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Tacloban City’s New Transport Terminal

Tacloban City has what is called a new transport terminal located to the northwest of downtown and across from the new Robinsons mall in the area. Here are a few photos of the terminal taken earlier this year.

Vendors selling mostly food items including local delicacies

The City Treasurer’s Office has a makeshift post at the terminal to collect fees from transport operators including buses and vans using the terminal.

The terminal hosts an Extension Office of the City Treasurer and also has a K-9 unit to help keep the terminal safe and secure. The dogs work regularly to sniff out illegal substances that may be carried by people using the terminal.

Passengers wait for their buses or vans at the terminal.

The waiting area is not air-conditioned but is relatively cool and is clean.

Another view of the passengers’ waiting lounge

Passengers may purchase bus tickets at the terminal prior to boarding a bus.

The same goes with vans including those called mega taxis

View of the front of the terminal

A view of the terminal from the transport parking lot

A view of the terminal from mall across from it. Note the sign at the left side of the photo? The office of the city’s traffic management and enforcement unit (TOMECO) is located at the second floor of the terminal.

Tacloban hopes to continue development of the terminal area that will eventually be expanded to have an even larger lounge for passengers, a hotel and more commercial spaces aside from berths for public transportation.

On the PUV modernisation program – Part 1

Much has been written about the government’s PUV (or jeepney?) modernization program so I wouldn’t really be reposting about these. Instead, I will be featuring some opinions, insights and observations about its implementation.

Following are photos of one e-jeepney model that the government appears to be promoting. This is the e-jeepney produced by Star8 that they claim to be have solar panels for charging while they are on the road. Of course, we know they are not wholly dependent on solar power and have to be charged the conventional way through an adaptor that’s plugged into a regular outlet. These e-jeepneys were supposed to supplement the reduced supply of public transport to mainly UP students, staff and faculty members when the i-ACT (Inter-Agency Committee on Traffic) conducted their “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” campaign in the UP Diliman area. First-hand reports revealed otherwise as the e-jeepneys spent more time on stand-by and just charging at one of the buildings on campus.

These are the same e-jeepneys that have been deployed and currently roaming around Tacloban City (promoting themselves?). The intent was for these to be the vehicles plying the new routes approved by the LTFRB/DOTr, which they claim was in response to the request made by Tacloban. The new routes though overlapped with many existing jeepney routes, clearly in violation of the general rule regarding overlapping routes, but allowed nonetheless by the regulating authority.

There are many allegations going around about e-jeepneys being forced upon operators and drivers given what has been regarded by progressive groups as unrealistic (read: unaffordable) financing schemes for the new vehicles. These are certainly not cheap, and double to triple the price of a ‘newer’ conventional jeepney. There are also suspicions about the strong motivation for the phaseout in favour of what are peddled as the successor (or replacement) to the jeepney. That includes a possible collusion among officials and the companies behind these vehicles and allegations (again) of some people likely gaining financially from the set-up. The DOTr and LTFRB PR machine, however, deny this and will gang up on anyone posting about this in their social media page.

Local Public Transport Route Plan Manual – Philippines

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) recently shared the Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP) Manual that was the product of the collaboration among government and the academe. While the date appearing on the cover is October 2017, this manual was actually completed in April 2017. [Click the image of the cover below for the link where you can download the manual.]

I don’t know exactly why the DOTr and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) were hesitant in releasing this manual. Perhaps they wanted to pilot test it first on a city? Yup, this manual has never been tested yet so we don’t really know whether it will work as a tool for planning public transportation.

With all the opposition to the government’s PUV Modernization Program, the DOTr and the LTFRB should be piloting the program first and show a proof of concept to dispel doubts about the program. The same essentially applies to this transport route plan manual. Only once these are piloted would we know first hand its flaws and allow us to revise or fine tune them. I would suggest that both the modernization program and the manual be piloted in cities that are perceived or claim to have strong local governance. Davao City comes to mind and perhaps Iloilo City. Can you think about other cities where the program and/or manual can be piloted?

Misinformation on the PUV modernization project

There was a transport strike today mainly involving jeepney drivers and operators who are protesting the proposed Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization project of the Philippine government. In this age of fake news, there’s also a lot of misinformation going around that gets shared even by well meaning people who probably just wanted to have it represent their opinion about the matter. Unfortunately, this only spreads more misinformation. Nagagatungan pa ng mga alanganing komento.

Following is the reply of the DOTr from their Facebook account:

“PAUNAWA | Isa-isahin natin para malinaw:

1. Hindi tataas sa P20 ang pasahe. Saan nakuha ng PISTON ang numerong ito?

2. Hindi lugi ang driver/operator. Kikita pa nga sila. Bakit?

– May 43% fuel savings ang mga Euro-4 compliant na sasakyan

– Mas maraming pasahero ang maisasakay dahil mula sa 16 persons seating capacity, magiging 22 na.

– Low to zero maintenance cost dahil bago ang unit

3. Hindi rin totoo na hindi kami nagsagawa ng mga konsultasyon.

Ang DOTr at LTFRB ay nagsagawa ng serye ng konsultasyon at dayalogo kasama ang mga PUV operaytor at mga tsuper sa buong bansa, kabilang dito ang mga organisadong grupo ng transportasyon at ang mga lokal na pamahalaaan.

Ang mga konsultasyong iyon ay isinagawa bago, habang, at pagkatapos malagdaan ang DO 2017-011. Sa katunayan, ang konsultasyon para sa paggawa ng mga local public transport route plan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan at ng mga kooperatiba sa transportasyon ay isinasagawa hanggang ngayon sa buong bansa. Maliban sa sector ng PUJ, nagsasagawa rin ang gobyerno ng konsultasyon sa mga operaytor at grupo ng Trucks for Hire (TH).

4. Hindi korporasyon ang makikinabang kundi mga:

– Local manufacturers na mag-didisenyo ng units

– Pilipinong manggagawa na magkakaroon ng trabaho at gagawa ng mga sasakyan

– Drivers at operators na lalaki na ang kita, uunlad pa ang industriya

– COMMUTERS na matagal nang nagtiis sa luma, hindi ligtas, at hindi komportableng public transportation units

5. Hindi anti-poor ang #PUVModernization Program.

Malaking bahagi ng Modernization Program ang Financial Scheme para sa drivers at operators. Sa tulong ng gobyerno, nasa 6% lamang ang interest rate, 5% naman ang equity, at aabot sa 7 taon ang repayment period. Magbibigay rin ng hanggang PHP80,000 na subsidy ang gobyerno sa kada unit para makatulong sa down payment.

Bukod dito, tandaan natin na ginhawa at kaligtasan ng mahihirap ding commuters ang hangad ng programa.

6. Walang phase out. Mananatili ang mga jeep sa kalsada. Pero sa pagkakataong ito, bago at modern na.

ANO ANG TOTOO?

Hindi na ligtas ang mga lumang PUVs sa Pilipinas. Takaw-aksidente na, polusyon pa ang dala. Hindi komportable at hassle sa mga commuters. Ang totoo, matagal na dapat itong ipinatupad. PANAHON NA PARA SA PAGBABAGO SA KALSADA.”

It is easy to get information directly from the DOTr about the PUV Modernization Program. Unfortunately, there are many who choose to propagate misinformation about the program based on hearsay or the misinformation they got from someone else. Call me biased but I know for a fact that a lot of people did honest, good hard work on this. The project was not developed overnight and a lot of thought was put into it. And so its unfair to say “hindi pinag-isipan” (not well thought of). Perhaps a better way is to engage the government about these matters and participate in constructive discussions rather than just pose opposition without even offering any alternative solutions.

TSSP 2017 Conference

The Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP) holds its 24th Annual Conference tomorrow, July 21, 2017. It will be held at the National Center for Transportation Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. More than a hundred participants are expected to attend this 1-day affair.

The final program for the conference may be found in the following link:

http://ncts.upd.edu.ph/tssp/index.php/2017/07/17/tssp-conference-program/

The theme for this year’s conference is “Improving Quality of Life in Urban and Rural Areas Through Inclusive Transportation.” This is also the theme for the panel discussion in the morning. The afternoon will feature four parallel technical sessions where 18 papers will be presented.

The keynote lecture will be delivered at the start of the conference by Prof. Tetsuo Yai of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who is also the current President of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) under whose umbrella the TSSP is part of. TSSP is a founding member of EASTS and actually preceded EASTS by a year.

On vulnerability to crashes

A beloved aunt was hit by a jeepney as she walked to church yesterday. She was walking on a local road that didn’t have any pedestrian sidewalks because this was in a residential neighborhood with very low vehicular traffic. She sustained serious injuries and was brought to the hospital by the jeepney driver (good thing he did not flee as many likely would have done) and people who witnessed the incident. She is now in critical condition, unconscious and would likely have a very difficult time recovering considering her advanced age if she pulls through. Senior citizens involved in accidents, whether domestic or crashes like this, and who have sustained injuries like hers (i.e., fractured bones and damaged). Her prognosis is not so good and a cousin says it will take a miracle for her to recover from this very traumatic incident.

Many of us do not care about road safety and do not concern ourselves with making an environment that’s safe for all users. That is, until we or someone close to us become victims of crashes. What do we do about this? Do we become instant advocates of road safety? Do we suddenly look for initiatives that we can be a part of? Do we do the talk circuit and find opportunities to share our experiences and give our two centavos worth of advice? Did we really have to wait for these things to happen before we become active in promoting and realizing road safety? Or do we start now and become proactive whether or not we think we ourselves are vulnerable? We are all vulnerable road users. We are all potential victims or participants in crashes. And so we should all be involved in making or enabling a safer environment for everyone.

Metro Manila public transport – addition is good but we need subtraction, too

The company providing the P2P bus services is very enthusiastic (aggressive?) in promoting their services especially via social media. Satisfied commuters have also shared their experiences and a lot of photos about the buses and their commutes through social and mainstream media. I have read some articles carried by the likes of Rappler and Inquirer as well as blogs relating about the buses features, what people liked about the service and their suggestions on how to further improve and expand services. These have provided commuters with a taste of how good public transport could be in terms of quality of service.

The operations and the operator seems to have the blessings of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and not just the present administration but from the previous one when the P2P services started. The fact that they have expanded services further these past few months is a testament to their popularity and the demand for high quality public transport services in Metro Manila. I personally believe that the next step is to give these buses exclusive lanes along their routes. Such would allow for buses to travel faster and providing a significant decrease in the travel times of commuters. Current operations, despite having non-stop runs between origin and destination, run in mixed traffic so their impacts in terms of travel times are diminished. Also, with exclusive lanes, they can probably consider adding a few stops between the route ends and be able to simulate bus rapid transit (BRT) services of which there seems to be little appreciation so far in the Philippines.

While the new buses and routes are very welcome and provide attractive options for commuting, there is still a need to address what is perceived as an over-supply of buses, jeepneys and UV express vehicles in Metro Manila. The attractiveness and higher service quality of P2P buses can pave the way for reducing the numbers of buses, for example, along EDSA. A similar strategy of introducing high quality bus services along other corridors and then reducing bus, jeepney and UV express units there can be implemented but will require much in terms of political will. The latter is important when dealing with operators and drivers of displaced vehicles, who may oppose such transport reforms and probably throw in legal impediments including those pertaining to franchising. Whether such opposition can be addressed by emergency powers or not remains to be seen but hopefully, even without such powers, the government can engage the transport sector to effect reforms and improve public transport (and ultimately commuting in general) not just in Metro Manila but in other cities as well.

Extreme commutes on a jeepney

I chanced upon this overloaded jeepney along Sumulong Highway. I counted eight people hanging behind the vehicle including the conductor. This is actually illegal and not just at present but always. The practice of hanging behind a jeepney is obviously unsafe and there is a high risk of people falling off. It would be a miracle not to have major injuries if one falls from the vehicle, and there is a high likelihood of fatality especially of a falling passenger gets hit by another vehicle trailing the jeepney.

img_3087

‘Sabit’ or hanging on for a jeepney ride is more a necessity and males usually do this in order to get a ride home or to work. On many occasions, you will see men or boys in their office or school uniforms in the morning, braving it just so they won’t be late for work of school. While it is illegal, authorities seem to apprehend overloaded jeepneys from time to time (or according to some, just for show). I guess they, too, understand how difficult it is to get a ride and how this somehow allows people to get to their destinations. Surprisingly and despite reckless behavior among drivers, there seem to be few untoward incidents reported. Hopefully, public transport will improve so that people will not have to do such extreme commuting.

Is Antipolo ripe for high capacity and premium transit services?

About 5 years ago, I wrote about transport in Antipolo in another blog. The article was more about this old city being a major destination attracting people for pilgrimage (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) and tourism (e.g.,  Hinulugang Taktak). I am quoting from that article from 5 years ago and adding a few comments here and there. Note that for most of the article, nothing much has changed except perhaps that the Line 2 extension from Santolan to Masinag is now underway.

“There are now many ways from Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces to Antipolo, although several of these eventually merge into three main roads en route to the Shrine. One is via the old route along Ortigas Avenue, a second is the route via Sumulong Highway, and the third is through a “back door” via the Antipolo-Teresa Road. Routes from the general areas of Manila, Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Taguig and the southern cities of Metro Manila and towns from Laguna, Batangas and Cavite will most likely merge to Ortigas Avenue. Meanwhile, people coming from Quezon City, Caloocan, Marikina, Bulacan, Pampanga and the northern Rizal towns of San Mateo and Rodriguez (Montalban) will likely converge along Sumulong Highway. Meanwhile, those coming from the east including the Rizal towns like Tanay, Teresa, Morong, and Jala-jala, the Laguna towns like Paete, Pakil, Pangil, the Quezon towns of Luisiana, Lucban, Infanta and General Nakar, and others will most likely take the Antipolo-Teresa Road that climbs from the east of Antipolo. People from Marikina, Cainta and Pasig generally may take either the Ortigas or the Marcos Highway/Sumulong Highway route.”

I didn’t mention there that another backdoor was via Marcos Highway if one were coming directly from Tanay instead of through Teresa. This route is now popular and traffic has been steadily increasing due in part to some additional attractions in that part of Antipolo and Tanay.

“Public transport to Antipolo these days include mostly jeepneys as the city is the end point of many routes – a testament to its importance even as a reference point for public transportation. One can easily spot the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys in the Araneta Center in the Cubao business district in Quezon City. There are two lines, one via Cainta Junction (where jeepneys eventually turn to Ortigas Avenue) and another via Marcos Highway, turning at the Masinag Junction towards Sumulong Highway). Another terminal is at the EDSA Central near the Ortigas Center in Mandaluyong where Antipolo-Crossing jeepneys are queued. And still there is another, albeit somewhat informal terminal near Jose Rizal University (JRU, which was formerly a college and hence the old JRC endpoint), which passes through Shaw Boulevard, Meralco Avenue and eventually turns towards Ortigas Avenue. Other jeepneys from the Rizal towns all have routes ending in Antipolo Simbahan, referring to the shrine.”

There are also UV Express and shuttle vans (legitimate vans for hire or colorum operations) offering express trips between Antipolo and the same end points of Cubao or Crossing. Others go all the way to Makati in the Ayala financial district. These evolved out of the Tamaraw FX taxis that started charging fixed fares during the 1990’s and competed directly with the jeepneys. These are popular, however, with office employees and students during weekdays and the nature of their ownership and operations do make them serious competitors to the jeepneys even during the merry month of May (fiesta period) and the Lenten Holy Week.

“There was an Antipolo Bus Line before. These were the red buses that plied routes between Antipolo and Divisoria in Manila. These died out sometime between the late 80’s and the early 90’s probably due to decreasing profitability and likely because of its competition with the jeepneys. That bus company, along with the green-colored G-Liners, the red EMBCs (Eastern Metropolitan Bus Co.) and CERTs, and the blue Metro Manila Transit Corp. buses used to form a formidable mass transport system for Rizal and the eastern towns of Metro Manila. There were even mini-buses (one I recall were the Antipolo “baby” buses and those that plied routes betwen Binangonan and Recto with the cassette tapes stacked along the bus dashboard). Most of these, except the G-Liners eventually succumbed to the jeepneys.”

At present, there is another bus company operating along Ortigas Ave and the Manila East Road – RRCG. There is also a revival of the EMBC with buses providing transport services between Quiapo and Tanay. The only other bus is the inter-provincial Raymond Transit, which operates between Crossing, Mandaluyong and Infanta, Quezon via Antipolo, Teresa, Morong and Tanay.

“In the future, perhaps the jeepneys should give way to buses as the latter will provide a higher level and quality of service along Ortigas Avenue and Marcos and Sumulong Highways. Already in the drawing boards is a plan to ultimately extend LRT Line 2, which currently terminates at Santolan, Pasig, to Masinag Junction and then have a branch climb along Sumulong Highway and terminate near the shrine. This will bring back the trains to Antipolo and would surely make the church and the city very accessible to people. I look forward to these developments both in my capacity as a transportation researcher-engineer and a Catholic who also visits the Shrine to pray for safe travel for loved ones and myself.”

This proposition for rationalizing public transport to/from Antipolo and other towns of Rizal plus Marikina is all the more important as the Line 2 extension from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo is currently underway. There is an opportunity here to upgrade public transport following the hierarchy of transport modes. I have noticed, for example, electric and conventional tricycles providing what are basically feeder services but along Marcos Highway between Cogeo and Masinag. And a lot of people have been stranded or have difficulty getting a jeepney or UV express ride along the Marcos Highway corridor. I am aware that the DOTC in the previous administration was mulling an express bus service through Marcos and Sumulong Highways terminating and turning around at Robinsons Place Antipolo. That, of course, never happened but is something that I think is worthwhile and would be beneficial to a lot of commuters.

Latest model electric jeepney

In case my readers missed my feature on the recent electric vehicle summit hosted by Meralco, here are a few photos of the latest model of the electric jeepney. Note the passenger door is no longer at the rear but at the side across from the driver. They have also added a distinctive snout to the vehicle. This model is the latest from PhUV, which also manufactures electric tricycles.

IMG_1570Profile of the electric jeepney currently in use for a Department of Energy-funded project being undertaken jointly by the National Engineering Center (NEC), the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) and the Vehicle Research and Testing Laboratory (VRTL) of the Department of Mechanical Engineering; all of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

IMG_1571A peak at the interior shows the passenger seats in bench layout and a more generous headroom for passengers.

IMG_1572Driver’s seat and panel. There is space to install fare collection machines like the ones that can enable the use of BEEP cards by passengers.

IMG_1573E-jeepney front showing the distinctive face from its conventional ‘ancestors/predecessors’. A colleague noted that perhaps the manufacturer should add some accessories like horses or airplanes on the hood.

This model is already similar in size with the big COMET electric jitneys. They also run on a more powerful electric motor that will enable these vehicles, according to the maker, to climb slopes like those along the route of Antipolo jeepneys. We hope that this design gets mainstreamed (read: replace conventional jeepneys) along the many existing jeepney routes not just in Metro Manila but in other cities as well.