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Whatever happened to…?

June 2013
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Today, we step back and review a few items we have written about in this blog. I’ve chosen my top ten of what I thought were transport programs and projects that deserve to be checked. Here they are with notes on what went on from the year 2010 and the current state on these items. They are not arranged in any order so there is no item prioritized over the others.

Whatever happened to:

1. Wangwang – In 2010, the current administration through the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) implemented a program practically eradicating our roads of illegal users of sirens (wangwang) that have become a major irritant (and perhaps pet peeve) to many road users. At present, there are many reports of politicians and other (feeling) VIPs employing PNP escorts to part traffic. In some cases, motorcycle police or bodyguards in escort vehicles rudely engage other motorists and there have been allegations of some pointing guns at other drivers to force them to give way.

2. LRT Line 2 extension to Masinag – In 2010, plans to extend LRT Line 2 from Santolan to Masinag were revived. The extension is supposed to be a no-brainer considering the design of the elevated line including the two stations comprising the extension could be based on the existing Line 2. The only major modifications here would be if the stations were to be connected to the shopping malls in their areas (Sta Lucia or Robinsons Metro East at Imelda Ave/P. Tuazon and SM at Masinag). Do we really need to have another study to tell us how many people will be riding Line 2 should it be extended to Masinag? The number of people waiting at Katipunan, Santolan and the Metro East/Sta. Lucia and the number of jeepneys cutting trips are strong indications of demand. In fact, I believe the line should be extended all the way to Cogeo but then the design there is more challenging as that extension would be up the mountains of Antipolo.

3. EDSA-MRT capacity expansion – The past 3 years have seen a steady increase in users of rail mass transit in Metro Manila and particularly as congestion along our roads continue to worsen. EDSA is always congested and the experience of last Monday’s monstrous congestion along the corridor reminded us of just how important a higher capacity MRT Line 3 would be to ease congestion along EDSA. The bidding for the rolling stock have been delayed and there might be a need to expand stations in the future to accommodate the longer trains required to serve the demand for this line. Needless to say, the only option now is to increase service frequencies but these have limitations.

4. Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – Much work has been rendered for the Cebu BRT, which was touted as the less costly (compared to rail transit) solution to traffic woes in Philippine cities. After a presentation of the Cebu BRT in Malacanang, the President was supposed to have asked for a “proof of concept” for the transit system before giving his approval for the project to be implemented. This boggles our minds because it is not like the BRT is a conceptual system. In fact, there are BRTs that are currently operational in many countries including our neighbors in ASEAN. Among the most successful lines are found in Brazil (Curitiba) and Colombia (Bogota), and there is also the success story of the Lagos (Nigeria) BRT where the transit system has succeeded despite the odds it faced from the start.

5. NAIA Terminal 3 parking building – I have written about this before and it remains a pet peeve of mine considering I and the wife  are frequent flyers who used Terminal 3 every month in 2011 and 2012. It’s difficult to get parking space at Terminal 3, especially slots for leaving one’s vehicle overnight or a few days (e.g., for business trips). The news is that the government is now working towards having T3 fully operational by 2014 and so there is hope that the multi-level parking facility will also be finally opened for use by the public.

6. Organized Bus Route (OBR) – Unlike the UVVRP or number coding, which has evolved little since its inception in the 1990s, the OBR has somewhat mutated but with little impact along the stretch of EDSA where it is supposed to contribute to significant improvements to traffic. The latest version is a dispatching system using computer tools. The jury is still out there regarding the success or failure of the system but the scheme still does not address the root cause of problems regarding bus operations along EDSA including the perceived over-supply of buses, colorum (illegal) buses, and overlapping routes.

7. Metro Manila BRT – The Pre-Feasibility Study for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was completed back in 2006. The MMDA has attempted to come up with its version of the BRT but has failed to implement plans along EDSA and C5. In the last 2 years, however, there has been some activity with the World Bank pushing the DOTC to identify a corridor for a Metro Manila BRT line. Two corridors so far have been studied: Ortigas Avenue (Aurora Blvd to Tikling) and Quezon Ave./Espana (Philcoa to Lerma). The project so far has also been subject to the “proof of concept” challenge.

8. Clark Airport expansion – The number of flights at Clark is steadily increasing as more passengers have been using the airport for both domestic and international flights. Flights are served by budget airlines like Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, and allows passengers from Central and Northern Luzon a close airport for international travel. There is a need for a larger terminal for Clark and the master plan for the airport has called for a facility that would allow the airport to handle passengers of the magnitude currently being served by NAIA. Unfortunately, there is no pronouncement yet about whether NAIA, Clark or both will serve as the gateway(s) to the National Capital Region and surrounding regions.

9. Northrail – The rail line was supposed to provide a high speed connection between Metro Manila and Clark, connecting what is now Bonifacio Global City (Fort Bonifacio) and the Clark International Airport, which are developments that were under the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). After so many years and several proponents, there are now plans for an airport express train connecting Metro Manila with Clark but it seems something that is still at the study stage and quite far from being implemented.

10. NAIA Terminal 1  renovations – In 2010, a group of architects and designers came up with a plan to renovate and upgrade NAIA’s Terminal 1. The government dropped this proposal in 2011 and had the project bidded out with the original designer of T1 emerging as the winner. Nothing happened after that and now the news is that the DOTC is engaging the designers to work with the winning firm to finally work on the much maligned T1. This is a project a lot of people would like to see implemented as T1 serves most of the international flights connecting to Manila. Currently, only PAL, Ceb Pac and ANA use T2 and T3. All other airlines use T1, which means most foreigners likely have a first impression of the country based on what they see in T1.


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