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A brief history of transport strikes – Part 4: impacts and implications
What was supposed to be a week-long transport strike by jeepney drivers and operators was called off yesterday. Frontpage news showed a photo of representatives of protestors with government officials. Government official statements also declare that the government will be talking with the transport sector to sort out issues and to try to address these in relation to the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP). One day earlier, government was quick to state that the strike had no impact on transport. Were there really no impacts?
I think the fact that schools went back to online mode and offices allowed employees to work from home show the impacts of the transport strike. If you haven’t noticed, the government has been using the tactic of cancellation of classes for quite some time now. To reduce the impacts of transport strikes on commuters, classes on all levels were canceled, thereby reducing transport demand. The only difference now is that there is capacity for online classes due to adjustments made during the height of the pandemic. So instead of cancelling classes altogether, schools reverted to online mode. Meanwhile, for those who needed to go to their workplaces and did not have their own vehicles, there were various free rides (libreng sakay) services provided by national and local government agencies. Cities like Quezon City already operated their own bus services so people could take these instead of their usual PUV modes for commuting.
What are the implications of the shortened strike? The shortened strike has various implications. One is that it showed the protesters did not have enough resources to sustain the strike. It also showed that transport leaders appear to just want some attention from government. A colleague commented about this being something like a show or the strike being part of a game of “bad cop, good cop” among government officials and agencies. If you haven’t noticed, this has been going on for some time now. Government already knows how to reduce the potential impacts of protests like this. Suspending classes in schools significantly reduces the travel demand on a typical weekday. Offices giving their employees the option to work from home during the strike also adds to the reduction in travel demand. And libreng sakay vehicles are easier to deploy as agencies and LGUs have vehicles for this purpose. Meanwhile, the continuing rise in motorcycle ownership also contributed to people being able to still commute (i.e., having the motorcycle taxi option). At least for Metro Manila, once the railway projects are completed, there will be a railway option for commutes. Barring a simultaneous strike with buses and vans, protests from the jeepney sector will surely be diminished.
Article share: On a future with fewer cars
Advocates of sustainable transport including those pushing for more efficient public transport and more bike lanes often cite what is supposed to be car ownership data from past studies like the one conducted by JICA for Mega Manila. Most recently, I read an article that mentions only 5% of Filipinos own a car so they shouldn’t be hogging the road space against the rest. It seems so simple yet does not take into consideration geographic and demographic factors. It seems to underestimate vehicle ownership across the country and especially in cities. Also, do we equate vehicle ownership with just car ownership? Many may not have cars per se but own and operate motorcycles or tricycles.
I share the following article from the Washington Post as it presents on initiatives and studies from the Institute of Transportation Engineers concerning car ownership in the US. The data is presented in a way that we can clearly understand car ownership from various perspective including income level, household size, age and disability, among others.
Aratani, L. (February 18, 2023) “How a future with fewer cars may change how communities are designed,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2023/02/18/automobile-ownership-street-design/ [Last accessed: 2/27/2023]
Here is an excerpt from the article: “There are people who are car-free and those who are carless. The car-free are the people who are choosing not to have a vehicle because they have access to other means of transportation or they work from home. The carless are people who either can’t afford or don’t have access to a car for other reasons.”
It would be nice to have a similar data set and analysis for the Philippines so we can really understand mode choice or preferences with respect to various factors including household income. Among the data sets we can probably use are the census data and the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) that are regularly collected and from which we can ascertain vehicle ownership vs. various parameters.
Early risers and commuters
I was half surprised the other day when I went out to go to our office at 5:00 AM. I am no stranger to early morning or very late night travels including driving myself. I’ve done so under various circumstances before including going to the airport for an early flight or driving to a hospital due to an emergency. You don’t see many people waiting for rides at 11:00 PM or perhaps 3:00 AM. These are basically what people refer to as ‘unholy’ hours. People are asleep during these times. If not, they probably are working the so-called graveyard shift. The latter used to be for workers employed in facilities like factories that usually operate 24/7. Nowadays, these include business process outsourcing (BPO) workers who are active in part due to their employers being in countries in different time zones (e.g., US and Europe).
At one point before the pandemic, transport and traffic had become so bad that people had to leave their homes earlier than when they had. For example, instead of leaving at 7:00 AM, employees had to leave at 6:00 AM in order to reach their workplaces at 8:00 AM. Students have to leave at 5:30 AM to reach their schools at 7:00 AM. Now that we are still in a pandemic but returning to the ‘old normal’ it seems to have become worse than before.
At one point during the pandemic, a senior transport official stated that people will just have to wake up earlier if they want to get to their destinations on time. Whether this was serious or in a joking manners, to tell people to wake up early (or earlier) if they want to get a comfortable ride or just even to get a ride is insensitive. It only shows officials to be uncaring. But that probably is linked to their being elitist or privileged that they cannot even empathize with the regular commuters. With a new administration in place, we seem to have more of the same kinds of officials in our transport agencies but hopefully, the younger staff can convince their bosses to be otherwise and really work towards improving commutes.
On the need to change mindsets about bike lanes
Public acceptance of bike lanes has grown during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were few supporters especially among local government units and national agencies that seem to be comfortable with the status quo. Few like Iloilo and Marikina had any bike facilities worth mentioning. The pandemic was supposed to change that and it did for many. However, the acceptance and the gains seem to be eroding as we return to face-to-face activities and the ‘old’ normal situation.
I’m sharing below an article on the need to change mindsets about bike lanes and cycling in general:
Thompson, C. (January 24, 2023) “The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/the-battle-over-bike-lanes-needs-a-mindset-shift/ [Last accessed: 1/27/2023]
To quote from the article:
“Maybe bike lanes will always be fraught, until enough of the public is finally in a true lather about climate change—and it seems reckless to not have them.
Crises, after all, have a way of opening people’s eyes to possibilities. During Covid, restaurants and cafés lost so much business that cities nationwide began allowing them to build curbside seating areas where people could sit, safely, in the open air. It greatly reduced parking—but because, well, crisis, shop owners didn’t see any way around it. Patrons loved the outdoor seating so much that cities are making it permanent: A New York City study of several streets closed during Covid found storeowners making more than before, and diners digging the al fresco lifestyle. If data won’t change minds, customers might.”
There are two opposing sides on this matter. On one side are advocates who naturally will push for bike lanes and will promote them as The solution (emphasis mine) rather than one of a cocktail to address the transport mess we are in. On the other side are conservative, status quo types (or car-lovers as bike advocates will call them) who believe cars should have the roads to themselves. Unfortunately, many in government and particularly in transport agencies are with the latter. Perhaps they should be the first ones that need to be converted to favor active transport?
On getting started on bike commuting
Here is another article on bike commuting. It really is a challenge to get people into bike commuting even if their workplaces or schools are close to their homes. What more for people who have to travel longer distances between their homes and workplaces or schools?
Bassett, E. (December 1, 2022) “The No B.S. Guide to Getting Started Bike Commuting,” Medium, https://erikbassett.medium.com/the-no-b-s-guide-to-getting-started-bike-commuting-5dd0cbb87e5b [Last accessed:
To quote from the article:
“Assume you’re invisible until proven otherwise.
Like every city I’ve lived or ridden in, yours probably paints pictures on the ground and calls them “bicycle infrastructure.” Road designs encourage excess speed; vehicles aren’t meaningfully separated from cyclists and pedestrians; there are conflicting rights-of-way at intersections, driveways, and so forth.
And that is not right. It’s a sad commentary on urban “planning” in most places that anything but car use requires this degree of paranoia. It points to a profound dysfunction that few (with any serious influence) are willing or even interested to change…yet.
But unless or until it improves, the only viable response is to assume you don’t exist in the eyes of whoever’s driving nearby. “If I weren’t here, would they gun it to make a right turn on red?” Well, assume they will. “If I weren’t here, would they merge up there?” You guessed it: assume they will.
This is unquestionably the worst aspect of bike commuting, and if it’s too stressful in your situation, that’s perfectly fine. But in the spirit of a “no-B.S.” guide, I’d be remiss not to drive home a life-saving lesson that all these years of cycling have so deeply ingrained in me.”
The author also states the difference between bike commuting and sports biking including noting the differences in the objectives or goals for each.
Why do we keep widening roads?
I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.
On the future of bike lanes in Metro Manila and other cities and municipalities in the Philippines
My friends and I were talking about the current buzz about the bike lanes including statements made by certain personalities (influencers, advocates, government officials, etc.) about biking and bike lanes. There were many recent pronouncements of motorcycles being allowed to use bike lanes or the outright removal of bike lanes. We all agreed this was backward and the way forward is to build on the current network and facilities. What we have in our cities and municipalities are not perfect and far from ideal but they are a start and perhaps the foundation for a bikeway network that can eventually make a dent on the car-centric transportation we have.
I share below the strategies, actions and targets for bicycle facilities, programs and projects from the Network Planning for the Establishment of Bike Lanes in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao that was completed middle of 2022. The project is DOTr’s with support from the UNDP. The table is from the Final Report of the project.
A Happy Christmas to all!
Shared article: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them
I’m sharing this article on active and micro mobility modes from Todd Litman, published in Planetizen.com:
Source: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them
From the article:
“Common Active Transportation Leverage Effects:
–Shorter trips. Shorter active trips often substitutes for longer motorized trips, such as when people choose a local store rather than driving to more distant shops.
–Reduced chauffeuring. Better walking and bicycling conditions reduces the need to chauffeur non-drivers (special trips to transport a passenger). These often require empty backhauls (miles driven with no passenger). As a result, each mile of avoided chauffeuring often reduces two vehicle-miles.
-Increased public transit travel. Since most transit trips include walking and bicycling links, improving these modes supports public transit travel and transit-oriented development.
-Vehicle ownership reductions. Active mode improvements allow some households to reduce their vehicle ownership, which reduces vehicle trip generation, and therefore total vehicle-miles.
-Lower traffic speeds. Active travel improvements often involve traffic speed reductions. This makes non-auto travel more time-competitive with driving and reduces total automobile travel.
-More compact development. Walking and bicycling support more compact, multimodal communities by reducing the amount of land devoted to roadways and parking, and creating more attractive streets.
-Social norms. As active travel increases, these modes become more socially acceptable.
The article is a must read if we are to understand how important active transport and micro mobilities are in the context of today’s transport conundrum. Of course, part of the contextualization and perhaps ‘localization’ on these modes will be related to land use or development. The latter is a big challenge especially for the likes of Metro Manila and other rapidly developing cities in the Philippines where housing in the cities (related to compact development) has become quite expensive and has driven more and more people to live in the suburbs. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this has resulted in more pressure to develop transportation systems but infrastructure development cannot play the catch up game given the limited resources for their construction. Meanwhile, services are also behind in terms of quality and requires reforms and rationalizations.
On reducing driving and its inherent risks
Ever since the automobile was invented and eventually mass-produced, there has been an increasing risk associated with motor vehicle traffic. Laws, policies and regulations have also been influenced to favor the car rather than people. And so we now have what is termed as a car-oriented and dependent transportation system that seems so difficult to undo as most people appear to be enamored by the car. Owning a car (or even a motorcycle if you want to extend this idea of individual ownership) remains an aspiration to a lot of people.
Here is a link to the compact version of a comprehensive report by Todd Litman that presents and argues for a new paradigm where driving is considered a risk factor. There are data and a table comparing old and new traffic paradigms to help us understand the situation and what needs to be redefined or re-framed in order to achieve our safety targets or vision.
Litman, T. (October 20, 2022) “Driving as a Risk Factor: A New Paradigm,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/119287-driving-risk-factor-new-paradigm?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10202022&mc_cid=beacdc2a04&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/28/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Safer vehicles, roads, and driving may reduce crashes but achieve few other goals, and sometimes contradict them. Transportation demand management and smart growth policies increase safety in addition to helping to achieve other planning goals, and so can be considered win-win solutions.
More comprehensive safety analysis tends to support social equity goals. Many conventional safety strategies, such as larger vehicles with more passenger protection, and wider roads with fewer intersections, tend to increase walking and bicycling risks. In contrast, lower traffic speeds, TDM, and Smart Growth tend to improve safety, mobility, and accessibility for people who cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive.”
The key takeaway here should be that people should have the option of not driving at all in order to reduce the risks associated with driving as well as reduce congestion. A more comprehensive
On making streets safer through woonerfs
One of the new things I learned when I was taking up transportation planning as an undergraduate student in the 1990s was about the woonerf. Our teacher then was a Visiting Professor from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He introduced to us many concepts in that elective course that paved the way to a number of us proceeding to specialize in transportation. What is a woonerf? Well, here’s a nice article defining the woonerf and providing some examples:
Ionescu, D. (October 6, 2022) “What is a Woonerf?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/woonerf?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10062022&mc_cid=9d60b3d668&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/10/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Translated as “living street,” a woonerf employs strategies like traffic calming devices and low speed limits to force drivers to slow down and safely share street space with pedestrians, cylists, and others, often without raised curbs separating cars and pedestrians. In the Netherlands, where the woonerf originated in the 1960s, motorized traffic within woonerf zones is limited to walking speed…
…A woonerf is not a pedestrianized street, but rather one where multiple users and vehicles co-exist. However, a woonerf can be converted to car-free uses using bollards or other barriers. The woonerf maintains utilitarian uses like loading docks and parking while making the roadway safer and more accessible to non-drivers.”
There should be many applications to the woonerf in the Philippines especially in areas where the dominant land use is residential and through traffic should be discouraged. This is goes well with the complete streets concept that is now being promoted and in fact pre-dates the concept and was well ahead of its time.