Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: October 2013

SuperCat trip from Calapan to Batangas

We were glad that we were able to get on either the SuperCat or FastCat for our return trip to Batangas after a meeting in Calapan. For one, this meant that our travel will only be an hour, 1.5 hours less than a trip on a regular RORO ferry.  The RORO ferry schedule also didn’t favor an early arrival in Batangas considering we also had to travel back to Metro Manila. The SuperCat staff earlier didn’t sell us tickets because they were not sure there would be SuperCat trip in the afternoon given the conditions at sea.

IMG06789-20130919-1647SuperCat staff had to assist passengers as they boarded the vessel due to the rough waters that frequently lifted the vessel and make one lose his/her balance.

IMG06790-20130919-1647Another photo showing staff assisting boarding passengers. Each passenger had to go one at a time and at intervals due to the movements of the docked vessel.

IMG06791-20130919-1649Inside the craft, it was obvious that this was a much better vessel than the regular RORO ferries plying the same Calapan-Batangas route. The seats were more comfy and the interior was clean and obviously well-maintained, and that includes the toilets on the vessel. There was airconditioning and staff were more professional and attentive to passengers (probably taking after airline flight attendants). There were few passengers so some people had entire rows to themselves.

IMG06792-20130919-1710Passengers may place their bags or things under their seats or in front of them as there were no overhead compartments or space for stowing luggage and other items. Passengers with no one beside them put their bags on the empty seats instead.

IMG06793-20130919-1716The crew served us some simple snack comprising of peanuts, a cupcake and a fruit drink. There were items like sandwiches, junk food and other drinks available at the bar inside the SuperCat but choices were limited and I learned their stocks were already depleted as this was the last trip for the day for the SuperCat. There were no night time fast craft trips.

2013-09-19 17.01.53I tried to get photo of what was showing on the television screen but the choppy waters combined with the dim lighting didn’t favor my BlackBerry’s camera. There was only one screen and it’s size is obviously not suitable for passengers seated farther from the front. It didn’t really matter because it was only a 1-hour trip between Calapan and Batangas when using the SuperCat.

2013-09-19 18.12.03Dim lights as passengers disembark from the fast craft. Outside, crewmen assisted passengers who might lose their balance due to the instability of the vessel due to the rough waters.

It was already drizzling when we got out of the terminal and rain was pouring as we drove out of Batangas and unto the STAR tollway.

Souvenir shops at NAIA Terminal 1

NAIA’s Terminal 1 recently reclaimed the unenviable title of worst airport in the world. While I have seen worse airports in the country, NAIA happens to be the country’s main gateway to the world. Thus, there are a lot of expectations regarding the airport including the facilities and most importantly, the quality of services provided to passengers at the terminals. Just this week, NAIA’s radar had to go through maintenance works and it was shut down for a few days. The shutdown meant air traffic had to be managed manually. The result was quite disastrous to airlines schedules and a lot of flights were delayed or cancelled, thereby costing a lot of people a lot of money.

One feature of international airport terminals are the shops. Most major terminals would have the typical duty free shops selling chocolates, alcohol, and luxury brand items. Many terminals would have shops selling specific merchandise or local products that are popular or associated for that country like electronics, jewelry, fabrics and various crafts. Local crafts are stuff that foreign travelers would probably look for in airports especially for last minute souvenir shopping. If the price is reasonable, then I would assume that such products will sell quite decently at airports.

In the case of NAIA, there are more handicrafts stores at Terminal 1, which serves most international airlines flying to Manila. The larger handicrafts stores are located at the end of the corridor in between the entrances to the two main wings of the terminal and are featured in this post.

IMG07039-20131006-0545Arts and handicrafts stores sell mainly local or Philippine-made goods. I say mainly because I’ve seen souvenirs like miniature or toy jeepneys and tricycles that are actually made in China.

IMG07040-20131006-0545Souvenir shops are mostly open early in the morning except a few like this curiously named “Multi-gift” boutique.

IMG07041-20131006-0545I like this shop “Children of Maisog arts and crafts.” I think their products are authentic and of high quality. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the prices are not pang-airport or pang-turista (for tourists). They are comparable to those in the malls or even some trade fairs.


Walking to our meeting venue, I saw this small bus stopped at an intersection. I remembered a similar bus that we rode between the JR Shibuya Station and the Philippine Embassy in Nanpeidai (in the Shibuya District) in the late 1990s. The mini-bus is a form of paratransit that’s right there with the jitneys and van services that provide mainly short distance public transport services in, among others, city centers and residential areas.


The fare is fixed at 100 JPY and you can use your Suica or Pasmo card to pay your fare. Something like this could be suitable for CBDs in the Philippines including the Makati CBD, Ortigas CBD and maybe the future Quezon City CBD that is being developed in the north triangle area of that city. Other city centers where this mini-bus can be used are those in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Bacolod. Perhaps most desirable are low emission versions of this vehicle including, if available, electric buses. At present, Makati has electric jeepneys plying 3 routes along city roads in the Makati CBD. These will complement regular bus or rail services and should replace jeepneys along specific routes.

Proposal for a Special Mass Transit Support Fund

There are three bills currently being discussed at the Senate that were filed by Sen. Ralph Recto. These propose the restructuring of the special funds derived from the Motor Vehicle Users’ Charge (MVUC) in order to allocate funds for mass transportation.

Senate Bill 446 – An Act Creating The Special Mass Transit System Support Fund, Reallocating The Disposition of Monies Collected From The Motor Vehicle User’s Charge, Amending For The Purpose Sections 7 And 8 Of Republic Act No. 8794, Otherwise Known As The Motor Vehicle User’s Charge Act of 2000.

Senate Bill 611 – An Act Creating The Special Mass Transit System Support Fund To Provide Additional And Long-Term Funding To Priority Mass Transit Projects In The Greater Metro Manila Area, Amending For The Purpose Sections 7 And 8 Of Republic Act No. 8794, Otherwise Known As The Motor Vehicle User’s Charge Act of 2000.

Senate Bill 621 – An Act Creating The Special Mass Transit System Support Fund Amending For The Purpose Sections 7 And 8 Of Republic Act No. 8794, Otherwise Known As The Motor Vehicle User’s Charge Act of 2000.

The National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) was requested to submit a position paper on these bills by the Senate Committee on Public Works that is chaired by Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. The Center drafted one and submitted the 4-page document to the Committee secretariat last October 16, 2013. A copy of the position paper may be downloaded from the following link:

NCTS PositionPaper MVUC 16Oct2013

The Senate Committee on Public Works held a public hearing last October 17, 2013 at the Lorenzo Tanada Room at the Senate. The NCTS Director, Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano, was invited as a resource person for the hearing and joined representatives of agencies such as the DPWH, DBM, DOF, LTO and the Road Board in providing insights and comments on the proposed bills. The same agencies were also requested to provide pertinent data for the committee to evaluate the proposed changes to R.A. 8794. Such data include information on past disbursements and approved projects that used the special funds under the MVUC.

Disaster preparedness and resilience for the Philippines

The earthquakes that affected mainly the provinces of Bohol and Cebu in central Philippines this morning reminds us of the need to be more prepared for such natural occurring calamities that are practically unpredictable. I like what the Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum stated about the need to check design, materials and construction workmanship for structures in order to have these built in compliance with structural engineering guidelines covering seismic design. These apply also to transport infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports and ports. These are important for relief operations as accessibility is critical to mitigate impacts of disasters.

I post the photos of some of the heritage churches we were able to visit during travels to Bohol in 2008 and 2012 as a reminder of sorts of what we probably have lost in terms of cultural heritage assuming we are unable to restore these structures to their old forms. Perhaps the local (and national) chapters of architects (UAP) and civil engineers (PICE) should pitch in to make sure restoration work will be undertaken with care and of the highest quality.

IMG_2348Bell tower of the Loboc Church in Bohol, which crumbled due to the earthquake

IMG_2352Loboc Church, which was also destroyed by the earthquake

IMG_2379Baclayon Church, also in Bohol, whose watchtower was destroyed by the earthquake

IMG_2374Interior of Baclayon Church

IMG_8003Facade of Dauis Church in Bohol that was also destroyed in the earthquake

IMG_8008Another view of Dauis Church

IMG_8220Interior of Dauis Church

.There are many heritage structures around the country and in the nearby islands of Panay and Negros alone, there are many examples of these that need to be assessed and perhaps fortified in the likely occurrence of a powerful quake in the future. In addition, the damaged roads and bridges and the landslides that have blocked many roads reminds us of the need for more disaster resilient transport infrastructure. Resilience may also mean the provision of redundant infrastructure to ensure alternate routes for relief operations.

Dissertation defense

After a series of posts on my recent travels, here’s something on the serious side:

The oral defense of the dissertations of Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (Major in Transportation Engineering) Program doctoral candidates, Mr. Ernesto B. Abaya (staff/affiliate student/ERDT scholar) and Mr. Alex S. Ladaga (affiliate student/CHED scholar) with topics on transportation & environment and traffic flow theory, respectively, will be on October 21, 2013 (Monday) from 9:00 AM and from 1:00 PM at the National Center for Transportation Studies. Details are shown below:


21 October, 2013, Monday, 9:00 AM at the Toyota Training Room, NCTS, UP Diliman

Dr. Edwin N. Quiros (UPD-DME), Panel Chair
Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano (UPD-ICE), Panel Member
Dr. J. B. Manuel M. Biona (DLSU-COE), Panel Member
Dr. Karl B. N. Vergel (UPD-ICE), Panel Member (Adviser)
Dr. Ricardo G. Sigua (UPD-ICE), Panel Member (Co-adviser)

Abstract: The urban drive cycles for five different light duty vehicles (LDV) are developed in this study.  Furthermore, the fuel consumption factors for each of the type of LDV are estimated.  The study presents the methodology in the development of the drive cycles in which the speed profile of the specific type of vehicle is surveyed, downloaded and processed.  In the survey of speed data, a Global Positioning System (GPS) device is used as an on-board instrument.  The GPS device is placed on the dashboard of every surveyed vehicle and it recorded instantaneous speed in its memory.  The speed data is downloaded from the device using software provided by the maker of the device (Garmin) called Mapsource. The speed data is processed using a program to execute the methodology in generating candidate drive cycles.  The program creates drive cycles by randomly appending microtrips to form a minimum of twenty minute speed time profile.  Furthermore, along with the generated drive cycle, the program also indicated how it compared with the target drive cycle by computing their individual absolute value difference of their joint speed-acceleration probability distribution. Ten drive cycles for each type of LDV are developed which have absolute value differences less than 20%.  The final drive cycle is selected from the ten (10) candidate drive cycle developed from each type of LDV.  The selected drive cycles are then used in the Vehicle Research and Testing Laboratory at UP College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Department, to estimate the fuel consumption factors of each type of light duty vehicle considered.  The developed drive cycles for the different types of light duty vehicles, namely (1) private cars, (2) taxicabs, (3) public utility jeepneys, (4) asian utility vehicles express, and (5) light cargo vehicles have average speeds of 17.97 kph, 13.57 kph, 10.87 kph, 14.69kph and 8.43 kph respectively.  The fuel consumption factors estimated for all the light duty vehicles tested in the chassis dynamometer laboratory ranges from 9 to 12 km/liter.

Keywords:  light duty vehicles, drive cycles, chassis dynamometer laboratory


21 October, 2013, Monday, 1:00 PM at the Toyota Training Room, NCTS, UP Diliman

Dr. Karl B. N. Vergel (UPD-ICE), Panel Chair
Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor (UPD-ICE), Panel Member
Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano (UPD-ICE), Panel Member
Dr. Ma. Sheilah G. Napalang (UPD-SURP), Panel Member
Dr. Ricardo G. Sigua (UPD-ICE), Panel Member (Adviser)

Abstract: Traditional method in estimating roundabout capacities using gap acceptance theory involves the assumption that vehicles entering the roundabouts give way to vehicles running along the circulatory road.  Parameters usually used include the critical gap and the follow up times used by the entry vehicles.  Gap forcing persists in local roundabouts and this common Filipino driver behaviour renders the existing models derived from traditional assumptions unsuitable for local applications.  The study embarks on the development of the simulation model which takes into account gap forcing in the estimation of capacity of roundabouts in the Philippines.  It explores the feasibility of introducing more realistic driver behaviour assumptions and the inclusion of additional parameters to come up with a model suitable for local use.

Keywords:  roundabouts, gap forcing, capacity

On vending machines at rail station platforms in Japan

Earlier, I featured some conveniences at train stations that included vending machines on the platforms. Following are a few more photos including a couple showing the newest models of vending machines. These have touch screens showing the products for sale and even shows weather forecasts.

2013-10-10 09.15.47Passengers using the new touch screen vending machines at a JR Line platform.

2013-10-10 09.16.09The screen displays products as well as the weather forecast. On the right are disposal bins for bottles and cans.

2013-10-10 09.39.40Conventional vending machines and trash bins at the Enoshima Dentetsu platform.

2013-10-10 09.42.53A souvenir machine featuring a metal press where the customer can choose among 3 designs.

2013-10-10 09.43.14Ice cream vending machine.

Conveniences at the train stations and platforms

Japan is also famous for having a lot of vending machines dispensing everything from snacks, softdrinks and beer to toys and electronics, and even shirts and underwear! At the train stations there are also many vending machines in addition to the kiosks that are basically convenience stores. Here are a couple of vending machines and the garbage disposal bins beside them.

IMG07137-20131009-1100Vending machine at a Tokyo Metro platform

IMG07066-20131006-1535Vending machine and telephones behind a kiosk at a JR Line platform

Within the larger stations, there are also restaurants or eateries for those wanting a quick meal but happen to have already gone past the turnstiles. These are not your typical holes in the walls or fast food types. Instead there are also full service restaurants or cafes. Then there are food courts where commuters may have a good variety to choose from like the Tokyo Food Bar that I found at the JR Akihabara Station.

IMG07086-20131006-1654This food bar is very much like the food courts we find at malls. These offer a variety of selections for the hungry commuter. The signboards show the menus of establishments inside the food bar.

Calapan Port Passenger Terminal

Calapan City port’s passenger terminal is a nice, modern facility though I think it is insufficient for the number of people that are now using the terminal on a daily basis. I can imagine that the terminal can be congested during the peak seasons of travel. I took a few photos inside and outside the terminal during a recent trip between Batangas and Calapan.

IMG06780-20130919-1639Pre-departure area at the Calapan port passenger terminal. I was impressed with the terminal that seems better than some airport passenger terminal I’ve seen in the country.

IMG06781-20130919-1639Fellow SuperCat passengers waiting for our boarding call. One needs to approach the staff at the booth near the gate in order to get a seat number. Seats on board the fast craft are designated even with few passengers making the trip.

IMG06782-20130919-1645Exiting the terminal to board our vessel, we proceed along a covered pier where our SuperCat and a FastCat ferry (shown at center) are moored.

IMG06783-20130919-1645The Calapan port passenger terminal as seen from the pier.

IMG06784-20130919-1645Rough waters hitting the port. Shown in the photo are RORO ferries docked at the port. We rode one of these on our trip from Batangas to Calapan.

IMG06785-20130919-1645The FastCat is a relatively new service between Batangas and Calapan. It can carry a few vehicles much like the conventional RORO ferries but its twin-hulled design provides stability with speed over rough waters.

IMG06786-20130919-1646Rear of the SuperCat

IMG06787-20130919-1646A friend walking along the pier between a SuperCat and a FastCat. The SuperCat is purely a passenger vessel while the FastCat can carry a few vehicles with stability provided by its twin-hulled design.

IMG06788-20130919-1646Rough waters in the late afternoon – similar conditions in the morning prevented us from taking a SuperCat to Calapan as fast craft trips were suspended.

Rail incidents

The big news in Japan today seems to be the rail incident where a woman saved the life of a man who attempted suicide or fell unto the rail tracks of the JR Yokohama Line. Unfortunately, the woman died as she was ran over by the train as she apparently positioned the man in between the tracks. As far as I could understand, it seemed that the barriers for a crossing were already down and the alarms announcing the arriving train were also engaged when a man entered the danger zone and fell (or laid) at the tracks. People including pedestrians and those in their cars were shocked by the situation but only the woman who was with a companion in a car decided to act to save the man from the oncoming train. Following are photos I took from a TV news report on the incident.

IMG07103-20131007-0818Simulation of train operations using JR East’s simulator to review what could have happened

IMG07104-20131007-0818Demonstration of train approach to station

IMG07105-20131007-0818Footage of the crossing where the woman perished.

IMG07107-20131007-0821Emergency button that was supposed to be used by people in exactly such cases but people were apparently too shocked or unfamiliar with this safety device at railway crossings.

IMG07108-20131007-0821Demonstration of the ill-fated rescue

IMG07109-20131007-0824Photo of the heroine who, if I understood from the report, will be awarded posthumously for her effort to save another person.

IMG07110-20131007-0827Another photo of the 40-year old woman, Murata-san.

Japan takes pride in their work towards making their transport systems safe. Rail incidents have been minimized by using modern, high technology tools including sensors and monitoring systems. However, it seems that there are cases such as these where the intervention of people (including those who might be spectators of an incident) are still necessary as these are likely beyond the capabilities of even high tech countermeasures installed at rail crossings. We salute and honor this woman who was willing to help another person at the cost of her own life. She deserves the honor and recognition for this great humanitarian act.