I end the year with commentaries on transport issues. I recently responded to a request for an interview. This time, it was not possible to do it in person so we corresponded through email. Here are my responses to the questions sent, which are mainly about the public utility vehicle modernization program of the government.
· Will old-school jeepneys finally disappear on Philippine roads before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends, barely three years from now? What is a more realistic timeline of jeepney modernization?
Old school jeepneys won’t disappear from Philippine roads. For one, the modernization program has slowed down a bit and even the DOTr and LTFRB have stated and admitted that it is not possible to have 100% modernization before the end of term of the current administration. It’s really difficult to put a timeline on this because of so many factors that are in play including social, political, institutional and economic ones. The technical aspects are not issues here as there are many models to choose from and suitable for replacing jeepneys in terms of capacity.
· What are the bumps on road to jeepney modernization?
As mentioned earlier, there are many factors in play here. Economic/financial-related bumps pertain mainly to vehicle prices. The new models are quite pricey but it should be understood that this is also because the new ones are compliant with certain standards including technical and environmental ones that most ‘formally’ manufactured vehicles must pass unlike so-called customized local road vehicles (CLRV) like the conventional jeepneys. The financial package is not affordable to typical jeepney operators/drivers. The cost of a modern jitney (the technical term for these vehicle types) is close to an SUV and revenues may not be able to cover the combination of down payment, monthly payments, and operations & maintenance costs of the vehicle.
· Should local government units dictate the pace of jeepney modernization, not national agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board? Why?
I think the word “dictate” may be too strong a term to use. Instead, I prefer the word “manage”. After all, LGUs are supposed to capacitate themselves to be able to rationalize and manage public transport operations. That is why the DOTr and the LTFRB are requiring them to formulate and submit for evaluation and approval Local Public Transport Route Plans (LPTRP). Though the deadline was supposed to be 2020, the agencies have relaxed this deadline after few submissions from LGUs. Few because there were only a few who were capable or could afford consultants to prepare the plans for the LGUs. These plans should be comprehensive covering all modes of public transport including tricycles and pedicabs that are already under the LGUs. Buses, jeepneys, vans and taxis are still under the LTFRB. Plans may also contain future transport systems that are being aspired for by LGUs such as rail-based mass transit systems and other such as monorail or AGT.
· Transport groups like PISTON are against drivers and operators merging into cooperatives. Is consolidation into cooperatives unworkable? Why?
I think consolidation into cooperatives is workable and should be given a chance. Unfortunately, there are still few examples of successful transport cooperatives. And the success also depends on the routes served by their vehicles. And that is why there is also a need to rationalize transport routes in order to ensure that these are indeed viable (i.e., profitable) for drivers and operators.
Another angle here is more political in nature. Note that while PISTON and other like-minded transport groups oppose cooperativism, there are others that have embraced it and even went corporate to some extent. Perhaps there is a fear of a loss in power that the leaders of these opposition transport groups have wielded for a long time? Perhaps there’s a fear that success of cooperatives means the drivers and operators will turn to cooperativism and leave those transport groups? Surely there are pros and cons to this and groups should not stop being critical of initiatives, government-led or not, that will affect them. This should be constructive rather than the rant variety but government should also learn to accept these rather than dismiss them or be offended by them as is often the case.
More comments in the next year!
We were almost late for our flight the last Friday of November because of a road crash involving at least one truck at the intersection of Sales Bridge and the SLEX East Service Road.
Here was our first view of the crash site showing one streetlamp post almost hitting the pavement if it weren’t for the wires holding it at its position. Waze wasn’t much help as there was only a simple description of a major crash reported. How serious it was wasn’t stated.
A tow truck and a forklift were already on site to help remove the truck that hit the post.
Pedestrians continued to cross the intersection with some glancing quickly at the sight of the vehicles involved in the crash and clearance operations. MMDA enforcers were in the area to herd people away from the area.
An enforcer looked like he was taking photos, video or both of the clearing operations.
When we arrived in the area, we only saw this truck that was apparently the one that hit the post. The damage to the truck indicated that it likely slammed into another large vehicle. However, that other vehicle was no longer in the area.
Another look at the truck involved in the crash
The post obviously was in a precarious position and effectively blocked the path of vehicles that were to turn left at the intersection. Many of these vehicles including ours were heading to the airport.
There seems to be a lot of crashes involving trucks lately. I say so based on my personal observations including passing by crash sites where trucks have been the main vehicles involved. It would be good to see the statistics of truck involvement in road crashes including the typical locations (i.e., black spots), frequency and severity of the crashes. This would correlate with the maintenance and how these trucks are being driven. Too often, we read or hear about trucks losing their brakes or drivers losing control. There are clearly maintenance and driver behavior issues here that need to be addressed if we are to improve safety in relation to these large vehicles.
Despite this incident and the resulting traffic jam, the MMDA enforcers didn’t seem to know how to go about managing the flow of traffic in the area and wanted to reroute every vehicle intending to turn left at Sales towards the airport to Pasong Tamo Extension! This resulted to more confusion and many not to take heed of the enforcer waving at us to head for more congestion after what we experienced. Clearly, this was a case where the motorists knew better than to follow errant enforcers. In these times, you wonder if the MMDA’s enforcers were capable of managing traffic after road crash incidents like this.
I recently saw what looks like a project of the City of Antipolo where several pedestrian crosswalks are being painted over with artwork including a basic road safety message. The photo below shows one in progress across from the Provincial Capitol (aka Ynares) along the Antipolo City Circumferential Road.
Photo of artwork in progress to cover the existing pedestrian crossing (zebra) pavement markings at the Rizal Provincial Capitol
Recently, I’ve seen news reports and posts by the proponents being shared in social media about the project. From what I’ve learned from reliable sources within the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), this is an initiative with the blessing of the city and did not go through the DPWH. The main concern here is whether this ‘innovation’ of sorts will be effective and if the artist(s) behind the project used the proper materials (i.e., paint for pavement markings that are supposed to be highly visible day or night) for this project. If not, then this is just street art similar to what artists did on the UP Academic Oval a few years ago in front of Palma Hall. Sorry to blow your bubble but its more a publicity stunt than a safety device if proponents do not use the proper materials. I hesitate to use the term ‘design standards’ here because this is supposed to be artwork and perhaps the word ‘standard’ doesn’t apply. But to claim this enhances safety is at this point a stretch.
More first-hand photos soon…
My former professor – my second adviser – posted a few photos of bus stops in Bangkok. I am re-sharing these here to show one aspect of how buses operate in Bangkok including the route numbering and the schedules.
Bus route numbers and lists of designated stops for each [Photo credits: Fumihiko Nakamura]
Route map on the other side of the panel [Photo credits: Fumihiko Nakamura]
There are no schedules here like the ones on bus stops in Japan or Singapore but the basic information is quite helpful for commuters and tourists who opt to take regular public transport instead of taxis or ride share. Are such devices being considered by the MMDA or other cities for their public transportation? If not, then maybe they can consider and include this in their New Year’s resolutions.
I just wanted to greet everyone a Merry Christmas!
[Photo is of Christmas tree at Plaza Pershing, Zamboanga City]
The connections between transit stations in Singapore show us examples of how to encourage people to walk long distances. The links, mostly underground, are interconnected with branches to common exits to hotels, office and residential buildings. These are basically transit malls lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. There are even gyms (e.g., UFC) and play venues along some connections.
Underground transit mall between a City Hall Station (red line) and Esplanade Station (orange line)
The connection is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops
Singapore’s underground connections reminded me of similar structures in Tokyo and Yokohama. You can just walk underground and come up near your destination. This is especially advantageous and comfortable during the summers when the hot weather becomes a detriment to walking outdoors. Underground transit malls or connections are usually air-conditioned or air is pumped into them for ventilation. As such, temperatures are significantly lower compared to the surface/ground. Will we have similar facilities/developments here in the Philippines and particularly in Metro Manila once the MM Subway is developed?
One of the advantages of having mass transit access to a major venue is that mass transit can carry more people than any other modes of transport to and from the venue. In the recent U2 concert held at the National Stadium in Singapore, we experienced first hand how a mass transit system is able to serve the surge in the demand to and from the Stadium Station of the SMRT’s Orange Line.
People filing towards the station – most people calmly I say most because there were some who apparently were not so familiar with the ways in Singapore and tried to muscle their way into the crowd. Maybe its like that in their own countries?
It was just like rush hour conditions at the station. Only, people weren’t going to work but home from the concert
Previous to this, I had similar experiences when I was residing in Japan. One time it was a surge in demand due to the popular fireworks display at Yamashita Park in Yokohama covered by three of JR Stations and the end station of the old Tokyu Toyoko Line. There was no Minato Mirai Line at the time that terminated at the park so people had only the JR Sakuragicho, JR Kannai and JR Ishikawacho Stations and the Tokyu Sakuragicho Station.
This is the weakness of the Philippine Arena, which can only be accessed via the NLEX and by road transport. The result for the larger capacity stadium’s hosting of a U2 concert resulted in horrendous traffic jams and hellish travel times for attendees. Friends stated that whatever high that they got from the concert was steadily depleted by their commutes to their homes. This will not improve even with Manila-Clark railway line because the line will be along the other side of the tollway. It won’t make sense for a branch to be constructed for the arena given the intermittent demand for the events it typically hosts in a year. But there can be a road transport connection to the nearest rail stations to at least alleviate the car traffic generated by the venue.
I have written a lot about NAIA’s Terminals 1, 2 and 3 but have featured Terminal 4 only perhaps once or twice. That’s probably because I have not used Terminal 4 as much as the others. All of my domestic flights have been via either Terminal 2 or 3 while my travels overseas are via Terminals 1, 2 and 3. And so I have had a lot of opportunities to also take photos about those terminals. The opportunity to take a few photos about Terminal 4, particularly the open parking area, presented itself last November when I fetched my wife and daughter who were arriving from a local trip one Sunday. My wife thought she had booked a Cebu Pacific flight but that turned out to be what CebGo, which used to be the Tiger Airways Philippines affiliate that Ceb Pac had acquired years ago. These operated from T4. Here are photos of the open parking area across from T4.
Achievers Airport Hotel, which is the nearest hotel to T4
Parking ticket at T4 parking area – the rates are the same for all NAIA Terminal parking areas
Exit from the parking area – T4 is just across from it
Unfinished or just unoccupied area for drivers or shops?
View of aircraft flying overhead
The parking lot doesn’t have a lot of spaces but it was relatively easy to get a slot. I actually waited a few minutes to get a slot and immediately after I parked, a few more vehicles left. So the turnover for the parking area is high enough at least for the Sunday noontime I was there. Perhaps its proportional to the number of people using T4?
Another thing we miss about Singapore is the public transportation. It was easy to go around Singapore especially with its comprehensive, extensive rail transport network. This is complemented by even more extensive bus transit services. All these are offer convenient, comfortable and reliable public transportation. As such, there is practically no need to use your own private vehicle for transportation unless there really is a need arising for their use (e.g., emergencies).
Passengers wait for the train to arrive at an SMRT platform
Passengers line up before the platform gates at an underground station
The transport system in Singapore actually reminded me of how efficient and reliable it was to commute in Japan where I’ve lived in three area – Tokyo, Yokohama and Saitama – for various lengths of time. These transport systems are what Metro Manila and other rapidly urbanizing cities in the Philippines need in order to sustain growth while providing for the transport needs of its citizens.
Before I post more on a recent trip to Singapore, I backtrack a bit to the trip to Sri Lanka. Following is a much delayed second part to my feature on Bandaranaike International Airport.
Scale model of the airport development project with this angle showing the terminal and land transport interface
Terminal building with short pier for the gates
Closer and clearer look at the interfaces with rail and road transport
From the display we proceeded towards our gate.
More shops mostly selling gems, jewelry or tea
Looking out a window to see Sri Lankan Airlines planes lined up at the terminal
Other aircraft at the terminal are accessed via transporter(i.e., bus).
Long corridor to our gate
Passengers head to the gates via a moving walkway. Otherwise, it would be a long walk.
Behind these seats is the smoking room
Passengers enter the pre-departure lounge through one last security check and the boarding pass and passport check by Sri Lankan Airlines ground staff.