Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: April 2018

On the Grab – Uber merger

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from Uber confirming what was in the news for some time then, and what was rumoured a longer while back. Uber Philippines was closing shop after merging with main competitor Grab, while the mother company also acquiring a stake in Grab. Later, I also received a message from Grab (I use either depending on availability and cost.) welcoming Uber users to Grab.

The result so far has been frustrating if not disappointing to many who have relied on Uber for commuting and the typical trips that you usually associate with taking a taxi.

Recent news revealed that Grab is using an even more punitive pricing scheme compared to Uber’s surge pricing. While the LTFRB moved to scrap this, Grab has been apprehensive, stating that this was an incentive for their drivers.¬†There is actually another side to the concept of surge pricing that LTFRB does not or seems to refuse to understand. That is, that dynamic and more expensive fares related to congestion (or road conditions) is something that’s actually related to the concept of congestion pricing. This actually penalises the use of vehicles like private cars or taxis in favour of higher capacity transport like buses or, if available, trains.

Even more recent is the news that Grab is suspending about 500 of its drivers for excessive cancellation and/or rejection of trips. Unlike Uber before, Grab drivers have the “luxury” of knowing where a potential passenger is heading. That gives the driver the option to accept or reject a proposed fare. Uber drivers didn’t know where the potential passenger was heading and to my knowledge, was stricter with penalising their drivers. The only caveat I know is that passengers can also be penalised if the driver requests for a cancellation and the passenger obliges out of good faith (e.g., An Uber driver in Cebu requested me to cancel the request as he claimed he was caught in traffic and would be penalised if he canceled. I ended up protesting Uber penalising me 100 pesos for my cancellation. Uber did not act on it in my favour.).

The issues surrounding the Grab/Uber merger though should not be there in the first place if we had good taxi services. When I say good I am referring to the quality of service provided by taxis in Singapore and Japan. Of course, they also have good public transportation there so there’s also a case for what most people will likely be taking instead of cars and taxis (which operate similarly as cars). One wonders how and why LTFRB seems to be so strict vs TNCs while being lax with taxis. Meanwhile, DOTr is scrambling on the desperate catch-up work it has to do about mass transit lines and public transport rationalisation. Good luck to us commuters!

More high capacity transit for Antipolo!

Two years ago, I wrote about Antipolo being ripe for high capacity public transportation. So far, work is progressing along the Line 2 Extension to Masinag but there’s no word about it being extended further (Cogeo? Marikina?). I have always maintained that the demand in Cogeo, Antipolo is already established and a mass transit line terminating there will certainly be a game changer in terms of commuting. In fact, it may contribute to rapidly developing that area and hasten the development of Antipolo’s government centre, which is a few kilometres further along Marcos Highway.

Schedule and fares for the P2P bus service between Robinsons Place Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas Center.

There is now a P2P bus service between Robinsons Place Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria via Ortigas Avenue. And then there is the newest P2P service between SM Masinag and the Makati CBD. The first has very limited capacity at present and have few patrons (regular passengers) based on what I’ve observed and the rough survey my students did for a class project. I still have to see the second one from SM Masinag but I assume it has a higher demand considering a lot of people already commute from that area to Makati. I say so because there’s a nearby UV Express terminal that’s always crowded with people every time I pass by in the morning. This should also translate into demand for the afternoon/evening period. However, I am not so optimistic about the off-peak periods (I hope I’m wrong!) as most P2P services my students have surveyed so far indicate really low occupancies during the off-peak periods.

Is P2P the way to go for Antipolo (and its neighbouring towns like Cainta, Taytay and Marikina)? I think this is still basically a stop-gap measure and a mass transit line as well as complementing conventional buses would still be the most suitable for these rapidly and steadily growing areas. Ortigas Avenue is ripe for a high capacity system that should perhaps be grade separated. The demand was there more than two decades ago. I seriously believe that the Province of Rizal, the City of Antipolo and the high-earning Municipalities of Cainta and Taytay should exert more effort and lobby for a mass transit line serving the Ortigas corridor.

Amsterdam Schipol Airport railway station

My recent trip to Europe had me traveling from my entry point at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport to Enschede in Twente. I took the Intercity train to my destination city but not before taking photos around Schipol Airport and its underground train station.

This was my first look at the train station at Amsterdam Schipol Airport

Directional signs for arriving passengers

Ticket counters for various destinations from Schipol – one can purchase tickets for domestic or international destinations at the airport, which is a major gateway for Europe.

Cafes and shops at Schipol

Passengers checking their documents or verifying directions

Information booth at the airport

Travelers at Schipol airport

At the platform

Passengers boarding or waiting at the platform of Schipol station

Double decker car of an Intercity train headed for Venlo

My Intercity train ticket to Enschede

Back of the ticket

I like these clocks at railway stations and airports. They give me an opportunity to synchronise my watch with the clocks and the time at the country and city where I am at.

Incomplete rationalisation of public transport?

The current initiative to rationalise road public transport services is not as comprehensive as necessary or as some people want us to believe. The drive appears to be mainly on (some say against) jeepneys while little has been done on buses and UV Express vehicles. Most notable among the modes not covered by rationalisation are the tricycles.

A smoke-belching tricycle along Daang Bakal in Antipolo City

What really should be the role and place of tricycles in the scheme of themes in public transportation? Are they supposed to provide “last mile” services along with walking and pedicabs (non-motorised 3-wheelers)? Or are they supposed to be another mode competing with jeepneys, buses and vans over distances longer than what they are supposed to be covering? It seems that the convenient excuse for not dealing with them is that tricycles are supposed to be under local governments. That should not be the case and I believe national agencies such as the DOTr and LTFRB should assert their authority but (of course) in close cooperation with LGUs to include tricycles in the rationalisation activities. Only then can we have a more complete rationalisation of transport services for the benefit of everyone.

SimCity-like tool for impact analysis?

There’s this nice article about a tool for transport/traffic impact assessment (TIA):

Peters, A. (2018) This SimCity-like tool lets urban planners see the potential impact of their ideas, http://www.fastcompany.com, https://www.fastcompany.com/40548501/this-sim-city-like-tool-lets-urban-planners-the-potential-impact-of-their-ideas [Last accessed: 4/12/2018]

I played SimCity before with the early versions of the game. My friends and I thought it had the potential as a tool for transport planning given the visuals and the features for building cities out of scratch. We even tried out some concepts like transit oriented development (TOD) to see how these can be “simulated” in the game. With other tools like Google Earth and Street View, it is possible to create new tools or apps for rapid determination of impact areas. The immediate or primary impact areas of developments are spelled out in the guidelines published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) so these can be incorporated in a tool or app. This can be a good project for development and application locally. Perhaps this can be developed for use by local governments and practitioners preparing TIAs.

Trams of Den Haag

Going around The Hague was no hassle. There were a lot less people there compared to Amsterdam last Easter Sunday. I felt more relaxed moving around. I also like it that I had transit options in the form of trams and buses to get from one place to somewhere walking seemed to be the less efficient mode to take. Not so many people were on bicycles but that’s probably because it was a Sunday and most bike traffic were for work or school trips? Here are some photos of trams at The Hague (Den Haag).

Saw this tram as we went around some of the attractions in the city.

We rode this one going to the beach.

I rode this tram going back to Den Haag Central Station

Transit network map at Frankenslag stop

Tram schedule posted at the stop

Our friends’ neighbourhood was a really nice one and I liked it that it is accessible to both tram and bus. The walks are short but you can easily get some exercise by getting off at an earlier stop or perhaps walking to a further one. The clear walking paths are definitely a plus and the environment is one conducive for such activities as well as for saying ‘hello’ to other people.

Transfer at Dubai International Airport

Arriving at Dubai en route to The Netherlands, we deplaned to be transported by bus to the airport terminal. Those of us bound for Europe boarded a different bus that took us to the terminal for what I assumed were for Europe-bound flights. This was good as we didn’t have to figure out the maze that was Dubai airport including passing through security and figuring out how to go to our designated boarding gate. Following are photos I took at Terminal A.

Upon arrival at the terminal we proceeded towards the security clearance prior to our transfer gate.

Information on the boarding gates were already posted when we arrived. The airline already issued my boarding pass for the Dubai-Amsterdam leg of my travel but it didn’t have info on the boarding gate yet.There were directional signs including those for people transferring to another terminal/wing using the transporter.

Many friends have said that Dubai airport is practically a mall. My first look and impression was that it is with all the shopping options there.

I decided to walk around first in order to have some exercise after the 8-hour flight from Manila. More shops and cafes greeted me everywhere I turned. It was quite tempting to go shopping but for a personal rule I have to never shop when just beginning a trip.

It was early morning (4:30 AM Dubai time) when we arrived at the terminal so there were still few people around.

One thing I regretted later was not purchasing a model airplane (I collect these.) from the Emirates show near our gate. I thought I would have enough time to do so upon my return. 

This was our boarding gate at about 5:00 AM. Notice it was still dark outside.

This is the area near our boarding gate, which turned out to be a pre-departure area of sorts. Notice that there were already a lot of passengers at the time I took the photo (7:00 AM). That was understandable as we were to board an A380 to Schipol.

Here is our plane docked at the airport.

After we cleared the gate, we ended up at another lounge prior to boarding the plane. Its good though that the airline staff were able to manage the boarding sequence well and most passengers followed instructions. That was not to be on the trip back.