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Addressing congestion due to school traffic congestion

There are two important traffic news stories yesterday:

For some reason that’s a bit surprising for many, the MMDA seems to have solved two of the most enduring issues on traffic congestion along two major thoroughfares. LSGH is along Ortigas Avenue while Ateneo is along Katipunan Avenue (C-5). Both have high trip generation rates and a significant percentage of their trip gen is comprised of private vehicles. While, Ateneo’s trip generation has led to traffic congestion due to the sheer number of trips the university attracts, the congestion due to La Salle is due to the poor traffic management and lack of parking spaces for vehicles attracted by the school.

I only wonder why it took so much time to address these problems considering the solutions mentioned in the articles are basically ones that could have been implemented years ago. In the case of La Salle, good old fashioned traffic enforcement apparently did the trick. But then, the MMDA even with the LGU constraint could have been stricter before whether when they were under Bayani Fernando (BF) or any of his successors as MMDA Chair. With Ateneo, the scheme is very similar if not the same as what BF proposed over a decade ago when he was MMDA Chair. At that time though a touchy issue was the U-turn scheme he installed along Katipunan that cost trees and the former service road on the west side of the avenue. We can only hope that these claimed ‘successes’ will be sustained and ensure smoother flow of traffic along the major roads they directly affect.

Overnight parking at the NAIA T3 multi-level parking facility

Many have been asking about the overnight parking rates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 and I had wanted to write on this but just didn’t have the material to share with readers of this blog. I had wanted to verify for myself the overnight parking rates at Terminal 3 but had not used the Terminal for my flights last year, which had me using all except Terminal 3 for my travels. Last weekend, I finally had the chance to check the parking rates as I left my vehicle at the airport for a weekend getaway before school (and work) starts for the second semester at the university.

IMG10027-20150114-0644Parking tickets issued at NAIA Terminal 3’s multi-level facility.

The parking fee is 300 pesos per night. This is a fixed rate and you don’t have to pay additional fees for when you exceeded the hour when you parked your vehicle. That is, even if you parked your vehicle at 7:00 AM the previous day and took it out at 5:00 PM the following day, you still get charged 300 pesos and NOT 300 pesos plus a charge for exceeding 24 hours parking.

For those parking at the multi-level facility, one just has to drive through the arrival level (ground) of NAIA T3 and turn right near the end of the driveway to enter the facility. I haven’t checked if the access at the departure level is open (perhaps a reader can verify this?) but they do have security checks between the parking facility and the terminal itself so people can go directly to the parking area without dropping off their companions and luggage at the terminal. You don’t have to drop-off your companions and luggage at the departure level and then go around the airport road again just so you can park your vehicle at the multi-level facility.

NAIA Terminal 3 multi-level parking

The multi-level parking facility of NAIA Terminal 3 is open. I have not been to T3 in a while and saw that the multi-level parking was operational only upon returning from a trip to Palawan last week. Last night, as I maneuvered to the open parking lot prior to fetching a friend at the airport, I was directed by airport security to the multi-level facility upon being informed that the open parking lot was already full. Following are a few photos of the multi-level parking at NAIA Terminal 3.

 IMG09541-20140930-1854The entrance and exit to the multi-level parking facility is at the end of the arrival level driveway.

IMG09543-20140930-1855Motorists should keep to the right heading towards the parking building. There are two lanes clearly marked for the entrance.

IMG09544-20140930-1855There are two booths but there is currently a desk where staff issue parking tickets to users.

IMG09545-20140930-1901Driving inside the facility, one realises that it is spacious and could handle the vehicles generated by the additional flights begin served by T3.

IMG09546-20140930-1902Not many people seem to be aware that the parking building is now operational based on the many spaces still available around the multi-level facility. Most people still use the open lot across from the terminal unless its closed off (full) and security staff direct them to the parking building.

IMG09547-20140930-1902Most driveways are 2-way and so provides good traffic circulation inside the facility.

IMG09548-20140930-1903The spaces nearest to the entrance to the terminal are obviously the first ones occupied.

While it took some time for authorities to finally open the multi-level parking at T3, it is a most welcome development considering many international airlines have been transferring operations to T3. These include Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines among others that will be using T3 as T1 is being rehabilitated. The rates are the same as the open lot (I paid PHP 40.oo for almost 3 hours parking.) and because your vehicle will be basically indoors, it is a good option for trips where you opt to leave your car at the airport (park & fly). NAIA charges PHP 200 per night but I think this is a very reasonable rate assuming that this is a more secure facility compared to the open lot.

Full airport operations at NAIA 3?

Articles came out over the last two weeks about Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3 finally going on full airport operations with the transfer there of five international airlines from Terminal 1. These airlines are (in alphabetical order) Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, KLM and Singapore Airlines. I’m not really sure about the terminology or how DOTC and NAIA wanted to package their press release but wasn’t Terminal 3 already operational and does “full” really mean it being maximized or optimized?

This area will be full of people as five major international carriers transfer to Terminal 3

Prior to the transfer of the 5 airlines this August, T3 was already hosting international flights, mostly by local carrier Cebu Pacific, which is classified as a low cost carrier (budget airlines). The other major international carrier operating out of T3 was All Nippon Airways (ANA) but the latter had far fewer flights compared to CebPac.

However, my interest in this “full operations” pitch is more on the other facilities of the airport and not really about the check-in and immigration operations that I am sure have enough capacities to deal with the additional airlines, flights and passengers that will be served by T3 (most booths were not utilized considering the airport served significantly fewer international flights and passengers than T1). I am also not concerned about the other features of the airport like its shops and restaurants (a regular user of T3 would make the observation that shops and restaurants have been increasing over the past years). My worry is that the airport will not have enough parking spaces for airport users.

There is already a parking problem at T3, no thanks to poor public transport services (taxi anyone?) and the absence of anything resembling an airport shuttle or express services (e.g., Airport Limousine buses). I have written in the past about the multilevel parking facility at T3 that has not been opened for public use since the terminal became operational years ago. Granted that there might have been issues with the structure itself, authorities should have also addressed the issues while they were at it fixing the myriad problems of the terminal over the past years. Much of T3’s open parking spaces have been occupied by exclusive airport taxis (coupon taxis) and there are people who have made the observation that many of the parked cars are actually those of people gambling in the casinos of a nearby resort hotel complex. The latter story might be a bit difficult to prove unless there is deliberate data collection of some sort but can be true for some vehicles given the cheaper parking rates at the airport.

Until NAIA becomes public transport-friendly and perhaps a airport shuttle services can be provided for the convenience of travelers, parking will remain as an issue for many especially during the peak periods or seasons. And with the NAIA Expressway currently under construction, I would expect the airport terminals to be more accessible to private vehicles in the future via the elevated system, thereby generating more demand for parking. Are there already proposals for the solution to this problem or are authorities again going to be dependent on the private sector for solutions?

 

Quiapo traffic

Fridays in Manila are associated with Quiapo and the devotion to the Black Nazarene. People flock to Quiapo Church to hear Mass or pray at the Basilica, which is arguably among the most popular for Roman Catholics. Fridays are regarded as feast days dedicated to the Black Nazarene and since many people go to Quiapo Church throughout the day, there is almost always traffic congestion in the area. These days, however, any weekday is a congested day in that area what with more vehicles and more people coming to this area or just passing through.

IMG07908-20140321-1247Espana Avenue ends at its junction with Quezon Boulevard and turning left leads the traveler to the Quiapo District.  The photo shows heavy traffic along the underpass and the elevated LRT Line 2.

IMG07909-20140321-1251Quiapo Church is just beside Quezon Boulevard and jeepneys loading and unloading passengers occupy up to 3 lanes nearest to the church.

IMG07910-20140321-1251There is a door at the side of the church along Quezon Boulevard and people seem to be everywhere even the middle of the road as they walk or wait to ride a jeepney.

IMG07911-20140321-1252Historic Plaza Miranda in front of the church is witness not only to a lot of the frenzied processions during the feast day of the Black Nazarene every January. Plaza Miranda has also been a venue for many political rallies including the infamous one in the early 1970s that was among the triggers for Martial Law. On “normal” days, the plaza is home to vendors, fortune tellers and other denizens of this area.

There are other popular churches around Metro Manila that attract a lot of people throughout the year and not just during feast days. Among these are Baclaran in Pasay City (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), St. Jude in Manila, Sto. Domingo in Quezon City, San Agustin and the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila. Nearby in Antipolo is the Shrine to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. These churches are among the busiest especially on certain days of the week (e.g., Wednesdays are for Baclaran, etc.) and with the coming Holy Week, a lot of people are again expected to flock to these churches for the Visita Iglesia tradition. Hopefully, these devotions are really a manifestation of faith rather than the pretentious kind where the road trip is more touristy than religious or prayerful.

Off-street parking along Tomas Morato

Not too long ago, the Quezon City government constructed off-street parking slots throughout the city. These included spaces along major roads such as Visayas Avenue, Mindanao Avenue, Quezon Avenue, West Avenue and Timog Avenue. Tomas Morato as well as the streets connecting to it were also included in the project, which benefited many people, whether they be car-users or taking public transport. I took a couple of photos last week as the wife picked up some food at a panciteria along Morato. It was early an early afternoon so traffic was free-flowing and many parking spaces are available along the avenue. Morato is well known for having many restaurants and cafes lined up along either side of the street and during their off-periods, Morato would usually be an easy drive.

Morato1The off-street parking spaces along Tomas Morato are free and are not allocated for any specific establishment. In practice though, the spaces in front of certain restaurants, shops, banks, etc. are “reserved” by their staff for their customers/clients.

Morato2Many newer establishments along Tomas Morato have no provisions for off-street parking for their clients. This means the burden for parking continues in being passed on to the local government and, likely, at the expense of taxpayers.

I still believe that establishments that are required under law to provide at least the minimum number of parking spaces as per national building code should be made to compensate for the city’s construction of parking spaces to solve on-street parking issues along streets like Morato. I understand that they pay local taxes but that is an entirely different requirement that is not related to their being required to provide parking spaces for their customers/clients. It’s really a matter of doing the right thing for both city and these establishments but such cases are often muddled and are not tackled as the general public is usually not interested in these somewhat unpopular topic of parking.

New parking rates at NAIA

Here’s something for those who are parking at any of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s parking facilities. Here are a few photos showing the new parking rates at NAIA, effective December 1, 2013. Gone are the flat rates of old for those picking-up relatives or friends so it actually discourages people from camping out at the parking lots. Gone, too, are the low overnight parking fees of PhP 50 per night that a lot of people enjoyed for short trips on business or as tourists in local destinations or abroad.

IMG07555-20131221-1202Information on new parking rates at NAIA effective December 1, 2013 found along the left side of the approach to the parking lot entrance.

IMG07556-20131221-1203Announcement on the new NAIA parking rates just before the entrance booths of the lot

IMG07557-20131221-1250Information on the new parking rates at the exit of the lot and just before the payment booths.

It goes without saying that with the increased parking fees at the NAIA, people would expect more in terms of the quality of these facilities particularly pertaining to security and cleanliness. One cannot expect to pay for PhP 300 per night for an open parking space where one’s vehicle is exposed to the environment as well as to possible criminal elements lurking about. Of course, there is practically no competition for these parking facilities so there is a sizable captive market for NAIA parking. In my experience, and in fairness to airport management, I have not had any untoward incidents when I did leave our vehicle at the parking lots of Terminals 2 and 3. And I have done so many times before on trips to the Visayas and Mindanao, and a couple of times on trips abroad. I hope others, too, won’t have any problems with parking at the airport.

On the increase in overnight parking fees at NAIA

I’ve been reading some posts on social media complaining about the increase in the overnight parking rates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). This seems to be a recent development considering the last time we used any of the parking facilities of NAIA was last November 23 when the wife parked to wait for my arrival at Terminal 2. It wasn’t overnight parking but then she said she doesn’t recall seeing any signs announcing changes in the parking rates. The posts I saw through Facebook are for overnight parking at Terminal 3 where the old charges were 50 PHP (about 1.14 USD) per day. This is actually very cheap even considering that parking is on an open lot with marginal security. Even parking lots in Makati, Taguig and Ortigas charge more for overnight parking on open lots.

The new rate is basically 300 PHP per day including taxes, which apparently surprised a lot of people after everybody got used to the 50 PHP/day rate of old. That meant that for a 3 night trip to Bangkok or Singapore, for example, where people left their cars at the airport, they had to fork over 900 PHP instead of the 150 PHP they used to pay for parking. Indeed, that’s a big jump in parking fees!

NAIA’s parking rates can be compared to the parking rates at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is provided in their website. 30 USD (about 1,315 PHP) is charged for 24 hours for use of the multi-level/covered parking structures at the airport. Meanwhile, open lot parking charges 12 USD (about 526 PHP) per day. Suddenly, NAIA’s parking charges don’t seem to be expensive beside the 526 PHP/day charge at LAX. However, these rates are arguably in a country where there are higher wages and standards of living and so perhaps a fairer comparison would be for parking in a major airport in ASEAN. Doing a bit of research online, I found that Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport charges the equivalent of about 341 PHP per day for parking. Singapore’s Changi charges the equivalent of around 701 PHP per day. And Kuala Lumpur International charges the equivalent of about 575 PHP per day for parking. [Note: Rates from the link may not be updated.] These are generally for multi-level parking buildings where vehicles are practically protected against the environment (e.g., rain, sun, etc.).

A comparison is also made for the nearby Park n’ Fly facility, which also publishes their parking rates in their website. The site of the private parking provider states a rate of 340 PHP + EVAT (taxes) per day. And this is for a multi-level, covered parking structure near NAIA Terminals 1 and 2. An argument can be made here for the location and proximity of NAIA parking spaces compared to Park n’ Fly but note that the fee for the private entity includes airport transfers with their own vehicle. Compared to this, the NAIA rates are quite expensive considering that it is for open lot parking and for what is perceived as marginal security. In fairness to airport parking security, I have not heard or read about incidents of burglary or stolen vehicles in relation to NAIA parking areas.

And so there are many questions that need to be answered in as far as the sudden and steep increase in parking rates at NAIA. The most important question here is what is the basis for the parking rate increase? It is assumed that the additional monies generated will cover certain expenses like security and maintenance. So there needs to be transparency in where the additional funds will go or how it will be allocated (e.g., repair works towards ultimately opening the multi level facility at T3). Also, perhaps the information dissemination for this rate increase was lacking and therefore ineffective in advising the public about the change. But then there was generally no major uproar over the increase so perhaps those complaining weren’t paying attention or were caught in the transition to the new parking rates. One can even say that certain posts in social media can be qualified as rants rather than objective takes on parking rates.

I would like to think that parking as an amenity should not generally be a revenue generating scheme for the airport. Collected fees should cover operating expenses and excesses can be used to build a trust fund, for example, for future expansion of the facility, but the latter should be clearly spelled out in a plan for the airport. After all, it is in the best interest of the public, the users of the airport, if improvements can justify what they are paying for and how much they are paying.

Motomachi

It’s December again and during this month I like to reminisce about favorite places I went to or still go to here and abroad. One of my favorite haunts during the time I called Yokohama my home city was the Yamate area. I went to Mass every Sunday at Yamate Catholic Church. After church, friends and I descend towards the Motomachi shopping street to take strolls, window shop or have lunch in one of the many restaurants along the street. I think it is a good example of a shopping street that’s also found in many other places particularly in Europe and the US. It provides a better environment compared to the large malls we often find in many cities including Metro Manila.

IMG07153-20131009-1552On-street parking spaces are provided along one side of several sections of along the street.  There are parking meters at these spaces.

IMG07154-20131009-1552It is a nice place to take a walk whether doing actual shopping, window shopping or just a simple stroll to while away the time.

IMG07155-20131009-1554I like the brick road of Motomachi and the restaurants and shops lining the street.

IMG07156-20131009-1556Benches where people can sit down, take a short rest or wait for their companions who are shopping at a nearby store.

IMG07157-20131009-1557Motomachi Union where I used to do some groceries whenever I’m in the area (usually Sundays after Mass at Yamate Church).

IMG07159-20131009-1605A look back to Motomachi as I approached the JR Ishikawacho Station.

There used to be a Indian restaurant at one of the side streets of Motomachi. The chef of the restaurant was a Sri Lankan Catholic who was a church mate at Yamate. We often went to eat there after Mass or on occasion. He would usually adjust the ingredients of our favorite curry and tandoori dishes so they weren’t too hot or spicy for our palates. I wonder where he is now with his family and hope they are doing very well.

There also used to be some clubs or pubs at the end of Motomachi. These included one that was operated by Filipinos that had the Philippine flag displayed. Those establishments are long gone, replaced by newer restaurants and shops as well as a building leading to the underground station of the Tokyu Minato Mirai Line. I know there are also a lot of new, still undiscovered shops and restaurants in the side streets to Motomachi. I look forward to going around the area again soon to check out these places.

U.P. Town Center

Passing along the University of the Philippines’ part of Katipunan, one will see a new development at the area where the UP Integrated School (UPIS) is currently located. The UP Town Center is being promoted as part of a university town center concept and is the second major Ayala development on UP land after the Technohub in the north side of the 493-hectare campus. The surrounding area to the newly built Town Center will most likely host business process outsourcing (BPO) including call centers that currently populate Technohub.

I learned that the development’s design was reviewed on the UP side by a team that included faculty members from UP Diliman’s College of Architecture and School of Urban and Regional Planning. I assume that they were able to cover most if not all the aspects of the design for this particular development and the rest that will follow once UPIS moves to the main campus and the entire lot is developed much like into what Technohub is at present. I would assume that they provided recommendations to Ayala and that these recommendations were used to improve on potential issues with the development. However, my worry is that the transport or traffic component of the design (i.e., transport impact assessment) was not sufficient for the traffic that will be generated by the development. While Technohub had no serious problems regarding traffic as it was along the wide Commonwealth Avenue, the Town Center was located in the narrower C-5 that is the route for much private traffic as well as trucks.

Let us look at the potential problems for the UP Town Center in relation to transport and traffic. For one, the development is close to a major intersection, the junction of Katipunan-CP Garcia. The current traffic signal cycle for the intersection allows for continuous through traffic for the northbound side of Katipunan. Thus, traffic in front of the development, which is along this same northbound side of C-5 will be continuous. Vehicles slowing down to enter the parking lots at either end of the building will likely slow down traffic along C-5. Meanwhile, there are no driveways or bays for transport to load/unload passengers in front of the building. Instead, the driveway is right after Katipunan-C.P. Garcia intersection and does not appear to be designed for jeepneys, taxis and cars will, instead, likely stop on the road and such will mean one lane of C-5 will be occupied, contributing to a decrease in the capacity of the roadway.

Another thing is the parking. Currently, there are limited spaces as understandably the area is still being developed and the lots are temporary facilities. I presume that there will be more spaces available soon considering the parking generation characteristics of such types of developments that tend to attract car-owning people though perhaps the target is a broader range of customers.

And then there are the issues regarding walking and cycling. One friend was asking if there were bicycle racks at the Town Center. I saw none (yet?) but perhaps there will be facilities for cyclists. As for walking, this section of Katipunan is more walkable compared to the segments in front of Ateneo and Miriam where cars seemed to be parked or standing everywhere and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. Along the side of the U.P. Diliman campus, there are sidewalks where pedestrians can safely walk. On the Town Center’s side, there are also sidewalks and we hope these can still be improved once construction is at full swing. Perhaps what requires attention for both pedestrians and cyclists are crossings. With the increased traffic along C-5 due to the opening of the Luzon Avenue overpass crossing Commonwealth, it has become more dangerous to cross C-5. As such, there is a need to address such issues as surely there will be significant pedestrian traffic crossing to and from the Town Center.

 

2013-09-28 14.45.18No driveways or bays for public transport? Construction work continues for the soon to open UP Town Center even as the fences are taken down to reveal a modern building that will host restaurants and shops.

2013-09-28 14.45.38The UP Town Center is already attracting traffic as some restaurants and shops have already made “soft” openings.

A colleague once made the comment that the Town Center was not really for UP but, like the Alabang Town Center, was for the posh residential subdivisions in the area. These include nearby La Vista, Loyola Grand Villas and Ayala Heights subdivisions. Also, it will likely attract more car users than public transport users as locator restaurants and shops are mainly upper-middle to upper class. There are no Jollibees, Chowkings or McDos here. For now, the developer and UP Diliman deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt in as far as the development’s design is concerned. Perhaps the issues I mentioned above will be addressed once the entire area leased to Ayala would have been fully developed. And until then, there would be opportunities to check and ascertain if the development is indeed people friendly and something that can be called a university town center and not just another commercial development that attracts traffic.