Caught (up) in traffic

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On the negative social impacts of ridesharing/ridesourcing

I have shared a few articles before about the impacts of ridesharing/ridesourcing to taxi drivers. In the Philippines, taxis where ridesharing/ridesourcing services are available are plenty are supposed to have experienced a significant drop in their business. Yet, there has been little improvement in taxi services in Metro Manila. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have not put pressure on taxis to improve so operators and drivers are pretty much the same in terms of practices and service quality. Here is a recent article that appeared on Wired about New York taxi drivers:

Katz, M. (2018) “Why are New York taxi drivers killing themselves?”, wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/why-are-new-york-taxi-drivers-committing-suicide/?CNDID=37243643&mbid=nl_032918_daily_list1_p4 (Last accessed 3/30/2018).

Admittedly, the set-up for New York taxis is quite different from those in the Philippines. The medallions referred to in the article are limited and carries with it prestige and perhaps honour, considering the commitment and pride attached to them. Franchises in the Philippines are quite different and drivers will usually work for multiple operators/employers. Those who own their taxis are not so many and can be flexible in the way they conduct their business. Perhaps a significant number of drivers have even left the taxi business and now drive for TNCs like Grab and Uber.

With Uber’s sale of their business in Southeast Asia to main rival Grab, it seems now that there is suddenly and practically a monopoly of the ridesharing/ridesourcing business. Upstarts have not had a significant share of the market and by all indications will not get a bigger share in the near future. I still think that there should be pressure for taxi services to be improved and a good chance for people to shift back to taxis. But this requires effort on both sides (regulator and operator). I still mention examples of taxi operators in Cebu and Iloilo who appear to be unscathed by the entry of ridesharing/ridesourcing in those cities. Good quality taxi services will promote itself and will be patronised by commuters.

On Visita Iglesia and Quiapo transport and traffic

As it is already the Holy Week, I thought it would be good to write about transport and traffic around one of the busiest churches in the Philippines – Quiapo Church. This is surely a popular stop for the Visita Iglesia, which is a tradition for many during the Holy Week. People visit as many churches (usually the target is seven) as they can where they are supposed to pray the novena appropriate for the season.

A side view of the church from Quezon Boulevard, which is the main access road for the church. Most public transport pass along this boulevard that connects to other major roads. It’s a good thing that the City of Manila has been stricter in enforcing against on-street parking here.

In front of the church is Plaza Miranda, where many political rallies are held including one fateful rally in the early 1970s that eventually led to the declaration of martial law, is a bustling area with many vendors selling all kinds of items, religious and otherwise, including those that are claimed to be medicinal. Note though that vehicles are allowed to park on-street and this means people would have to hail jeepneys in the middle of the street.

This is traffic along Quezon Boulevard as seen from the descent from the Quezon Bridge (Quiapo church is seen at the left). I took this around 4PM on a Wednesday so it was not surprising to have heavy traffic on both sides of the boulevard. I’ve been told, however, that for most of the day during weekdays, traffic is as heavy as this.

Traffic in Quiapo is not as heavy on Sundays (It’s also quite as bad on Saturdays.) and holidays. During the Visita Iglesia period of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, however, there will likely be heavy traffic in the area as a lot of people bring their own vehicles for the Visita Iglesia as well as for their “church tours”. I used the term “church tours” because I’ve observed that many don’t really come to pray (e.g., Stations of the Cross or novenas) but to take photos (i.e., selfies or ‘groupfies’) and eat & drink about. In Metro Manila, there are several churches popular for this tradition. These include Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Christ the King, Sto. Domingo and Our Lady of Lourdes in Quezon City, and the Manila Cathedral, San Sebastian, St. Jude, Malate and Binondo Churches in Manila. That is not an exhaustive list as there are many churches (old and new) spread around Metro Manila including those in other cities like Malabon, Marikina and Las Pinas. And then there are also the churches in the provinces surrounding Metro Manila, which I will try to write about soon…

On child-friendly cities

Here’s another article that I want to share. This time it is about child-friendly cities. Here is an article that present many good practice examples in other cities. Many are easily replicable in our towns and cities, and should be considered by local governments in order to enhance safety and health aspects in their jurisdictions.

Laker, L. (2018) “What would the ultimate child-friendly city look like?”, theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/28/child-friendly-city-indoors-playing-healthy-sociable-outdoors [Last accessed 3/9/2018]

On the Pasig HOV lane experiment, again

I recently wrote about some thoughts on Pasig City’s HOV lane experiment along Julia Vargas Avenue. Here are a few more considering the experiment didn’t push through last February 28.

Screen cap (courtesy of ABS CBN) showing the starting date for the HOV lane experiment. I think ‘HOV’ is more appropriate than ‘carpool’ since the requirement is for vehicles using the lane to have 4 or more passengers. Having only 2 passengers still qualify as a carpool.

I learned recently that the experiment has been put off to March 26, 2018:

[Photo courtesy of Dulce Justiniani]

 

The current set-up has 2 lanes for motorised vehicles including a wide lane for HOV’s (including public utility vehicles like buses and vans). HOV’s here also include cars but those with at least 4 occupants. Here are a couple of photos showing us what could possibly happen should enforcement be weak given the configuration of the lanes along Julia Vargas:

Private van running along the lane designated for HOV’s alongside a solitary cyclist on the bike lane.

An SUV overtaking the van via the bike lane and the extra space of the HOV lane.

Wide lanes generally encourage higher speeds. I believe the way to go would be to have narrower lanes. And should these be considered, it would be possible to have 3 lanes for motorised traffic with one assigned for HOV’s and another for motorcycles. These are aside from the bicycle lane that I think should also be a protected lane. Protection here may be through the provision of “forgiving” physical dividers in the form of, say, rubber bollards.

Here’s how the Julia Vargas carriageway could be laid out:

Again, these are just suggestions for whoever are in-charge of the experiment-to-be along Julia Vargas Avenue. I hope that they are able to make some assessments even prior to the experiment. Such can be done using simulation software in order to have a handle on traffic related issues that may crop up during the implementation. Still, a big factor would be the enforcement aspects of the proposed policy for motor vehicles. Strict, firm and sustained enforcement would be necessary in order for this to succeed.

On prioritising pedestrians and promoting walking

We begin March with an excellent article that came out from curbed.com:

Walker, A. (2018) The case against sidewalks and how cities can create new avenues for pedestrians, curbed.com, https://www.curbed.com/2018/2/7/16980682/city-sidewalk-repair-future-walking-neighborhood [Last accessed 2/23/2018].

How do we improve the environment (i.e., facilities) to encourage people to walk? Do we simply clear up sidewalks? Widen them? Build overpasses and underpasses? What should be the context for improving pedestrian facilities for our cities and municipalities? What are the implications to planning and design?

Another walkability tool: Pedestrians First

The ITDP recently came out with a new walkability tool called Pedestrians First. Here’s the link to their site where you can download the tool. The tool was released in the recently concluded World Urban Forum held in Malaysia.

https://www.itdp.org/publication/walkability-tool/

Of course, there are other tools out there including one developed by Clean Air Asia, material on which may be found through the following links:

http://cleanairasia.org/walkability-study-in-asian-cities-4/

Walkability Mobile App

Our technical staff and my students are currently using the methodology developed by Clean Air Asia and have covered several major thoroughfares in Metro Manila and a highly urbanized city in studies that have been undertaken in the last 6 years. I already asked them to take a look at the new tool and see how this compares with the ones we are using.

On learning from the experiences of others about transit ridership

I again share an article; this time on transit ridership (or on the passengers using public transportation).

Buchanan, M. (2018) Lessons on Ridership, from the National Literature, transitcenter.org,  http://transitcenter.org/2018/01/29/lessons-on-ridership-from-the-national-literature/ [Last accessed 2/21/2018]

Perhaps we can learn from the experiences of other cities in as far as public transport use is concerned? For example, what impacts emerging technologies and the sharing economy (e.g., ridesharing) have on public transport ridership and how to meet these challenges to retain a majority of public transport users over low capacity modes.