Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Shopping at NAIA Terminal 3

Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) has four passenger terminals. Of these, Terminal 3 is the largest and the building space has not been fully utilized. Due to the legal issues surrounding its construction, it took so much time for the terminal to be developed so it could be to its full potential. Last week, when I fetched my father who was flying in from Iloilo, I had more than enough time (his flight was delayed by more than 2 hours) to go around and see the new additions to the airport. These included new restaurants and shops at the south wing of the airport. Among the more conspicuous and perhaps newest addition is Kiss & Fly.

Kiss & Fly is found at the departure (3rd) levelof the terminal. The interior looks like a department store in a mall. There is a Starbucks at one of the entrances to the store. I think this is the 2nd Starbucks at NAIA with the first one at Terminal 1’s pre-departure area.

You can now practically do your shopping at Terminal 3. There are many stores selling clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, electronics and toys. The only thing lacking perhaps is a supermarket but then there are at least 3 convenience stores inside that could provide what the other shops couldn’t in terms of food and other items. Of course, there are duty free shops in the terminal, and if you are qualified, many shops offer duty free prices when you present your travel documents. Regular prices are similar to shops at malls but if your timing is right and there is a sale, you can get items for significantly less than the mall prices. So there is no excuse for not being able to get a souvenir for your loved ones or significant others, especially if you are arriving at Terminal 3.

Some interesting (and required) readings on traffic engineering

Christmas breaks allow me to catch up on a lot of reading. The previous months comprising our university’s semester were spent preparing for lectures though I had to do some readings related to researches I am involved in. Browsing the net and social media, I came across 2 articles shared by an acquaintance. He is a very progressive planner who has extensively studied and written about the most relevant issues in urban planning, focusing on transport. A third article I found while reading one of the two. These were very interesting for me in part because they are thought provoking in as far as traffic engineering is concerned.

The author seems to call out traffic engineers in general but these articles should also be contextualized properly. The situations mentioned in the articles are to be found in cities in the United States and may not be applicable in other cities in other countries. Traffic engineers in Europe, for example, have been working on exactly the solutions being mentioned in the articles that would make streets inclusive and safe especially for pedestrians and cyclists. The same with Asian cities like Singapore and Tokyo.

In the Philippines, however, there is so much that we can learn from the articles. The mere mention of the design guidelines being used in the US betrays the flaws of highway and traffic engineering in the Philippines. The Philippines’ highway planning manual and other guidelines used by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are heavily drawn from US references. Most highway and traffic engineers in the country are educated using curricula that use US textbooks and references. There are even civil engineering programs that use licensure exam review materials as their references! These exam materials are also known to be based on DPWH guidelines and manuals aside from problems “outsourced” or patterned after the Professional Engineer (PE) exams in the US. Few schools have progressive curricula that look to best practices that take into account the complexities of roads especially in the urban setting. Such ‘copying’ of American standards and practices in many cases do not consider Philippine (local) conditions and blind applications to our roads instead of proper adaptation often have lead to unsafe and inequitable roads.

Honest Iloilo taxi driver

As if on cue, I just read a news article reporting on a taxi driver who returned a big amount of money left by one of his passengers. The driver is of a Light of Glory taxi. Call it coincidence but then the article mentions that the driver also was in the news before for returning a notebook computer another passenger has left in his cab.

Taxi driver returns P300,000 left by passenger

So it’s the driver and not necessarily the company? Likely, and we do need more trustworthy drivers like him behind the wheel of our taxis.

On Iloilo’s taxis

The talk about Uber vs taxi is a hot topic in many cities around the world and also in Metro Manila where Uber has gained a foothold and a strong following among mostly ‘former’ taxi goers. Many have stated that Uber provides the service that taxis should have been providing. Uber vehicles are supposed to be of newer models and drivers are supposed to be screened carefully. Uber even has a feedback mechanism not just for drivers but for passengers as well. Basically, Uber provides the quality of service everyone wants to have on regular taxis. The irony of course is that regular taxis are supposed to provide a higher quality of service compared to other public transport modes considering it is basically a for hire car short of a limousine service. But then this begs the question: If you had good taxi services in your city, would you still consider Uber? Or perhaps would Uber have a lot of demand in a city with good taxi services? Perhaps there will still be a demand for Uber but the clamor will not be like that in Metro Manila. And there are few cities with ‘good enough’ taxi services that can compare with Uber in terms of quality of service.

A good example of where there are ‘good enough’ taxis and there is a healthy competition not between Uber and conventional taxis but among taxi operators themselves is in Iloilo City. We have discovered many years ago that Iloilo City had one Light of Glory taxi company that is very popular among Ilonggos and visitors as the drivers were generally more honest than others and they had an efficient dispatching system including desks at the airport and a major shopping mall.

 IMG_1180Light of Glory Taxi at the airport parking lot

2015-12-09 07.26.50Light of Glory has its own app, which you can get for free and install on your smartphone. It is not as sophisticated as Uber’s or Grab’s apps in terms of features but it gets the job done (i.e., getting you a taxi).

IMG_1181Dispatch sheet – note the attributes the company is trying to promote among its taxis: “Clean, Safe, Reliable, Comfortable, Drug Free” These are attributes we all want of our public utility vehicles whether these are taxis, jeepneys, buses or tricycles.

2015-12-09 07.28.52Light of Glory taxi that dropped us off at the venue of our meeting straight from the airport

The Light of Glory taxis is a well run company. Their drivers seem to be treated very well by the operator (drivers claim they have a better compensation system) and generally drive better than other taxis. Their vehicles are also seem to be better maintained compared to others except a few of the larger companies like GDR. Everyone knows about the best taxi company in Iloilo and would most likely prefer their taxis over others if the choice is given to the taxi-going commuter. To compare, I remember the Comfort taxis of Singapore and how many Singaporeans and foreigners living in SG prefer these taxis over others. Comfort taxis have a good dispatching system and you can make reservations for trips in advance. Of course, there are additional fees for on-demand services including arrangements for pick-ups and drop-offs (e.g., your residence to the airport).

Premium bus service schedule

For the benefit of commuters, here is the schedule of the premium express buses currently on experimental run along EDSA. The end points and routes are shown in the graphic below:

Express bus schedule

I suddenly remembered the slogan adopted by the defunct Metro Manila Transit Corporation (MMTC) for their Love Bus back on the 1970s and 1980s: “Save Gas, Ride Bus”. This is still very much applicable today and perhaps not only to consider saving gas but to save time and money by riding public transport. The express buses offer a higher quality of service than regular buses and should be promoted and perhaps expanded to include other corridors as well. I think many of us have forgotten about how good road public transport could be and should be (with the exceptions of those who have gone abroad to cities like Singapore and Hong Kong) that we fail to see a good initiative like the premium bus. It is also a proof of concept for the bus rapid transit (BRT) systems that can finally be implemented for Metro Manila and Cebu [crossing my fingers here].

Another look at Iloilo’s main bikeway

Much has been written and said about Iloilo’s bikeways and particularly about the grander one built along the main highway that is Ninoy Aquino Avenue. This bikeway is already usable but is being extended along with the road widening works for the national road that connects major towns in central Iloilo province including Sta. Barbara and Cabatuan, which host the international airport. Here are some photos and commentaries on the bikeway.

2015-12-09 09.43.48Iloilo City’s wide bikeway along Ninoy Aquino Ave (formerly the Iloilo Diversion Road) – the building on the left is SM City’s recently opened expansion. The photos were taken from the pedestrian overpass across the diversion road.

2015-12-09 09.44.00A closer look of the traffic conflicts at the intersection with Jalandoni Street – the 3-leg intersection is not as simple as it initially looks because of traffic coming from/going to the service road on the right. It is quite obvious in the photo that the alignment of the service road changes abruptly, affecting the trajectory of flow along the road.

2015-12-09 09.44.15The photos were taken around 9:30 AM and there was practically no bicycle traffic to be seen. To be fair, perhaps there is significant bicycle traffic, particularly the commuting kind, earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. Bicycle volumes need to be measured and monitored to determine if the bikeways indeed have encouraged more people to take up cycling as a mode for their regular commutes. That’s the Plazuela in the background on the right.

2015-12-09 09.44.32Another look at the bikeway shows it emanating from Iloilo City proper where it ultimately connects to the bikeways at the Promenade along Iloilo River. There are no bikeways within Iloilo’s CBD itself.

2015-12-09 09.44.42The photo above shows the bikeway and beyond (towards Jaro and Pavia) with the new SM annex at left and the Injap Tower Hotel on the right.

 

Tricycle fares in Antipolo City

Tricycles in Antipolo City practically have no defined or restricted areas of operations. Unlike other cities, say Quezon City or Manila, tricycle operations in Antipolo is practically free ranging. You can get a tricycle in Mambugan and ride it directly to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Simbahan ng Antipolo); a distance of 8 to 10 kilometers depending on the route taken. As such, there has been a tendency for tricycle drivers to overcharge passengers even though fares were subject to negotiations and there have bee established average or usual fares for certain trips. Nevertheless, there have been and are still lots of complaints about tricycle fares in the city. This is evidenced from the queries posted on the city’s social media accounts.

This situation begs an important question on whether Antipolo City has official tricycle fare rates. The answer is yes, it does have official rates and this is stated under City Ordinance No. 2009-316. I assume that ‘2009’ here refers to the year the ordinance was signed into law by the City Council. Here’s a graphic from Antipolo City’s Facebook page showing official tariffs and warnings against negotiating fares as well as the maximum number of passengers a tricycle can carry.

 

Antipolo tricycle faresTricycle fares based on official tariffs under City Ordinance No. 2009-316

Those two other ordinances seem to be among the most abused by tricycle drivers and likely very difficult to enforce considering the ranges of tricycles. According to netizens, many tricycle drivers still tend to negotiate fares for long trips and tricycles carrying more than 4 passengers is a common sight in the city especially tricycles that are used as school service vehicles. I tend to wince myself whenever I see a tricycle overloaded with school children negotiating Ortigas Ave Extension or Sumulong Highway. These are unsafe and put a lot of young lives at risk.

Below is an example fare matrix for tricycles posted at the New Public Market along Sumulong Highway and across from the new Robinsons mall in the same area:

2015-11-02 11.02.35Illustrative fares to/from the New Antipolo Public Market

I think there should be similar information posted in other areas around Antipolo City. This is so that people will not be confused about the tricycle fares and so as to minimize the instances when tricycle drivers take advantage of passengers not familiar with trip distances and the fare rates.

The Antipolo City Government is working towards improving transport and traffic in this highly urbanized city. I think this should include regulating tricycle services so that the city could reduce their numbers along national roads like Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Ave. Extension. Tricycles have become a nuisance in traffic and not just for motorists but for cyclists and pedestrians as well. They shouldn’t be traveling long distances and along rolling and mountainous terrains. They tend to be noisy and, perhaps most problematic, are smoke belchers. Hopefully, this can be addressed in the next years as the city continuous to grow and become more progressive. This only means that the city should strive towards a modern, efficient and people & environment-friendly transport system.