Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Gen. Santos Avenue

Connecting Circumferential Road 6 (C-6), M.L. Quezon Street and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is the stretch of road known as Gen. Santos Avenue. The following photos taken during one trip to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Bicutan, Taguig City describes the road and adjacent areas.

IMG04749-20121109-1144Junction with M.L. Quezon St. where C-6 becomes Gen. Santos Ave.

IMG04750-20121109-1144Counterflow – tricycles traveling against the flow of traffic

IMG04751-20121109-1144The avenue is a four-lane, two-way road with opposing traffic separated by a narrow median island with a steel fence. Most of the road had faded or no pavement markings.

IMG04752-20121109-1145Along the road are several government facilities including Camp Bagong Diwa, the NCRPO’s
headquarters and host to suspects to some of the most celebrated cases such as those involved in a massacre in Mindanao. The camp is located along the south side of the avenue.

IMG04754-20121109-1149There are also public schools along the avenue including the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Taguig (Taguig City University). The University shares a compound along the north side of the avenue with other city institutions like the city’s Hall of Justice (pictured above) and, surprisingly, the City Jail.

IMG04755-20121109-1149Students crossing the street in front of one of the gates leading to the Pamantasan. Further on, after Camp Bagong Diwa is a branch of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), which is a state university.

IMG04756-20121109-1149There are wider median islands with plant boxes along the stretch of the avenue fronting the DOST compound.

IMG04757-20121109-1150Sag vertical curve section leading to the DOST compound’s main gate

IMG04758-20121109-1150Jeepneys plying routes in Bicutan are lined up at an informal terminal occupying the pedestrian sidewalk in front of the DOST compound. Such practice denies pedestrians of safe walking space.

IMG04759-20121109-1150Main gate of the DOST compound – further on to the west at the end of Gen. Santos Ave. is the Bicutan interchange with the SLEX.

Link: Measuring Transport Efficiency

I’m sharing a recent article from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. The article is entitled Measuring Transport System Efficiency that appears in the Planetizen online journal. It’s a very good read for all, even those without planning or engineering backgrounds, who want to have an understanding of how to evaluate or assess transport systems according to the various aspects of a system (e.g., there’s a difference between conventional road planning and accessibility-based transport planning). Todd is as usual very good in discussing these topics given his experience and expertise, and is able to present it in a manner that is easily understood by any reader (well, except maybe the trolls we find anywhere online these days).

Happy reading!

Rationalizing public transport in the Philippines

I got a copy of the recent study “Development of a Mega Manila Public Transportation Planning Support System” conducted by UP Diliman’s National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) for the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). The main outcome of the study was a planning support system that includes an updated database of bus, jeepney and UV Express routes for Metro Manila and its surrounding areas (collectively called Mega Manila), and a calibrated travel demand model for the region that is supposed to be used by the DOTC and the LTFRB in transport planning including the rationalization of public transport in the region. Among the notable recommendations for addressing public transport issues is the following on the classification of routes according to passenger demand, which I quote from the study:

“…routes and modes may be classified and prioritized as follows:

  • Routes with Very High Passenger Demand [>160,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by high capacity modes such as rail-based transit or Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) with passing lanes.
  • Routes with High Passenger Demand [100,000 to 160,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by high capacity vehicles such as Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) without passing lanes;
  • Routes with Medium Passenger Demand [10,000 to 100,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by PUVs with 60 or less passengers/seats but not less than 22 passengers (excluding driver) such as buses, CLRVs with more than 22 passengers/seats (including driver), or with 90 passengers/seats in the case of double decker or articulated buses;
  • Routes with Low Passenger Demand [not exceeding 10,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by PUVs with less than 22 passengers/seats (including driver) such as jeepneys and other paratransit modes.

Under this principle, high capacity modes would have priority in terms of CPC allocation and transit right of way in a particular route over lower capacity modes with the exception of taxis. The latter, after all, operate as private cars rather than PUVs with fixed routes.

Applications to operate bus and/or minibus service in jeepney routes can be considered, but not the other way around. Similarly, bus service applications can be considered in minibus routes but not otherwise.

Based on the analysis of routes, the establishment of public transportation routes and the corresponding modes of services may be based on the following criteria:

• Passenger demand patterns and characteristics
• Road network configuration
• Corresponding road functions (road hierarchy)
• Traffic capacities and
• Reasonable profits for operation of at most 13% ROI.”
[Source: DOTC (2012) Development of a Mega Manila Public Transportation Planning Support System, Final Report.]

An interesting figure in the report is an illustration of how services can be simplified using buses and rail transport as an example. The following figure shows two maps: one showing the plotted EDSA bus routes (left) and another showing a more consolidated (and rational) route network for buses complementing existing and proposed rail mass transit systems.

Simplify1Simplifying bus transport services (source: DOTC, 2012)

What are not included in the figure above are the prospects for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems for Metro Manila. Since the Final Report was submitted in mid 2012, there have been many discussions for BRT in the metropolis and current efforts are now focused on the assessment of a BRT line along Ortigas Avenue. The World Bank is supporting the evaluation of a route between Tikling Junction near the boundary of Antipolo and Taytay (Rizal Province) and Aurora Boulevard. There are also informal talks of a BRT line along Commonwealth Avenue but that would have implications on the proposed MRT-7 along the same corridor. Nevertheless, such mass transit systems have long been required for Metro Manila and their construction have been overdue. A more efficient public transport system will definitely have tremendous impacts on how we commute between our homes, workplaces, schools and other destinations. Long distances can easily be addressed by better transport options and could actually help solve issues pertaining to informal settlements, relocations and housing. That topic, of course, deserves an article devoted to this relationship between transport and housing. Abangan!

Transport gaps

I first learned about the concept back in the 1990’s when I was a graduate student at UP majoring in transportation engineering. The concept on transport gaps was first mentioned in a lecture by a visiting Japanese professor as he was discussing about transport modes, particularly on which was suitable or preferable over certain travel distances and which could carry more passengers. Another time later and while in Japan, I heard about the concept during a presentation of a friend of his technical paper on public transport.

The figure below is one of many possible illustrations of the concept of transport gaps. In the figure, a distinction is made for mass transport and individual transport. As the original figure is likely taken from a textbook or a paper (probably from Japan), shown with a white background are the more conventional modes of transport including subways, urban and suburban railways, walking and a mention of the shinkansen (more popularly known as the bullet train). With a  gray background in the original figure is a category on new urban transit systems that include monorails, AGTs and LRTs. If we attempt to qualify local transport modes such as jeepneys, UV Express, tricycles and pedicabs into the graph, the outcome can be like what is illustrated with different color backgrounds in the figure below.


The concept of transport gaps allow us to visualize which modes are suitable for certain conditions where other established modes of transport may not be available or viable. In the original figure, the gap in Japan is filled by new urban transit systems. In our case, gaps are filled by so-called indigenous transport modes such as jeepneys, multicabs, tricycles, pedicabs and even habal-habal (motorcycle taxis).

There are gaps in the Philippine case probably and partly because of the slow development of public transport systems such as the mass transport modes shown in the preceding figure. There was a significant gap right after World War 2 when the tranvia and other railways were destroyed during the war. That gap was filled by the jeepney. There was also a gap in the early 1990’s that was eventually filled by FX taxis. Such gaps can obviously be filled by more efficient modes of transport but intervention by regulating agencies would be required and rationalizing transport services can only be addressed with the provision of mass transport options complemented by facilities for walking and cycling that will complement these modes.

UP-AGT test runs

Happy New Year!

I start the year with a short feature on the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) prototype at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) campus. The prototype has been featured in a number of articles in quad media in the recent weeks of November and December after its delivery and a few runs along the elevated test track at the campus. A project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its PCIEERD and MIRDC, and in cooperation with UPD, the vehicle has caught the attention of the general public and particularly those who have advocated for better public transport services in Metro Manila and other Philippine cities. Many are excited about the prospects of a “home-grown” system being constructed and operated in Metro Manila, and the buzz about the AGT replacing the IKOT jeepneys of UP Diliman is still very much alive despite clarifications by both the DOST and UP about this being a R&D project as well as questions regarding sustainability and practicality. Following are a few photos of the AGT prototype during one of its demonstration runs last December.

IMG05182-20121213-1036Unfinished platform at the Jacinto Street end of the test track allowing access to the vehicle’s underside and bogey and the loading platform

IMG05185-20121213-1048View of the test track from the platform – note again the absence of rail tracks as the AGT employs rubber tires. Wheels travel along the two concrete guideways shown in the photo. That’s the CHED building along C.P. Garcia Ave. downstream from the position of the AGT

IMG05187-20121213-1107Driver’s perspective of the test track – the vehicle will eventually be driver-less (hence, automated) but for the test runs, there will initially be a driver to make sure the train operates correctly

IMG05195-20121213-1117Connection – the two prototype vehicles are connected by this crude assembly that is definitely one of the things that would need to be reconsidered in subsequent vehicles. Perhaps an automatic coupler should be installed in the future?

IMG05213-20121213-1148Dr. Ric Sigua of the Institute of Civil Engineering inspecting the pick-up system for the AGT prototype with DOST project staff.

IMG05242-20121220-0947DOST-PCIEERD and UP Diliman faculty (from the Institute of Civil Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute and School of Urban and Regional Planning) exchange ideas on the prototype.

IMG05190-20121213-1110View of the end of the test track showing the two guideways employed by the vehicle and traffic along the University Avenue

The initial runs of the AGT have been exclusive demonstrations to government officials including those in national agencies, guests from the private sector, and partners with UP Diliman. The formal test runs will start in January 2013 but there are still no details on how these will be carried out in order to determine the functionality and safety of the prototype. Already, there are informal discussions on what needs to be improved in the prototype based on the initial observations and inspections conducted by faculty members from UP Diliman’s College of Engineering who will be involved in the technical evaluation of the prototype. Hopefully, such evaluations can be completed at the soonest and improvements are considered prior to a full system eventually being constructed and made available for public use. Where that system can be constructed and operated is still up in the air but should definitely be somewhere where the system is needed and where it can be a showcase for localized technology.