Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: February 2016

When conventional taxis were a little better

There was a time when conventional taxis were at least a bit better than what they are perceived to be now. I say “a bit” because then as now, unruly taxi drivers were quite rampant and many drivers were into negotiating fares or choosing passengers. But to those who remember the taxis from the 80s and the 90s, there was one R&E taxi company that was supposed to be more reliable than others. There was even one movie starring the father of a current presidential candidate where the recognized king of Philippine cinema played a taxi driver along with a host of popular basketball players. That was a time when people preferred R&E over other taxis and it was easy to spot their yellow and green cabs.

Then there was also Basic taxi company, which featured a phone-a-taxi (on demand) service. The wife used to call for a taxi to her home or office so she didn’t need to stand out to wait and hail a taxi when she had some heavy stuff with her. I was reminded of this feature of their service when I spotted a Basic taxi in front of our vehicle earlier today. Pick-up call services are still available and I guess there are other taxi companies with similar services for the convenience of passengers. However, with the eventual deregulation of taxis and the proliferation of individually owned cabs, services continued to deteriorate in Metro Manila and other cities.

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These convenience features are not new ones as what it seems to younger people these days who have their Uber and Grab apps on their smart phones. I guess if there were smartphones in the 1980s and 1990s, then similar apps could have been developed for taxi services. I had written about one taxi company in Iloilo City that has these pick-up call services and an app for people who prefer to use these with their gadgets. One just wonders if conventional taxi companies could have been preferred by more people over Uber and Grab if their drivers were more professional (i.e., stuck to their meters and weren’t choosy of passengers).

Line 2 Extension construction at full swing

The construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension from Santolan, Pasig City to Masinag, Antipolo City is now in full swing. The contractor, DM Consunji, Inc., has occupied several lanes of Marcos Highway and the reduced capacity of the highway has led to moderate to severe congestion along sections from Ligaya to Masinag. At certain times, construction work required more space than the 2 lanes usually occupied by construction equipment and materials. Following are a few photos of the project showing various stages in the construction of the Line 2 extension.

IMG_0803Section in front of SM Masinag also showing the pedestrian overpass across Marcos Highway

IMG_0804Section in front of Vermont Royal Executive Village also showing a newly constructed pedestrian overpass that looks like it will be cleared by the elevated tracks.

IMG_0805Columns under construction along Marcos Highway across from Golden Meadows Subdivision.

IMG_0806Columns completed and under construction across Town & Country Executive Village – the photo also shows another pedestrian overpass but from the completed column its clear that modifications aren’t needed for the overpass.

IMG_0807Construction at the current end of the elevated tracks at Santolan, Pasig City

Construction works are expected to go on for at least a year before the trains can start test runs along the new tracks. This is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of commuting along this corridor once the extension becomes operational and hopefully DOTC is already planning an extension further towards Cogeo or perhaps branch out to Marikina via Sumulong Highway.

Voyeurism

This seems to be an unusual topic for this blog. However, I thought I’d comment¬†about voyeurism in relation to transport or traffic as I observed a lot of people having cameras installed on their vehicle’s dash boards and local government units utilizing CCTV cameras for monitoring traffic.

In the case of LGUs, while there are already many cases where action was taken by authorities for traffic violations and other anomalies that they see on their camera, there are still as many cases when there are no actions taken to address issues. These include instances where CCTV cameras recorded reckless driving or riding and the videos were clear enough to identify the vehicles involved. These videos were likely not used to

Then there is the concern with motorists who have dash cams and are able to record reckless driving and other issues as they travel. Some post their videos on social media with the more interesting ones becoming click baits as they are shared by many. I found it disturbing that people take videos of road crashes and appear not to help the victims. They are essentially voyeurs, too. Posting these things on social media doesn’t count as help. It seems insensitive and unemphatic for people to be recording stuff and saying something about how these shouldn’t be and yet do nothing about the situation. Certainly, these are sins of omission that can be regarded along the lines of the sins committed that they recorded and shared.

Kids stuff for urban planning?

It’s been a busy latter part of the week and I haven’t had much time to finish a new article so I will just be sharing another interesting article, this time on urban planning. I spotted the article in my mailbox as part of a bulletin that I am subscribed to. Here’s a link to the article:

Teaching urban planning to pre-schoolers

It’s interesting to me as I am a teacher and I thought as I read this that we should probably be teaching transport planning or transport engineering to pre-schoolers as well. We are doing something like that for grade schoolers already in the form of road safety lessons. I am already curious about what topics to cover for pre-schoolers and how to teach them. Older children probably could go with SimCity and other computer games but pre-schoolers can be more of a challenge in terms of the tools you would need for them to learn. Using Lego is a brilliant idea and the same can be applied to transport as well in addition to maybe Matchbox and Tomica.

Buses giving way to pedestrians

We saw a sign on a bus at Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Hopefully, the drivers of all buses plying routes in BGC practice this and stop for pedestrians crossing at the designated lanes. Perhaps they should also be proactive in stopping also for jaywalkers as this is the safe practice even if these pedestrians also endanger others by crossing juts anywhere including the most unsuitable places (e.g., blind spots).

IMG_0794Signs at the back of a Fort Bus including one regarding giving way to pedestrians crossing at designated lanes. Another sign cautions drivers of following vehicles about the bus making wide turns. These are good for promoting road safety.

Counterflow culture: pang-iisa

There are several videos currently circulating in social media showing counter-flowing motorists. In one, a driver with a camera on his dashboard proactively positions his vehicle along the middle lane of the correct side of the road and engages a counterflowing motorist who initially appeared as if he were going to insist on his wrong behavior (feeling entitled perhaps?). The driver with the dash cam didn’t budge or give way and the errant driver had to go back to his correct lane.

In another, more serious video, another dash cam records a scene along a curved 2-lane section of Marcos Highway where an oncoming motorcycle slammed into a counterflowing vehicle coming from the left side of the vehicle with the dashcam. It was clear that the counterflowing motorist violated the double yellow line rule, which led to the dreadful crash.

These are examples of what seems to be a counterflow epidemic among many motorists. Counterflowing is not only prevalent among motorcycles and public utility vehicles but among private vehicles as well. There are even those who follow emergency vehicles that legitimately and urgently use the opposing traffic lane. This behavior seems to be associated with these motorists wanting to get ahead of others. In Filipino or Tagalog, the term is translated to pang-iisa or gustong maka-isa (wanting to get one up on other people). This behavior can be attributed to a person being impatient, undisciplined, reckless, feeling entitled, or – all of the above.

Such issues could have been preempted by a stricter licensing system that can be administered by the Land Transportation Office (LTO). However, since many already have their licenses then the burden for correcting such behavior falls upon traffic enforcement agencies and their personnel including the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) and the MMDA. Hopefully, such errant behavior can be corrected and our roads can be safer for all users.

Will a flyover at Katipunan-C.P. Garcia solve the traffic problem in the area?

I read a news article about the proposal by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to construct a left-turn flyover at the intersection of Katipunan Avenue (C5) and C.P. Garcia Avenue in Quezon City.  The flyover is supposed to be for vehicles turning left from the northbound side of Katipunan to C.P. Garcia Ave., which goes through the University of the Philippines Diliman

Will the flyover solve the traffic congestion problem in the area, particularly at the intersection and Katipunan in general? I would say no, it would not solve the congestion problem both for the intersection and for Katipunan. This assessment is due to the following reasons:

  1. The overpass does not address the root cause of congestion in the area, which is trip generation related. There are many major trip generators along Katipunan alone including three major schools (UP, Ateneo and Miriam) and a mall (UP Town Center). Add to this the traffic generated by the high density residential developments along Katipunan (notice the high rise condominiums lining up across Ateneo and Miriam?) and the through traffic coming from various areas that use C5’s Katipunan section.
  2. Congestion is caused by saturated intersections corresponding to Ateneo Gate 3 and main gate of Miriam College. Traffic going in and out of these schools are favored over through traffic along C5 resulting in congestion in the area. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to build overpasses to bypass these intersections.
  3. Congestion is caused by vehicles bound for and coming from the UP Town Center. The congestion due to traffic generated by the commercial development is actually alarming considering it is not yet completed and trips attracted and produced is not yet at full potential.
  4. The heaviest flows at the Katipunan-C.P. Garcia intersection are along Katipunan (northbound and southbound through traffic). Logic and traffic engineering principles point to grade separation to be more appropriate for such traffic and NOT for the left turn movement. A flyover should also be able to bypass UP Town Center as vehicles bound for the mall already blocks traffic along both sides of Katipunan and directly affects the intersection.

I think the DPWH should do well to re-assess their proposal along the lines of the reasons I have listed here rather than continue with the folly of building a left turn overpass alone. UP Diliman should also resist this overpass as, based on the news article, it would mean UP giving up some 8,000 square meters of its property for the project. UP already has given a lot for widening C.P. Garcia but that goes without saying that a through flyover might also require UP to give up property and particularly from its National Science Complex for such a project.

Shopping malls and Ortigas Avenue Extension traffic congestion

Recently, I noticed that traffic has somewhat eased along the eastbound side of Ortigas Avenue Extension. For one, this was probably due to the completion of road works and the reopening of lanes between Cainta Junction and Brookside. This improved traffic flow as traffic personnel didn’t have to resort to the balancing act that is the counter-flow scheme they had been employing to alleviate congestion for mostly home-bound traffic. But a major contributor to congestion was the Ever Gotesco Mall in the former Riverside industrial complex. Malls like this are major trip generators and if traffic coming in and out of the malls are not managed properly or facilities are not provided for efficient movement of people and vehicles, then there will surely be congestion along access roads. I stated that the Ever mall ‘was’ a major contributor because the mall recently closed down and the property is now fenced off from the road. At present, there is practically zero traffic that can be attributed to the former mall.

Following are a few photos of the closed and fenced off property that was the Ever Ortigas mall.

ever ortigas3Jeepneys and UV Express vehicles now use the service road of the mall as a terminal.

ever ortigas2It’s now a breeze passing through the eastbound section of Ortigas Extension in front of the former mall. There are signs stating the property has been acquired by retail giant SM. It will probably be transformed into an SM mall.

ever ortigas1This driveway used to cause congestion as jeepneys and private vehicles exited the mall through this driveway and many turned left towards Ortigas westbound. These vehicle often effectively blocked traffic along the eastbound direction with queues reaching all the way past Countryside and reaching De Castro on a bad day.

There were only two shopping malls along Ortigas Avenue Extension – the Robinson’s Place near Cainta Junction and Ever Gotesco. Ever has recently close but it is expected to re-open as an SM Mall sometime in the near future. SM doesn’t have a mall in the area and the ‘nearest’ ones would be Megamall, Marikina and Taytay (not counting the Super Center beside Tiendesitas and the Super Center along Felix Avenue). If indeed an SM mall will be there soon, we could expect heavier traffic in the area given the trip generation characteristics of SM. Perhaps, though, there is an opportunity to improve traffic in the area if SM can consider some improvements to its driveways and circulation. They could probably do something like what SM Novaliches had done with their generous setback to ensure that there will be no serious congestion along Quirino Avenue due to mall-generated traffic.

SM will not be the only major commercial development that is expected to generate traffic that will lead to congestion along Ortigas Extension. Almost across the former Ever mall is a commercial development under construction with a building I think is too close to the road. Then there is also the commercial/residential project that is being constructed along the westbound side of Ortigas Extension near the Kaytikling Junction in Taytay, Rizal. I wonder if these had the necessary traffic studies to support their impacts on at least the immediate areas they will be affecting.

Mainstreaming the motorcycle taxi via current transport tech trends

The motorcycle taxi is common in Southeast Asia and it seems that bringing it to the next level means taking advantage of available technology to facilitate getting a ride. In the forefront is Grab, the company behind GrabTaxi and GrabCar, which is a similar service to the popular Uber. GrabTaxi facilitated getting a taxi and is already popular for being quite effective to many who have availed of the service. I am among those who have used GrabTaxi and so far has been satisfied with the service.

Recently, Grab had been in the news for a service it has been providing elsewhere and which also appeared on their app in the Philippines – GrabBike. I also saw this feature on their app and was curious about how they were able to go mainstream on this in the Philippines because motorcycle taxis (e.g., habal-habal) are basically illegal in most cities and are unregulated except by barangays or a few local governments where their services have been recognized. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ordered Grab to stop offering this feature of their services. It seems they haven’t done so as GrabBike is still there and the service very much alive.

12376824_10153151074131805_7107429815786377825_nGrabBike feature on the old GrabTaxi App available in the Philippines

In fact, we tried to check if there was a GrabBike near our office and voila! There was one unit that appeared in our screen. I would bet that there would be more appearing on one’s screen if he/she happened to be in an area where there’s demand for motorcycle taxis services (e.g., Eastwood, BGC, Ortigas, Makati CBD, Cubao, etc.).

Grab BikeGrabBike featured on Grab’s new look app

Motorcycle taxis are popular in the provinces and especially in rural areas not just because of the convenience they provide (easily hailed and can maneuver through congested roads) but because they are a necessity, being practically the only public transport mode available to people. The main issues against them in the Philippines are safety-related. Not all providers practice safe riding and most if not all are sure to have no insurance to cover their passengers in case they are involved in a crash. One cannot fully blame motorcycle taxi service providers for offering their services considering the traffic mess in many highly urbanized cities especially in Metro Manila. However, offering such services to the public means that service providers should bear responsibility for ensuring the safety of their passengers. This would basically be in the form of insurance and regulation particularly for fares they charge. I wouldn’t even go to the tax implications of the income they derive from their operations.

These services will no doubt continue to be offered, even clandestinely, as traffic conditions remain bad and continue to worsen. People will gravitate towards such services in order to reduce the travel times in their commutes. This is expected to happen as long as people perceive that nothing is happening to significantly improve transportation in this country.

EDSA MRT 3 chronicles

A friend referred an article to me today and I thought it would be a very good read to a lot of people interested in what has happened and what is happening to the EDSA MRT 3. I think that this article is so far the most comprehensive, not-necessary-legal treatment of events leading to what we now have as a mass transit system along arguably the country’s busiest thoroughfare:

On a clear day you can see the MRT

It’s a must read for a lot of people who want to know about the dealings related to MRT 3 and perhaps understand how complex this has become. I would also recommend people read the very good discussions in the comment section of the article. It’s good to see the healthy exchange of opinions rather than have trolls ruin them.