Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Risky business with motorcycling

I spotted what appeared to be a family of four riding the same motorcycle as I was traveling to work this morning. While they were traveling slowly, likely to be careful considering there were 4 riders, I could’t help but imagine (not really wonder) what was going on in the minds of the adults here. The children were obviously oblivious to the dangerous situation and I even saw one child smiling and apparently enjoying the ride. I am sure that the father is trying his best to be careful as he is surely aware that a mistake would likely doom his entire family.

 

2014-04-25 08.08.11A family of 4 with one child (the younger one) in front and another child sandwiched between the adults riding a single motorcycle. The children didn’t even have helmets so if an untoward incident happens, there is a very high likelihood that the children will be killed in a crash.

 

These are common sights in Metro Manila and elsewhere in the country. Its worse in other places where there’s weak enforcement of road safety laws including the helmet law and the limitation in the number of passengers (yes, there is a law against passenger overloading for vehicles). I was actually wondering how these people in the photo were able to evade MMDA and LGU enforcers along major roads. And to think that there are many checkpoints to inspect those “riding in tandem.” Clearly, this is a violation of existing regulations and the only way to discourage such practices and effect behaviour change is for authorities to clamp down on such risky situations, even forcing them to discontinue travel in addition to issuing a ticket and fine for the violation. Are we really serious in promoting road safety and ensuring safety for everyone? If so, why the lax enforcement when it is perhaps, and arguably, the most important element in order to influence people’s mindsets regarding road safety.

More snippets of Manila streets

The City of Manila has always been fascinating from the perspective of transport and traffic due to the many peculiarities and contradictions you’ll find around the city. Here are a few more photos and some comments on the Manila’s transport and traffic.

2014-03-06 08.07.41Pedestrian overpass along Espana Avenue right after P. Campa Street and just before Morayta Street. Most overpasses in Metro Manila are roofless so this overpass is an exception. Most roofless overpasses were constructed when Bayani Fernando was MMDA Chair and were made so to discourage vendors from setting up on the overpass. The roof, however, makes sense considering the high pedestrian traffic (mainly students) in this area, which is dubbed the University Belt due to the many universities and colleges located here.

2014-03-06 08.13.16Another overpass in Manila, this time roofless, along Quezon Boulevard. Notice the large umbrellas in the photo? Under these are informal vendors who have set-up shop atop the overpass, effectively constricting pedestrian movement on the facility. Notice, too, the signboard bearing a message from the incumbent Mayor of Manila who happens to be a former Philippines President. The message in Filipino translates to “There’s hope for a New Manila.”

2014-03-06 08.17.05Non-motorized pedicabs proliferate in Manila and particularly in and around Intramuros, the historic walled city that was Manila during the Spanish period. There are just too many of these 3-wheelers in this city and most if not all drivers are oblivious to traffic rules and regulations. In Intramuros they have narrow streets and most destinations of interest don’t really require a vehicle. Walking is the most suitable transport within the walled city. These pedicabs are quite peculiar for a district that is supposed to be walkable and very accessible to public transport along its main streets. Manila has tolerated (some say spoiled) the operators of these vehicles and has made “livelihood” as the standard excuse for their existence and proliferation especially in low income areas of the city.

2014-03-06 08.24.37There are a lot of “tambays” or people just loitering around or spending (wasting?) time in the open spaces near and at the Liwasang Bonifacio just across from the Manila Central Post Office and Manila City Hall. Many of these are homeless people that the city as well as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have not attended to. Their presence are just too obvious to passers by and mingling among them if not they themselves are snatchers, muggers and other unwelcome elements of our society. The tarpaulin is placed over a sign stating trucks are prohibited from using Roxas Boulevard. The new truck policies in Manila have been a hot topic since early this year but everything now seems to be back to “normal” after somewhat spirited reactions from truckers that again exposed issues pertaining to the traffic impacts of the Port of Manila.

 

NAIA Terminal 3 revisited

I was back at NAIA Terminal 3 to fetch someone who was flying in from Bacolod last Palm Sunday. Going around while waiting for the plane to arrive, I took some photos of the newer shops and restaurants in the terminal. Here they are with a few photos at the waiting area and outside the terminal.

2014-04-13 20.37.12The overnight parking spaces were not yet full. It was a Palm Sunday so I guess many people haven’t taken their vacations yet.  I remember fetching the wife one Maundy Thursday morning and the parking lot was just full of vehicles. I had to park at a slot that required some walking to get to the terminal building.

2014-04-13 20.37.55Taxi station at the arrival level of NAIA – only airport accredited taxis are allowed at this station and many, if not most, are not metered (i.e., do not have or use taxi meters). There is a dispatcher at the station and rates are basically higher than regular metered taxis.

2014-04-13 20.44.50There are more shops, restaurants and cafes at Terminal 3. The old ones are still there but noticeable are the newer shops and restaurants when you explore the 3rd level of the terminal.

2014-04-13 20.44.54The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf branch at Terminal 3.

2014-04-13 20.45.03Wendy’s fastfood restaurant.

2014-04-13 20.45.58Shoes on display at one of the older shops at the terminal that offers a lot of different merchandise like luggage and apparel and accessories.

2014-04-13 20.46.39Victoria’s Secret shop opening soon and likely before other international airlines move to Terminal 3 when renovations for Terminal 1 move to full gear.

2014-04-13 20.48.04This Seven Eleven store is relatively new. There’s a Mini Stop store near the escalator to the 3rd level of the terminal.

2014-04-13 20.50.25The Body Shop store.

2014-04-13 20.50.39Not so many people at the Cebu Pacific domestic check-in counters around 8 PM. At this time, most domestic airports in the country are already closed as they are not equipped for night time operations. Thus, there are few flights at this time likely from the handful of modern airports – Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Bacolod.

2014-04-13 21.05.51Well-wishers meeting arriving passengers at the spacious arrival area concourse.

2014-04-13 21.28.32Signs provide directions to passengers and well-wishers.

2014-04-13 21.41.20Crowds form at the exits to check passengers filing out of the arrival area. International passengers come out from the left while domestic passengers from the right.

2014-04-13 22.02.27There are more foreign exchange counters now at Terminal 3 and this is likely due to the increased number of international flights served by the terminal.

2014-04-13 22.02.31People go out of the terminal at one of the many exits at ground level. However, there are only two entrances to the terminal at the arrival level where security checks are made.

Daang Bakal

The right of way for the old railroad line going up to Antipolo is still there and is now a regular road. Daang Bakal rises from what is now Valley Golf Subdivision (Celso Tuazon Ave. and Taktak Drive) in Cainta, Rizal through Victoria Valley Subdivision (Taktak Drive), Fairmount Hills Subdivision and Hinulugang Taktak (Daang Bakal though often referred to as Taktak Road, which is actually a different road and on the other side of the river), and until part of the Sumulong Memorial Circle in the vicinity of the Antipolo Church (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage).  I took a few photos of Daang Bakal on our way to the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for Palm Sunday Mass. The photos have been modified as I took it at dusk. The originals were quite dark so I adjusted the brightness. Still, I can only imagine now how this route could have looked like back in the day when the Manila Rail Road line passed through this area. It could have been one of the most scenic rides as it is still a scenic route today.

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At right in the photos is a fenced property designating the Hinulugang Taktak National Park. Hinulugang Taktak refers to the water falls that used to be one of the more popular destinations in Antipolo. There is actually a popular folk song inviting people to come to Antipolo (“Tayo na sa Antipolo at doon maligo tayo…”) to enjoy the falls. The falls have deteriorated through the years as it has been affected mainly by the settlements around it. There seems to be an effort to rehabilitate the area but it is still closed to the public. The road though is in excellent condition and has low motor traffic volumes. It is popular among cyclists as well as joggers. This Holy Week, the area should have a lot of visitors because of the Parish church in the area, which has an impressive architecture and gardens. The church is perfect for those doing Visita Iglesia or perhaps people just wanting to go to a quiet place for some meditation and prayer.

Traffic consultants for Philippine cities?

I was driving to the office one morning, and as I was slowing down to stop at the Masinag junction I spotted a familiar face giving instructions to Antipolo traffic personnel. Robert Nacianceno was formerly the General Manager (Undersecretary level position) with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) when it was chaired by Bayani Fernando, the first MMDA Chair to gain a cabinet level post (previously the MMDA Chair was not a Secretary level position). He was in an office barong while leading Antipolo staff in positioning orange traffic cones to mark the lanes for turning traffic along the Sumulong Highway approach from Antipolo.

Nacianceno is a cyclist so I would like to think that he can take that perspective in transport planning and traffic management for Antipolo. Unfortunately, his track record at the MMDA does not provide strong evidence as to his competence in transport planning or traffic management. Insiders say most policies and schemes during BF’s time was the latter’s ideas (e.g., U-turns, bike lanes, etc.) and he had his own consultant (and reportedly an inner circle) for various matters including traffic. In fairness to the man, Nacianceno probably has tremendous experience on the job but one has to note that there were other people with the MMDA who also dabbled in transport and traffic. Also, as GM he had other things to attend to during his stint including waste management and flood control.

2014-03-26 08.52.27Remember this guy? He used to be the MMDA GM during BF’s stint at the agency.

I recall that the previous traffic consultant of Antipolo City was also a former MMDA official, Ernesto Camarillo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say that Antipolo traffic improved during the last few years. Based on what I have seen in my daily commute, transport and traffic conditions have degenerated. Antipolo is overrun by tricycles and people generally do not follow rules and regulations. Informal terminals dot the city and you don’t have to go far to find inappropriate terminals as these are in plain view and across from the Rizal Provincial Capitol. Antipolo has a new mayor in the former Rizal Governor and his mother now sits as governor of the province. I’m crossing my fingers as to how they will improve transport and traffic in Antipolo if there is really a desire to do so. For starters, is there a transport and traffic plan for this Highly Urbanized City (HUC)? There should be one as the city needs it badly together with a land use plan to bring some order in development.

Antipolo is rapidly developing but at the same time conditions (including traffic) are also rapidly deteriorating. Hopefully, the LGU will address these issues and eventually make this city a modern one and fit for its being an HUC as well as a popular pilgrimage site for decades if not centuries due to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Is there some irony here?). Nacianceno’s work has just started and I hope he is up to the challenge of bringing order to Antipolo’s chaotic transport and traffic situation. I hope, too, that he will take note of good practices in other cities (Philippine or foreign) and won’t be relying purely on his experiences in Metro Manila. And hopefully, whatever improvements from the traffic schemes he will be introducing and implementing will be felt immediately by travellers. Good luck!

Quiapo traffic

Fridays in Manila are associated with Quiapo and the devotion to the Black Nazarene. People flock to Quiapo Church to hear Mass or pray at the Basilica, which is arguably among the most popular for Roman Catholics. Fridays are regarded as feast days dedicated to the Black Nazarene and since many people go to Quiapo Church throughout the day, there is almost always traffic congestion in the area. These days, however, any weekday is a congested day in that area what with more vehicles and more people coming to this area or just passing through.

IMG07908-20140321-1247Espana Avenue ends at its junction with Quezon Boulevard and turning left leads the traveler to the Quiapo District.  The photo shows heavy traffic along the underpass and the elevated LRT Line 2.

IMG07909-20140321-1251Quiapo Church is just beside Quezon Boulevard and jeepneys loading and unloading passengers occupy up to 3 lanes nearest to the church.

IMG07910-20140321-1251There is a door at the side of the church along Quezon Boulevard and people seem to be everywhere even the middle of the road as they walk or wait to ride a jeepney.

IMG07911-20140321-1252Historic Plaza Miranda in front of the church is witness not only to a lot of the frenzied processions during the feast day of the Black Nazarene every January. Plaza Miranda has also been a venue for many political rallies including the infamous one in the early 1970s that was among the triggers for Martial Law. On “normal” days, the plaza is home to vendors, fortune tellers and other denizens of this area.

There are other popular churches around Metro Manila that attract a lot of people throughout the year and not just during feast days. Among these are Baclaran in Pasay City (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), St. Jude in Manila, Sto. Domingo in Quezon City, San Agustin and the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila. Nearby in Antipolo is the Shrine to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. These churches are among the busiest especially on certain days of the week (e.g., Wednesdays are for Baclaran, etc.) and with the coming Holy Week, a lot of people are again expected to flock to these churches for the Visita Iglesia tradition. Hopefully, these devotions are really a manifestation of faith rather than the pretentious kind where the road trip is more touristy than religious or prayerful.

Future fare collection for jeepneys and other modes?

In the last Electric Vehicle Summit held in late February this year, I noticed a conspicuous device installed in the electric jeepney unit that was on display at the venue. The device is for electronic payment of fares; using a card much like the ones being used in other countries like Singapore and Japan, and soon, hopefully, for the LRT and MRT in Metro Manila. Such a capability has a lot of potential including a very convenient way to pay fares for public transport in Metro Manila. Other potential uses would be for payments of items bought at stores or shops (or vending machines) like Japan’s Suica card. Users would just have to “top up” or load their cards for these to be used in their commutes or purchases.

2014-02-28 09.09.26The latest e-jeepney model features a side door instead of one at the rear.

2014-02-28 12.30.07Boarding passengers will encounter device upon entering the vehicle. The current technology available should soon enable passengers to use “tap” cards to pay for their fares.

2014-02-28 12.30.13Such a device will leas to a more efficient fare collection and eliminate the need for “conductors” or persons assisting the driver in taking passengers’ fares. These should also allow the driver to focus on driving rather than be distracted by fare collection including trying to keep track of who has paid and who has change due. This would likely translate into safer travel for most people.

2014-02-28 12.30.33Electronic boards at the top behind the driver can provide travel information such as the next stop or traffic conditions along the transit route. Such information can be derived from various sources including the MMDA or local governments as well as from crowd-sourcing.