Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Circumferential Road-4: R-10 to Monumento

Circumferential Road 4 or C-4 is perhaps the busiest among the major arterials of Metro Manila. It is usually associated with its longest segment named Epifanio De los Santos Avenue or EDSA, which stretches from the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City to Monumento in Caloocan City. There are two other segments of C-4: C-4 Road (R-10 to Letre/Samson Road), Letre Road (Malabon City Hall to Samson Road), and Samson Road (Letre/C-4 to Monumento). All in all, the road cuts across eight cities in Metro Manila: Navotas, Malabon, Caloocan, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Makati and Pasay.

After turning from R-10, one is greeted with a 4-lane road that at the time didn’t have pavement markings to distinguish the lanes.

After covering some distance, pavement markings appear before reaching the bridge that connected the Navotas part of C-4 with Malabon.

The bridge spans the Navotas-Malabon River, which goes around this point and meanders back to Malabon and Caloocan.

Between the first bridge and the next along the way to Monumento, travelers have a view of the section of Navotas-Malabon River meander on the right side. Garbage floating on the river are quite noticeable but not as many as in the past.

The 4-lane undivided road eventually becomes a divided road with a median island separating opposing flows of traffic.

Pedestrian overpass with directional signs before the intersection with Dagat-dagatan Avenue.

This is supposed to be a 4-lane section but it seems the roadside friction, driver behavior and the lack of pavement/lane markings contribute to the perception of limited space along C-4. Pedestrian sidewalks are also used as parking space by jeepneys and trucks as shown in the photo.

Roadworks at the approach to the intersection with A. Mabini/M.H. Del Pilar from where C-4 is known as Samson Road.

Intersection with Torres Bugallon – jeepneys crowd at the intersection and this often leads to congestion. Pedestrians cross anywhere and there are also pedicabs (non-motorized three-wheelers) roaming around that also contribute to the chaotic traffic.

Roadworks along C-4 – also shown in the photo are shanties of informal settlers along the PNR right of way, which crosses C-4 at this point.

Remnants of the PNR’s Main Line North with a station a few meters from C-4. This should have been part of the proposed Northrail line connecting Metro Manila to Clark, Pampanga.

Samson Road stretches along a very busy, much built-up district of Caloocan. Near Monumento, there are many big commercial centers including shopping malls around the rotonda known for a memorial for Andres Bonifacio, a national hero who led the revolution for independence from Spain in 1896.

Samson Road is obviously a national road but tricycles are allowed to operate here; just one of the traffic/transport policies that accommodate such paratransit modes along roads where they are inappropriate.

In order to address the vehicles counter-flowing or encroaching on the opposing traffic lanes and jaywalking problem, steel barriers were put up in the middle of the road. Overpasses like the one in the photo were constructed to enable people to cross the road. Notice the vehicles parked or standing along the road and on the sidewalks?

Approach to Monumento with the obelisk at the center island of the rotonda visible at the center of the photo. Also shown in the photo at the roadside is a traffic sign informing travelers that they are approaching a rotonda.

Esplanade Drive

I enjoy walking in Singapore and perhaps to compare with walking in Japan, the only difference at times would be that at certain times of the year, it’s much cooler (or colder) in Tokyo or Yokohama. Outdoors in Singapore it can be uncomfortable due to the humidity but its actually the same in the temperate countries during summer. Among the more enjoyable walks even during workdays would perhaps be along the Esplanade connecting the Marina Square and Suntec areas with the offices across the river as well as the newly famous Marina Sands development.

View of the drive from the Marina district towards Fullerton and the financial district across the bridge.

View of the walkway, which is alongside the carriageway but separated by a plant box. That’s the Merlion on the background with all the people crowding probably to take souvenir photos with the city state’s symbol.

The Esplanade bridge with the skyscrapers of Singapore’s financial district in the background and the famous Fullerton Hotel at the center.

The key really is to enhance the walking experience such that people would not at all notice the distance they were traversing. Walking should be for everyone and not just something for those regarded as transport poor. In cities in progressive countries, for example, you see professionals in their suits mixed with people in casuals and students wearing their uniforms walking their chosen paces along streets provided with facilities suitable for walking and the volume of walkers (Yes, there is such a thing also as a level of service for pedestrian facilities and flow).

I would have taken photos of the connections between stations and places of interest in Singapore but I usually only had my trusty cell phone rather than a professional camera. With all the cameras installed around the city, my taking of photos might be misinterpreted rather than dismissed as just another camera nut taking souvenir or “artistic” shots of places.

The electric bus and other thoughts on bus operations in Manila

An electric bus was on display at the 2nd Electric Vehicle Summit recently held at the Meralco Multi-purpose Hall. The exterior reminded me of the buses I rode in Yokohama and Saitama during my stints as a student and later as a visiting researcher. Following are a few photos I took of the exterior and interior of the bus. Most of the following notes are comments applicable to city buses operating in the Philippines rather than specifically for electric buses.

This electric bus was imported from Taiwan by the Victory Liner Inc.., which is among the largest provincial bus operators in the Philippines. The first thing I noticed is that the bus has a low floor, perhaps the same height as most curbs, but this can be a concern considering many of Metro Manila’s streets are subject to flash floods during the wet season.

The interior and layout is perhaps the most appropriate for buses with city operations. There is sufficient standing space from the front to the middle of the bus. Seats here are usually for the elderly or physically challenged and includes space for a wheelchair. Most city buses in Metro Manila have layouts that are suitable for long distance trips, with many seats and often narrow corridors.

The seats at the back look very inviting and I assume are comfy for long rides not because of distances but congestion. Obviously, these seats and especially those at the back, which require passengers to negotiate a few steps are free for all though those in the lower level may be reserved for the elderly, physically-challenged or pregnant women.

A look at the driver’s seat with the emblem of the manufacturer, RAC, on the steering wheel. I saw an article on the electric bus stating its specs (top speed of 95 kph and range of 270 km on a single charge). I’m really not worried about the specs given the advances in technology these days. I think it will still boil down to driver behavior when it comes to the question of road safety and the provision of efficient services for the public.

Unlike most city buses in the Philippines, this bus has 2 doors. The one at the front may be used for entrance and there’s space for transactions, i.e., payment of fares, showing passes or swiping of cards. The one at the back is wider for more efficient unloading of passengers. There is also a provision for a ramp that can be used by persons on wheelchairs.

The potential benefits derived from electric buses are quite obvious from the environmental perspective. I like its chances for success considering that the initiative is being pushed by a major company like Victory, which might have to show the way by being an example and be the first to deploy these buses on an actual route. Victory’s business, however, is in provincial operations so there should be at least one taker from among the companies operating in Metro Manila to use these buses on a route.

For demonstration purposes, I think Bonifacio Global City with its Fort Bus service can provide a good route for a start. The Fort is ideal for such electric buses given the current demand and route length. Charging stations may also be provided at the route ends, particularly at the Market! Market! transport terminal. Another option might be Katipunan, with electric buses allowed to enter the Ateneo campus and perhaps help alleviate traffic congestion there by encouraging their students and staff to use public transport. One end may be at the UP Diliman campus where the buses may also be allowed to enter the campus but perhaps take a route that won’t necessarily compete with jeepneys on campus (e.g., Academic Oval). Deciding the other end of the route would be a bit tricky but one option can be near SM Marikina where a secure terminal can be established and sufficient space for “park and ride” or “kiss and ride” operations. These might just be success stories in public transport waiting to happen.

Overnight parking at NAIA

The main terminals of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) each have overnight parking facilities. These are all open lots located near the terminals and have roving personnel on motorcycles for security. The overnight parking spaces for Terminals 1 and 2 are located a bit of a walk away from the terminal buildings but are generally spacious and do not reach their full capacities.

Terminal 1’s overnight parking is located on the lot to the right as travelers drive through the security check for vehicles. Terminal 2’s overnight facility is near the old Nayong Pilipino gate and appears to be the combined parking lots of the now-closed theme park and the also closed Philippine Village Hotel. Terminal 3’s overnight parking spaces are generally spread out with most along the service road or driveway that leads to its still closed multi-level parking facility. Other spaces made available for overnight parking are those near the entrance to Terminal 3.

I haven’t tried overnight parking at T1 and T2 but I recently availed of overnight parking at T3. Following are a couple of photos to describe overnight parking at T3, followed by a few tips on how to get a slot in what is always a full area.

Overnight parking spaces are along the service road on the right that ultimately leads to a ramp access to the still closed multi-level parking facility at Terminal 3. There is a sign that states overnight parking is full. Ask for assistance from the security staff to find a slot.

The service road leads to a ramp (visible at the center of the photo) to the closed multi-level parking (also visible on the right of the photo) of Terminal 3.

A tip for those wanting to park their cars for a night or more at Terminal 3: ask nicely for assistance from the security guard at the entrance to the parking lot. They will help you find an open space somewhere (trust me, it’s quite a challenge) in what is always a full overnight parking area. Show your gratitude by tipping. It’s definitely worth it and they’ll probably even check your car to return the favor. And yes… overnight parking fees are quite cheap at 50 pesos (about 1.15 USD) per night.

Persistence of stubornness? Taking photos on the tarmac

I took this photo while waiting for our plane to complete boarding procedures at Changi’s budget terminal. Two passengers (not sure if they are OFWs or tourists) stopped on the tarmac and took photos of the plane before each posed to have their photo taken by the other. They were so obvious and took quite some time on the tarmac that I was already anticipating Changi security personnel to approach them and instruct them to go and board the aircraft. For some reason, the ground staff did not seem to notice them or perhaps just decided to just let it go as a harmless act. Harmlessness notwithstanding, such incidents are actually considered security issues, which are among those ticked off by people evaluating airports. And this is why for most cases at the Budget Terminal ground staff are strict about passengers loitering on the tarmac including taking photos like what is shown below. I can understand the value, possibly sentimental, of such souvenir photos especially if one is heading home after a long stay abroad as a worker. Still, the time spent should not be as if people were already holding photo-shoots on the tarmac.

Passengers taking photos on the tarmac and near the restricted area with respect to the aircraft

Close-up of the same photo

Another look at Tagbilaran Airport

Tagbilaran Airport is the gateway to the province of Bohol and the resort paradise that is Panglao Island. I wrote about the airport earlier but the photos were quite limited as they were somewhat taken more as a matter of coincidence and for souvenirs than for a blog feature on airports. Following are a few photos I consciously took specifically for this post.

Tagbilaran Airport as seen from our plane that had just arrived.

Air traffic control tower and emergency services at the airport.

The airport is under renovation with the terminal being expanded to be able to accommodate the increasing number of passengers being handled by the airport.

Tricycles are the dominant mode of public transport in Tagbilaran’s roads and others throughout Bohol. Their version of the tricycle comfortably seats 3 passengers including 2 in the cab and 1 behind the driver. The sidecar also features a baggage compartment or trunk in the back.

Entrance to the airport terminal – there’s precious little space at the airport for passengers and well-wishers. In fact, parking is very limited and there is usually not enough space for the mix of people and vehicles when a plane arrives at the airport.

Pre-departure – seats at the ground floor pre-departure area at the airport. There are two concessions from where passengers may purchase refreshments or last minute souvenirs.

Extension – the second floor is also used as waiting area for passengers. There’s one concessionaire on the second floor and a massage service with blind men as masseurs.

Baggage handling – on the way to board our plane, I took a quick photo of the baggage being loaded unto the plane.

A new airport is being proposed for Bohol as the current one in Tagbilaran can no longer be expanded with the area required for a longer runway and a larger terminal restricted by the surrounding built up area. A new airport is planned to be constructed instead in Panglao Island where it will be closer to the resorts and other attractions that regularly bring in thousands of tourists and perhaps many more should there be a better airport for Bohol. Already, there are many issues being raised against a new airport but then if the project is implemented according to international standards, including those pertaining to the mitigation of negative environmental impacts, then we should expect the airport to be more beneficial to all involved.

PNR Naga City Station

The wife recently went on a trip with her father to attend a family affair in Naga City in Camarines Sur. Arriving by plane in the morning, they went to the PNR station in the afternoon to purchase a ticket for my father-in-law who wanted to try the train for the trip back to Manila. He got word of the resumption of Bicol Express services from me as well as from the news. The PNR had been featured on TV and he had been curious about taking the train. He used to take the train for trips between Naga and Manila before and told us stories of how nice traveling by train was back in the day. Following are a few photos around the Naga Station of the PNR.

Aren’t we glad? – The PNR Naga Station has been renovated and now features updated office buildings and ticket counters

Contrast the new and the old – PNR’s old coaches at the newly renovated platform

Room for improvement – passengers waiting along the platform with some seated on the few benches available

Simplicity – don’t expect turnstiles yet and it’s still somewhat a crude entrance to the platform but these should improve soon as passenger demand steadily increases.

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Looking forward – the train at the platform was bound for Legazpi City, Albay and I like to think the photo The photo actually shows the back end of the train as the front end is pulled by the locomotive shown in a previous photo.

Old workhorse – this diesel electric locomotive pulling the passenger coaches and a few others like it have been

View from the top – there are pedestrian overpasses crossing the tracks for access to platforms and other parts of the station. Visible in the photo are discarded bogeys and the blue car that is an executive class coach with reclining seats.

Regular and Special – the train on the left and parked alongside the platform has regular coaches with fixed seats much like the Tokaido Line long distance commuter trains. The train on the right has executive class coaches with reclining seats and more space for passengers that translate to a more comfortable ride. Unfortunately, there were no sleeper cars with either trains at the time.