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The Ortigas Center bike lanes, complete streets and road diets

The MMDA recently stated they were planning to apply the road diet concept to EDSA by narrowing the current lane widths in order to add one lane per direction. While the idea seems to of good intention, the mention and application of road diet is flawed. I have previously shared an article on social media showing the definition and examples of complete streets:

What are complete streets?

Clearly, complete streets are for the benefit of everyone (i.e., inclusive) and not biased for motor vehicles. Here is a photo of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City showing the correct application of the Complete Streets and Road Diet concepts to an urban street. Note the elements for cycling and walking that are very prominent in the re-design of the street.

Protected bike lanes at either side of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center

We hope to see more of these re-designs in many other cities and towns in the Philippines. It is not a really difficult concept to apply or adopt as technically these are not complicated. However, there needs to be a change in the mindset of planners and engineers when they do these exercises considering how car-oriented our designs are. It is easy to say we want more people-oriented transportation facilities until it dawns on us how dependent we are on cars and resist the efforts to realise more sustainable designs.

Shoes made in Marikina

This seems to be an odd topic for this blog at first but then shoes are very much related to transportation. You have to have a good pair of shoes on you for walking, jogging or running. There are even driving shoes and boat shoes (i.e., those docksides and topsiders were originally made for boating or walking along the seaside). And so I write this short article about shoes; particularly those made in Marikina.

Marikina is well-known for its shoemaking industry. It used to be a major industry that manufactured shoes that were popular throughout the country as well as being exported for sale abroad. These were mainly handmade using techniques and skills passed on from one generation to the next. It was not uncommon for families to be involved in shoemaking and the brands of many shoes carry the names (or combinations) of families involved in the business. There was even a Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao where I recall we had bought many pairs of shoes for school and casual days. Among the brands I remember were Chancellor, Valentino and Cardams. There is also a Shoe Avenue in the city along which many shops are located. In many cases, these are also the factories themselves.

The industry suffered due to a combination of automation (i.e., mass production) and the influx of cheap shoes from China. Without government support for the industry, many, regardless of whether they were small or big, eventually seized shoemaking. Those who survived and those who were revived are the ones you still see. And then there are upstarts who have been encouraged by the support now being provided by the city government. One venue for this support is through a “Sapatos Festival” that the city organises to promote shoes and other footwear made in Marikina.

The Sapatos Festival was held right across from the Marikina City Hall.

One could find a variety of footwear using various materials including genuine leather, rubber, faux leather, etc. This photo shows men’s shoes being sold at one of the shops there.

I tried on a pair I fancied and after the typical examination of workmanship and quality, I decided to buy this pair for 900 pesos (about 9 US dollars!).

Marikina-made footwear and bags are also sold at the Riverbanks mall that used to be a textile factory complex. These are inexpensive yet very good quality products that I think we should re-discover and support. Perhaps we should also provide constructive comments or suggestions on how the makers can further improve their products in order for them to be able to compete with the mass-produced variety. There is definitely a market for well-made footwear whether you walk, take public transport or drive.

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.

On school trip generation

I chanced upon the changing of the shifts for a national high school. This was the time of day when the morning shift students were dismissed (i.e., coming out of school) and the afternoon shift students were coming in.

Students come out of the school to mainly either walk or take public transport (mostly tricycles) to their homes.

Most vehicles give way to people, especially students, crossing the busy street. There are usually traffic aides in the area who help manage traffic and to ensure pedestrians may safely cross or move about.

There are no severe traffic congestion here unlike those generated by many exclusive or private schools. There is actually a private school just beside this public high school that also generates significant private vehicle traffic but somehow manages not to congest this major road that’s part of the L. Sumulong Memorial Circle the way another private school congests Sumulong Highway in the mornings.

Is this simply because of the school being a public school as compared with private schools? Perhaps it is, given the perceived disparity in income classes concerning those going to typical public schools and those going to typical exclusive schools. But income disparity aside, wouldn’t it be possible for most students to just walk or take public transport to school? I actually envy the public school students in the photos above as they can walk to school. And that is because they likely live near the school, which is something that is a desirable situation if public schools are at least at par in quality with the more established private schools (especially the sectarian ones where many parents likely prefer their children to go to). This disparity in quality leads to people residing in relatively long distances away for the preferred schools to travel (often with their private vehicles) to and from the exclusive schools. The point here is that it really is more complicated than what it seems in terms of trip generation.

On the need to increase NMT and public transport use

A recent report reinforces what many of us already probably know or are aware of – that we need to shift away from dependence on car use to more sustainable modes of transport in the form of non-motorised transport (NMT) and public transportation. Here is the article from the AASHTO Journal:

Global Climate Report Calls For Expansion Of ‘Non-Motorized’ Transport And Public Transit (2018)

There is a link to the report in the journal article. The report is conveniently available in PDF form and is very readable (i.e., not overly technical).

Incidentally, I was involved some time ago in a project led by the group Clean Air Asia (CAA), which involved several experts from across ASEAN as well as Japan that attempted to determine the necessary transport programs and projects in the region to stave off the projected increase in global temperatures. In all the scenarios evaluated, non-motorised transport (NMT) and a rationalised public transportation system By the term ‘rationalised’ I am referring to the use of higher capacity vehicles as against the taxis and tricycles that typically carry few if not one passenger. Here is a link to the final symposium for that study that has links to the materials presented:

The Final Symposium on the “Study on Long Term Transport Action Plan for ASEAN”

Here’s a slightly updated slide on the future image for a large city in the Philippines:

On EDSA transport and traffic, again

There’s a recent decision by the Metro Manila Council (MMC) comprised of the mayors of the cities and municipality of Metro Manila and chaired by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair that vehicles bearing only one passenger (the driver) will be banned from travelling along EDSA. The problem with this is that by banning cars with one passenger from EDSA, you only succeed in making other roads like C5 more congested. It’s a simple case of transferring traffic and worsening it elsewhere since you’re not doing anything to alleviate congestion along those roads. Did MMDA run this and other scenarios using analytical or simulation tools at their disposal? If so, can these be shown and used to explain the soundness of this policy approved by the MMC? I suspect they didn’t and likely depended more on gut feel based on the data they have including what is often reported as 70% of vehicles traveling along EDSA having only one passenger. Meanwhile, the state of mass transit along EDSA still sucks.

IMG_3028A very crowded Boni Avenue Station platform (photo courtesy of Mr. Raul Vibal)

Of course, the pronouncement from the MMDA launched quite a lot of memes on social media. Some people shared the typical quotes on planning (you know, like the ones about planning for people vs. planning for cars). Some offered their own ideas about how to “solve” traffic along EDSA. And so on…that only succeeded in showing how everyone had an opinion about transport and traffic. Everyone is an expert, so it seems.

Some thoughts and not in any order:

  • The government can initially dedicate a lane each for express buses (a la Bus Rapid Transit or BRT). This idea has been circulating for quite some time now and has a good chance of succeeding. The DOTr is already deploying buses that they say are supplementing the MRT 3 trains (i.e., there aren’t enough trains running so passengers have the option of taking a bus instead). Running along the inner lanes of EDSA would mean, however, that they would have to find a way for passengers to cross the road and one idea would be for the stations to be retrofitted for this purpose.
  • Those cars along EDSA are not necessarily for short trips so walking and cycling while needing space may have less impact in the immediate term for such a corridor. In the meantime, serious consideration should be made for bike lanes whether on the ground or elevated and improvements to walking spaces.
  • But these efforts to improve passenger (and freight) flows should be a network-wide thing and not just along EDSA.
  • It’s time to have serious discussions and perhaps simulations (even a dry run) of congestion pricing in Metro Manila. Congestion pricing for all major roads and not just one or two. Funds collected goes to mass transit, walkways and bikeways development. DOTr was supposed to have already discussed an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system like Singapore’s with the company and people behind the same in the city-state. That doesn’t seem to be moving along.
  • Working and studying from home might work in terms of reducing vehicular traffic but then we generally have lousy internet services so that’s a barrier that needs to be broken down.
  • How about legalizing, once and for all, motorcycle taxis? Many are opposed to this citing safety concerns but then we are running out of options outside the usual motherhood statements pertaining to building transport infrastructure. Think about it. Give it a chance. These motorcycles might just surprise us in a nice way; that is, helping alleviate congestion.
  • Carpooling and lanes dedicated to High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) would be good but the LTFRB made a pronouncement about these being illegal as they would be considered ‘colorum’. Such statements do not make the situation any easier and sends mixed signals as to the government’s being serious in considering all possible angles to improve transport and traffic particularly for commuting.

Do you have other ideas to share?

On healthier cities and encouraging walking

It’s a Sunday and the sun is up after days of rain so it would be a good time to be outdoors. Here is a nice article for the fitness buffs out there. Many of us have sedentary lifestyles and this has come as no surprise with the how we work and study as well as the influence of tech in our everyday activities. Even as I write this, I am sitting in front of my desk and have only my fingers and hands working. The rest of me is inactive except perhaps my senses and my brain. 🙂

Merle, A. (2018) “The Healthiest People in the World Don’t Go to the Gym,” medium.com, https://medium.com/s/story/the-healthiest-people-in-the-world-dont-go-to-the-gym-d3eb6bb1e7d0 [Last accessed: 8/1/2018].

I miss the times when I was living in Japan and when we were living in Singapore mainly because I was able to have a more active lifestyle in the cities where I lived. I walked and biked a lot when I was in Yokohama, Tokyo and Saitama, and later walked a lot around Singapore. I/we didn’t need a car as the public transportation was excellent and so were the pedestrian infrastructure. I recall walking between our laboratory at Yokohama National University and the dormitory, and later the Sotetsu Line Kami-Hoshikawa Station almost everyday. And then climbing up and down the hills of Yamate on Sundays. I can walk around Tokyo on my own and finding my way through shopping streets especially in Akihabara and Ueno. Of course, my favourite places would always include Kamakura, which can be reached via a train ride from Yokohama Station. The wife and I loved walking around Singapore and exploring places on foot. Indeed, you can be healthy and have a workout everyday without being too conscious about it!