Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: November 2012

V. Luna Extension

V. Luna Extension starts from the intersection with Kalayaan Avenue runs until the boundary with Bgy. Botocan in Teachers Village where it becomes Maginhawa Street. It was mainly a residential street being practically part of the Teachers Village/Sikatuna Village area in Quezon City. The street has been widened to 4 lanes from its wide 2-lane carriageway. However, the additional lanes are not fully utilized for traffic. Rather, they are occupied by parked vehicles and, at some sections, informal tricycle terminals. Following are photos taken one weekday afternoon showing typical conditions along the road.

Section in front of SaveMore – while there are off-street parking spaces available at the supermarket side of the road and reducing on-street parking there, the other side’s curbside lane is occupied by a tricycle queue.

The tricycle queue extends well beyond the head shown in the previous photo. In the picture above, on-street parking in front of residential buildings along the street are shown. There is a yellow line painted on the pavement that seems to be a guide for the tricycles. While I am sure they try their best to park close to the curbside, these 3-wheelers still end up occupying significant road space, thereby reducing traffic capacity.

Further down the street one starts to realize that the tricycle queue seems to go on and as far as the eye could see in the photo. Note the tricycles parked on the other side of the road, probably just coming back or going around to get fares.

End of the line – still further down the street and quire near the end of the section designated as V. Luna Extension one can already see the end of the tricycle queue. One can just imagine how many more of these tricycles are going around the village and just how much drivers take home as their net income at the end of a very competitive day. I say competitive here because for the numbers alone at the informal terminal, you get the idea that demand is quite limited and that there is an over-supply of 3-wheelers in the area. Unfortunately, these transport modes are the source of livelihood for many people and to many, a career operating these vehicles seem to be targets for many who have limited opportunities to study and eventually find better-paying jobs.

Pedestrian crossings – from the previous photos, it is not hard to see that there are few places designated for crossings. In fact, along the entire length of this street (and others like it) people cross just about anywhere. This is possible since traffic is still typically not so heavy along this street.

Fork in the road – V. Luna Extension continues to the left but as Maginhawa Street in UP Teachers Village. The street on the right is also a part of a residential area, Bgy. Botocan, along which is the ROW of Meralco’s power transmission lines.

What if Manila retained its railway lines of old?

It is possible to trace the old railway lines of Manila to the towns to its east in what is now Rizal Province. I had seen it in one railway blog that one of my students showed me after we took up the history of railways in the Philippines where I showed them old maps of the railways in the Philippines. And so based on the descriptions found in those maps and texts combined with familiarity with the places mentioned there and the availability of a tool like Google Earth, it is possible to produce the following images showing two particular lines that could have been “game-changers” for a lot of people taking public transportation between Metro Manila and the areas to its east (i.e., towns in Rizal Province).

Traces of railway lines of old from Tutuban in Manila to Antipolo (blue) and San Mateo (green)

The blue line extending to Antipolo City passes through an area that is part of Valley Golf and ends up near the Antipolo Church (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage). This line could have been a major mode for commuters residing in Antipolo, Taytay, Cainta and Pasig City.

The line extending to San Mateo, Rizal passes through densely populated parts of Pasig and Marikina Cities. The line could have served people residing in these towns all the way to Rodriguez (Montalban).

The outcomes of the exercise of tracing old railway lines as shown in the previous photos allow us to appreciate and maybe contemplate on the “what ifs” and “what could have beens” if the Philippines did more efforts in retaining its railway system after the Second World War. I do not think planners at the time were able to anticipate the rapid development of the area that was to formally become Metro Manila in the 1970’s. While the road network plans were in place, thanks to the design by Daniel Burnham, what Manila and its environs needed was a transit network that did not depend on roads and something that would have been able to carry much more people (and maybe even freight) than the jeepneys and buses that emerged postwar. Perhaps we were not doomed to the current choices that we have and commuting would have been much simpler than the terrible experience many people from these eastern towns have every weekday. I leave it up to the reader to imagine how comfortable and convenient travel would have been along these lines.

Railway safety in the Philippines

As the Philippine National Railways (PNR) attracts more passengers and (currently) more support translating to more resources, it is hoped that the company will finally take off and perhaps help improve public transportation and commuting in general. The PNR has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts with the increased frequency and capacity for its commuter line. This, despite still many limitations pertaining to hardware such as its rolling stock and railway tracks (i.e., the PNR has double tracks only along its line Caloocan to Alabang, the rest is single track). The acquisition of newer trains for the commuter line and the upgrading of railway tracks helped revive flagging ridership though service frequencies are still quite limited due to the limitations mentioned. Among the major issues the PNR is still facing at present are encroachments to its right-of-way and safety concerns at the many level crossings along the tracks. While there have been efforts to improve safety by adding devices such as barriers and posting personnel to manage road traffic when trains are passing through, the system is still wanting in terms of safety and there has been a rash of incidents along its commuter and Bicol lines involving road vehicles and pedestrians. Of course, these are not all the PNR’s fault considering there are many “pasaway” people who still insist on crossing the tracks despite warnings of an arriving train. I am featuring below some aspects of rail and road safety that my students have collected during their research on the state of the PNR commuter line.

IMG_7753PNR Commuter Line train

Commuter lineThe PNR Commuter Line – indicated in red is the double track (two-way) stretch and in orange is the single track (one-way) part of the line that ends in Calamba. The line to Bicol is also single track.

CrossingsMap showing the list of level crossings along its Commuter Line between Caloocan, Manila and Calamba

DiamondThe PNR defines a diamond-shaped clearance at all level crossings. The diagram above was secured by my students from the PNR, clearly illustrating the area within which there should be (ideally) no obstructions.

Malugay BuendiaThe concept of diamond clearance as applied to level crossings at Malugay, Buendia (Gil Puyat) and Dela Rosa in Makati City.

Simoun-FajardoThe diamond clearance concept as applied along level crossings in Manila.

It is unfortunate that there was a recent derailment of a train in Bicol due to the failure of the railway tracks’ (soil saturation due to heavy rains). This incident will surely set back services until the section has been repaired and perhaps reinforced to prevent such happening again in the future. I always imagine the PNR’s Bicol Express during its glory days as my father has related stories of how good its service was then. This romanticized idea of rail is still alive today and the addition of sleeper and air-conditioned cars have attracted tourists visiting the Bicol Region to use the PNR. It is hoped that this could be sustained and services expanded in the near future. Of course, investments should go into make the Bicol Express line double track in addition to more trains to accommodate two-way traffic. I wouldn’t dream yet of high speed rail for this corridor but decent train services should be able to compete with buses and give travelers a safe and efficient option for travel over land.

CLRV: another look at the LPG Jeepney

The research on Customized Local Road Vehicles (CLRV) is currently underway with the project team going around the country to document different jeepney designs. The main objective of the study is to be able to formulate and recommend standards for jeepneys based on the requirements of stakeholders (e.g., passengers) and from the perspective of safety, ergonomics and efficiency. The last term is quite tricky as efficiency here generally refers to the performance of the vehicle, particularly related to fuel consumption. Efficiency may also touch on the capacity of the jeepneys, which would have implications on revenue (i.e., more passengers mean more fares).

Following are photos taken prior to the recent workshop held in Calamba, Laguna where the outcomes of previous workshops in Iloilo and Davao were presented for validation by a similar group of stakeholders. These included cooperatives, assemblers, automobile companies, NGOs, government agencies and other interested parties to the CLRV research. The study is being conducted under the auspices of the Philippine Council for Industry, Engineering and Energy Research and Development (PCIEERD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and funded by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

One of the jeepneys on display was a 24-seater LPG-powered jeepney by David Motors

Hyundai Theta engine converted for LPG

Another look at the engine, which is practically the same engine used by the popular Starex vans. There were two other LPG jeepneys that day with both having Toyota engines converted for LPG. The engines are from the ones used by Hi-Ace models.

Bench seats inside the LPG jeepney – there is still a door at the rear but it is used as an emergency exit rather than the main entry/exit for the vehicle. The sliding windows are sealed because of the air-conditioning installed for this jeepney.

The main door for the jeepney is at the right side just across from the driver. This design mimics those for buses and should enable more efficient collection of fares. That is, passengers may be asked to pay their fares immediately upon boarding the jeepney.

6A close look at the dashboard, which is a mix of parts coming from different vehicles. The steering wheel, for example, bears the emblem of Hyundai. This jeepney had power features such as power windows that can be controlled by switches on the panel board to the left of the steering wheel.

Driver’s rear view of passengers and whatever will be trailing the jeepney in traffic.

The jeepney door is operated through a lever, parts of which are taken from a gear shift. The handle is well within reach of the driver of the vehicle.

Exec. Dir. Rowena Guevara of DOST-PCIEERD interviews the driver and mechanic of this LPG from David Motors. According to them, the performance of the jeepney is the same as conventional ones and that this less noisy as well as having less emissions. Assemblers of LPG jeepneys say that consumption is about 7.3 km/kg of LPG, which compares well with the estimated 7.5 km/L of  diesel consumed by well-maintained conventional jeepneys. LPG is cheaper so it can be inferred that overall, drivers and operators would have increased revenues if they used LPG jeepneys.

The LPG jeepney is one (there are also electric jeepneys) of the variants being touted as the future of the vehicle. The “eco” tag is among the pitches for these jeepneys and should be a consideration for the study.