Caught (up) in traffic

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Daily Archives: December 6, 2013

On data requirements and requests from the NCTS

The National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman regularly gets a lot of requests for transport and traffic data. Most of these requests are quite specific for traffic counts along various roads. In many cases these are national roads but there are also requests for data on local roads. While the center has a library and laboratories where data and other information are available, most of those we can provide for public consumption may be quite dated and would need to be validated or updated. In certain cases, data were derived from our projects with private entities and we are not at liberty to share these without the permission of our clients. Many of these information are covered by non-disclosure agreements since these may be sensitive information or may lead to revealing projects that are still in the pipeline and which clients might prefer to keep to themselves at the time for one reason or another.

The best we could do for data requests would be to refer them to the sources or those who are supposed to collect data first-hand. For traffic counts along national roads, for example, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) publishes data on Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) for sections of national roads throughout the country. Most if not all these counts are made through manual surveys. That is, a team of surveyors literally count the number of vehicles according to categories set by the DPWH as they pass along specific road sections. Complacency, however, coupled with varying degree of quality control or supervision for manual counts can lead to erroneous data. Also, in several cases, one colleague allegedly was able to spot some trending that led him to conclude that some counts are actually projections from previous years rather than those derived from actual counts that should have been performed! It is highly recommended for researchers to make representations to the DPWH District Engineering Office where their study area or site is located or perhaps contact the many bureaus under the department (e.g., Bureau of Construction, Bureau of Design, Bureau of Maintenance, etc.) for other types of information.

Another source for transport data is the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which has information on vehicle registration and licensing. Unfortunately, not all of these data are published or readily available to researchers. Also, specific data requests (e.g., vehicle engine age, fuels, demographics of licenses drivers, etc.) are not easily accessible and may require time to process. In the past, we have also had first hand experience of the private IT company under contract with the LTO suggesting a fee for data processing. For public transport, the primary source would be the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), which would have information on road transport routes, franchises, number of units of buses, jeepneys or taxis, etc. These agencies are under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which also has several other agencies under it.

While most local transport and traffic data (e.g., number of tricycles and pedicabs, traffic along local roads, etc.) are with local governments, LGUs generally do not have up-to-date transport and traffic data. Only a few conduct regular data collection or will have recent data that would be useful for any meaningful analysis. Even big cities that have been recipients of transport studies have not been able to update basic data like traffic counts and travel speed along major roads. Perhaps the only updated information they would have are AADT for national roads (care of the DPWH District Engineering Office) and data on the number of public transport vehicles like buses, jeepneys and tricycles within their jurisdictions. AADT data from the DPWH are limited to few stations along national roads and there are none for intersections where counts per movement are important for analysis. Meanwhile, public transport operational characteristics are not generally measured so only the number of registered vehicles are known, basically from the LTO, LTFRB and the local tricycle franchising office. And so for very specific data on specific roads, for example, it is recommended that primary data collection (i.e., field surveys) be conducted.

Contrary to popular belief, the Center no longer has copies of reports of the more recent major studies or projects on transportation and traffic. The DPWH and the DOTC no longer furnish the NCTS library with copies of such reports and this limits the recent materials in our library that can be used by researchers for whatever purpose they may have. And so, the center will usually refer researchers to these and other agencies for data or reports that they need for the work they are doing. If the Center knows specific people from the agencies who are involved in the study or project or have worked on the data that’s subject of the inquiry/request then the researcher will be referred to those people.