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.
Spacious area for international passengers checking-in for their flights
Passengers queued at the Silk Air counters
Passengers at the Cebu Pacific counters
Air 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.
A view of the Philippine Airlines counters, which are closer to the center of the airport terminal.
Counters for travel tax and OFW exit clearances
Airport terminal fee counters at Mactan
The 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:
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.
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:
You can also download a brochure about EASTS here:
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:
Misleading information on comparing modes of transport
A major media network sponsored an experiment pitting a bicycle, bus and rail in a race from Trinoma to De La Salle University along Taft Avenue. The bicycle won but under conditions that are favorable to the cyclist even considering Metro Manila’s road conditions that are not bike-friendly (and not pedestrian friendly, too, in many areas).
Would the bicycle have won against a motorcycle where both riders were of similar skills and experiences? Probably not considering the speed of a motorised vehicle even given congested roads.
Would a lot of people consider cycling between, say, Trinoma and DLSU? Most likely not, even if you provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities like bike racks, showers, etc., short of building exclusive bikeways (e.g., elevated).
I have nothing against bicycles and cycling. I have a bicycle myself and I have cycled between my home and the universities when I was studying and a visiting scientist in Japan. However, I have to caution people into thinking and oversimplifying that one mode is better than all others. If we pursue this line of thinking, then perhaps we should include walking in the discussion. I would like to think that there will also be a lot of people who would state that walking (and even running) is better than other modes including cycling. When comparing these two non-motorized modes, however, the advantages of one over the other become obvious – cycling is faster and requires less energy per person traveling using the mode. Such would extend to the motorized modes and comparisons should clearly show the suitability of certain modes of transport over others once distance and capacity are factored into the equation. Thus, we have rail systems as more appropriate over longer distances and are able to carry much more passengers per hour compared to, say, jeepneys. These are even more efficient in terms of energy on a per passenger basis. Further, we have to appreciate that we have to establish a clear hierarchy of transport systems and provide the necessary infrastructure to enable people to have all the options for traveling and especially for commuting.
Capability building for traffic management in Metro Manila
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has been on the news lately due to the perceived shortcomings of the agency on traffic management in the metropolis. The current administration has designated the Philippine National Police – Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) to take charge of traffic management/enforcement at six identified choke points along EDSA. EDSA or Circumferential Road 4 has been a battleground of sorts for Metro Manila, representing the capital’s transport and traffic woes with just about all the conceivable problems including severe traffic congestion, high incidence of road crashes and a malfunctioning rail line (MRT Line 3) along the corridor.
The agency was criticized when its head went to Cebu City with a team of enforcement personnel in an apparent effort to augment that city’s traffic personnel. Cebu City has its own traffic management unit in the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM), which has been managing traffic in that city for quite some time now. They have been actually ahead of Metro Manila with their own traffic engineering center already integrated with CITOM way back in the late 1980s. The traffic signals around the city were already under CITOM when Metro Manila’s Traffic Engineering Center (TEC) was still under the DPWH. It was only in the last decade that the TEC was formally transferred to MMDA and modernised to the current modern facility beside the MMDA headquarters at EDSA-Orense St. in Makati City. People observed that Cebu was already ahead of Metro Manila on this part and that the MMDA already had their hands full with Metro Manila’s traffic woes. The joke among major cities is that they were learning about traffic management and enforcement from Metro Manila by checking what the MMDA was doing. They will do the opposite. These cities in on the joke include Cebu, Davao and Iloilo, which are all highly urbanized cities looking to alleviate their own transport and traffic problems before these become the level of Metro Manila’s.
The MMDA has the capacity for traffic management as it has the resources including staff to manage traffic around Metro Manila. It even has people to spare that the agency can deploy to assist or supplement traffic personnel in adjacent local governments (e.g., in Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan). However, capacity does not mean capability. And MMDA clearly has limited capabilities despite the resources at its disposal. In fact, their traffic management group should be integrated if not closely working with their planning group. Transport engineering, planning and enforcement should go together, working cooperatively in order to come up with comprehensive schemes and solutions that address problems that are progressive in nature.
The old Transport Training Center (TTC) of the University of the Philippines was established to build both capacity and capability for government agencies that included the then Constabulary Highway Patrol Group (CHPG) that was under the then Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police (PC/INP) headed by the then Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. The PC/INP became the PNP and the CHPG became the Traffic Management Group (TMG) (later becoming the current HPG) but they all trained under the TTC, which became the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS).
The MMDA trained under the NCTS since the 1990s but most of those who did so over the years are now out of the agency and working elsewhere (including those who have migrated to other countries). The remaining training graduates have limited capability and some have quite a bit of overconfidence (this probably is a by-product of the BF era when the agency and its staff were basically taught that they were better than their DPWH and DOTC counterparts and everything they did was right). Mix this with what seems to be confusion about what they need to do and the result is quite amusing.
The MMDA recently established an Institute for Traffic Management (ITM) with the intent of providing training for their own staff and those from local government units. This is apparently with the instigation of their consultants who include a few academics without transport planning and engineering expertise and experience yet dabble in it anyway. I think the ITM is not necessary at this point and it is actually not in the agency’s mandate to provide training programs other than to their own staff. MMDA should focus instead on capability building. If not under NCTS or other local entities they can probably get the knowledge and skills required to manage Metro Manila traffic elsewhere and abroad. In fact, I would recommend that they explore programs offered by the Land Transportation Authority Academy (LTA Academy) of Singapore. These are professional programs that have been developed in cooperation with leading institutions in Singapore like the National University of Singapore (NUS) that can provide a fresh infusion of knowledge to the MMDA. But attendance in such programs is not an assurance that the agency can be better afterwards. The key ingredient would still have to be an effective and progressive leadership that is not under the influence of politics and is committed to no-nonsense traffic management even without the media covering these activities.
Causes of congestion along Ortigas Ave. Extension
I have written about the common causes of congestion along Ortigas Avenue. The past articles mentioned the undisciplined loading and unloading along the entire stretch of the road and particularly at either ends of the Manggahan Floodway bridge in Pasig City. I have also written about the congestion caused by private vehicles generated by a private school just a stone’ throw away from DOTC headquarters. This time, I focus on Ortigas Avenue Extension, particularly the stretch from Cainta Junction to Valley Golf.
The current and more critical choke points along Ortigas Ave. Ext. are along the stretch of the road between Cainta Junction and Valley Golf. These are due to the road and drainage works along that section that effectively made the westbound side of Ortigas a single lane road between Brookside and Park Place. There are also road and drainage works along the eastbound side between Brookside and Valley Golf where the entire road section is being elevated. This section is flood prone and has been problematic during the wet season when heavy rains often result in flash floods.
Counter flow along Ortigas Avenue Extension – this scheme has been the only option for the section between Valley Golf and Park Place Subdivision as the work proceeds one lane at a time. At the time, I took this photo, the counter flow lanes allowed for 2 lanes each for both the eastbound and westbound directions of this corridor. The past week, however, I noticed that during the afternoons and evenings, I noticed that two lanes were allocated for westbound traffic while only one was for the eastbound direction. This should not be the case as the peak direction in the afternoon to the evening is eastbound when people are home bound mainly from work and school.
The section across from STI is another choke point as the area is one of the ends of the project raising the elevation of the avenue as well as improving the drainage along the road. The traffic along this area has improved much though vehicles still have to slow down to transition between the old pavement and new pavement sections, as well as vehicles turning towards Hunters ROTC Road.
Unfinished sections – at the time this photo was taken, work along the site was intermittent. Commuters making the observation are often frustrated and much disappointed when they see none working along the construction site. The Mayor of Cainta did very well by talking to the contractor and apparently discussing with the latter how to improve traffic conditions as well as how to expedite the implementation of the project. My own observation was that conditions did indeed improve after that meeting (which was related by the Mayor in his Facebook page) and people could see workers busy with the project even at night time.
Traffic will continue to be bad along Ortigas Avenue Extension until this project is completed. While there should be some significant improvement in traffic flow after completion, congestion will again steadily worsen for this corridor whose private vehicle traffic continues to grow. Public transport is provided by buses, jeepneys and UV Express (whose numbers have ballooned during the last 5 years) and these have contributed a lot to congestion because of their drivers’ behavior particularly when they stop for passengers at areas like Valley Golf, Brookside, Cainta Junction, Ever, Countryside, Manggahan and Rosario.
There is hope though as news proclaim that the NEDA Board has approved the LRT 4 project along this corridor. A mass transit system is indeed necessary and this was required perhaps over a decade ago already. I do hope that this ‘LRT’ is more like the current Line 2 trains and stations than the Line 3 kind. Line 2 is a heavy rail system while Line 3 is light rail. The Ortigas corridor requires a heavy rail system considering the passenger demand in the areas that will be served by the transit system. I also hope that Line 4 is implemented like Line 2 with the government taking responsibility for constructing the system. I have maintained my view that the current administration is too fixated with Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that it had practically given up its responsibility to the general public to provide an efficient and equitable means of public transport for commuting. I just now wonder what became of the proposed BRT line along this same corridor. Perhaps the BRT option has already been abandoned by the DOTC in favor of rail?