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Some concerns about future rail ridership

Traveling along Commonwealth Avenue and Marcos Highway the past week, I both hopeful and worried about what happens after the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension finally becomes operational. Much has been said or reported about the potential of these two lines to change the way people commute; at least from the areas served by these two mass transit lines. However, how big an impact these would have in terms of actual reduction of private car use  remains to be seen.

Will there be significant decreases in the volume of motor vehicles along Commonwealth Avenue, Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard? Or will there be just the same traffic along these roads? The worry is based on the likelihood that those who would be taking Lines 2 and 7 would be people who are already taking public transportation and not those who have chosen to leave their cars (or motorcycles) at home.

Our students have been studying ridesharing and P2P bus operations the past few years and the conclusion has so far been a shift from one mode of public transport to what’s perceived as a better one. It’s somewhat a difficult thing to accept for advocates of public transport especially those behind TNVS, P2P buses and railways but it is what it is, and its important to accept such findings in order for us to understand what’s going on and come up with better ways to promote public transport and convince car users to use PT.

Traffic flows at the Masinag junction with the Line 2 Masinag Station and elevated tracks in the background

What is more intriguing is the proposed subway line for Metro Manila. The alignment is different from the ones identified in previous studies for the metropolis and from what I’ve gathered should have stations that serve a North-South corridor that should make for a more straightforward commute (i.e., less transfers) for those taking the subway.

Probable MM Subway alignment (from the internet)

It is another line that has a big potential as a game-changer for commuters but we won’t be able to know for sure until perhaps 5 or 6 years from now. What we know really is that there was a lost opportunity back in the 1970s when government should have pushed for its first subway line instead of opting for the LRT Line 1.

Lessons to be learned from experiences on public transport abroad

There’s this “old” article that came out last year that is very much relevant as it is timeless for its topic. The title is intriguing as the many if not most US cities are known to be car-dependent. Few have good public transportation in terms of the efficiencies or qualities we see in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo (just to mention Asian examples). Clearly, quality of service is the main reason why people are apprehensive about using public transportation. In fact, the attraction of ride shares, for example, are precisely because people want to have what they perceive as safe, comfortable and convenient modes of transport for their regular commutes. Only, for many people, their choice is also limited by the affordability of such modes of transport. Perhaps the same is applicable if you extend the discussion to include active transport. Cities and municipalities would need to provide the right infrastructure and environment for people to opt out of cars, take public transport, walk or cycle.

English, J. (2018) Why did America give up on mass transit? , http://www.medium.com/citylab, https://medium.com/citylab/why-did-america-give-up-on-mass-transit-dont-blame-cars-d637536e9a95 [Last accessed: 08 March 2019]

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’.

The unsafe situation at the U-turn slot near Ligaya (Feliz Mall)

I have been observing the U-turn slot at Ligaya just across from the Ayala Feliz Mall. Most of the times I pass by the area on my way home in the afternoons or evenings, I see that there are many people there meeting jeepneys head-on and getting ahead of other passengers waiting to get a ride who won’t risk crossing the busy Marcos Highway for this. There are usually no enforcers (MMDA or Pasig’s) in that area. Most of them congregate at the U-turn slot before this (across from the Mariposa motel) to flag down vehicles whose drivers are violating the number coding scheme. I finally had the opportunity to get a couple of photos care of the wife who took the photos as we turned to head to Feliz.

The photo shows people crowding the area at the U-turn slot in order to have a better chance at getting a jeepney ride. Many jeepneys turning here are actually cutting trips. So there are two clearly illegal activities going on here that the MMDA or Pasig City enforcers turn a blind eye to. The situation regarding the commuters is unsafe and requires attention. There is supposed to be a transport terminal across from the mall. And don’t mind the political ad (yes that stupid one in the background by an opportunist running for the senate).

Here is another photo of the people at the U-turn slot. Note that most if not all are worker types who are more likely to be risk takers; meeting jeepneys head-on (sumasalubong) and hanging on (sabit) if all seats are taken. Allowing or tolerating this means other people who don’t want to risk it cannot get a ride.

A footbridge will soon be constructed at the area but this may not solve this concern as it only addresses the crossing safety issue in the area. And so we urge those responsible for enforcing traffic rules and regulations to do their job and address this problem that concerns both safety and public transportation. Hindi lang naman number coding violations lang ang dapat tutukan ng mga enforcers. There are other more serious and safety-related concerns that they need to work on.

On road crashes along Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City

I frequently travel along Sumulong Highway as it is one of the faster routes among my alternatives between my home and my workplace. Quite often there are road crashes along this road including at sections where you assume people would be more careful driving or riding along. This assumption, while logical, doesn’t seem to hold for Sumulong Highway. The following photo shows a scene where a motorcycle rider probably lost control and took a spill near Padi’s Point.

An overloaded jeepney passes the scene of a crash involving a motorcycle. The rider, who can be seen seated on the curb at right, survived but obviously looked shaken by the experience. He could have easily have been run over by another vehicle after his spill. 

I thought about how safety can be improved along Sumulong Highway. This was certainly a case where crashes cannot be wholly blamed on the road. There’s just too many risk takers including those who are called “camote riders” along this highway. Perhaps the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) or the Antipolo traffic unit can initiate a program where they apprehend reckless drivers and riders in order to educate them about safe driving/riding? There’s no need to set-up checkpoints but they should observe behaviour and flag down or chase those endangering others and themselves along this highway.

About the habal-habal again

There’s a nice article written by the current City Administrator of Cebu City, Nigel Paul Villarete. Paul has a regular column in a major daily and one that is always a good read. The article is a consolidation of previous articles he has written about the habal-habal or motorcycle taxi.

Villarete, N.P. (2018) “Habal-habal: the Two-Wheeler “Public” Transport in the Philippines,” http://www.streetlife.com, http://streetlife.villarete.com/habal-habal-the-two-wheeler-public-transport-in-the-philippines/?fbclid=IwAR06y9lrH-j6YtXRLf6rDL_JssnewNhR0b49dJ4Muc2PKyCzxeK50X6Ul6Y [Last accessed: 12/21/2018].

The article is relevant and current in its take on the motorcycle taxi and why it is important to consider this mode of transport as a form of public transportation. For one, it obviously gives people another choice for travel that is supposed to be able to cut down travel times compared to when they use conventional public transport or private vehicles. The question and perhaps the challenge to those operating such services is to prove that they are a safe mode of transport. Also, not to forget, is the question of fares and how to set the proper structure in order to protect people against abusive or excessive fares charged by the service providers.

There is news recently that the DOTr is convening a technical working group (TWG) to look into what they perceive as an issue on habal-habal. I wish the TWG well and hope that this will lead to something constructive including regulations that everyone can agree to. That said, I also believe that service providers, especially transport network company (TNC) Angkas, should exert more effort to prove they are a safe mode of transport rather than resorting to what appears to be more a fallacy of appealing to the emotions of people while trying to evade the legal constraints imposed on them. There is definitely a difference in motorcycle taxi operations in rural areas compared to those in the urban setting including the fact that they would have to deal with more vehicular traffic along urban roads. This means more interactions with other vehicles that may lead to an increased likelihood of road crashes involving motorcycle taxis if the latter don’t exercise safe driving practices.

On re-designing or re-imagining our transportation system for people

Here is another good read especially for those who advocate or even just beginning to appreciate the concept of people-oriented transportation:

VannPashak, J. (2018) “Design for humans as they are, not as you want them to be,” http://www.medium.com, https://medium.com/@jvannpashak/design-for-humans-as-they-are-not-as-you-want-them-to-be-ef95076c0988 [Last accessed: 11/23/2018].

In a recent symposium where I made a presentation about low carbon transport and visioning and re-imagining transport, I was asked how we can re-design our transportation to be more people-oriented than car-oriented. I replied that we have to do a lot of unlearning. That is, many planners and engineers would need to unlearn many things they’ve learned in school and those they got from their workplace. One convenient excuse for not coming up with a better design, for example, is that certain planners or engineers just followed what their offices or agencies have been doing. What if what their offices and agencies (and consequently their seniors at work) where wrong all these years and what was “ginagawa na” or “nakasanayan” have led to deficient outcomes? I even joked about whether these offices or agencies were “open minded” referring to a favourite by-line by networking companies. Being open-minded in the context of having people-oriented transport solutions would be difficult if everything was “nakakahon” because these were what you learned from school and/or the workplace. It is difficult to admit that something was and is wrong.