Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Presentations at Usad EDSA consultation, Sept. 24, 2015

Following are presentation materials from the Usad EDSA consultation held at the GT Toyota Asian Center Auditorium of UP Diliman yesterday. I assume these are all for public consumption and for sharing among all stakeholders (all of us traveling in Metro Manila whether we use EDSA or not).

Situationer and actions: 09242015 SRDA EDC_rev

DOTC Express Bus Project: DOTC – Final Expanding Express Bus Services–EDSA Decongestion 24 Sept 2015

DPWH Road Engineering Projects: DPWH

MMDA presentation of situation and data: MMDA-Katupunan Mtg

I will refrain from making comments in this post as I need to understand the contents of the materials first. The important thins is to note that the government is doing what seems to be a best effort given the constraint of resources and time (The Presidential elections are coming up in May 2016.). Everyone of us must pitch in and do our part in making our commutes more pleasant than what they are now.

Consultation on EDSA decongestion – September 24, 2015

There will be a public consultation tomorrow entitled “EDSA Decongestion Consultation” at the GT Toyota Auditorium at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman from 1:30 – 3:30PM. The consultation will tackle transport and traffic in Metro Manila but particularly along EDSA. The consultation will be facilitated by the TWG headed by Sec. Almendras who is the cabinet secretary put in-charge of addressing (solving?) the traffic mess in Metro Manila. The TWG includes DPWH, DOTC, DTI, MMDA, LTO, LTFRB, and the PNP-HPG.

This would be a good venue for stakeholders to articulate their concerns as well as offer their ideas towards alleviating transport and traffic problems. Invitations are supposed to have been extended to academic institutions, transport groups and other interested parties. Hopefully, this event will be a productive and constructive one. Pointing fingers and playing the blame game will not get us anywhere.

Mactan Cebu International Airport – International Departures Check-in

In our recent trip to Cebu, we had more than enough time before our flight back to Manila so we decided to explore the airport that is going to be transformed into a ‘resort airport’ as per press release of the group tasked to expand and upgrade Mactan Cebu International Airport. There have been significant changes to the airport including the improved taxi stand for those arriving at Mactan. (NAIA should note of this, which has its version in Davao’s Franciso Bangoy Airport as well.) Following are some photos of the international departures check-in section of the terminal.

IMG11835-20150623-1419Spacious area for international passengers checking-in for their flights

IMG11836-20150623-1419Passengers queued at the Silk Air counters

IMG11837-20150623-1419Passengers at the Cebu Pacific counters

IMG11838-20150623-1419Air Asia counters near the end of the terminal. Note the self check-in machine in the photo. There are machines like this for Air Asia and Cebu Pacific that can be used by passengers wanting to bypass the queues for those who have not checked in online. This is particularly useful for people traveling light and in a hurry.

IMG11839-20150623-1420A view of the Philippine Airlines counters, which are closer to the center of the airport terminal.

IMG11840-20150623-1421Counters for travel tax and OFW exit clearances

IMG11841-20150623-1421Airport terminal fee counters at Mactan

IMG11842-20150623-1421The final security check for domestic and international passengers at Mactan Airport is between the domestic and international check-in sections. The area is spacious unlike the previous set-up though I guess this can or will get crowded eventually with more flights being served by the airport.

A lot of people expect much from the expansion and upgrading of Mactan Cebu International Airport. For one, this is a major test case for the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme as applied to a major transport project. Succeed or fail, it will be a good reference for future projects particularly, of course, for airports. Definitely, the biggest measures for success would be the comfort and convenience of travelers using the terminal as well as the impact of a very good airport terminal to a city’s economy.

“New phenomenon” in traffic?

I read in the news recently that the government official currently acting as traffic czar for Metro Manila. The news item may be found at the following link:

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/536851/news/nation/almendras-cites-new-phenomenon-in-edsa

Apparently, the government official found what he claimed as a “new phenomenon” along EDSA. To quote from the article:

“Sa gabi, your honor, may bagong phenomenon na we’re still trying to understand: Bakit ang daming naghihintay ng bus pauwi?” Almendras told senators during the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs’ hearing on the traffic in Metro Manila.

The secretary added that while commuters are having a hard time getting a bus ride in the afternoon, EDSA is packed with passenger buses in the morning.

Almendras has been personally monitoring EDSA since the police’s Highway Patrol Group took over traffic management on the main thoroughfare.

He said somebody told him that passenger buses are no longer going out in the afternoon or in the evening because they have already hit their quota during daytime.

“This is not fact yet… Somebody told me that when the buses hit their minimum targets, the drivers decide, ‘Bakit pa ako magpapakahirap magbiyahe?'” he said.

“I have that question. Why do I see a lot of people on the streets waiting to go home in the afternoon than in the morning?” he added.

It boggles the mind on how our officials are making assessments of the transport and traffic situation around Metro Manila and particularly along EDSA. The statements taken directly shows how detached our officials are from the realities of commuting that most people face on a daily basis in the metropolis. Such statements reinforce calls for public officials to take public transportation themselves in order for them to experience first-hand and understand how most people feel during their daily travels between homes, workplaces and schools. But while people do not deserve such hardships of commuting, there is the lingering (philosophical) question of whether the same commuters deserve the leaders they elected who appointed these same officials who have been and continue to be inutile and insensitive to the plight of the commuting public. Hopefully, the coming 2016 elections will yield officials who will be more sensitive and responsive to the plight of commuters in this country.

Opinions on traffic – skeptical or objective?

There have been a lot of critics of the current administration for what is perceived as sins of omission in as far as major transport projects are concerned. There are those from the media including some columnists who have written scathing articles about the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and particularly agency officials who are perceived to be underachieving (to use a more diplomatic term). There are those from the general public who have written about their experiences (e.g., difficulties in commuting, traffic congestion, poor quality of public transport, etc.) and have been able to publish this in popular media. Then there are also netizens who seem to only find fault in everything about transport whether these are posts on solutions or simply observations or honest opinions.

A lot of people offer their take on solutions for transport and traffic problems in Metro Manila. You find these everywhere and especially on social media. Social media is a terrific platform for broadcasting your opinion to your friends and likely to the general public if your posts or tweets become popular and get shared by others. These opinions and assessments may be based on actual experiences (“may pinaghuhugutan” in today’s popular parlance). There are also all kinds of experts including some who have their own agenda or have vested interests. These include former officials of government who criticize the current regime and yet did little during their stints in government. Many overlook (or choose to do so) the importance to provide solutions or recommendations whenever one criticizes. Without such recommendations, the statements are basically rants or whining.

The academe’s role is to provide objective assessments of policies, programs, projects including their planning, design, implementation and even operations and maintenance. Granted that there have been many studies conducted at universities and other research institutions, many of these remain in the shelves of their libraries and offices. It is important for the academe to be active in engaging government agencies in seeking out solutions for transport and traffic problems. Local universities should engage the local governments in their areas for cooperative work. The assumption here is that they are in the best positions to help solve problems in their localities as they are most familiar with the causes of these problems. National agencies like the DOTC and DPWH should support this kind of cooperation at the local level by extending resources to make this work. This follows the model that they have in the US where federal and state government agencies support researches conducted by transport centers of excellence based in leading universities across the country.

Technology push?

An acquaintance announced that his company is planning to sponsor an event aiming to attract developers to come up with apps that could help alleviate transport problems in Metro Manila (and probably and potentially, elsewhere). This reminded me of a similar event a few years ago that was sponsored by an international institution that sought to have people come up with applications (apps)  that would enhance transport using transport data they have compiled. While the event attracted a healthy number of app developers and arguably came up with some useful software, the impact of such apps on commuting is at best marginal. For one, some apps attempted to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, as one app developed was too similar to the well-established Waze but with an inferior interface. Then there were those which probably could be useful if only most people had smart phones and were dependent on them for their trips.

Metro Manila is at the point when most major arterials are already saturated. Stricter traffic management (as it should be) can only do so much to address congestion along thoroughfares such as EDSA and Circumferential Road 5. Apps that are aimed at enhancing commuting would ultimately be limited as the transport infrastructure is lacking and those proposed or under construction would take time to complete. Yes, carpooling can probably help and an app enabling people to find travel/commuting companions would probably help. But it does not assure participants (both drivers and passengers) of their safety or security and so isn’t for everyone. Apps and similar or related technology pushes are categorized along with other stop-gap or band aid solutions. It might have some positive impact but these are short lived and eventually will not be productive. It definitely though will satisfy a lot of geek or nerdy egos in terms of what they can create that they think can help improve transport or traffic. And I suddenly recall a term used by one of my friends chiding others one night we were engaging in some academic discourse about transportation theory as applied to traffic problems in Metro Manila – “intellectual masturbation” – which seems an apt description for this (app development, etc.) type of exercise. One colleague even made the observation that such efforts only provide an excuse for government not to act on the urgent matter of traffic. Innovation may be welcome but it seems such a waste of time and talent to be solving the unsolvable through apps. (Can someone develop an app to fix MRT trains? Or perhaps solve contract issues of the PPP kind? I think you get my point.)

The main reason why people buy and drive their own vehicles is because these cars and motorcycles enable them from being dependent of public transport, which is generally perceived as having low service quality. While there is a need to manage the demand for private vehicles, restraint without the suitable public transport alternatives (think Singapore or Hong Kong for best practice examples) will not make sense as these punish people for something the government is not able to deliver in terms of transport services. This is a message I have seen in many papers that are the outputs of many studies presented at the recently concluded 11th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies. In fact, this has been a message in past conferences as well. You can find the technical papers in their searchable site at the following link: www.east.info

EASTS 2015 – Cebu City, September 11-13, 2015

The 11th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS 2015) will be held in Cebu City this September 11-13, 2015. For information on the conference and program, check out their website here:

http://www.easts2015.com/

You can also download a brochure about EASTS here:

EASTS brochure2014-2015a

The conference is hosted by the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP), which is the local affiliate of the EASTS. More information on the TSSP are found below:

TSSP brochure_inside TSSP brochure_cover-back