Caught (up) in traffic

Home » 2021 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2021

Updated fares for LRT Line 2

After so many years, the Line 2 extension to Masinag Junction is finally complete and operations covering the additional 2 stations. The 2 stations will be fully operational on June 23, 2021 (Wednesday) though there will be a ‘soft opening’ on June 22, 2021, following ceremonies for the extension. Here’s the new fare matrix showing how much passengers would have to pay traveling between certain stations including the two new stations of the extension – Marikina Station (formerly Emerald Station) and Antipolo Station (formerly Masinag Station):

Updated fares for Line 2 that now includes Marikina Station and Antipolo Station

What’s next for Line 2? Will there be another extension? Will there be a branch line? Also, it would be nice to see in the next few months if people will indeed be taking Line 2 instead of their current or usual road transport mode. Of particular interest would be if people will be shifting from private vehicle use. This is important because one main objective of the line is to reduce car dependence. That is expected to lead to a reduction in road traffic condition along the corridor (Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard). This could also provide lessons for Line 7, which is still under construction.

So what’s the role of academe in transport development again?

I was in a meeting that started off well enough but was accentuated and concluded on sour notes. It was where 2 governmentt officials basically berated and ridiculed us representing academe. Dinaan lang kunyari sa mapalamuting pananalita nila. Well, no matter how you twist your words, we could still decode their meaning. I guess that goes with years of experience listening to all kinds of talk from government officials, politicians, people in private sector, consultants, faculty members, researchers and yes, students. You know bullshit even if its hiding behind a bunch of flowers.

I think the idea of certain government officials about the role of academe in development is to essentially be rubber stamps of the administration. Those who offer criticisms or disagree with plans, policies or parts of these are often branded as “bad apples”. Bawal kumontra. I guess that comes from people who are basically insecure with their work or outputs? Or perhaps they are just worried about their standing and image considering the very political environment they are working in. I could not use the word ‘validate’ to describe the expectation from academe from the government officials in that meeting since the process of validation may end up either positive or negative (thereby invalidating something such as a plan or a policy).

There will always be newer tools and newer models. I remember the times when JICA STRADA was supposed to be the state-of-the-art travel demand forecasting software. It was easily overtaken by the like of CUBE and Vissum. Even its simulator was not at par with VISSIM, Dynasim and a host of other micro-simulation software packages that were more user friendly. Better tools allow for better models, but also only if you do your part in collecting the data required for calibration and validation and formulate sound assumptions. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. No matter how sophisticated your computer models seem to be, they are nothing if your assumptions and data are rubbish. As Howard Stark states in his recorded message to Tony, “I am limited by the technology of my time. But one day, you’ll figure this out.” And not only will there be newer tools and models, there will also be newer methods including those that allow for more sophisticated data collection.

Plan formulation and acceptance are not as simple as 1+1 as one official used as an example. It’s actually more complicated than that. Plans don’t and should not be described in absolutes but should be dynamic or evolving since the future is also uncertain and there are so many factors in play that cannot be all represented or modeled. And no, we’re not going to toe the line nor will we tell other academics to do so. In fact we will continue to be outspoken because that is part of how it is to be objective, and to be encouraging of critical thinking. It is the latter that needs to be instilled in many government agencies where people tend to forget about it likely for convenience as well as to conform with the political atmosphere.

The presence of respected Japanese professors in the meeting and their likely role in convincing JICA to convene an experts’ panel meeting. The meeting was with certain academics representing schools that were not initially engaged by government. JICA’s nod is recognition enough of the accomplishments and reputation of those of us who were invited to the meeting. Unfortunately, their expertise are not appreciated by their own government but that seems to be the consistent policy for the current administration that rewards those who toe the line while shunning those who are more objective and critical.

Culturally though, I am not surprised of the proceedings because we don’t have the same reverence for academe as they have in Japan or other countries where academics are regularly called upon to provide insights to address problems such as those pertaining to transportation. That is why they have strong advisory councils in those countries. And in the case of the US, for example, their National Academies have contributed much to transport development. I have experienced something similar from a top government official before regarding traffic management and policies in Metro Manila. Whether that set-up in the US and Japan can be realized here remains to be seen.

On the arguments vs. free transit

Here is a quick share of an article discussing about the idea of free public transport (no fare or minimal fares):

Grabar, H. (June 1, 2021) “The Problem with Free Transit,” Slate, https://slate.com/business/2021/06/free-transit-is-not-a-great-idea.html [Last accessed: 6/16/2021]

Apparently, “better transit, not cheaper transit” should be the mantra for both providers (operators including government) and users (commuters). It is a very sensitive topic for regulatory bodies though since higher fares are generally unpopular to the commuting public. One transport official recently stated that fare setting is a political issue. I tend to agree with this but only because the riding public is currently still largely ignorant or unappreciative of the benefits of efficient public transportation. Perhaps this is also because we’ve really had no efficient public transportation such as the ones we see in other countries including Singapore and Hong Kong? In Singapore, for example, the road pricing policies have educated people about the true costs of transport and that convinces most to take public transportation over private cars.

Guidelines pertaining to bike lanes in the Philippines

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the agencies under it are now promoting bicycle use. Part of the campaign is to improve the safety of cyclists, most especially those using bikes for commuting (e.g., bike to work). Recently, the agencies have posted infographics showing the guidelines for bicycle lanes. Here is one from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which is in-charge of vehicle registration and the issuance of driver’s licenses:

These are still basically guidelines that apparently do not carry a lot of weight (i.e., no penalties mentioned) in as far as enforcement is concerned. As they say, these appear to be merely suggestions rather than rules that need to be followed or complied with. Perhaps local government units can step in and formulate, pass and implement ordinances penalizing people violating these guidelines? These penalties are important if behavior change among motorists is to be achieved.

On local maritime transport

I rarely write about maritime transport so I took this opportunity to take photos of the typical boats used for fishing and transport in the Philippines. Here are a few photos I took one morning in Laiya, Batangas.

Typical outrigger bancas on the beach in Batangas – there are motorised and non-motorised bancas. Most of the motorised kinds use surplus or second-hand car or truck engines customised for the boats. The outriggers provide balance and keep the boats from capsizing.
Typical of the sturdy fishing boats that go out to open seas, these are the types used by fishermen from Zambales who got out to fish for a living in the West Philippine Sea. These are also used for tourism including transporting people to diving or snorkelling areas. Similar boats are used to take people to the staging area for the Underground River in Palawan. Afterwards, they transfer to smaller, non-motorised bancas for the river tour.

More on these bancas soon!

Roadside scenes – the Kalayaan hydro power plant

Last weekend’s getaway allowed me to take a few quick photos of a familiar sight that is the Kalayaan hydro-electric power plant located in the town of Lumban, Laguna at its border with Kalayaan town in the same province. Built in 1982, it was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and is the only pumped storage plant in the Philippines. Basically, what ‘pumped storage’ means is that it can reverse its turbine to suck water from the basin at the level of Laguna de Bai to charge what could be a depleted Caliraya reservoir. It can then draw water from the lake to generate power. If water levels at the reservoir are normal to high such as during the wet season, it can draw water more than it needs to pump back into the lake.

Approach to the viewing bridge
Approaching the floodgates
There’s a viewing bridge like the one in La Mesa Dam and Angat Dam but it is closed to the general public. The barangay welcome marker is also located here.
The viewing bridge as seen from the road. It is closed to the public but people still stopover to take photos. One can monitor the water level from the tower at the end of the bridge.
One landmark near to the penstock for the Kalayaan plant is the welcome sign for Kalayaan town along the national road.
One of the Kalayaan power plant’s penstocks, a gigantic pipe connecting the Caliraya Lake to the plant at the level of Laguna de Bai
Another photo of the penstock, which is 6m in diameter and 1,300m long. This feeds into two turbines that generate power as water passes through them.

There is another power plant in the area, the Caliraya Hydro Electric Power Plant. It is not located along the national highway but to the west of the northern tip of the lake and near Pagsanjan River. I will write about that in another article.

Some opinions on active transport

Here are some good reads for those who are following the discussions and arguments pertaining to active transport:

The statements by Engr. Rene Santiago in the article ticked off some people who suddenly were attacking him instead of addressing his arguments. Unfortunately, Santiago is not on any of the social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter so he could not explain his points further. It would have been interesting to read that exchange between him and all comers. Actually, he doesn’t need to be in socmed, and has nothing to prove to those reduced to saying the guy needs to be involved in relevant projects than giving what detractors thought were flawed opinions. Santiago was and still is involved in many projects that are relevant impactful. The body of work speaks for itself unless you aren’t or choose not to be aware of his accomplishments. Perhaps his faults, if you can consider these as faults, are that he is very direct and speaks his mind? But aren’t being direct and speaking your mind supposedly among the attractions of whom old-timers (boomers?) might refer to as upstarts?

Here are a couple of articles from another experienced professional relating about personal experience and expounding on the ideas from Santiago’s interview:

Villarete, N.P. (May 25, 2021) “Walking and biking,” The Freeman, https://www.philstar.com/the-freeman/opinion/2021/05/25/2100630/walking-and-biking [Last accessed: 6/1/2021]

Villarete, N.P. (June 1, 2021) “The concept of quiet streets,” The Freeman, https://www.philstar.com/the-freeman/opinion/2021/06/01/2102287/concept-quiet-streets-streetlife [Last accessed: 6/1/2021]

These opinions are important in the discourse on active transport that we are currently engaged in. No one has a monopoly on ideas and perhaps we need differing opinions to enrich the discussion. What are your thoughts on walking and cycling? Shouldn’t we also give walking equal if not greater priority in terms of policies and infrastructure even as we push for more bike lanes and other cycling-related facilities?

On the history of “jaywalking”

I am an avid reader of history and have been involved in some history projects myself, particularly those concerning transportation. Recently, a former staff of mine who now works in the archives section of the university library discovered a treasure trove of magazines with articles about road safety written back in the 1950s. Then as now, road safety has been an issue and concern for society.

Here is a good read about “jaywalking”, which basically refers to the illegal crossing of streets by pedestrians:

Stromberg, J. (November 4, 2015) The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of “jaywalking”, Vox, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history [Last accessed: 5/27/2021]

The article is very relevant today as we grapple with the specter of road crashes and its outcomes including fatalities and injuries that have long term effects on those involved and affected. We generally regard those crossing anywhere along the streets as jaywalkers; even branding them as “pasaway” (naughty or pesky) as what we learn early on is that there are designated places to cross streets (e.g., crosswalk, pedestrian overpasses and underpasses). And we see all those signs vs. jaywalking including the “Bawal ang tumawid dito” signs by local government units. Were these appropriate in the first place and are we prioritizing vehicles over pedestrians in most cases where “jaywalking” is considered illegal?

While this article maybe factual in as far as history is concerned, we still need to contextualize jaywalking in the current world. There still should be rules albeit these need to be revised, too. Along what roads can we have pedestrians first and cars last? What re-designs do we need to do to make roads safe? While I’m sure engineers and planners are prepared to design and implement these, the buck stops with the decision-makers, who are often politicians with their own agendas. How do we convince them and other authorities about making “jaywalking” legal?