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Research topics for transportation engineering and planning for 2016-2017?

I observed from my site’s statistics that there have been a lot of interest on research topics in transportation engineering and planning. I regularly post on the undergraduate research topics our students have engaged in. At this point in the first semester of the current 2016-2017 academic year, topics have not yet been assigned and we have only learned how many students have been assigned to our research group. As such, we are still in the process of determining who takes on which topic. Following are topics we have identified in addition to those that had no takers the previous semesters:

Traffic engineering

  1. Anatomy of congestion along EDSA
  2. Anatomy of congestion along C-5
  3. Segregated lane for motorcycles
  4. Impacts of the MMDA’s truck lane policy along C-5
  5. Congestion study in the vicinity of UP Town Center
  6. Assessment of through traffic for the UP Diliman campus

Public transportation

  1. Connectivity study for UP AGT and MRT 7
  2. Feasibility of bus services beyond Masinag junction
  3. Characterization of Internal Public Transportation Operation in UP Diliman and Viability of Introduction of Electric Vehicles
  4. Modelling the Public Transport System of UP Diliman Campus Using CUBE Travel Demand Software
  5. Estimation of Passenger Demand for New Transit System for UP Diliman Using Discrete Choice Model
  6. Characteristics of motorcycle taxis in the Philippines [Habal-habal, skylab, etc.]

Road safety

  1. Severity of injuries of motorcycle riders (helmet and non-helmet users)

Pedestrian & non-motorised transport

  1. A study on walkability along Ortigas Avenue
  2. A study on the characteristics of bike share users in the UP Diliman campus

Transport & Environment

  1. Assessment of Roadside Air Quality along C.P. Garcia Avenue in the Vicinity of UP-ICE Compound

Other topics

  1. Study on the mobility of PWDs in Metro Manila
  2. Assessment of ridesharing in the context of sustainable transport

I’m sure there are other topics but I’m not aware of the specifics at present. Also, we welcome the ideas of our students should they already have topics in mind as long as these preferably fall under the research agenda of our Institute. The topics listed above may appear to be specific but these are still basically very general and can be refined after the students establish their scope and limitations. They can only do that once they have undertaken a decent enough literature review for them also to have a more firm appreciation of their chosen topics. I will post again on this later this year when students would have already put in substantial work on their research proposals (i.e., the objective for this semester).

Mainstreaming e-trikes?

The big news on electric vehicles in the Philippines today is about what the City of Manila has announced as a phaseout of tricycles and pedicabs (i.e., motorized and non-motorized three-wheelers):

Manila will say goodbye to old school tricycles and pedicabs on October 15

According to the article, these will include conventional tricycles, kuligligs (bicycles fitted out with motors or generators + sidecar), and pedicabs. Manila has thousands (about 25,000 according to the article) of these plying roads where they are not supposed to be (tricycles and pedicabs are prohibited by law from traveling along national roads especially as public transportation). From the article, it seems to me that the date mentioned will be the start for a pilot in the Binondo area. No details are given as to how exactly the local government of Manila will be going about replacing 25,000 tricycles, kuligligs and pedicabs with 10,000 e-trikes, including how the e-trikes will be financed and what will happen to the phased out tricycles and pedicabs. We are, however, hopeful that Manila will be successful and perhaps be a model for other LGUs to emulate.


On e-trikes again

I saw this electric tricycle while traveling along Marcos Highway in Antipolo City. There are already a number of e-trikes operating in many cities around the country including several in Metro Manila but this one seems to be the inferior to the designs I have features in previous articles in this site (Note: Refer to the post on Vehicles at the 3rd Electric Vehicle Summit for a sampling of e-trike designs). Those designs were mostly inspired by the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s concept electric tricycle design for their project that sought to replace conventional tricycles with electric ones.

IMG_0824Antipolo e-trike along Marcos Highway

This e-trike appears to be a clumsy design and I have questions regarding its stability and operating characteristics, which have implications on road safety. Note that the e-trike in the photo above is not registered. Otherwise, it should bear an orange plate from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which incidentally classifies e-vehicles as low-speed vehicles. This classification basically restricts most e-vehicles from traveling along national roads such as Marcos Highway. Did Antipolo secure an exception or exemption for these vehicles? Are traffic law enforcement personnel turning blind eye to the operation of these vehicles along busy highways like Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway? How safe are these vehicle designs?

Local papers presented at the EASTS 2015 conference – University of the Philippines

There were a lot of technical papers from Philippine universities that were presented in the recently concluded 11th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS 2015). In the interest of dissemination, I will be featuring a list of papers produced by leading universities in the Philippines that are doing studies on transportation. Following is a list of papers from University of the Philippines Diliman that were presented at the EASTS 2015 held in Cebu City last Sept. 11-13, 2015:

  1. Innovative Collection of Road and Traffic Data for Road Safety Audit (Aileen Mappala & Ricardo Sigua)
  2. Study on Safety of Railway/Highway Grade Crossings in the Philippines (Albie Clarito, Beverly May Ramos & Ricardo Sigua)
  3. Instantaneous Fuel Consumption Models of Light Duty Vehicles and a Case Study on the Fuel Consumption at Different Traffic Conditions in Metro Manila using Shepard’s Interpolation Method (Ernesto Abaya, Karl Vergel, Ricardo Sigua, Edwin Quiros & Jose Bienvenido Biona)
  4. Development of Drive Cycles and Measurement of Fuel Economies of Light Duty Vehicles in Metro Manila (Ernesto Abaya, Karl Vergel, Ricardo Sigua & Edwin Quiros)
  5. Selection of Metro Manila BRT Corridors Using Multi- Criteria Assessment (Ricardo Sigua & Cresencio Montalbo, Jr.)
  6. An Assessment of Walkability in a Medium-Sized Philippine City (Hilario Sean Palmiano, Sheila Flor Javier & Jose Regin Regidor)
  7. Traffic Noise Measurement, Perception, and Modelling in a University Campus (Hilario Sean Palmiano, John Carlo Villar & Michelle Monelle Quilatan)
  8. Assessment of Metro Manila Bus Fare Computation (Sylvia Chavez & Hilario Sean Palmiano)
  9. Estimating Road Roughness Conditions Using Ubiquitous Smartphones and Geographic Information Systems and its Application to Road Network Planning in the Philippines (Joel Cruz & Jun Castro)
  10. Fuel Economy and Public Utility Jeepneys Using 2% and 5% Coco-Metyl Ester (CME)-Diesel Blends (Edwin Quiros & Karl Vergel)
  11. Comparison of Fuel Economy of Fuel and Operating Characteristics of Diesel and Auto-LPG Jeepneys through On-Road and Vehicle Tests (Edwin Quiros, Karl Vergel, Ernesto Abaya, Ervin Santos & Jose Gabriel Mercado)
  12. Challenges of Urban Transport Development in Metro Manila: A look back at the last 40 years (Maria Sheilah Napalang & Jose Regin Regidor)
  13. An Assessment of the Public Necessity Concept for Estimating the Requirements for Public Transport Vehicle (Arnel Manresa, Karl Vergel & Jose Regin Regidor)
  14. State of Pavement Engineering in the Philippines and Implications on the Economic Life of National Roads (Maria Sheilah Napalang, Jose Regin Regidor & Nathaniel Diola)
  15. Planning Metro Manila’s Mass Transit System (Ricardo Jose, Daniel Mabazza, Jose Regin Regidor, Marco Stefan Lagman & Jonathan Villasper)
  16. Evaluation of Compliance of Dimensions and Selected Systems and Components of Customized Local Road Vehicles (CLRV) with Vehicle Regulations and Standards (Karl Vergel, Rachel Habana, Nonilo Peña, Loreto Carasi, Albert Mariño & Alorna Abao)
  17. An O-D Approach of Estimating Energy Demand and CO2 Emission for the Luzon Road Transport using Inter- Regional Passenger and Freight Flow Data (Marloe Sundo & Karl Vergel)
  18. Dignity of Travel: BRT Development in the Philippines (Cresencio Montalbo Jr & Colin Brader)
  19. Mending a Metropolis – Understanding Passenger Demand Across Metro Manila To Improve Road Transit (Nicholas Greaves & Cresencio Montalbo Jr)
  20. Accident Hotspot Mapping in Quezon City: The case of Katipunan Avenue (Jerome Ballarta, Nelson Doroy, Ishtar Padao & Cecil Villanueva)

Not included in the list are papers coming out of International Research Groups (IRG) as well as those where involvement by UP faculty were incidental to projects. Many of these papers will soon be posted on the official site of the International Scientific Committee of EASTS as part of either Proceedings or Journal of EASTS. Some may be nominated for the Asian Transport Journal (ATS), which is also published by EASTS.

Transportation research in UP Diliman is the most developed among schools doing research on these topics in the country. Papers came from a variety of disciplines and academic units including Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Urban Planning, Geography and History. These mostly were and are undertaken through the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS), which is with UP Diliman.

Next up: De La Salle University


Undergraduate research topics on transportation for AY2014-2015

The Transportation Engineering Group (TEG) of the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) recently finalised the researches to be implemented by undergraduate students assigned to the group.

  • Calibrating car-following and lane-changing models for local traffic micro-simulators
  • Effects of clear yielding rules at weaving sections
  • Evaluation of re-opening of traffic signals along Katipunan Avenue
  • Shuttle service for University of the Philippines Diliman employees
  • Analysing trip-cutting behaviour of jeepneys and UV express with respect tot he LRT Line 2 Santolan and Katipunan Stations
  • Assessment of pedestrian facilities along Ortigas Avenue Extension and Marcos Highway
  • Study on satellite parking system for UP Diliman
  • Road safety audit checklist for expressways
  • Study on Philippine National Railways (PNR) station congestion
  • Using drones for analysis of weaving sections, and traffic circulation in roundabouts
  • Air quality assessment at the Centennial Dormitory along C.P. Garcia Avenue
  • Estimating bus passenger demand between UP Diliman and UP Los Banos
  • Mode choice modelling of new transport systems
  • On-road energy efficiency of alternative fuel vehicles

Note that several topics in the list are focused on issues concerning the UP Diliman campus. These are a continuation of studies geared at providing solutions to transport or traffic problems at UP’s flagship campus sprawled over an area of 493 hectares. The above are working titles at best as students taking up the topics are supposed to develop their research proposals (complete with literature review, methodology and budget) this semester and then implement these in the next semester. Since UP has already adjusted its academic calendar, research implementation will be undertaken from January to May 2015.

Sunday smog

We were staying at a hotel over the weekend and our room afforded us a good view of the cityscape to the left and seascape to the right. We weren’t able to get a good view of the sunset as we were practically facing south-east and the orientation of the window prevented any, even slight view of what is always a nice Manila Bay sunset. We did expect to see the sunrise the following morning.

As the sun came up, we took this photo of the cityscape. Closer to us were buildings in Pasay City while those farther away were buildings in Bonifacio Global City. I remembered reading somewhere that what makes our sunsets so colourful or spectacular are the elements in our atmosphere. Air pollution tends to bring the most dramatic colors for sunsets and I believe that’s in a way also applicable to sunrises. I took a snapshot of the cityscape from our hotel window expecting the worst for what could be the equivalent of an exposed negative in the old days. Instead, I got the pretty decent photo below showing the sunlight reflecting off the haze around Metro Manila and giving the cityscape that eerie look on a Sunday morning.

2014-06-01 06.12.33

There’s a joke that is often recycled concerning air pollution and air quality. According to this joke, the Philippines doesn’t need to worry about air pollution since every year it is visited by many typhoons. These typhoons passing through the country sweep away the pollution thereby making the air around us cleaner. This is actually true and one need only to get outdoors after a typhoon to smell the fresh air. Of course, it doesn’t take long before the smog returns and therein lies the punchline to the real joke. At the rate we are going in terms of vehicle emissions alone, we would probably need at least a typhoon every week for the entire year if we wanted clean air to breathe. The dry seasons would probably be the worst in terms of poor air quality. And so we must see that the joke is on us and air quality will only continue to deteriorate if we do not act now and do not pitch in for the fight for clean air.

The Philippines’ National EST Strategy – Final Report

Friends and some acquaintances have been asking about whether there is a master plan for sustainable transport in Philippines. There is none, but there is a national strategy that should serve as the basis for the development and implementation of a master plan, whether at the national or local level. This strategy was formulated with assistance of the United Nations Council for Regional Development (UNCRD) through the Philippines’ Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which served as the focal agencies for this endeavour. The formulation was conducted by the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of the University of the Philippines Diliman. For reference, you can go to the NCTS website for an electronic copy of the National Environmentally Sustainable Transport Strategy Final Report.

NESTS coverCover page for the National EST Strategy Final Report



A study on a long-term transport action plan for ASEAN

The National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman participated in the project “Study on the Long-Term Action Plan for Low Carbon Transport in ASEAN.” The study was funded by the Nippon Foundation and implemented by the Institution for Transport Policy Studies (ITPS) and Clean Air Asia with experts coming from ASEAN countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and Mizuho of Japan, which led the development of the Backcasting and Visioning Tools employed in the study. Detailed case studies were performed for Indonesia through the Universitas Gadjah Mada and for the Philippines through the University of the Philippines Diliman.

The Final Symposium for the study was held last February 20, 2014 at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo, Japan. A link containing information on the study, the symposium program, information on speakers, and presentation files are hosted by the Japan International Transport Institute, which is affiliated with ITPS.

backcasting PHGraph of the result of backcasting for the Philippines using available transport data, policies and other information on various socio-economic and transport factors. (Image capture from the presentation by UP’s Dr. Regin Regidor)

Other issues on second hand imported vehicles

Much of the discussions regarding imported second hand vehicles focus on issues of taxation (customs) or registration and allegations of smuggling. The entry of used vehicles and their significantly lower-priced sales have been issues particularly to the established automobile manufacturers and dealers in the country. Importers and dealers of vehicles coming from these special economic zones/free ports claim that they are serving people who want to own a vehicle but couldn’t afford brand new or even second hand vehicles. While this may be true for some cases where regular cars, vans or even SUVs are concerned, the perception is that these importers and dealers are mainly serving a demand for luxury vehicles like sports cars, limousines and high end SUVs from prominent brands such as Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, and Hummer, and even Ferrari and Lamborghini.

On the surface, the claimed benefits to people seem an acceptable and even noble intention. However, this is further from the truth and there is the strong opinion that all this is really just for money, plain and simple. It is also not enough justification for the negative impacts of these used vehicles, which do not go through a process of being tested for compliance with emission standards as well as for safety. The latter concern is for vehicles that undergo “conversion” from their original right hand drive set-up to become left hand drive vehicles, which are the norm in the Philippines. There is also the issue of fuel efficiency for these used vehicles and the maintenance required for these to stay in A-1 condition. All these concerns stack up and clearly show the folly of the importation of used vehicles through the economic zones.

IMG05742-20130315-1647I saw these two vehicles along Katipunan as we were coming from a meeting one afternoon. Both models were not sold by Toyota Motor Philippines and conspicuously have license plates bearing the letter “B” as a first letter, indicative that they were registered in Region 2. Region 2 is where Port Irene, Cagayan is located and which is being alleged as the source of a lot of used vehicles linked to anomalies in taxes and registration. More serious are concerns pertaining to emissions, safety and fuel efficiency.

Air quality and road safety concerns for public transport

While traveling home one late afternoon, I couldn’t help but take a quick photo of a jeepney in front of me that was belching smoke while also carrying several people as sabit (hangers). Though a bit blurry, the photo still shows clearly the cloud of smoke coming out of  jeepney’s tailpipe and the three people hanging behind the vehicle. Not obvious from the photo are the speed and lateral motion of the jeepney as it traversed this section of Marcos Highway.


This is a scene we see everyday in our streets despite initiatives or efforts to address problems pertaining to vehicle emissions and safety. The Clean Air Act while enacted more than a decade ago has not been effectively implemented for vehicles. A lot of vehicles are able to register or renew their registrations without really going through a proper emissions test (or smog test for those in the US). “Non-appearance,” the term used for people going through the motions of a test but skipping the measurement itself while getting print-outs stating the vehicle “passed” the test is prevalent throughout the country.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) has experimented with a lot of schemes to address the problem. These includes the requirement of a photograph showing the actual performance of the emission test on the vehicle. More recent was an initiative where RFID units were supposed to be installed/attached to vehicles and these would be used to ensure that emission tests really were conducted prior to registration. However, with very few Motor Vehicle Inspection Stations (MVIS), the LTO has no choice but to delegate emission testing to private emission testing centers (PETCs). The long standing suspicion, however, is that most of these PETCs collude with vehicle owners and fixers within the LTO to maintain a status quo in “non-appearances” and non-compliance with emission regulations.

Local governments have pitched in with their mobile anti-smoke belching units (ASBUs). In Metro Manila, many cities including Quezon City, Pasig City and Makati City have multiple ASBUs allowing them to set-up several stations along roads in their jurisdictions. These are usually seen along busy roads with policemen assisting them in flagging down vehicles (mostly trucks) observed to be smokebelchers. These vehicles are tested and penalties are imposed on emission regulations violators. The equipment of these ASBUs, however, are only for diesel engines and so are operations of these mobile units are limited in scope from the start. There have also been allegations that some ASBUs have been taking advantage of erring drivers resulting in bribery so as not to be issued violation tickets and penalties.

The bottom line for most cases of emission violations is that most violators are not properly educated about emission regulations including the requirement for them to pass emission tests at any time and not during the registration process only. This is a fact that most drivers or vehicle owners do not understand or choose not to understand, usually because of maintenance cost implications. Nevertheless, we will continue to be in the losing end of the war against air pollution if we cannot properly enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act, particularly for mobile sources that contribute most of the air pollution we experience in this country.