Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Walking and parking in Quezon City: Tomas Morato

Continuing on the series featuring pedestrian and parking facilities in Quezon City, featured in this post is the case of Tomas Morato Ave. Like Visayas and West Avenues, the pedestrian sidewalks and off-street parking spaces along the avenue were constructed to address the lack of off-street parking facilities and sufficient pedestrian walkways along streets that had significant commercial development. It should be noted, however, that the lack of parking spaces is due likely to many establishments not complying with the minimum standards set under the National Building Code and City Hall’s approval of plans and construction despite this non-compliance (note: LGUs issue the building permit upon approval of plans including what is supposed to be a review of compliance to various standards.).

Morato-1A view of a stretch of Tomas Morato Ave. – note the absence of or weathered pavement markings and the vehicles parked at spaces constructed by the Quezon City government. Space was relatively more limited along Morato and so much of the spaces available were allocated for parking. Pedestrians, thus end up walking along whatever remained or along the edge of the carriageway.

Morato-2Establishments such as the many restaurants along the street. From a purely transport planning perspective, one wonders how these establishments were able to get approval from City Hall without having enough parking slots for their customers. These are not your neighborhood turo-turo or karinderya types and so they will generate a lot of vehicle traffic and require more parking spaces in addition to the token slots they provide.

Morato-3Some of the larger and older establishments along Morato already have sufficient parking spaces and these were upgraded by the LGU to have uniformity along the road.

Morato-4The off-street parking spaces definitely benefited traffic as road capacity is not reduced by on-street parking. There are still problems though especially during noon and night time when the restaurants generate traffic resulting to some vehicles parked or standing along the street.

Morato-5One issue along the street are public parking constructed using public funds being reserved by establishments such as this bank along Morato.

Morato-6Another case concerns slots reserved by restaurants like this one.

There are still issues concerning the construction of parking spaces for establishments who have not complied with building standards (minimum parking spaces). These issues are rooted on the use of public funds that otherwise could have been used for other, perhaps more important purposes such as healthcare or classrooms. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that there are benefits derived from these parking spaces from the perspective of traffic flow. Moreover, the inclusion of pedestrian facilities definitely enhance safety. These are benefits which are often quite difficult to quantify in monetary terms but contribute to better quality of life for the general public. Such projects also show that the city is doing something to improve public facilities unlike the cases of other LGUs that have sufficient revenues but seem to be lacking in the provision of similar infrastructure.

Completed Quezon Avenue-Araneta Avenue underpass

The underpass along Quezon Avenue at its intersection with Araneta Avenue was finally completed and opened to traffic last September 28, 2012. It is perhaps one of the most anticipated inaugurations of infrastructure for Metro Manila and not an anti-climactic one like what was hyped as the completion of the loop formed by MRT3 and LRT1 a few years ago. That didn’t turn out well as we now know there is no loop at all with real connection of the two rail lines. But that, as they say, is another story worth another post or two.

Based on reports from different people including our office’s drivers and some colleagues, traffic has significantly improved in the area. The only joke going around is if the underpass will not be a catchment for floodwaters should there be strong rains considering that it was flooded during construction due to its proximity to the San Juan River and the perennially flooded areas of Talayan and Espana. There are, of course, pumps that have already been installed for the underpass to reduce if not eliminate the possibility of flooding. Following are a few photos taken one Saturday mid-morning when I passed along the area.

IMG04487-20121006-1058A view of the approach to the underpass from Banawe. The pedestrian overpass is across Sto. Domingo Church.

IMG04488-20121006-1059The section has 4 lanes with opposing traffic physically separated by a median island. The fence is likely to prevent jaywalking as well as maybe dissipate glare from headlights during night time.

IMG04489-20121006-1059Potted plants have been placed along the median and though perhaps more are needed, I am glad there are no concrete balls that look like goat poop used to “decorate” the underpass. Columns and girders support the underpass walls at near the junction with Araneta Ave.

IMG04490-20121006-1059Approaching the section directly under Araneta Avenue, the first impression is that it is quite dark though motorists can see the end of the underpass. Pumps have been installed to drain water from this lowest parts of the underpass and prevent it (or reduced) from being flooded during times of strong rains.

IMG04491-20121006-1059The end of the tunnel is practically a mirror image of the other. There are few potted plants as shown and perhaps more are needed to soften the look of the underpass as well as to reduce headlight glares.

IMG04492-20121006-1059Back at-grade – emerging from the underpass, motorists will eventually merge with the traffic along the wide sections of Quezon Avenue. On the opposite direction, I noticed some congestion for vehicle emerging from the underpass as there is a U-turn slot a few meters from the ramp at the Banawe area.

There are traffic signals to manage flows at the at-grade junction of Quezon Ave. and Araneta Ave. It is expected that by reducing the volume of through traffic along Quezon Ave., the signals would be able to handle the remaining traffic and that the intersection will not be as congested as the case prior to the construction of the underpass. Of course, I would also like to see for myself how traffic is in the area during the regular weekdays, particularly on the typically busy days of Monday and Friday.

Nomination for the next NCTS Director

The nomination process for the next Director of the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines is currently underway. The Nomination Committee is comprised of three members – Dr. Aura Matias (Dean, UP College of Engineering & Committee Chair), Dr. Mario Delos Reyes (Dean, UP School of Urban and Regional Planning), and Dr. Rene Rollon (Director, Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology of the UP College of Science). The nomination was open to all qualified persons from the University and particularly from the units currently having an active part with the NCTS through the Research and Extension Fellows from these units (i.e., Engineering, SURP, National College of Public Administration and Governance or NCPAG).

As of the deadline last September 28, 2012 only one person has been nominated. The lone nominee is Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano, an Assistant Professor from the Institute of Civil Engineering and currently the ICE’s Deputy Director for Students and Alumni. Dr. Palmiano previously held posts as technical staff of the NCTS, first as Transport Development Officer in the early 1990’s when the Center was still known as the Transport Training Center (TTC). Later, he was a University Extension Specialist and headed the Traffic Engineering & Management Group of the NCTS before eventually joining the faculty of the College of Engineering of UP Diliman. Dr. Palmiano graduated with a degree in BS Civil Engineering from UP Diliman and obtained his M.Eng. and Dr. Eng. degrees from the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Formal presentations were made today including one on the accomplishments of the NCTS under its outgoing Director, Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor, also from the ICE followed by Dr. Palmiano’s on his proposed plans and programs for the Center. The presentations were followed by an open forum and afterwards, interviews of stakeholders and the nominee by the Committee.

Dr. Palmiano starting his presentation on his proposed plans and programs for the next 3 years.

Dr. Palmiano reading from his notes during his presentation.

The presentation was attended by staff and fellows of the NCTS.

The Nomination Committee is to complete their evaluation this week and submit their recommendation to the UP Diliman Chancellor next week. The new NCTS Director will assume his post from November 2012.

Of stored value cards and other ways for paying fares

I was in Thailand for at least once a year during a certain stretch in the last decade as part of my university work. Whenever I was in Bangkok, I bought a one-day pass for me to have practically unlimited use of the BTS Skytrain for a day. Other times, I bought a 3-day pass in order for me to also see and experience the system. Those times in the past, there were no IC or stored value cards for use in commuting in the Thai capital like those in Singapore, Hongkong or Japan. And so I was quite happy to see the availability of a stored value card when I familiarized myself with the Skytrain last week.

The Rabbit card, as it was called, is a stored value card that still has limited use for commuting and other purposes. At present, it can only be used for the BTS Skytrain and a few shops. It cannot be used for buses, taxis or the MRT (Bangkok’s subway). There are three variants for the Rabbit card – one for students, one for senior citizens, and another for adults (all other people).

IMG04395-20120927-2057Front of the Rabbit Card

IMG04396-20120927-2057Back of the card where simple instructions for use of the card are indicated in both Thai and English.

The Rabbit card is not yet as useful, versatile or convenient as Singapore’s EZ-Link or Japan’s Suica and Pasmo commuter cards. Still, it is an improvement that will surely and steadily have more uses in the future. And so I look forward to the next trip to Bangkok when perhaps my Rabbit card will be useful for other modes of transport as well.

I am posting this article about the Rabbit Card as I listen to news about problems currently being experienced by the EDSA-MRT 3 in Metro Manila. It seems they had run out of stored value cards (maximum load of 100 PhP) and single journey cards that the administration had to resort to issuing paper tickets to accommodate the many commuters using the system.

There used to be RFID cards issued by the two giant telecommunications companies in the Philippines that could have been the solution to the current problems for the MRT3. Unfortunately, these have been phased out a few years ago. And so perhaps for the sake of the thousands of commuters using the MRT3 and other rail lines (and later even buses, jeepneys and taxis) in Metro Manila, transport officials finally invest in a card and/or pass that can be used by commuters and tourists alike. One would think that many who are with the DOTC, MRTC and the LRTA would have already experienced the systems in other countries and so they could have an idea of what could be so beneficial to public transport users here.

NAIA Terminal 1 arrival driveway and well-wishers area

Despite several opportunities in the past, I haven’t been able to take photos of the area for arriving passengers to be picked up by relatives or friends. I seem to forget doing including taking some while waiting for people at the building designated for sundo. And so I took a couple of photos while waiting for my ride showing the well-wishers area and the driveway for vehicles making pick-ups. Airport security usually limit the time for pick-ups as some vehicles tend to park and clog the area. There is another driveway immediately after exiting the main terminal building that is reserved for VIPs but some people who feel they are important have their drivers wait for them at the driveway featured below making them another breed of pasaway or pa-importante.

Well-wishers area – building for people fetching arriving passengers from across the Terminal 1 building. At the back of the building is an open parking lot. Inside the building at the second level is a branch of a popular fast food chain and a coffee shop, and just behind the building before the parking lot are kiosks offering refreshments and even meals to waiting people.

Duty Free Philippines branch at the waiting area.

Last year when talk was hot particularly about NAIA Terminal 1 being one of the worst hotels in the world, plans were being drawn about the renovations for T1. These plans included those from well-known Filipino architects that were eventually “dismissed” in favor of contracting the firm that originally designed the airport. While I have nothing against architects, I feel that T1 is one of those cases where they went more about aesthetics than functionality. This is an observation by many other people who have wondered why the airport didn’t have enough space for the typical groups (or droves?) of well-wishers that seems to be a cultural thing with Filipinos. And so the areas and buildings shown above will likely be among those to be included in a major renovation for T1 that is supposed to increase the capacity of this terminal and improve facilities for passengers and other users. However, more than a year has passed and I’ve seen nothing yet being done to the terminal.

Eastbound walk along Marcos Highway

I took a couple of photos of the walkway and bikeway along the eastbound side of Marcos Highway while traveling to Antipolo one weekend. This used to be a wide, open canal along the eastbound side of the highway, which forced pedestrians and cyclists to use the outermost lane of the carriageway. Such exposed people to a high risk of being sideswiped by motor vehicles that often speed along the sections shown in the following photos.

Sign indicating bicycle path along the eastbound side of Marcos Highway. The space is supposed to be shared with pedestrians. Concrete barriers are supposed to provide protection from wayward vehicles.

Treatment at driveways of establishments along Marcos Highway. Notice the white line delineating space for pedestrians and cyclists. The overpass at Dela Paz can be seen downstream in the photo. The overpass has a ramp for cyclists and persons with disabilities.

The pedestrian and cycle paths along both sides of Marcos Highway greatly enhance the safety features of the highway. These will especially be important come summer, particularly during the month of May, when many people take the Marcos Highway route to Antipolo Church in what is one of the most popular (if not the top) pilgrimages in the Philippines.