Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Candidates for pedestrianisation?

I friend recently posted on the pedestrianisation of Intramuros and I commented that the walled city that used be equated to Manila should be a prime candidate for initiatives on pedestrianisation. Among the challenges, however, for any project that seeks to encourage walking by reclaiming roads and other spaces for pedestrians in the walled city would be the pedicabs. These are non-motorised three-wheelers that proliferate in Intramuros. There are just too many of these vehicles going around the area. I have mentioned these vehicles in past articles on some streets in the walled city including Calle Real del Palacio,  Muralla Street, and Solana Street.

A city that can be used as a ‘good practice’ reference is Vigan City in the province of Ilocos Sur. Many parts of Vigan City are already pedestrian-friendly. In fact, Crisologo Street, which famously represents this city recognised as a UN Heritage Site is off-limits to motorised transport. However, the issue with Vigan is the proliferation of motorized tricycles. There also seems to be an oversupply of these tricycles that many continuously go around the city looking for passengers. The noise and emissions from these roaming tricycles alone contribute to negate part of the attraction of this Heritage City.

Baguio City can be transformed into a walkable city and focus should be on the iconic Session Road where small businesses including restaurants and shops once thrived. I say ‘once’ because the establishments along Session Road have experienced a decline during the past years since a major retail company constructed and started operating a huge mall near one end of Session Road. So much for the small city feel of Baguio and the local shops and restaurants that have suffered from the big business concept brought in by the mall.

In Makati City, the Ayala CBD has been pedestrian-friendly for quite some time now. People-centered facilities include underpasses for crossing major roads like Ayala Avenue and an elevated walkway connecting office buildings all the way to the Greenbelt mall. Unfortunately, these pedestrian-friendly features are limited to the CBD and

In Taguig City, the Bonifacio Global City is a good example where sidewalks are wide enough and there are pedestrian friendly malls like the High Street where people are prioritized over cars. Crossing the streets, however, can be very dangerous at BGC and traffic enforcers need to do more serious enforcing in order to manage speeds and aggressive driving by motorists in BGC. There are already incidences being shared on social media of pedestrians being hit by speeding vehicles or those whose drivers simply don’t give way especially when turning at corners.

In Quezon City, there are few areas that can be regarded as pedestrian-friendly. Among these are the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, whose core is closed to motorised traffic during Sundays. There are initiatives for making Katipunan Avenue more pedestrian-friendly. However, these initiatives seem to be still far from being implemented on the southbound side of Katipunan where plenty of establishments do not have adequate parking and there are practically no sidewalks for people to walk on. This is the side where there used to be a service road that had to be sacrificed more than a decade ago when the MMDA got engrossed with a flawed traffic scheme.

What cities or streets would be your candidates for pedestrianisation?

Dau, Mabalacat Bus Terminal – Part 2

The first part of this feature on the Dau Bus Terminal in Mabalacat, Pampanga showed the city’s PUV Common Terminal, the bus berths from the entrance of the terminal and the many stalls lined along the terminal. This second part features more photos including some showing a tricycle terminal and an airport shuttle lounge inside the huge bus terminal.

IMG11544-20150525-0909The interior shows an even more expansive bus terminal with more berths, a tricycle terminal and the Clark Airport shuttle station.
IMG11545-20150525-0909Victory Liner buses berthed just after the tricycle terminal within the bus terminal

IMG11546-20150525-0909Clark Airport Lounge in the middle of the bus terminal

IMG11547-20150525-0910An add for a popular cracker brand states “the journey is long”

IMG11549-20150525-0911Sign on the Clark shuttle jitney

IMG11550-20150525-0912The Clark Airport shuttle jitney is an extended or stretched Asian Utility Vehicle (AUV) that typically seats 27 people including the driver.

IMG11552-20150525-0912The tricycle terminal at the bus terminal allows for a more direct transfer between modes (i.e., long distance, inter-provincial or inter-city transport to local transport).

IMG11559-20150525-0922Passengers from the lounge board the airport shuttle. Luggage are also taken inside the vehicle so it can only accommodate a limited number of people rather than the 27 I mentioned earlier.

IMG11564-20150525-0928Another look at passengers waiting for their buses at the available (and limited) benches at the terminal. The benches shown seem to be ‘sponsored’ by a leading Telecom company.

IMG11541-20150525-0907Beverage dispenser at the terminal

IMG11565-20150525-0928Low batt? Cellular phone chargers are quite popular with passengers needing a quick battery charge while  waiting for their buses to arrive at the terminal.

IMG11543-20150525-0908Public comfort rooms or toilets at the terminal charge 5 pesos (about 12 US cents) for each use. There’s a sign that says payments are made after use. The fees are supposed to cover maintenance of the toilets but don’t expect much in terms of cleanliness or smell.

IMG11566-20150525-0930Passengers board a van at the Mabalacat City PUV Common Terminal. PUV stands for Public Utility Vehicle and basically stands for the vans running long distance express routes that are supposed to be non-stop or limited stop.

IMG11568-20150525-0931Huge signboard at the entrance to the terminal

The huge bus terminal is a good example of a regional bus terminal in the Philippines and one that is also a multi-modal facility at least for road transport. It is relatively well-run and is a major transfer point for people traveling between much of Luzon Island including Metro Manila. There is definitely room for improvement including amenities for passengers and perhaps a more modern airport shuttle lounge. Perhaps there should be more investments to further improve this terminal used by so many passengers traveling mainly on the provincial buses calling on the terminal.

Dau, Mabalacat Bus Terminal – Part 1

We recently went to Mabalacat, Pampanga, which is north of Metro Manila and at the end of the North Luzon Expressway. The objectives of my colleagues were to inspect the Dau Bus Terminal and to look at the airport shuttle whose terminal is co-located and within the large bus terminal. Following is a first batch of photos I took at what is the largest bus (and intermodal) terminal in Central Luzon. There are others like it around the country like the one in Lucena City in Quezon Province (Southern Luzon) but few are as large and serve as many buses.

IMG11523-20150525-0900The city’s PUV terminal is adjacent to the bus terminal

IMG11524-20150525-0901Vans bound for various provincial destinations await their passengers at the PUV terminal. These usually seat 10 passengers and directly compete with buses for the destinations indicated in the signs.

IMG11525-20150525-0901Passengers walk towards the terminal and the berth assigned to their buses.

IMG11527-20150525-0901People line up to congregate at the berth assigned to specific bus companies and according to their destinations

IMG11529-20150525-0902Passengers, well-wishers, hawkers and shopkeepers mingle in what is probably the busiest terminal in Central Luzon. I am not aware of any similar terminals in other provinces in Region 3 including Bulacan, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija.

IMG11530-20150525-0902Stalls at the terminal sell mostly food and drinks including large containers of biscuits that are still popular pasalubong.

IMG11532-20150525-0903Some areas of the terminal can be quite crowded as some bus companies are more popular than others.

IMG11534-20150525-0903Not all bus companies provide benches for their passengers. Some seats are actually provided by stores and eateries but only for their customers.

IMG11535-20150525-0904Empty berths at the bus terminal

IMG11536-20150525-0904Passengers wait for their buses on the benches or while standing and having a quick snack or smoke at one of the stores at the terminal. The guy in the photo is actually violating a national law and local ordinance banning smoking in public areas.

IMG11537-20150525-0905A Five Star bus arrives at the terminal. Bus companies have their assigned berths at the terminal and drivers and conductors presumably have their suki eateries or stores.

More on the Dau bus terminal in a future post.

Pedicabs in San Diego

I was surprised to see a familiar vehicle going around San Diego as I took a walk around the Gaslamp District. I had to do a double take as I saw three-wheeled non-motorised transport (NMT) along a busy road. Many were brightly decorated or sported  lights that made them noticeable among the vehicles on the streets when it got dark. Many drivers were also dressed to attract passengers. Many wore helmets or some head gear (hats or caps for others). Motorists seem to be well-adjusted to these pedicabs running along San Diego roads but then traffic in the CBD appears to be lighter compared to downtown Los Angeles or San Francisco.

IMG10990-20150504-1908Bicycles and cycling are very popular in San Diego so pedicabs seem to be a natural extension of that

IMG10991-20150504-1908Three-wheeler with a smiley

IMG10992-20150504-1909Pedicabs could carry 2 to 4 passengers depending on their seating configuration

IMG10993-20150504-1912A pedicab decked with rope lights is followed by one with well-dressed passengers. The pedicabs were quite popular with delegates/participants of the INTA conference held at the San Diego Convention Center.

IMG11074-20150506-1227I like this photo I took of a pedicab ferrying a passenger to the historic Sta. Fe train station. A San Diego trolley is also in the photo. The image shows the complementation among transport modes.

The pedicabs in San Diego are basically for tourism and not necessarily for commuting. They do, however, agree to carry people who would rather ride the pedicab than take a taxi or walk to their destinations. You just have to negotiate a fair price for the ride. The good thing with the pedicabs in San Diego is that their operations there provide a good example, a proof of concept if I may state, of how motorised and non-motorised options can co-exist. These options for travel include the rail-based trolley and provide people with a plethora of options for sustainable mobility. I think this should work in medium sized, highly urbanised Philippine cities as well.

On road crashes (again)

I was driving to work early this morning and despite today being the first day of school for public schools, I was surprised to encounter heavy traffic so early as I approached the Santolan Station of LRT Line 2. Most commuters using the station were university/college students and workers but most of the latter won’t have school until next week and it was too early (around 5:50 AM) for most workers to be at the station given that offices open either 8:00 AM (government) or 9:00 AM (private). It turned out that there was a road crash involving a large truck and a motorcycle. The motorcycle rider survived and was texting on the median island. A close look revealed that he was bloodied by the close encounter with the truck and that despite stopping, no one from the truck got down to check on the motorcycle rider. This has become a typical scene and fortunately (especially for the rider) it was not a fatal crash.

MC vs truckMotorcycle involved in crash with a large truck (covered by taxi in the photo).

 Some quick recommendations are provided for different road users in order to avoid such situations leading to crashes:

a. For people driving large vehicles like trucks and buses: Always keep in mind that you are driving a large (and likely long) vehicle that has limitations in terms of manoeuvrability. Don’t drive as if your vehicle is a car and keep in mind that a slight mistake can lead to a fatal crash.

b. For people on motorcycles: Always ride along lanes assigned to motorcycles or refrain from aggressive weaving or lane-splitting. 2-wheelers require balance and so anything to distract the rider (e.g., using cellphones while riding) or aggressive behaviour (e.g., speeding, frequent lane changing, etc. and their combinations) lead to the high likelihood of being involved in a crash. No matter how minor these may be (e.g., dents on vehicles) the cumulative impacts are still significant in terms of costs.

c. For people driving jeepneys, UV Express and taxis: Always keep in mind that you are supposed to be driving safely as you are driving public utility vehicles carrying passengers whom you must convey safely to their destinations. This means you should exercise utmost care in driving and not doing because you simply want to earn money means you have no business providing public transport service.

d. For people driving private cars: Follow traffic rules and regulations. Common causes of traffic congestion and road crashes can be the simplest violations. The more dangerous behaviour include counter flowing, speeding and cutting (or aggressive lane changing).

e. For pedestrians: Cross at designated areas. If there are none or you choose to cross anywhere (i.e., jaywalk) make sure that you are alert and that there are clear gaps allowing for “safe” crossings.

f. For cyclists: People using bicycles should use assigned lanes whenever available. Admittedly, there is a lack or absence of bike lanes in most Philippine cities and the reality is that these will not be provided in an instant. And so cyclists should also be responsible and exercise care as they pedal along. “Sharing the road” also means cyclists need to follow road traffic rules and regulations. They are not excused, for example, from stopping at intersections when the red light is on disregarding one way streets.

With the onset of the wet season, roads will be slippery from rains and therefore add to the challenges of ensuring safe roads. We should not forget that every road user is a vulnerable person. Vulnerability is not limited to the pedestrian or cyclist though they may be the most vulnerable, often with little protection that will allow them to survive collisions with motor vehicles. Though valuable time can be lost by exercising extra care and discipline on the roads, the time cannot substitute or compensate the possible loss of life and limbs due to crashes.