Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Paratransit in Davao City

While visiting a jeepney assembler in Davao, we took the opportunity to take not a few photos of paratransit vehicles along one road in Davao City. Of particular interest to us were what appeared to be three-wheelers that resembled the tuktuks of Thailand and the four-wheeled multicabs that served as an intermediate mode with passenger capacities between that of the tricycle and the typical jeepney.

What at first seemed to be three-wheelers were actually four-wheeled vehicles. For propulsion, they used typical motorcycles but instead of one-wheeled sidecars like the typical tricycles found in many cities and towns across the country, the fabricated body has 2 wheels and provided for two benches to accommodate more passengers.

Following are photos of these 4-wheeled paratransit vehicles we took while visiting a jeepney assembly in Davao. While there is a basic form for each vehicle, there are actually some distinct features for each, probably the manufacturer’s or assembler’s signature. There is no distinct color for any particular route so commuters would have to check the panel information before flagging one to make sure whether the PUV serves their destination although these seem to have fixed routes.

Maroon body with white roof [Agdao – Jerome route]

Gold body and roof [Agdao – South Bay route]

Black body and yellow roof [Agdao – Jerome route]

Black body and blue roof [Agdao – South Bay route]

Black body and white roof [Agdao – Jerome route]

We were also able to observe another form of jitney, which are generally called multicabs in the Philippines. The term multicab seem to have originated from a brand for these 3-cylinder engine vehicles that are fitted to carry passengers or in some cases as small freight vehicles. These are very popular in the Visayas and Mindanao where they typically seat 10 – 14 passengers excluding those in the front seat. The vehicle is narrower than the typical jeepney so only two people can usually fit in the front.

12-seater multicab

14-seater multicab

Typical jeepney design in Davao

Marcos Highway Bikeways and Walkways

I have written about the need for pedestrian facilities in previous posts. These include walking as a mode of transport, walkability in the Philippines, and even some personal experiences. There is no doubt about how important pedestrian and bicycle facilities are in order to promote walking and cycling as environment-friendly, healthy, and therefore sustainable modes of transport. Cities and towns where people walk and cycle are among the most healthy and perhaps vibrant places in the world. Walking outdoors, in fact, should be promoted if not encouraged (i.e., its difficult to encourage if there are no facilities, and health and safety are concerns) in cities where tourism is also being promoted as it can be used as an indicator for  how easy it is to go around the city or town and perhaps how clean the air is in the area.

Following are a few photos I managed to take along Marcos Highway that show the newly designated bikeways apportioned from the sidewalk that was constructed along with the rehabilitated carriageway. There are bikeways on both sides of the highway as what used to be the open channel drainage was replaced by culverts and the sidewalks where built on top. In order to enhance the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, concrete barriers were placed along the road margins just above the curbs. The barriers actually work in another way, preventing or discouraging pedestrians or cyclists from wandering into the traffic lanes of this busy thoroughfare.

The white line delineates the bikeway, which is the lane along the curb, from the pedestrian walkway that is on the inner side of the path. This can be a bit confusing and creates conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists as the parts of the roadside are also designated as bus/jeepney stops.

Obstructions? – the bikelane runs smack into the staircase of the pedestrian overpass while the pedestrian path leads to electric posts. Such are issues that are also present along the more established bikeways of Marikina City.

Too many signs? – from this view, there seems to be a lot of signs along the bikeway, appropriate perhaps in order to inform motorists, pedestrians and cyclists about the facilities. The signs are also useful for enforcement as Marikina City, for example, is strictly enforcing its policies against parking and other obstructions along the bikeway. Unfortunately, Pasig, Cainta and Antipolo are lax in their responsibilities to clear the bike and pedestrian paths from obstructions.

Which direction? – the bike path markings state the direction for flow. Such is at best a suggestion as it is quite difficult to enforce one way flow for cycling. It must be made clear that the bikeway is mainly for commuting or utilitarian rather than for recreational or sporting purposes. Speeds should be slow enough for cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist and perhaps share space for two-way flow.

All clear – the bike path is good enough even despite it going along so many driveways due to the nature of the developments along Marcos Highway. The bike path in front of the Metro East mall can be filled with commuters waiting to catch a ride and won’t be passable to cyclists especially during the afternoon to evening.

Unfortunately, crossing the highway is another challenge for cyclists as the steps for most overpasses along Marcos Highway are quite steep. There are at least 3 that were designed to have ramps (the Imelda Ave/A. Tuazon, Dela Paz and Ligaya overpasses have ramps) for bicycles and wheelchair access).

Establishments along highway can pitch in by ensuring the bike and pedestrian paths are clear of obstructions including parked vehicles. Incidentally, there is one gas station along Marcos Highway that is also a depot for taxis where the latter seem to always occupy the sidewalks. I have seen Marikina staff flagging them for disrespecting the right of way of pedestrians and cyclists but they seem to have some difficulty in clearing the area of parked vehicles. (Note: The Dela Paz pedestrian overpass is visible downstream.)

The pedestrian and bicycle facilities along Marcos Highway will certainly go a long way in promoting walking and cycling. At both ends of the highway though, at the Masinag junction at the eastern end and Santolan in the west, there are issues pertaining to continuity as both bikeways and walkaways disappear and pedestrians and cyclist would suddenly have to contend with mixing it up with motor vehicles along the carriageway should they want to continue in their travel. This issue of continuity should be addressed both by policy and the provision of suitable facilities for cycling and walking.

Perhaps something to think about is the realization of a link between the Marikina Bikeways, the Marcos Highway bike paths and UP Diliman’s bicycle lane along its academic oval via Aurora Boulevard and Katipunan. This can eventually be linked to the wide sidewalks along Commonwealth Avenue that can also be apportioned for pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps such an integrated network covering parts of Quezon City, Marikina City, Pasig City, Cainta and Antipolo City can be realized quickly with enough effort from the respective local governments and maybe with a little help from the private sector including schools and commercial establishments along the network.

Road right-of-way encroachments: Samar

Going around the country for projects, we always take a lot of photos about transportation including roads, bridges and transport modes. Thank goodness for digital cameras and cell phone cameras, and special mention to memory cards that have allowed us to take photos at will often only worrying about battery life. In a previous post, I wrote about encroachments to the RROW and featured some photos from field work we did in Palawan. This time, I was able to find a few choice photos taken from another project we did; this time in the island of Samar in the Eastern Visayas. In the following photos, one will see permanent structures already built along the roads –  ones that are usually the most difficult to remove and the residents a challenge to be relocated.

Houses built alongside the highway on what is supposed to be shoulder space. What looks like a booth in from tof the parked vehicle on the right is actually a guard post for the barangay. The barangay hall is located behind the fence visible at the right of the photo.

Makeshift houses along the secondary national road also on space usually where the shoulders are. Some houses are located at a hazardous part of the road (i.e., right at the curve and just behind the chevron signs).

More houses with their fences encroaching on the RROW along a secondary national road in Eastern Samar – the sign on the right, while not exactly obstructed, will blend with the structures and will probably be unseen or unnoticed by motorists.

Souvenir? – I have seen signs being stolen and displayed in some homes as trophies (actually an illegal act that can get one jailed and fined a hefty sum if caught by authorities). Some souvenirs are harder to take but can be integrated with the house interior or, in this case, as part of a store. Imagine knowing the exact location of a store in the area not through GPS but simply by knowing the exact kilometer post where the store was put up.

There are many other examples of RROW encroachments along other roads. These seem to be common along all types of highways where development along the roads are generally not regulated by local governments but present future problems when space is needed to widen roads to accommodate traffic. Is it an issue of cooperation between the DPWH and the LGUs (including the DILG)? Or is it mainly a local issue that is largely the responsibility of local authorities? Perhaps it is both and something that needs to be addressed to enhance road safety as well as to ensure that future headaches will be avoided when it is time to access the RROW.

Road right-of-way encroachments: Palawan

Encroachments to the road right of way (RROW) is quite common along many roads in the Philippines including national roads. While the DPWH has jurisdiction over the latter roads in as far as construction and maintenance is concerned, the agency does not have the resources to secure these roads. Such responsibility lies in the hands of local government units (LGUs), which are tasked to regulate land use at the local level ahead of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). Following are a few photos I took in one trip to Palawan where we did a few road safety audits of a national highway.

This RROW marker that doubles as a kilometer post along a highway in Palawan is located a few meters from the carriageway. While there are no developments or encroachments along this section, such markers could easily get lost.

This one’s already behind the fence (and house) of a family encroaching on the RROW. Many of these people establish homes and even informal businesses (vulcanizing shops, makeshift stores, etc.) along the road with LGUs often turning a blind eye and in many cases even allowing people to register the lands as their own when in fact these have been reserved for future expansion of the road.

Zooming in on the marker shows it to be behind a storage shed where grain, lumber, bamboo and various other materials are piled up.

For most of these people who have encroached on the RROW, their actions are not illegal given that in many cases, the LGUs let them do so in order to develop areas along the road. The problem comes later when these developments and residents begin constricting traffic along the highways and demanding compensation when they are asked to move out to give way to road widening projects. It seems that the best approach is still for LGUs to do their part in regulating settlements along roads so that most if not all will locate outside the RROW. In other cases where it is obvious that development will come much later, it should be clear to settlers that the property is not theirs and will not be theirs, and that they would have to go sometime in the future when the road needs to be widened. This is not an easy thing for LGUs to accomplish but they should have system in place for this since it will considerably be more difficult later when the roadside has been settled with more permanent structures.

School traffic impacts – issues along Ortigas Ave., Part 1

I have written about school traffic generation in this blog and have mentioned about the traffic congestion experiences along major thoroughfares due to the vehicles attracted by private schools. La Salle Greenhills (LSGH) is an exclusive school found along Ortigas Avenue and during the summer months of April and May, people passing through the stretch of the road from EDSA to the Greenhills Shopping Center are relieved that they won’t have to go through traffic jams due to the school-generated traffic. From June to early December and January to March, however, the area is almost always congested in the morning and afternoon. Such congestion is predictable since it occurs during a period when students come to school and when they are dismissed mid-day or in the afternoon.

Heading to a meeting at the DOTC from the University one morning, we decided to take an alternate route. Instead of EDSA or C5, we took East Ave., Tomas Morato Ave., Gilmore Street and then emerged at the westernmost end of Ortigas in San Juan. It was already 9:00 AM when we arrived at the section most affected by the traffic generated by LSGH and so we didn’t to get caught in a jam as we proceeded towards our destination. We were proven right as traffic was almost free-flowing, and I took advantage of the traffic conditions and to take a few photos of the indicators for the potential traffic congestion in the area. The following photos also show a serious parking problem and (sadly) the usurpation of space from pedestrians. For shame!

School service vehicles parked along the sidewalk along Ortigas Avenue – beyond the wall on the right is Wack-wack, a high-end residential subdivision named for the sound of golf clubs swinging at its famous course.

Private vehicles parked along the same sidewalk – noticeable in the photo is the pink line drawn by the MMDA to supposedly demarcate space that should not be obstructed and instead allocated for pedestrian use. It is clear in the photos that pedestrians would have to walk along the edge of the sidewalk or the outer lane of the carriageway itself, increasing the risks for them to get sideswiped by motor vehicles.

More parked vehicles along Ortigas Avenue, mostly private vehicles that are highly likely owned by those studying at LSGH.

It’s actually worse on the other side of Ortigas Ave. as vehicles occupy a lane of the carriageway, effectively reducing capacity along this stretch of the road.

It seems the main purpose of the pedestrian overpass is to allow students to safely cross the street to get from and to their vehicles. I can only imagine the congestion caused by drop-offs and pick-ups along Ortigas Ave., which for certain times of the day functions as a driveway for the school.

Sales Bridge repairs completed

The repairs to Sales Bridge, which connects the Fort Bonifacio area to Villamor and the NAIA terminal complex, has been completed and all lanes along the bridge are now passable. The bridge has been a bottleneck for some weeks as repair works have led to serious traffic congestion in the area, particularly along Sales Road that’s among the main access roads to NAIA, particularly Terminal 3, which is at the end of the road and along Andrews Avenue. From another perspective, the bridge is also a main access route to Fort Bonifacio (and Bonifacio Global City) and Makati (via Pasong Tamo Extension) via Lawton Avenue, of which the bridge is a part of. I took a couple of photos while en route to T3 clearly showing all lanes open to traffic.

Under the Skyway, traffic flows smoothly on either side of the bridge. When the bridge was being repaired, only 3 lanes were available to traffic – one westbound and two eastbound.

Mixed traffic along the Sales Bridge includes trucks and bicycles. Further downstream is a roundabout at the intersection of Sales Road and the West Service Road along the South Luzon Expressway. Also, shown in the photo is the Skyway ramp connecting the tollway to the Villamor and the NAIA terminal complex.

NAIA Terminal 3 multi-level parking building

I finally had the opportunity to take some quick photos as we drove through the departure level of NAIA’s Terminal 3. The objective was to take a few photos of the still closed multi-level parking facility adjacent to the terminal building, which could be accessed both from the ground and upper level driveways. It was late afternoon and it looked like it was going to rain so the photos were not as good as I would have liked them to be. Still, they clearly show the unused parking facility of T3 that could have been quite helpful to a lot of travelers especially those who wanted to leave their vehicles at the airport a few days or nights for short trips.

Driveway along the departure level of NAIA Terminal 3

Motor vehicle exit ramp from the departure level – the parking building is seen on the right

The parking building is seen immediately after the passenger terminal gates for departures

After unloading passengers and well-wishers, drivers could have proceeded to the parking building via the ramp from the second level driveway (shown at the right in the photo).

Ramp to Andrews Avenue – the Newport City development that contains several hotels including a Marriott Hotel and Resorts World Manila is located in the complex.