Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Getting a taxi at Mactan Cebu International Airport

It is easy to get a taxi in many airports in the Philippines not named NAIA. The list includes, of course, Mactan Cebu International Airport. There is a regular taxi stand just a few meters walk from the arrival area. You have to cross the driveway and there are directional signs to guide travelers towards the taxi stand that is just a short flight of stairs from the corridor across the arrival area.

IMG09952-20150109-1459Directional sign to the taxi stand – definitely not international standard but is clear and sufficient for its purpose.

IMG09953-20150109-1500Queue for taxis – there has been an improvement here as there is now a tent for passengers’ shelter and a driveway for taxis. It used to be an open area along the MCIA driveway where taxis are lined up.

IMG09954-20150109-1501The stand is manned by airport security and staff who also issue information on the taxi on a piece of paper containing a phone number of the MCIA for complaints. I don’t know if they get a lot of complaints and if the airport acts on these if and when there are complaints from passengers.

IMG09955-20150109-1504Passengers loading luggage in the trunk of a taxi – there are many LPG-fueled taxis in Cebu and if you have many pieces or large luggage it would be better to select a taxi with more trunk space. LPG taxis have their tanks inside the trunk, limiting space for luggage.

IMG09956-20150109-1505Some workers are busy doing the lane markings for the driveway. We thought that these probably being undertaken in preparation for the APEC meetings that several Philippine cities will be hosting.

Mactan Cebu airport arrival

Arriving in Mactan, Cebu for our vacation, I wanted to get a few photos of the airport to have an updated post on the airport. It’s been a while since I had been to Cebu and I noticed my previous posts on the airport did not feature any photos upon arrival. I also wanted to take photos before major work is undertaken for the airport. Mactan Airport is already scheduled for expansion and upgrading under a PPP project with a consortium including local contractor Megawide and the company behind Indira Gandhi Airport in India. (This was the same project where other consortia that included companies behind Changi and Incheon Airports, top airports in the world, lost in the bidding.) Here are a few photos of the arrival area as well as some tips for getting a taxi to your hotel, resort or wherever you’re going from the airport.

IMG09943-20150109-1445 An Air Asia plane on the tarmac of Mactan Cebu International Airport

IMG09945-20150109-1446We got to use the tube as we deplaned (unlike in Manila) and walked towards the baggage claim area.

IMG09946-20150109-1447Passengers taking their positions to pick up their luggage from the carousel.

IMG09947-20150109-1447Tourist information, hotels and other counters and booths greet arriving passengers at the airport.

IMG09948-20150109-1447Spacious marble-floored baggage claim area

IMG09949-20150109-1447Passengers waiting for their bags to come out of the carousel.

IMG09950-20150109-1448A friendly reminder to people claiming their baggage. The sign is in English, Japanese and Korean, indicative of the languages used by most travelers to and from Cebu. Similar to other airports in the Philippines, no one actually checks whether the baggage tags match the claim stubs with the passengers. Fortunately, people are honest and there have been none or minimal incidents of mistaken luggage.

IMG09951-20150109-1458To get to the taxi stand, you have to cross the driveway as you get out of the arrival area. There are signs to guide you to the taxi stand where airport security provides assistance to passengers as they board the taxis. I took this photo in a hurry so its blurry. The taxis stand is to the right and up a short flight of stairs. The arrow on the large sign in the photo show the way to a ramp to the taxi stand for travelers with heavy or a lot of luggage.

In the next posts: Getting a taxi at Mactan Airport and Mactan Airport departure.

Comet – rare sightings

A colleague was saying that he has not seen the Comet, a jitney-type vehicle currently plying the SM North – Katipunan route via Mindanao Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, for quite some time. I shared the same observation and this is based on my regular commute that includes travel along Katipunan Avenue. The Comet is becoming, if it is not yet, a rare sighting even considering its relatively long and apparently convenient route. The route passes through residential and commercial areas and would be a direct, single ride for students in particular of three major schools in the Katipunan area – UP, Ateneo and Miriam. It also connects to 2 large malls, SM North and Trinoma, and 2 rail stations, LRT 2 Katipunan Sta. and MRT 3 North EDSA Sta. Despite these traffic generators along its route, it seems that the Comet still has less than the desired ridership. I say ‘seems’ because I currently don’t have the hard statistics on ridership but only observations from those who have seen the vehicle along its route.

IMG10028-20150114-1924I saw this one on my way home last December in heavy traffic as our jeepney approached the Katipunan – C.P. Garcia intersection. It had few passengers considering its long route from SM North EDSA to Aurora Boulevard via Katipunan Ave.

IMG10050-20150122-0821An almost empty Comet spotted one morning this January along Katipunan

What is the future for the Comet? It is unclear so far despite the hype and claims that this is supposed to be the vehicle to replace the conventional jeepney. (To be fair, this is what was also said of the e-jeepney that precluded the Comet.) The DOTC does not have a clear and firm policy or commitment to making this work. Its pronouncements have so far been towards deploying the Comet along new routes instead of replacing existing jeepneys on existing routes with this low emission vehicle. I believe that the only way for the Comet to work is for it to be mainstreamed as a replacement for the jeepney and along suitable routes, of course. The DOTC could and should review jeepney franchises to determine how the Comet and other similar low emission vehicles can be phased in over a realistic period in order to modernize public transportation currently being supplied by conventional jeepneys.

I recently noticed that there are jeepneys along Katipunan bearing tarps on their sides stating “No to additional jeepneys.” Underneath are the names of three jeepney groups supporting this call but with the exception of a major jeepney group that’s supposed to be supportive (even owning several units) of the Comet. Are the signs a form of resistance to change? Do the groups know or understand what they are saying and what they stand for? Or are these indicative of disagreements among jeepney groups, operators and drivers regarding the future of their operations using conventional jeepneys?

There will surely be resistance from these sectors if there are changes to be made that will affect their sources of income. It is a very daunting and sensitive task to decouple transport and livelihood in the Philippines. However, the issues coming out of such changes to improve public transport services should be met head on rather than skirt them, particularly in the case of the agencies responsible for these services – the DOTC and the LTFRB. Only then can we have the transformation we need for road-based public transport in this country.

Overnight parking at the NAIA T3 multi-level parking facility

Many have been asking about the overnight parking rates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 and I had wanted to write on this but just didn’t have the material to share with readers of this blog. I had wanted to verify for myself the overnight parking rates at Terminal 3 but had not used the Terminal for my flights last year, which had me using all except Terminal 3 for my travels. Last weekend, I finally had the chance to check the parking rates as I left my vehicle at the airport for a weekend getaway before school (and work) starts for the second semester at the university.

IMG10027-20150114-0644Parking tickets issued at NAIA Terminal 3’s multi-level facility.

The parking fee is 300 pesos per night. This is a fixed rate and you don’t have to pay additional fees for when you exceeded the hour when you parked your vehicle. That is, even if you parked your vehicle at 7:00 AM the previous day and took it out at 5:00 PM the following day, you still get charged 300 pesos and NOT 300 pesos plus a charge for exceeding 24 hours parking.

For those parking at the multi-level facility, one just has to drive through the arrival level (ground) of NAIA T3 and turn right near the end of the driveway to enter the facility. I haven’t checked if the access at the departure level is open (perhaps a reader can verify this?) but they do have security checks between the parking facility and the terminal itself so people can go directly to the parking area without dropping off their companions and luggage at the terminal. You don’t have to drop-off your companions and luggage at the departure level and then go around the airport road again just so you can park your vehicle at the multi-level facility.

The Metro Manila Transportation Planning Study II (JUMSUT II)

Similar to the previous JUMSUT Phase I, the recommendations of Phase II focused on route structure planning and improvement for road public transport to avoid unnecessary competition between LRT, bus and jeepney. Recommendations for route structure planning included the modification of route schemes for the central eastern sector of Metro Manila mainly to alleviate traffic congestion and improve schedules. The study reiterated the recommendations of Phase I.


Following are more photos showing the recommendations of JUMSUT II:

IMG10025-20150113-1432 IMG10026-20150113-1432

[Reference: JUMSUT II Final Report, NCTS Library, University of the Philippines Diliman]

The Metro Manila Transportation Planning Study I (JUMSUT I)

I continue with the series of posts I had started last year on past studies conducted for Metro Manila. It is important to review these studies in order for us to understand how transport in the metropolis came to be how it is now. I believe there are many lessons to be learned and history does not need to repeat itself (although as we can see, it has in as far as transport in Metro Manila is concerned).

The Metro Manila Transportation Planning Study better known as the JICA Update on Manila Study on Urban Transport (JUMSUT) was conducted in two phases, the first one from November 1982 – March 1984 and the second from June 1984 – March 1985, respectively, as a follow-up to MMUTSTRAP. JUMSUT focused on studies to support the implementation of the LRT Line 1 project along Rizal and Taft Avenues.


Recommendations of the first phase are mostly on the rerouting of public transport vehicles along LRT corridor and the traffic management required for the construction and eventual operation of the LRT Line 1. The rerouting is presented as a necessity to avoid unnecessary competition between LRT, bus and jeepney as well as to achieve balanced mode share among LRT, bus and jeepney along the corridor. Following are photos showing a summary of recommendations for JUMSUT I.




[Reference: JUMSUT I Final Report, NCTS Library, University of the Philippines Diliman]


On the new vehicle plates in the Philippines

A lot has been written about the new license plates being issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) for vehicles. I have read and heard many opinions or explanations from officials, experts and pundits about how the current license plates were better than the old ones due to its security features. As well, I have heard the opposite – criticisms by similar officials, experts and pundits usually focusing on the flaws of the new plates compared to the previous ones. They do agree on one thing, that the 4 numbers now appearing on the new vehicle plates issued to vehicles registered from January 2014 (5 numbers for the new motorcycles) are a necessity due in part to the rapidly increasing number of registered vehicles in the Philippines. Of course, the delays in the actual issuance of the plates themselves for new vehicles is another story.

Green plates are for private vehicles (not for hire). Red plates are for government vehicles. Blue plates (with only numbers and no letters) are diplomatic plates. Orange plates are the newest type of plates and were issued to electric vehicles. These solid orange plates and not of similar design to those bearing the Rizal Monument. Yellow plates are for “for hire” vehicles including public utility vehicles like buses, jeepneys, taxis and vans-for-hire. Recently, there were actually two types of yellow plates. One type used the design with the Rizal monument in the middle and these were issued to limousines such as those operated by hotels and tour companies. The other is the solid yellow plates (no Rizal Monument) that were issued to PUVs.

IMG07705-20140217-1133UV Express vehicle with the solid yellow plate.

The new plates issued by the LTO are black and white – basically black lettering on white plates. Recently, friends have been telling me about their seeing the new black and white plates on taxis. I had thought that this shouldn’t be the case since PUVs like taxis are supposed to have distinctive color (yellow) plates in order for illegally (so-called colorum) operating vehicles to be spotted easily by authorities. It turned out that the LTO under the previous head of the agency did away with the yellow plates in favor of what they claimed to be more sophisticated new plates. My reaction was that this was absurd and visual identification (i.e., seeing the color of the vehicle’s plate) is still the easiest was to spot colorum vehicles. I had wondered, too, how the LTO came up with that obviously flawed decision and if they consulted among law enforcement agencies like the PNP who would be tasked to apprehend illegally operating road transport.

IMG09930-20150107-1904Such incidence of green plates on public utility vehicles were a no-no (illegal) in previous administrations. I assume that this one is “temporary” in the absence of what were phased out yellow plates.

Fortunately, the LTO led by its current chief has decided to bring back the yellow plates. These will probably follow the new plate design but with yellow instead of a white background. Hopefully, all legitimate PUVs will have these yellow plates instead of the “temporary” private plates many have been issued. These will aid in the enforcement of regulations pertaining to PUVs and will help weed out colorum vehicles.

A tale of two consultants

I attended a seminar last November where there were two foreign consultants who gave talks about public transport and the reforms required for Metro Manila. One consultant had extensive experience in public transport, having worked in Hong Kong and Singapore, and is currently a consultant in Jakarta. The other appeared to have the more limited experience but claimed credit (I think partial at best) for public transport reforms in a major Asian city. I was impressed by the first in part because he was very honest with his statements especially as he explained a list of prerequisites for fixing public transport in Metro Manila (and other large cities). The bottomline from his presentation was that it was not possible to have a quick fix and there are no easy paths towards solving public transport problems in Metro Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines.

The second consultant was more on the patronizing side – promising a lot and a little too optimistic to be realistic or practical in his presentation on how to solve Metro Manila’s public transport woes. His material was hodge-podge at best with lots of visuals but not really getting to the point in terms of concrete solutions. It only betrayed his very limited if not unfamiliarity with transport and traffic in the metropolis despite his being a consultant with the office of the highest official of the transport department. There is a saying that if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. I think the same applies to what the second consultant presented to us that morning.

We need more of the first type of consultants who will tell us how it really is with regards to the “challenges” we face in solving transport and traffic problems in this country. The second type just lets us into a false sense of confidence or a feeling that the problems are not so big or complicated and that we are not in a big, deep hole that we need to climb out of. Its one thing to throw caution to the wind and another to have oneself firmly grounded in terms of the understanding of the problem at hand. Understanding the problem is the first step in the formulation of suitable alternatives and allows for the elimination or at least the minimisation of non-practical and non-realistic options.

Challenges concerning pedestrian overpasses

A photo went viral over social media last year about power lines jutting out of a pedestrian overpass in Metro Manila that also happened to be a steel structure. There are others like it that were constructed with the implementors not paying attention to the details, that is referring to the power and communication lines or cables that are practically everywhere in Metro Manila and other cities. I give the designers the benefit of the doubt as they likely did the designs assuming there were no constraints such as the overhead cables and wires.

Over the holidays, we observed some very crowded overpasses along Commonwealth Avenue particularly those at the Fairview and Litex market areas. Here’s a photo of one very crowded overpass where pedestrians seem to be walking single file in two directions:


It is clear in the photo that the main reason for the very crowded overpass is the presence of vendors on the overpass itself. This seems to be the case in many other overpasses in other commercial areas (e.g., Quiapo, Ortigas, Cubao, etc.) where vendors practically occupy half of the area along the overpass thereby constricting the space people can use to cross the road beneath it.

Who is in-charge of these overpasses? Do local governments or the MMDA tolerate such practices by vendors? I already answered the first question – the MMDA and local government units are in-charge and are responsible for keeping these facilities clear of other activities other than pedestrians using the overpass to cross the road. I recall that there are actually ordinances with the MMDA and the respective LGUs pertaining to the proper use of overpasses and there are actually penalties for vendors and others setting up shop on these facilities. Judging from the scenes atop the overpasses that we see every day (e.g., the photo above), it is clear that the people in-charge are neglecting their work (surrender na?) and this is clearly an inconvenience to pedestrians, many of whom can also be seen crossing the wide Commonwealth Avenue and risking their lives and limbs as they evade motor vehicles including zooming buses along the highway.

These are examples of challenges that pedestrians face everyday and something authorities should be urged to act on and immediately and decisively. Such action should not only be for the case of overpasses but to sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities as well. These have significant implications to road safety as well as the efficient use of transport facilities and improvements will surely enhance quality of life as well. We cannot claim to promote walkable communities if we fail to deliver on the spaces that are supposed to be for walking. And we cannot promote healthy cities without having such spaces for people to be encouraged to walk.

Transport wish list for 2015

Last year, I opened with a very hopeful post on opportunities with certain mass transit projects that were hyped to be starting construction in 2014. The year 2014 went by and practically nothing really concrete happened (Yes, there were soil tests conducted for the LRT 2 extension but after that nothing else happened with the project.) with respect to these very critical mass transit projects that were already much delayed. It’s the same thing again this year so that same blog post from Jan. 1, 2014 applies this year.

I will not write down a list of New Year’s resolutions for the transport-related government agencies to adopt this 2015 though that stuff is quite tempting to do. Instead, I will just rattle of a wish list that includes very general and very specific programs and projects I would like to see realized or implemented (e.g., start construction) within the year; preferably from the first quarter and not the last. For brevity, I came up only with a list of 10 items. It is not necessarily a Top Ten list as it was difficult for me to rank these projects.

1. LRT Line 2 Extension from Santolan to Masinag

2. LRT Line 1 Extension to Cavite

3. MRT Line 7 from Quezon City to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan

4. Cebu BRT

5. People-friendly road designs

6. Integrated fare collection system for Metro Manila trains

7. Bikeways in major cities

8. Any mass transit project for Davao City or any other major city outside of Metro Manila or Cebu

9. Northrail or whatever it is that will connect Metro Manila with Clark

10. Protection of heritage homes and sites along highways and streets

The reader is free to agree or disagree with the list or to add to the list. I’m sure there are a lot of other projects out there that are also quite urgent that are not on my list but are likely to be equally important.