to have privacy particularly while sleeping or when sharing the cabin with other people.
Driver’s console – the controls for the train give a hint on how old this unit is, noting that it has been retired in Japan. I remember looking at similar dials and levers during my first visit to Japan in 1996 when we usually stood behind the cockpit to see how the train is operated.
Recliners – inside the cars are reclining seats that seem to be as comfortable as business class seats on airliners. I tried one of the seats and the cushions are still quite firm for something that’s more than a decade old. I couldn’t smell any traces of tobacco so I guess these were already sanitized. Smoking cars are quite common in Japan and seats and entire cars can smell of smoke that tends to stick to the furniture and your clothes if you happen to be in one during a trip.
Rotation – the seat can be configured so that groups may face each other. Many seat two people kind of like love seats perfect for snuggling on long distance trips. There are also pull-out trays for eating, writing or working on your computer to update FB status or tweet about the experience.
Entertainment – Yes, that’s a television set at the far end of the cabin. I can imagine that like in buses, the PNR will be showing some movies during trips to help passengers wile away the time. We were informed that big groups could actually take a car for themselves so it is also possible to have activities like workshops in the train. Perhaps groups could even have karaoke if they had the entire car to themselves.
Reserved – the seat numbers remind ticket holders which seat they are to take and the characters remind us where the trains came from. That’s a hook (for hanging your coat or other belonging) in the lower center of the photo.
Airconditioned – the Executive Sleepers have air-conditioning, which is a requirement for all services of the PNR that is part of the attraction for passengers. Some cars were fitted with generator sets to supplement the power provided by the locomotives. Note again that the PNR lines are not electrified so power required for lights, aircon and other equipment have to be provided by these generators.
4-seaters – a closer look at the dining tables show comfortable seats and a good view from the window. Unfortunately, the Bicol Express trains travel at night so there’s really not much to see while in transit.
Executive sleeper – the cabin has a bed that doubles as a seat. Note the foldable arm rests and back cushion by the window. Also, there is space for a small bag located at a more secure part of the cabin.
Lights and aircon – each cabin is equipped with a desk, adjustable lights and individual air-conditioning control for the convenience of the occupant.
Window seat – each cabin has a window and generous space for the individual. The same features are found on the cabins on the upper deck but I guess the view is better upstairs so these would be the choice cabins for the Executive Sleepers.
I look forward to finally riding the Bicol Express, perhaps with family or friends, as I visit relatives in Bicol (my mother hails from Sorsogon). Though I can ride the train to Legazpi City, Albay, it is just a short trip by bus from that city to my mother’s hometown. Of course, there are other cities of interest for me including Naga City, my father-in-law’s hometown and Legazpi where there are many attractions around. My father has told me a lot about the Bicol Express, which he took with his sisters en route to Sorsogon to wed my mother. And so, part of the attraction to the train is sentimental in nature.
Undergraduate students under the Transportation Engineering Group of the Institute of Civil Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman presented last March 26, 2012. A total of 17 presentation were made including 12 for completed studies and 5 research proposals. One presentation was deferred as the group was still analyzing their data and could not make the deadline for draft manuscripts.
The final presentations of completed undergraduate researches were as follows:
- Travel Time Estimation of Jeepneys: The Case of UP Diliman, Quezon City (Arlish M. Carpio and Joseph Rei Mark Co)
- Assessment of the Philippine National Railway Commuter Line Services (Lara Kriselle B. Paragas and Ma. Katrina Q. Rañeses)
- Applicability of Unconventional Transit Systems in Selected Metropolitan Areas in the Philippines (Joselle Patricia E. Civil and Maiko G. Tenorio)
- Estimation of Traffic Signal Setting for the University Avenue-Commonwealth Avenue Intersection (Aimah C. Busok and Chrislene D. Calivo)
- A Road Safety Assessment Toolkit for Metro Manila (Neil Kendrick L. Sy)
- Analysis of Operation of Electric Tricycles (Demi Anne C. Obediencia and Ruth Noemi F. Sloot)
- Accident Risk by Mode of Public Road-Based Passenger Transport in Metro Manila (Walter T. Crisologo)
- Measuring Delay Caused by U-turn as a Traffic Control Facility (Neil Angelo G. Luzano and Mark Anthony G.Tolentino)
- Comparative Analysis of Male and Female Public Transport Bus Drivers in Metro Manila (Benilda M. Fonseca)
- Effects of Road Features in the Vulnerability of Child Pedestrians (Jordan A. Villanueva)
- Investigation of Factors Affecting PUV-related Accidents Involving Pedestrians along Commonwealth Avenue (Mark Alain C. Norombaba)
- Assessment on Parking Management System in Shopping Malls (Denryl Caesar S. Cortuna)
Deferred final presentation:
- Estimating Ridership for a Proposed Transit System for UP Diliman (Jessica Mae J. Anaque and Kylie Dianne Erika M. Landingin)
The final presentations of research proposals for implementation in the next semester were as follows:
- Perception of Traffic Noise Inside UP Campus (Michelle Monelle S. Quilatan and John Carlo D. Villar)
- Traffic Characteristics and Level of Service of Pedestrian Routes along Velasquez – Roces Street of UP Diliman (Angel U. Gacutan and Maria Jenna M. Tan)
- Determining the Effectiveness of Imposed Speed Reduction Programs Along Commonwealth Avenue (Hessen Noreen Z. Castillo and Hazel E. Maata)
- Analysis of the Presence of Urban Air Pollutants from Road Vehicles Within UP Diliman (Joshua Carlo S. Padilla and Tsuyoshi A. Sakurai)
- Determination of the Walkability Index of UP Diliman (Niki Jon Tolentino)
Following are a few photos taken during the final presentations:
We are already looking forward to the implementation of the researches proposed this semester and those that will be proposed in the next semester of a new academic year (starting June 2012). This academic year has been a very fruitful one with many excellent students taking a renewed interest in Transportation Engineering and Planning. I hope there will be more in the next batch of students.
This is one of the peak periods for air travel in the Philippines so the airports are pretty full with people departing and arriving from different places here and abroad. It was early morning yesterday and as I approached at the airport, I could see lots of vehicles driving off from the departure level of the terminal including taxis that have ferried passengers mainly for morning flights. It was about 4:30 AM when I arrived so the terminal was not as busy as it would be a few hours later.
I had some time to burn yesterday as I waited for the arrival of my wife at NAIA’s Terminal 3. And so I decided to take a walk around the terminal to check out the restaurants and coffee shops on the 3rd level. It turned out my favorite place was still closed and I didn’t think pizza, burgers or fried chicken would be a good idea at the time. I ended up walking around the terminal to get some exercise early in the morning and taking a few photos here and there of the queues at the check-in counters.
Cebu Pacific handles a lot of flights nowadays as the top airline in the Philippines though it is a budget airline. At 4:30 AM, there were a lot of people lined up in front of their counters assigned to domestic flights. There were a lot more outside the cordoned off area and also outside the airport queued before the first security check for the terminal.
There were even more people on the other side as Ceb Pac handled quite a number of flights to favorite destinations such as Caticlan (gateway to Boracay), Tagbilaran (gateway to Panglao) and Puerto Princesa (Palawan). Of course, there were the frequent flights to hubs like Cebu, Davao and Iloilo.
AirPhil Express (formerly Air Philippines) also operates out of Terminal 3 but has less flights compared to CebPac. Its mother company, Philippine Airlines (PAL), is a full service airline with domestic and international flights to and from Terminal 2, which is also called the Centennial Terminal after being opened during the Philippines’ Independence Centennial in 1998. PAL Express, another one of PAL’s budget spin-offs, used to operate out of T3 but ceased operations in 2010 and was integrated into AirPhil Express.
The queues for CebPac’s international flights were still short. I think they have few flights during the late night to early morning periods. These counters, however, will be busy later in the day considering the frequencies of service to destinations like Singapore, Hongkong and Bangkok. CebPac also flies to Korea, China and Japan and has recently opened direct flights to Cambodia (Siem Reap) and Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh).
I was not able to take a photo of the counters assigned to All Nippon Airways (ANA). I guess there might be no people there yet as ANA operates only two flights daily between Manila and Narita (from where it connects with a lot of flights to many other destinations including major cities in the US and Europe). Terminal 3 will be busier in the coming months and years as international flights increase and the Philippines tries to have its status upgraded in order for airlines such as CebPac to expand operations. Already in the sights of the airline are destinations in the Middle East, Australia and the US where there is a demand for a low cost Philippine carrier even counting only Filipinos living abroad. And with the country pitching its tourist destinations abroad, T3 will be expected to handle much of the traffic in this gateway in Manila.
Caught a show on television featuring noise pollution in the Philippines. The feature on noise included the reporter accompanied by a person who measured ambient noise using a portable noise meter.The results were quite interesting if not surprising, including the alarming measurements inside a high school classroom at a building beside EDSA. There was also the segment where hearing damage was covered, particularly those derived from workplaces (e.g., factories).
Of course there are many sources of noise, but it seems that much of it nowadays is associated to vehicular traffic (e.g., tricycles, trucks, etc.). Nevertheless, we often disregard a lot of the other sounds around us because they are part of what we hear everyday and we have gotten used to them. To be able to appreciate the totality of the sounds (noise) that we often disregard, much is actually eliminated when we have blackouts. That means no TV, no stereos, no electronics that produce sounds that we take for granted.
I reproduce below the three pages of what was the National Pollution Control Commission’s Memorandum Circular No. 002, Series of 1980, as published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, which until now serves as the basis for noise standards in the country. Recent initiatives led by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau seeks to update/revise these standards and a draft has been circulated to members of an inter-agency committee and industry. Perhaps our local governments could take a look at laws that are often set aside in part because of a lack of instruments to be able to quantify noise. I think curbing noise pollution should significantly improve our quality of life and would have positive impacts to our health.
Perhaps the material above should serve as a basic guide for local governments and private citizens in monitoring noise. People should be knowledgeable of what can be considered as unacceptable. We have never been known to understand and appreciate the concept of externalities such as those from congestion and emissions. So the next time your neighbor decides to go on a karaoke session or revs up his motorcycle, you have a basis for making a complaint and maybe even using the memo for reference in your barangay!
The Seminar on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Applications in the Philippines was held last March 28, 2012 at the Columbus Room of the Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, Metro Manila. The seminar was organized by the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) and the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of the University of the Philippines Diliman and was supported by the Engineering Research and Development for Technology (ERDT) Program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The main objective of the seminar was to bring together the academe, government agencies and industry to discuss the state of ITS in the country. The seminar was a venue for presentations and discussions where persons interested in ITS could interact with one another, hopefully forging future partnerships to promote ITS in the country.
Registration desk – participants from the ERDT universities attended the seminar including Ateneo De Manila University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle University, Mapua Institute of Technology, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, and UP Diliman and UP Los Banos. Also in attendance were representatives of the Far Eastern University and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
Keynote presentation – Dr. Ricardo Sigua, Professor at the ICE and also a NCTS Fellow delivered a presentation entitled “State of ITS in the Philippines.” It provided an excellent intro about current applications of ITS in the country.
Next generation – it was delightful to see a lot of younger people attending the seminar. In fact, participants from the universities did not come solely from the Civil Engineering programs but included those in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science.
Electronic Toll Collection – Engr. Raul Ignacio, Manila North Tollways Corporation Vice President presents on ITS applications in the tollways including issues regarding interoperability. Currently, tollways offering ETC have incompatible systems.
Live demonstration – Atty. Gonzalez even made a live demonstration of how the Navigator works and how the MMDA could monitor and manage traffic using these tools. The presentation impressed the audience and this reflected in the lively Q&A after his presentation.
Smart traffic control – Mr. Abratique presents on smart traffic signals including the experience in Davao City. Modern traffic signal control may be found in only a few cities in the country including Cebu, which employs an old version of the SCATS system.
Panel discussion – the panel consisted of Ms. Cora Japson of the Road Transport Planning Division of the DOTC, Prof. Metodia Trinidad of MSU-IIT, Engr. Becky Garsuta of the DPWH’s PPP Office, and Engr. Glenn Campos of the MNTC.
Reactions and remarks – Engr. Garsuta relating DPWH initiatives and what she thinks are systems applicable in the local setting. Incidentally, the DPWH just recently received technical assistance from JICA for ITS.