There seems to be a proliferation of various models of the so-called “modernized jeepneys”. They have been deployed along what the DOTr and LTFRB have tagged as “missionary routes”. The latter term though is confusing because this used to refer to areas that are not yet being served by public transportation, hence the “missionary” aspect of the route. The routes stated on the jeepneys are certainly new but they overlap with existing ones. Thus, the new vehicles are actually additional to the traffic already running along the roads used by the existing (old?) routes. The number of units are said to be “provisional” meaning these are trial numbers of these new vehicles and implying the route and service to be somewhat “experimental”. There can be two reasons here that are actually strongly related to each other: 1) the actual demand for the route is not known, and 2) the corresponding number of vehicles to serve the demand is also unknown. Unknown here likely means there has been little or no effort to determine the demand and number of vehicles to serve that demand. The DOTr and LTFRB arguably is unable to do these estimations or determinations because it simply does not have the capacity and capability to do so; relying on consultants to figure this out. That work though should be in a larger context of rationalizing public transport services. “Provisional” here may just mean “arbitrary” because of the number (say 20 or 30 units?) of units they approve for these new routes.
A ‘modernised’ jeepney with a capacity of 23 passengers. The vehicle is definitely larger than the conventional jeepneys and yet can only carry 23 seated passengers. That’s basically the number of seats for most “patok” jeepneys that are “sampuan” or 10 passengers on each bench plus 2 passengers and the driver in the front seats.
Modernized jeepney unloading passengers along the roadside
Rationalization should require not only the replacement of old jeepney units that seems to be the objective of the government’s modernization program. Rationalization also entails the determination and deployment of vehicles of suitable passenger capacities for the routes they are to serve. I have stated before that certain routes already require buses instead of jeepneys and that jeepneys should be serving feeder routes instead. Meanwhile, routes (even areas) currently having tricycles as the primary mode of transport would have to be served by jeepneys. Tricycles, after all, are more like taxis than regular public transportation. Such will also mean a reduction in the volumes of these vehicles and, if implemented and monitored strictly, may lead to an improvement in the quality of service of road public transport.
[Note: May I add that although I also use ‘jeepney’ in my articles, these vehicles should be called by their true names – ‘jitneys’. The term jeepney is actually a combination of the words Jeep (US military origins) and jitney (a public utility vehicle usually informal or paratransit offering low fares).]
You don’t see arches (arko) marking the boundaries of Rizal towns. A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Baras where our office had its annual strategic planning workshop. Along the way, I drove along four towns – Antipolo, Teresa, Morong and Baras. There were few notable landmarks along my route unlike what I usually observe on trips to the north including the central Luzon and Ilocos towns where old buildings like churches and municipal halls (even houses) dot the way. Among the notables usually are the arches announcing your entry or exit to/from towns and provinces.
Arch between Baras and Morong along the Manila East Road
Signs marking the boundary of Teresa and Antipolo
Were there arches before for Rizal towns? Perhaps. What happened to them? Many probably were demolished due to road widening projects as the additional lanes meant the arches for the previous 2-lane roads became obstacles that increased the risk for crashes (i.e., vehicles crashing into them). I wonder now if the arches in Tarlac and Pangasinan towns survived the road widening projects there.
I have been traveling a lot the past months and most of these trips require air travel. We’ve experienced quite a number of delays including waiting for about an hour inside an airplane. That happened after boarding and being informed by the pilot that they have been instructed by Manila air traffic control to standby where we were. Where we were was one of the major cities in Mindanao so that meant instant delay to our travel. Other times, we were on time; leaving around the original ETD and landing around the original ETA. To be fair, my most recent flights were quite okay with our plane landing 15-20 minutes ahead of the ETA. This recent variation in the travel times show that congestion is not necessarily a big a problem as it was months ago or even a year or so ago. Perhaps there have already been adjustments, for example, in airlines’ juggling their fleets to reduce turnaround times. Air traffic control may also have been optimized for various airports. This challenge to reduce airport congestion both on the ground and in flight is a continuing effort by airports and is not limited to Manila.
Aircraft queuing for take-off at Changi Airport in Singapore
I’ve received a lot of views and inquiries about the parking rates at the NAIA Terminal 3. There seems to be a lot of people wanting to know about the rates and ideas about how much they might be paying if they chose to leave their vehicles while on trip abroad or within the Philippines. There are a few articles I’ve written about them and even posted some example parking receipts. We also have had someone from NAIA parking explaining how fees are computed (scroll through the comments sections of my posts, its there somewhere). In the interest of many travelers still inquiring about this topic and to have a recent example, I am posting a receipt from a very recent trip when I parked my vehicle at the multilevel parking facility of T3:
If you break down the total amount paid, 600 pesos went to the 2 overnights that I assumed to cover 48 hours of the total 56 hours and 3 minutes logged for the parked vehicle. The regular fee of 135 pesos covered the remaining 8 hours and 3 minutes. If the basic rate was 35 pesos for the first 3 hours and 20 pesos per succeeding hour, then that practically translates to the 135 pesos. I hope this helps my readers!
I was interviewed recently for a research project by students enrolled in a journalism class. I was asked by one in the group if we indeed have a transport crisis in Metro Manila. The other quickly added “hindi transport, traffic” (not transport but traffic). And so I replied that both terms are valid but refer to different aspects of the daily travel we call “commuting”. “Traffic” generally refers to the flow of vehicles (and people if we are to be inclusive) while “transport” refers to the modes of travel available to us.
“Commuting” is actually not limited to those taking public transportation. The term refers to all regular travel between two locations. The most common pairs are home – office and home – school. The person traveling may use one or a combination of transport modes for the commute. Walking counts including when it is the only mode used. So if your residence is a building just across from your office then your commute probably would be that short walk crossing the street. In the Philippines, however, like “coke” and “Xerox”, which are brands by the way, we have come to associate “commute” with those taking public transportation.
And so we go back to the question or questions- Do we have a transport and traffic crises? My response was we do have a crisis on both aspects of travel. All indicators state so and it is a wonder many including top government transport officials deny this. Consider the following realities for most commuters at present:
- Longer travel times – what used to be 30-60 minutes one-way commutes have become 60 – 120 (even 180) minute one-way commutes. Many if not most people now have double, even triple, their previous travel times.
- It is more difficult to get a public transport ride – people wait longer to get their rides whether they are in lines at terminals or along the roadside. The latter is worse as you need to compete with others like you wanting to get a ride ahead of others.
- People have to wake up and get out of their homes earlier – it used to be that you can wake up at 6:00AM and be able to get a ride or drive to the workplace or school at 7:00/7:30 AM and get there by 8:00 or 9:00AM. Nowadays, you see a lot of people on the road at 5:30AM (even 4:30AM based on what I’ve seen). That means they are waking up earlier than 6:00 AM and its probably worse for school children who either will be fetched by a service vehicle (e.g., school van or bus) or taken by their parents to their schools before going to the workplaces themselves.
- People get home later at night – just when you think the mornings are bad, afternoons, evening and nighttimes might even be worse. Again, it’s hard to get a ride and when you drive, traffic congestion might be at its worst especially since most people leave at about the same time after 5:00PM. Coding people and others not wanting to spend time on the road (instead working overtime – with or without additional pay) leave for their homes later and arrive even later.
- Less trips for public transport vehicles – traffic congestion leads to this. What used to be 6 roundtrips may now be 4. That affect the bottomline of income for road public transport providers. Given the increased demand and reduced rolling stocks of existing rail lines that includes rail transport.
To be continued…
A couple of Thursdays ago, I was in the Ortigas CBD area to attend a conference on statistics. I hitched a ride with an old friend who was also going there and so we had some time to catch up on life and other topics we usually talked about since our college days. Being on the passenger seat also meant I had some opportunities to take photos of the traffic situation in the vicinity of the venue of our conference. Here are some photos I took of traffic in the Galleria – ADB area as we drove along ADB Avenue.
Congestion along ADB Avenue across from Robinsons. The ADB building is shown ahead of the vehicles.
Most of the vehicles turned out to be turning towards Guadix and headed for Poveda. These are traffic generated by the exclusive school where most if not all students’ mode of transport is by car. This causes much of the congestion in the area at this time of day as well as during dismissals in the noontime and afternoon.
Vehicles bound for Poveda (building is in the background) and EDSA.
View of Ortigas bound vehicles filed along Sapphire Road – this photo was taken at the bridgeway connecting Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. The relatively uncontested road is the Robinsons’ driveway.
The photos show how dependent to cars many people working in the Ortigas CBD are. Many of them live outside of the CBD including those residing in the Rizal towns to the east of Metro Manila. The number of people using their own cars put so much strain on the major thoroughfares including and perhaps especially Ortigas Avenue, which serves as a main arterial connecting the CBD to many parts of Pasig, Quezon City (via C5) and the very progressive towns of Rizal Province such as Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo City.
It is a wonder why up to now, there is no mass transit system along Ortigas Avenue when the demand is very high and continuous to increase with the development of lands along it. SM, Robinsons and Megawide are among the major players now developing their plots of land to become high density commercial/office/residential areas. And these will surely translate into more trips generated and worse traffic congestion. Perhaps the mayors of Pasig, Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo plus the governor of Rizal can get together to discuss and agree about solutions where each LGU can contribute for the betterment of their constituents’ commutes?
Arriving in Cebu, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the airport’s Terminal 1 has a new lobby that is now open to the public. Here are photos taken during our recent trip to Cebu last month.
View of the newly opened lobby from the baggage claim area
Passengers and well-wishers (mostly people waiting to fetch arriving passengers) at the MCIA’s new lobby
This is the arrival level and one can use the escalators or the stairs to get to the departure level
Escalators at the MCIA’s new lobby
The corridor to the transport terminal is unfinished but the path is spacious enough as shown in the photo.
This is the area closer to the older exit from the arrival area of Terminal 1, which is actually closer to the transport terminal.
A preview of a much more spacious area where a driveway used to be
I made sure to take more photos of the lobby upon our departure from Cebu. Here are those photos:
Workers walking along the newly completed pathways at the ground transport interphase for the departure area of the airport’s Terminal 1.
A familiar scene: passengers saying their farewells to relatives at the airport terminal
Carts neatly placed for use by travellers
Information signs and columns are sleek and modern. These show the way to the check-in counters.
A very spacious departure level lobby
View towards the escalators to the arrival area, which is one level down from the departure area
Shakey’s seem to be one of the first to establish a branch at the newly refurbished Terminal 1.
Corridor to the terminal’s domestic flight check-in counters
Newly installed information board showing scheduled departures and their status
More about Cebu’s airport soon!
The Bandaranaike International Airport reminded me of the larger airports in the Philippines. At least that was my first impression of this main gateway for Sri Lanka upon our arrival. Here are photos I took upon our arrival at Colombo last September.
We deplaned away from the international terminal where a bus was waiting for us.
Other passengers deplaned from the rear door and another bus was waiting for them.
The bus was not airconditioned so we had our first taste of the Sri Lankan climate. Coming from a tropical country though, it was okay for us.
Passengers deplaning had to stop on the stairs as our bus was full and they had to wait for the next one.
Other aircraft on the tarmac of the airport
The air traffic control tower as seen from a distance
Upon disembarking from our buses, passengers ascend towards the immigration section
It took us a while to clear immigration as there were few officers assigned to foreigners that time. Upon clearing immigration, we walked towards the baggage reclaim area only to be greeted by this sight.
On one side were shops selling mostly liquor and cigarettes and on the other were shops selling appliances and other electronics. I didn’t expect to see so many selling items like TVs, refrigerators and washing machines. And then we thought these were quite similar to the set-up of duty free shops in Manila during the 1970s to the 1990s when many if not most arrivals were either balikbayan (vacationing from the US, Canada or Europe) or Overseas Foreign Workers who were on a break or between contracts. We observed similar situations at Bandaranaike as many Sri Lankans arriving appeared to be OFWs.
We descended towards the baggage reclaim area, which turned out to be an expansive area.
There were few passengers so that added to the feeling of space.
The airport had many conveyor belts
It took us a while to get to our conveyor belt. Along the way, I took this photo of the customs channels. The green was for travellers with nothing to declare. The red was for those with taxable items.
Passengers positioned themselves around the conveyor belt
Passengers waiting for their luggage
Upon getting our luggage, we proceeded towards the terminal exit. The way was lined with currency exchange stalls, hotels booths and tourist travel booths.
Currency exchange and tourist services
The path towards the terminal exit is lined with tourist agencies offering various services and packages.
Passengers are greeted by those picking them up (including hotel transportation) and those offering transport services to various destinations.
There were many empty stalls intended for duty free shops at the terminal. Perhaps these will be occupied once the airport complex is completed and there is an increase in flights at Bandaranaike.
Passengers waiting for their rides upon exiting the terminal
One of the driveways at the arrivals area. This was for private vehicles picking up arriving passengers. We crossed this to get to the driveway where our Uber car was waiting for us.
A friend engaging our Uber driver – it wasn’t difficult to make conversation as most Sri Lankans could speak English; one of the legacies of being under British rule for a long time.
View of the airport driveway
Familiar scene of a buddhist image – we thought this was similar to scenes in Thailand
More photos from our trip to Sri Lanka soon!
The nationwide transport strike last Monday elicited a lot of reactions from both supporters and opponents of the the initiatives to modernise the jeepney. Both sides have valid points but both, too, have weak points. Much has been discussed about the cost of acquiring new jeepneys to replace the old ones and whether you agree or not, these are really a bit steep to the typical jeepney driver-operator.
A low downpayment will certainly mean higher monthly amortisations. And most drivers/operators can only afford a low downpayment with or without the 80,000 pesos or so subsidy from the government. Even if you factor in some tax incentives, the net amount to be paid every month will still be too much for a typical driver/operator. Anyone who’s ever purchased a vehicle, new or used, through a loan should know this, and to deny it means you probably are privileged enough not to take out a loan.
Certainly there are exceptions like certain Beep operations that are supposed to be run like a company or cooperative, and where fleet management techniques allow these to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. The latter supposedly allows the owners to recover their capital (return of investment) for the purchase of the new jitney units. The reality, however, is that not all routes are good enough for the required revenues and the better earning ones subsidize (forced?) those that are not profitable. The ‘company’ or ‘coop’ can therefore hide these unprofitable cases as the collective performance of the routes they operate along become the basis for assessment.
Snapshot inside a jeepney while waiting for it to fill with passengers
It is true that the business model (or what is passed off for one) for jeepney operations is flawed. More so if you place this in the context of transport demand for a metropolis like Metro Manila. That is why perhaps corporatization or cooperatives can probably help in terms of improving processes and practices (e.g., maintenance regimes, deployment). So perhaps this is where government should step in and be more aggressive in organising jeepney drivers and operators. I would even dare say that government should be willing to extend more financial support if significant change in public transport is to be achieved. The Office of the President, Senators and Congressmen enjoy a lot of pork and the numbers for a single year indicate that they can, if willing, purchase new jitneys for their constituencies perhaps focusing on the cities and retiring the old, dilapidated public utility vehicles. That, I think, is a more ‘intelligent’ use to these funds that are allegedly being misused by our politicians.
So, was the strike a success? I think the answer is yes it was. Government cannot deny this as it was forced to suspend classes in schools in order to address the impending shortfall of services during the strike and many LGUs were forced to provide free transport services (libreng sakay) in many forms (e.g., dump trucks, flat bed trucks, etc.). You can only say it was a failure if it was business as usual with commuters feeling minimal impact of the stoppage in jeepney operations.
I had spotted buses (or perhaps its just the same bus?) for a P2P service between Antipolo and Ortigas Center bearing what appears to be a statement for improving the quality of life of commuters. Many have been suffering and continue to suffer on their daily commutes starting from difficulties getting a ride to very long travel times. The term “dignity of travel” comes to mind, which a colleague coined many years ago to describe
P2P buses at the public transport terminal at Robinsons Place Antipolo
Whoever thought of this probably meant well; thinking about improving quality of life. The choice of words though may convey a different message as “driving” is in all caps and usually associated with a different, less appealing activity to sustainable transport advocates. I think they should have chosen “improving” instead of “driving” here.
This is somewhat similar to a much earlier post of mine showing SMRT buses in Singapore with ads promoting Uber and how it was supposed to complement public transport. That, of course, was a bit of a stretch in the city-state, which already has excellent public transport compared to elsewhere, and already complemented by very good taxi services.
Yesterday, there was a nationwide transport strike and depending on which side you are on, the reality is that we are still far from having more efficient public transport. But that’s another story and hopefully, I get to write about it in the next few days.