Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Loss of productivity due to congestion and inefficient public transport

I recently read two articles appearing in a major Philippine daily and a popular online site. The first one is an article that appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer – “PH economy losing $3.27B in human productivity due to traffic mess” – last September 25, 2012. The other article was posted on Rappler – “Traffic and infrastructure delays cost the Philippines” – last September 27, 2012. These were articles written after the authors’  attendance of what was an Energy and Infrastructure Forum last Sept. 25 where a transport official mentioned a recent study in his talk that estimates productivity losses of about 3.27B USD per year from Metro Manila traffic alone.


Traffic congestion along Commonwealth Avenue

Unusual traffic management scheme along Ortigas Avenue



The study from the National Center for Transportation Studies that was mentioned in both articles was actually first featured in a Yahoo! Philippines article – “Traffic congestion costs Metro Manila P137B per year” – that appeared a month earlier in Aug. 28, 2012. The study being referred to is actually a paper presented by Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor in his Professorial Chair lecture at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s College of Engineering Colloquium in early August 2012. A copy of the paper may be found below:

Prof Chair 2012 JRFR 02July2012

The main reference for this paper is the study on congestion costs that was produced by the National Center for Transportation Studies back in 2000. Credits go to the core team of Dr. Ricardo Sigua (Institute of Civil Engineering of UP Diliman), Dr. Noriel Tiglao (now with the National College of Public Administration and Governance) and Dr. Val Teodoro (now in the US) for the study. The

Economic Impacts of Traffic Congestion in Metro Manila – Cover+Chap 1 and 2

Economic Impacts of Traffic Congestion in Metro Manila – Chap 3

Economic Impacts of Traffic Congestion in Metro Manila – Chap 4 and 5

Economic Impacts of Traffic Congestion in Metro Manila – Appendix

A much needed update may be possible in the next two years once the traffic model for Metro Manila is updated and calibrated using new data from Household Informations Surveys (HIS) and other transport and traffic surveys under the current MUCEP study that is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Hopefully, such a model can be updated and calibrated more often in order to assess losses due to congestion and our continuing inability to provide the necessary infrastructure to alleviate the situation. While the paper and the study mentioned above focus on productivity losses, it should be emphasized that there are other costs that should be highlighted including those related to health (respiratory diseases and road crash fatalities and injuries), energy (fuel consumption and inefficiencies), and emissions (carbon and other GHG).

Walking and parking in Quezon City: West Avenue

Parking spaces and walkways were also constructed along West Avenue. Bollards separate the parking spaces from the pedestrian right of way. As mentioned in a previous post, many commercial establishments benefitted from this “freebie” from the Quezon City government considering many establishments didn’t even have the minimum number of parking spaces as stipulated in the National Building Code. The local government balked at charging parking fees but one opinion is that they should charge fees for on-street parking facilities that generally benefit car-owners more than they benefit non-owners. I personally believe that there should be parking fees in order to recover some funds that could be used for other programs that could have otherwise received funding that also could have benefited more people. Following are photos taken along West Ave.

Parking along West Ave. in front of an office building

One advantage of the project was the reduction of on-street parking though there are still those who prefer to wait along the roadside (i.e., those with drivers).

Parking spaces in front of a fine dining restaurant.

Parking spaces near the Delta area, which is the intersection of 3 major roads – Quezon Ave., West Ave., and Timog Ave.

Airport Rail Link in Bangkok

The last time I was in Bangkok was in 2005 or 2006 and so it has been a while since that last trip that I was curious about how the city would look like after 6 years. Was there anything new? Did it change much since the last time? At the very least, I was expecting to have new experiences and it didn’t take long before I had one, trying out the express rail link between Suvarnabhumi Airport and the city. The rail link was still under construction the last time I was in Bangkok and one had no choice at the time but to take a taxi or a shuttle between the airport and the hotel.

IMG04292-20120924-1620The walk from the arrival area to the Airport Link

IMG04293-20120924-1623Ticket vending machine with English instructions upon the press of a button. We purchased tickets for the Phaya Thai Express to transfer to the BTS Skytrain

IMG04300-20120924-1646Token for the Express Rail Link trip from the airport to Phaya Thai Station – the link is operated by the State Railway of Thailand, their counterpart of our Philippine National Railways. The trip cost 90 Baht (~ 130 PhP), very cheap compared to taking a taxi.

IMG04295-20120924-1629Passengers inside the Airport Link Train

IMG04302-20120924-1650Walk from the Airport Rail Link’s Phaya Thai Station to the BTS Skytrain Station

IMG04303-20120924-1651Looking back at the Phaya Thai Station

IMG04304-20120924-1651Phaya Thai Station of the BTS Skytrain

It would be very nice to have a similar rail link between the MRT 3 or LRT 1 Lines and NAIA in Manila. In fact, how difficult would it be for the LRT1 Line to have an extension to the airport terminals of NAIA when it’s depot is just across the road from the old domestic terminal? This would probably be easier than constructing a new monorail or whatever system it is that is being planned between Bonifacio Global City and NAIA. It is definitely much easier and perhaps cheaper compared to the still-born Northrail between Caloocan and Clark. One thing for sure is that we are really behind our ASEAN neighbors when it comes to providing the infrastructure for public transport, in this case airport access.


Walking and parking in Quezon City: Visayas Avenue

I’m initiating a series of posts on Quezon City – focusing on the pedestrian and parking facilities that were constructed not so long ago. As part of a city-wide project using local funds generated from QC’s internal revenue allotment (IRA) and other incomes, the city constructed pedestrian sidewalks and off-street parking spaces along its major roads. These included roads like Quezon Avenue, Visayas Avenue, West Avenue and Tomas Morato Avenue. I believe that these facilities provide example of good practices for other cities seeking to enhance walkability while addressing on-street parking issues.

Following is a photo journal of pedestrian and parking along Visayas Avenue.


Spacious pedestrian walkways along Visayas Ave. visible upon turning right from the Elliptical Road.

Vis-2Combination of parking and pedestrian walkway along Visayas Ave. along a line of commercial establishments, mostly restaurants and shops along the road. There are bollards to separate parking spaces from the walkways.

Vis-3Despite the opportunities during the project, many lamp or electric posts have not been moved/transferred. These create obstructions in addition to the common practice of delivery trucks backing up and blocking pedestrian paths.

Vis-4Commercial and residential buildings along Visayas Ave. have benefited from the project as there were no off-street parking along most sections of the road and pedestrian facilities were often the token sidewalks that are also often obstructed with debris or vendors.

Vis-5There are few other cities in the Philippines with off-street parking such as this that does not intrude into the rights of way for pedestrians. Then again, there are also limited opportunities where space is generally not available for such projects.

Vis-6Most establishments along this side of Visayas Ave. had adequate frontage space or buffers (likely part of the road’s ROW) that made it possible to have pedestrian and parking spaces.

In the last local elections, parking fees for these spaces became an issue. Since government money was used to construct the parking facilities where there were none despite minimum parking requirements for establishments as stipulated under the National Building Code, some councilors proposed parking fees to recover the cost of construction. Some sectors including the businesses rejected the proposal stating that these benefit the general public. In an unusual move, the Catholic Church in QC even stated in a pastoral letter (!) that parking fees were anti-poor, something that was difficult to understand given that car-owners were the first to benefit from off-street parking. I doubt if what we regard as poor people would own cars. Parking fees were never implemented along this road and others like it.

Another look at the Marcos Highway bikeways and pedestrian walkways

The improvement of Marcos Highway included provisions for pedestrian walkways and bikeways along both sides of the highway. The inclusion of such provisions was a welcome development as both sides of the highway, particularly along the stretch from Dela Paz to Santolan, lacked pedestrian facilities. This situation has forced a lot of people to walk on the carriageway, putting them at risk of being sideswiped by motor vehicles like jeepneys and cars that are often speeding along Marcos Highway. I experienced this walking from SM Marikina to Robinsons Metro East one time I couldn’t get a ride from the Santolan Station. One had to watch out for puddles and canals in addition to watching one’s back for speeding vehicles that often come close to the roadside.

Concrete barriers along the curbside of the highway – the intention seems to be to protect pedestrians or cyclists from wayward motor vehicles in addition to the preventing the same vehicles from mounting the sidewalks

Pasaway? – taxis at an LPG station parked or standing along the bikeways and pedestrian sidewalks.

Taxis maneuvering as if all the space is for them including the space designated for pedestrian and bicycle use.

Spacious walkways and bikeways along westbound side of Marcos Highway. Lamp posts are installed to provide sufficient illumination not just for motor vehicles but for pedestrians and cyclists as well.

Obstructions? – some lamp posts seem to be in the middle of the walkways and bikeways , posing hazards to cyclists. This issue can be addressed at the very least by painting the posts so that they will be visible especially at night time.

I will be writing more about walking and pedestrian facilities in the coming weeks in order to highlight good practices in the Philippines. I am currently looking forward to a trip to Thailand where I hope to collect photos of transport and traffic in Bangkok. It’s been a while since I last traveled to Bangkok so I am quite eager to see how Bangkok looks like particularly considering the destructive floods of last year when the waters of the Chao Praya River breached its banks.

Airport congestion and options to decongest NAIA

Airport congestion refers to two things – congestion at the passenger terminal and congestion at the runway(s). The first may be found in several areas of an airport terminal. Among these areas are at the check-in counters, the immigration counters, customs and the baggage claim counters. Congestion may also refer to the areas allotted to well-wishers although depending on the terminal layout or design, these can be integrated with the check-in or arrival areas. The second concerns aircraft take-offs and landings, and queuing is present both on the ground and in the air. Congestion on the ground can be observed at the end of a runway from where aircraft may be queued according to air traffic control. Congestion in the air is observed in the form of aircraft circling the vicinity of the airport at various designated distances (radius) and altitudes.

Congestion of the first kind is a given at most major airports in the Philippines especially for international flights where security is tighter and there are immigration and customs processes that passengers need to go through. In most cases including domestic flights, airports are usually congested due to the well-wishers taking passengers to the airport or welcoming the same as they arrive. It is not uncommon to see jeepney-loads or tricycle-loads of well-wishers at Philippine airports as it is customary to take relatives or friends (hatid) to the airport or fetch (sundo) people at the terminal

The second type of congestion hogged the headlines earlier this year and during the summer months of April and May when take-off and arrival delays plagued aircraft at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Some flights were even cancelled, causing much headaches for passengers and particularly those with connecting flights both for domestic and international destinations. The culprit, technically, seems to be the limited capacities of NAIA’s intersecting runways. Some critics, however, have pointed out that the airlines should share part of the blame for having schedules packed during the day times and offering so many promos. While they have a poin there in as far as scheduling is concerned, one can’t blame airlines from offering such as day flights are more attractive to passengers.

Aircraft queued along the taxiway leading to NAIA’s main runway

A newly arrived plane cuts into the  queued along the taxiway towards the eastern end of NAIA’s main runway

There are currently several options to decongest the airport in Manila. Many of these are actually proposals that are impractical if not too expensive. One option is to transfer international operations to Clark, which is about 220 kilometers from NAIA or 200 kilometers from Quezon City via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). It seems to be the most viable solution and has been compared with the location of other international airports like Narita and Suvarnabhumi, which are outside the metropolitan areas. The thing here is that there needs to be a good link between the airport and the metropolis, which presumably generates much of the demand for the airport. So far, there is already the NLEX for road transport and it should not take so long for someone to travel from, say, Quezon City to Clark. Meanwhile, a rail link has taken so much time in the planning (or procrastinating?) stage that it seems more and more that the Northrail will never become a reality in the foreseeable future.

Two other options have been put forward recently, one by a major corporation that has now expanded its portfolio to include infrastructure, particularly on transportation, and another by a consortium that has developed reclaimed areas along Manila Bay. The head executive of the San Miguel Corporation, which now controls Philippine Airlines, announced plans to build their own airport, initially likely to be somewhere in the province of Bulacan, which is just north of Metro Manila and a shorter distance away compared to Pampanga, which hosts Clark. No details were given making a lot of interested parties including airport aficionados think about which areas in Bulacan are viable and spacious enough to host an airport of international standards. More recent is the idea for the development of the Sangley Point airport that will require reclamation and still another airport link towards the reclaimed areas that include PAGCOR City and the SM MOA. This last proposal seems to be morphing into something that San Miguel is said to be considering based on at least one report that came out today. I think the bottomline here, which ever option is taken, is that we need to have a modern airport that will be able to handle current and projected passengers and freight given our aspirations for commerce and tourism plus the fact that more and more Filipinos are traveling given the OFWs abroad. Decisions will have to be made and government should have a say here considering it is a major piece of infrastructure being considered. One opinion is that we simply cannot rely on the private sector to decide on this and such decisions need to be guided based on the public interest and good.

Quezon Ave. underpass at Araneta Ave.: some expectations and issues

The underpass along Quezon Ave. at its junction with Araneta Ave. is set to open to general traffic this coming week. I got this from a reliable source who was involved in the project as well as friends from the DPWH and the MMDA. If the opening pushes through, the underpass is expected, based on analysis, to ease traffic along both major roads with Quezon Avenue’s through traffic having the most benefit from the uninterrupted flow provided by the underpass. At-grade traffic management at the intersection will still be provided mainly by traffic signals but the substantial reduction of traffic attributed to the through movements along Quezon Ave. The reduction of congestion comes as a relief to a lot of travelers as well as businesses affected by the construction of the underpass in the last year. Fortunately, there has been little delay in the construction and so it seems that lost times due to construction-related congestion (translated here as sacrifices for those who had to endure daily traffic congestion and had to adapt to the situation) will finally be compensated for. Many, indeed, have been anticipating the eventual opening of the underpass, expecting the facility to solve congestion in the area.

The area has been subject to flooding considering its proximity to the San Juan River. Official data for flood occurrences in the area can be accessed through the Department of Science and Technnology’s (DOST’s) Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards website where it is clear that flooding will be an enduring problem for the underpass and surrounding areas. Recent reports (from last week until today) indicate that there is still the specter of flooding that will have to be addressed given that prior to the construction of the overpass, this issue had already been flagged by various stakeholders including the Quezon City Government. It is for this reason that the underpass will have pumps to ensure that water will not accumulate and lead to the closure of the facility in times of heavy rains resulting in flash or regular flooding.