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Simulating cities?

I found this nice article about some of the most popular simulation games; especially SimCity:

Baker, K.T. (201 ) Model Metropolis, Logic, https://logicmag.io/06-model-metropolis/?mbid=nl_021119_transportation_list_p [Last accessed: 2/13/2019]

While there are still those who dismiss these as merely games, they fail to appreciate the really complex algorithms and processes that could now mimic real world situations. That includes governance of cities that is a very important factor to its development. Land use planning or transport planning alone cannot provide the solutions for a city’s problems associated with, among others, its growth. The success reflects on the administration and leadership that should be able to anticipate and respond to issues while consolidating and rationalising resources, which are often limited.

Marikina’s Bike and Parking Lanes

I had to navigate through Marikina’s streets in order to reach the Feliz Mall from the city’s downtown. Normally, I would have taken the more straightforward route that would have involved traveling along Marcos Highway. However, I couldn’t because it was my number coding day and the U-turn slots in the area are usually “swarming” with MMDA and Pasig City traffic enforcers. Marikina’s streets though were not part of the coding scheme and you only need to be familiar with their road network including which streets are one-way in order to navigate the streets properly.

The bike lane is on the left side of the one-way road and to the right of the on-street parking spaces. The parking lane is the left-most and curb-side.

This actually qualifies as an example of a road diet application. These could have easily been 2-way streets before but effectively 2 lanes have been allocated for traffic flow while the others are for parking and cycling. [Of course, hard-core cyclist will say only one lane was taken away from motor vehicles.]

These bike and parking lanes were implemented in connection with the Marikina Bikeways project that was initiated during the time of then Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando in the late 1990s. The project was continued and maintained by succeeding administrations of the city and contribute to the city’s being more liveable compared to other LGUs. The reconfiguration of the streets make them safer and saner in terms of traffic flow where “traffic” is referred to as inclusive of all users.

More concerns about ride-hailing/ride-sharing

Here are two interesting (to me at least) articles about the negative aspects of ride hailing or ride sharing. The first is quite a curious one for me as I teach at UP Diliman, which has a sprawling campus in Quezon City. Students can have one class at a building on one end of the campus and have the next class at another end of the campus. I now wonder if there’s a significant number of Grab or Angkas trips within campus.

Kidambi, M. (2019) “Popularity of brief Uber, Lyft rides on campus raises environmental concerns,” Daily Bruin, http://dailybruin.com/2019/01/29/popularity-of-brief-uber-lyft-rides-on-campus-raises-environmental-concerns/ [Last accessed: 2/8/2019]

The second article relates on the a more general context of what’s bad about ride hailing/ride sharing. The author presents not just a list but evidence of each item mentioned.

Schmitt, A. (2019) “All the Bad Things About Uber and Lyft In One Simple List,” Streetsblog USA, https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/02/04/all-the-bad-things-about-uber-and-lyft-in-one-simple-list/ [Last accessed: 2/8/2019]

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles here, there are still a lot we need to learn about ridehailing in this country and especially in our cities. I guess Angkas’ case can be different because motorcycle taxis were already operating in many areas even before the app-based service. But of course, we also need to understand about his enhanced ‘habal-habal’.

Bitukang Manok

I woke up from a long nap just before we entered a major zigzag section of the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. That literally translates to “chicken innards or intestines”, which is how many travellers would describe the alignment of this section of the national highway network. We decided to take the “old zigzag road” instead of the “new diversion road” since the latter is known to be already congested especially as trucks and buses take this road instead of the zigzag.

Expectedly, the road offered all kinds of curves and grades throughout. I was glad to see relatively new barriers already installed or constructed along the entire length of Bitukang Manok.

Here is a particularly challenging section combining sharp hairpin curves with steep inclines.

We caught up with this rider along a relatively straight and level segment of the road

There are flagmen strategically deployed along the most difficult parts of the road including this one that might lead inexperienced or erring drivers to drive/ride straight off a cliff.

Here’s another hairpin curve; this time on the way down from the mountain.

The final turn of the road before it merged with the diversion road

Sign at the other end of the road showing travellers the divergence of the national highway into the “old zigzag road” and the “new diversion road”. Notice the platoon of southbound trucks at right. 

I remember Bitukang Manok as a dreaded section among travellers before not just from the safety viewpoint but also because many can get sick (e.g., motion sickness that may result into throwing up) going through the section especially if the driver is not as smooth in manoeuvring the vehicle through the zigzags. There were also long distance bicycle races before where the Bitukang Manok featured as the main challenge to the best cyclists and the winner of that leg of the race was pronounced as “king of the mountain”.

Some snapshots of the PNR ROW along the way to Bicol

I promised to post about my trip and here are a few photos I took of the PNR’s right of way (ROW) showing the railways crossing with the Pan Philippine Highway (Asian Highway 26 or AH 26) at many points.

After traveling in the early hours of the morning, we finally got a good glimpse of the PNR’s south line that basically runs parallel to the national highway.

The single track line will actually go underneath the bridge downstream from where this photo was taken. I just couldn’t get a clear shot from our vehicle. I hope to get one on the way back.

Railway tracks are currently used as access to communities with dirt roads often running just beside the tracks.

Railway tracks leading to what looks like an area that still has a lot of vegetation. Note, too, what looks like check rails in the photo.

Railroad crossing signs along the highway – the standard one is obvious in the photo

Much of the PNR’s ROW has encroachments making it unsafe for modern railway operations.

An obviously unused (dormant?) part of the line in Quezon

The government plans to upgrade or rehabilitate the PNR’s Main Line South with the help of funding (and technical assistance?) from China. A colleague opined that maybe since the north line rehab is to be undertaken with the help of the Japanese, then perhaps the south should similarly be rehabbed with the help of Japan. That should ensure the same quality and standards will be applied throughout the system. What do you think?

More photos and stories soon!

On conducting a national travel survey in the Philippines

There’s a nice article about the National Household Travel Survey regularly conducted by the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):

Lewin, M. (2019) “Learning from the National Household Travel Survey,” http://www.planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/102508?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-02042019&mc_cid=03588de77e&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 2/6/2019]

There is a lot to learn from such surveys and especially if historical results can be compared in order to establish trends and issues. I recall that we attempted to engage the then National Statistics Office (NSO) back in 2005 for them to include certain items in the national census but for the purpose of data collection for inter-regional passenger and freight flow. That didn’t bear fruit but perhaps it is about time to reconsider and for the Philippine Statistics Agency (PSA) to include questions specific to travel in the census.

Ideally, of course, is to have our own national travel survey where we can obtain data not just for inter-regional or even inter-provincial or inter-island passenger and freight transport characteristics. Data from a national household travel survey would give us details on a lot of things including but not limited to the following:

  • Average commute data – e.g., commute travel times & commute distances for those taking private or public transport
  • Vehicle ownership data – e.g., car, motorcycle and bicycle ownership and usage
  • Travel cost data – e.g., various cost components for traveling via private or public transport

Such information can be categorised a number of ways like according to age, gender or income. It will definitely help us understand how people travel including their perceptions and choices. It can help formulate solutions to a lot of issues, transport and traffic-related, that cities and municipalities are trying to address. Of course, this will definitely involve big data but this is not a new thing, and large data sets have been used in many transport studies including those for Metropolitan Manila (e.g., MMUTSTRAP, JUMSUT, MMUTIS, MUCEP) and the inter-regional study (SIRPAFF) we did a decade and a half ago. The advantage now is that we have more sophisticated tools for analysing such data.

Looking forward to another long road trip

It has been a while since I had a long road trip. The last one was not particularly long as it was only until Lucena City in Quezon. Prior to that was a trip to Baguio City. And so I am looking forward to this trip to Bicol this week and I do hope to take a lot of photos along the way. That includes photos of arches that I have not had the chance of taking that I know I can get a lot of during this trip that will take us through several provinces in Southern Luzon. Those photos and the experiences from the trip will probably dominate the postings this February.