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Yearly Archives: 2021

Air crash mysteries

I wrote about the Concorde recently and how I at one time dreamt of flying in one. I shared an article in that post about the air crash that doomed the Concorde. While it appears morbid to certain people, there is that fascination about air crashes not because of the deaths but because these often lead to better designs for aircraft and policies for the aviation industry. Here is a recent article about the still missing (vanished without a trace?) Malaysian Airlines Flight 307.

Admiral Cloudberg (March 27, 2021) “Call of the Void: Seven years on, what do we know about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370?”, Medium.com, https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/call-of-the-void-seven-years-on-what-do-we-know-about-the-disappearance-of-malaysia-airlines-77fa5244bf99 [Last accessed: 9/23/2021]

Unlike other disastrous crashes that include weather factors, pilot errors, instrument or engine failures, we cannot learn (much) from this crash as the black box or any other parts of the aircraft were never recovered. Of course, not in the same category as these types of crashes are those that were blown up or shot down whether by accident or deliberately such as the ill-fated Korean Airlines Flight 007. There are other lessons to be learned if not yet learned from those tragedies.

Papers from the Philippines presented in the EASTS 2021 conference

Here’s a list of papers from the Philippines presented at the recent 14th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS). The local society, the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP), is affiliated with EASTS being one of the founding societies for what is now the mother organization with members across Asia.

I thought the list would be helpful to those who come to this site to look for research topics. I guess it’s that time of the year for many university/college students who are looking for topics for their thesis or dissertation. There’s a nice mix of topics in the list and shows what are the current topics students and faculty from the different schools are engaged in. Many appear to be from research projects, which are a natural source for technical papers being submitted, presented and published in conferences or journals.

The TSSP is holding its own virtual conference in November 2021. I will also share about that and the papers to be presented in that conference in a future post. Currently, they have not finalized the program and papers submitted are still being reviewed.

On Transit, Urban Equity and Sustainability

Here is another quick share of an article about public transport, urban equity and sustainability:

Descant, S. (September 2021) “How Can Transit Deliver Urban Equity and Sustainability?”, Government Technology, https://www.govtech.com/transportation/how-can-transit-deliver-urban-equity-and-sustainability [Last accessed: 9/21/2021]

The article discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic clearly shows the role of public transportation in the lives of a lot of people. There is that opportunity to significantly if not radically improve public transportation now more than ever. Surely governments and their transit or regulating agencies have thought about this. While the pandemic led to situations that are not necessarily clean slates for many, there are definitely opportunities here and there to implement change that will increase benefits for transit users while attracting non-users to shift from their preferred modes (i.e., private vehicles). Here’s a takeaway from the article:

“We know that public transportation is the solution. So there needs to be a commitment at the federal level, not just in terms of funding, but also integrating public transportation deeper into the fabric of society, through land use policy and through other transportation access policies — the sidewalk and bike lane piece — with the data and payment apps as well…”

What improvements do you think should and can be done now given the pandemic situation? Are these still timely or have we figuratively “missed the bus”, so to speak?

Vintage bus and train cards

With the Tokyo Olympics recently concluded and me supposed to be in Hiroshima now and participating in an international conference, I am somewhat nostalgic about Japan. Having lived there for a few years while studying, and then staying again for a few months twice later (2001 and 2008) as a visiting researcher, I miss many of my haunts.

Another discovery one time I was searching for an item in my office drawers is a stash of cards from the various times I was staying in Japan. You can purchase these at the station, convenience stores or from the bus driver.

From top left (clockwise): Kyoto city single day bus pass, Tokyo single day bus pass, Kanto region (Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Chiba, Saitama, etc.) bus cards (1,100, 3,360 and 5,850 yen denominations), JR Suica card, and Yokohama Triennial Bus Card.

The bus cards already have discounts incorporated. The pink 1,100 bus card costs 1,000 yen so you get an extra 100 yen value. It’s +360 for the blue and +850 for the yellow. Since I was a regular commuter before, I usually got the yellow card. I’m not sure these cards are still there given the advances in technology and innovations over the past decade but it is likely that these were upgraded and are other options to more high tech ones using, for example, smartphones. Mobility as a service (MaaS) is now being promoted in Japan and as I have registered for my conference in Hiroshima, I have a three day transport pass included in my registration. This can be accessed through my phone and could have made a convenient companion going around the city.

EASTS 2021 Conference

I would have been in Hiroshima, Japan today if it weren’t for the pandemic. I would have been attending this conference from this weekend (September 12 to 14) where my colleagues and I will be presenting our papers at the respective sessions according to the topics of our work. This year, the conference is virtual and we submitted recorded presentations though presence during the sessions is still required to answer questions about the papers presented. A pre conference even was already held yesterday that attracted early career research in transportation. Here is the link to the conference hosted by Hiroshima University.

I have been to Hiroshima once but unfortunately it was a busy trip to the university and I could not go around. I had wanted to go the memorial to the atomic bomb attack on the city. The plan we had before the pandemic was to have a post conference trip to Kyoto and then proceed to Tokyo on what could have been another sentimental journey for me and close friends who have also studied in Japan. Perhaps there will be another opportunity soon and that we can already travel even with the restrictions or health protocols pertaining to Covid-19.

On electric vehicles in the Philippines – current situation and prospects

Here’s a quick share of an article on electric vehicles in the Philippines:

Fernandez, H.A. (September 7, 2021) “Electric vehicles in the Philippines: a mottled green solution,” Eco-Business, https://www.eco-business.com/news/electric-vehicles-in-the-philippines-a-mottled-green-solution/ [Last accessed: 9/8/2021]

An e-vehicle at a charging station at the University of the Philippines Diliman

It is interesting that the article cites past studies that covered not just e-vehicles but the bigger picture for transport. I think most if not all people who were doing work on low carbon transport including the modeling of scenarios for the long term were not able to anticipate something like Covid-19 disrupting activities around the world and curbing emissions so drastically in the last year. The so-called ‘old normal’ situation has not returned but some say that even with the pandemic affecting transport, we still won’t be able to attain the targets necessary to stave off global warming. The bottomline is that we need more aggressive actions and probably, shifting to e-vehicles is one of those that combined with others will help achieve targets.

On preserving old transit systems

Many old cities have either retained or phased out their old road-level transit systems. I am referring mainly to rail-based streetcars rather than road-based ones such as buses. Even the indigenous types of road-based public transport may be phased out and usually in the name of modernization. Some though, like Singapore’s rickshaws and Manila’s calesas are still existent but you will find them either during odd hours or in tourist areas.

A good example of a city that has retained and preserved its transit system that is San Francisco in the US. The city still has a running cable car system, and its street cars maintained and operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). These are practically operational, traveling museums. The streetcars, for example, are of different models – a collection of streetcars from various cities around the world that have phased out this transit systems a long time ago. So it should not be surprising to see a different street car every time. And one could try to ride each one in operation while staying in city.

San Francisco’s cable cars are still operational and are used by people on their commutes

Here is an article about Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) trams:

Schmall, E. (September 2, 2021) “Kolkata’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Trams, Once Essential, Are Now a Neglected Relic,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/world/asia/kolkata-india-trams-calcutta.html?smid=url-share [Last accessed: ]

What are your thoughts about preserving or phasing out these transit systems?

On current health protocols applied to public transport

The current surge of infections attributed to the Delta variant of Covid-19 has been alarming. The recent quarantine issuances by national government have not been effective as there was basically lax enforcement or implementation. Granted, there were just a lot of loopholes designed to allow so-called “economic frontliners” to go to work and under conditions that made their commutes risky in the context of the pandemic. The same laxity and loopholes apply too, to people who have no business roaming around and yet travel with their motor vehicles (especially motorcycles) and bicycles across cities, towns and provinces in the guise of exercise or essential travel.

Meanwhile, the practice and enforcement of public health protocols in the country has been lax and misguided (e.g., do we really need to wear face shields?). In public utility vehicles, people are now crowding inside with usually only a sheet of plastic separating one from another. This is not exactly reassuring in as far as spreading the virus is concerned. And we shouldn’t pretend that we are not aware that there are asymptomatic people going around and infecting others whether knowingly or not. It’s no wonder, really, why people who have the private vehicle or active transport option use these instead of public transport.

Plastic dividers offer little protection and tend to impede air flow or circulation inside the vehicle.
Having few passengers nowadays is more the exception since many so-called ‘economic frontliners’ are now back working full-time and as if there was no specter in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Much has been said about government failing to address the Covid-19 pandemic from the start. And it continues to bumble through this health crisis (if you don’t want to call it one then either you don’t understand the gravity of the problem or just refuse to do so – the latter is worse). Tagging workers as ‘economic frontliners’ is probably at least as bad as calling BPO workers ‘Bagong bayani’, adding them to the Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) who had been branded as so in the past. This becomes a convenient excuse to ease health-related restrictions for people to travel/commute to work. It is a form of gaslighting the very same workers to believe they need to go out and work. Meanwhile, precious funds are being diverted elsewhere including the dolomite beach at Manila Bay and money spirited away in preparation for next year’s elections.

I got it from recent surveys that people give a higher priority to employment and earning income over Covid-19. Perhaps most have not had direct experiences with the frightening cases of Covid-19 (i.e., they’re asymptomatic or have encountered only asymptomatic cases with friends and families). I hate to say it but it seems like the same thinking pertaining to extra judicial killings (EJK). I can already imagine hearing the usual comments: “Malayo sa bituka.” “Wala akong pakialam diyan.” “Okay lang yan. Hindi naman kami apektado niyan.” These comments reflect an absence of empathy. Empathy I think is very much needed today in order for people to understand what’s going about. And that’s not just about us but businesses as well that definitely, likely lost a lot during this pandemic but still need to empathize if not call out those who are really responsible about the mess we are in. Do your employees really need to go to the office? Or can they continue working from home? The answer to these questions affect commuting in the time of Covid-19 and relates strongly to the protocols applied to public transport.

On my first plane rides, and dreaming of supersonic travel

Even before this race to space by billionaires, one option for travel captured my imagination and attention – supersonic travel. I cannot remember exactly the first time I was on my first flight but I know it was a trip between Manila and Iloilo in the 1970s. Iloilo is the home of my father and we basically had only two options to get there – airplane or ship. While maritime travel was much cheaper, it took a day one way to get to Iloilo and vice versa. We didn’t want to waste two days especially as my father took leaves from work when we went on vacation so air travel was usually the choice especially for the shorter Christmas breaks. We usually took the ships in summer.

My earliest memory of flight was on a turboprop airliner. This was a Philippine Airlines (PAL) Hawker Siddeley HS 748. My first on a jet plane was on a BAC 111 on the same route and the same airline. There were no competition then for domestic air travel. Following are the photos of these two aircraft that were the workhorses of PAL until the 1980s.

Philippine Airlines BAC 111

The fascination with flight and aircraft included a dream of experiencing supersonic flight. The only ones that time were the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144. The Tupolev had a rather short service with the last commercial flight in the late 1970s. Also, the politics at the time meant it was highly improbable that I could have a trip that involved this plane. The Concorde had trans-Atlantic flights and I also dreamt about traveling around the world. I thought maybe I can save up for a one-way trip between Europe and the US. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came up. My first international flight was in 1996 when I rode on a Boeing 747 from Manila to Narita. I did eventually travel to the US and Europe but these were after the Concorde was decommissioned. That was probably mainly due to the following incident in this article:

Cloudberg, A. (August 29, 2021) “Death of a Dream: The crash of Air France flight 4590,” Medium, https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/death-of-a-dream-the-crash-of-air-france-flight-4590-84c8a9e6c74a [Last accessed: 9/1/2021]

Will there be supersonic services in the future? Probably not. However, the aircraft designs of the future should satisfy ones needs when traveling on these planes. One just wonders how much air travel will change due to Covid-19.

Undergraduate and graduate research topics, 2021

I noticed again that there seem to be a lot of ‘hits’ for articles I wrote years ago about research topics. Many appear to be looking for topics for their university/college/school research projects including those who might be looking for thesis or dissertation topics. Here are some of my past postings on research topics:

October 23, 2020: https://d0ctrine.com/2020/10/23/research-topics-in-the-time-of-covid-19-part-1/

August 11, 2017: https://d0ctrine.com/2017/08/11/topics-for-transportation-research/

September 28, 2016: https://d0ctrine.com/2016/09/28/research-topics-for-transportation-engineering-and-planning-for-2016-2017/

December 11, 2015: https://d0ctrine.com/2015/12/11/undergraduate-research-topics-for-academic-year-2015-2016/

July 4, 2015: https://d0ctrine.com/2015/07/04/research-topics-on-transport-and-traffic-in-the-philippines/

October 22, 2014: https://d0ctrine.com/2014/10/22/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-for-ay2014-2015/

August 27, 2013: https://d0ctrine.com/2013/08/27/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-at-up-diliman-2013/

October 17, 2012: https://d0ctrine.com/2012/10/17/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation/

October 12, 2011: https://d0ctrine.com/2011/10/12/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-2011-2012/

It is from the July 4, 2015 article where I wrote something that is still very much applicable today or perhaps anytime someone asks about what topics should be pursued by undergraduate, graduate and even faculty research:

“Schools need to develop their own research agendas. That is so that students would be able to choose topics that their faculty can realistically and effectively guide their students instead of sending them out to become the burdens of others. These would include topics concerning local issues. Are there road safety issues at locations such as intersections near the school? Are the streets in the nearby CBD experiencing congestion? Is there an oversupply or lack of public transport services in the city or a nearby town? It seems awkward for a university in Pampanga, for example, to have students taking on a topic concerning EDSA-MRT or students of a university in Metro Manila taking on a topic on Mindanao railways, if their faculty have no relevant experiences or capabilities to properly guide the students.

I would encourage schools to identify topics concerning local issues first. As they say, charity begins at home, and working on solutions for local problems should be top of the agenda of any school. That includes us at UP and there are many topics that focus on issues in and around UP Diliman. If we can’t solve our own problems then how can we be believable in addressing those outside our direct influence area?”

I do encourage prospective student researchers to take on topics addressing local transportation issues. Some recommendations are as follows:

  • Active transport – topics on bike use, bike lanes planning and design, pedestrian or cycling facilities, safety, funding and investments, integration with public transport, end of trip facilities, IEC or C4D materials development and deployment, etc.;
  • Road/highways – topics on road safety, road capacity (e.g., assessing the necessity and/or effectiveness of road widening projects);
  • Public transportation – topics on rationalization, modernization, services in the time of Covid-19, business models including service contracting, motorcycles as public transport (i.e., motorcycle taxis);
  • Anything relating transport and the pandemic – topics about transport in the so-called new normal, impacts of Covid-19 on transport, traffic, commuting, etc. These topics can be framed a number of ways and can be very local (i.e., based on local experiences) and/or comparative.

There are obviously more including the “classic” ones on traffic engineering and management (e.g., traffic congestion, intersection analysis, development of micro-simulation models, etc.), transport planning (e.g., travel demand forecasting, transport model development, etc.), as well as those on the various modes of transport (air, maritime and rail come to mind). The objective is to be able to contextualize and address issues closer to your home rather than far from it. I think that’s how best you can contribute to addressing transport problems rather than be over-ambitious or messianic in your research topic(s).