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On sleepy drivers
I am sharing this article on sleep-deprived driving as there appears to be low awareness of the dangers of this behavior as opposed to the typical drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI) cases that we often hear or read about in the news (mainstream or social media).
Britt, R.B. (April 18, 2023) “Sleep-Deprived Drivers Might as Well be Drunk,” Medium.com, https://robertroybritt.medium.com/sleep-deprived-drivers-might-as-well-be-drunk-887aab48c1c [Last accessed: 4/21/2023]
To quote from the article:
“A 2016 study by AAA linked lack of sleep in the past 24 hours to dramatically higher crash risk, in hour-by-hour increments:
6–7 hours sleep: 1.3 times the risk
5–6 hours: 1.9 times the risk
4–5 hours: 4.3 times the risk
<4 hours: 11.5 times the risk
The risk of a crash drops to zero if you simply stay off the road, of course. Otherwise, the bottom line is pretty clear:
“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.”
So make sure you get your sleep because it is really important for you to function not just as a driver or rider. It also applies to other activities or tasks as well whether you’re working, studying or playing.
Back to ‘old’ normal for air travel in the Philippines
Before we embark on another trip this week, I just wanted to share that it seems all is back to the old normal in as far as air travel is concerned in the Philippines. There are few, if any, exceptions based on what I and colleagues have experienced while traveling domestically. The only difference now from pre-COVID-19 air travel is that people are required to wear face masks inside the aircraft. Inside the airports, masks appear to be optional though most people wear them.
The March-April 2023 issue of Cebu Pacific’s Smile Magazine features places to go while in Tokyo, Japan, a popular destination these days as foreign travel restrictions have eased.
Cebu Pacific provides passengers with their Smile magazine on-board their aircraft. Philippine Airlines domestic flights don’t have magazines (unless they do on Business or First Class) for Economy passengers. I noticed also that PAL did not have duty free items on-board their aircraft (at least for the MNL-SIN-MNL trips we had recently). I know that other airlines have resumed duty free sales on-board so perhaps this is just a cost-cutting thing for PAL. Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific’s inflight shop is open and selling souvenir items on their domestic flights.
A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts
Here is a quick share for today. This is an article by Todd Litman critiquing congestion costs and induced vehicle travel impacts:
Quoting from the article:
It is time for planners to rethink the way we evaluate congestion problems and solutions. Vehicle travel is not an end in itself; our ultimate goal is to improve accessibility. Traffic congestion is one constraint on accessibility, but others are more important. For example, the study, “Does Accessibility Require Density or Speed?” found that a given increase in urban density, and therefore proximity, has a far greater impact on overall accessibility than an increase in travel speed, and therefore congestion reductions. This is particularly true of disadvantaged groups who cannot drive or are financially burdened by vehicle expenses.
It is irresponsible for transportation agencies to expand highways in ways that contradict other community goals. If they do nothing, at worst, traffic congestion will maintain equilibrium; people will manage within its constraints. Even better, transportation agencies can invest in resource-efficient alternatives—better walking, bicycling, public transit, and telework opportunities—that improve accessibility, increasing transportation system efficiency.
If we truly want to truly optimize our transportation systems, we need a more comprehensive analysis of impacts and options, including the full costs of urban highway expansions and the full benefits of non-auto mode improvements and TDM incentives. Highway expansion should be a solution of last resort, only implemented when all other solutions have failed and users are willing to pay the full costs through tolls.
It’s time to stop obsessing about congestion and instead strive for efficient accessibility that serves everybody in the community.
Source: A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts
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.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 3: advocacy and bandwagon
You see a lot of posts on social media stating people supporting the current transport strike. There are cartoons and memes that dramatize if not romanticize the plight of drivers. One cartoon I saw has a girl asking her driver-father if he will join the strike. The father replies he is unsure as they won’t have any income to cover their needs. One panel shows the driver’s cash box with graduation photos of what appear to be his other children. Of course, this suggests that the jeepney driver was able to support his children in their education while also suggesting about the uncertainties for the other child (who is in the comic). The comic obviously appeals to the emotions of the reader. It is a fallacy but one that is very close to and appeals to the psyche of the Filipino.
Another cartoon appears to be comparing modernization with replacing office computers. It states that the government’s modernization program is like an office requiring its employees to replace their old notebooks with high end ones. Only, the office is not paying for the new units and will have these charged to the employees’ salaries. I thought that was an oversimplification. Jeepneys are public utility vehicles and not private. There are rules and regulations governing PUV acquisition, franchising and operations, unlike your typical office computer.
I think we should draw the line between advocacy and simply jumping onto the bandwagon that is supporting a transport strike without knowing and understanding the details about it. Otherwise, we end up giving unconditional support to what others will refer to as a backward public transportation system. There are always two sides to a coin and while there are good stories about the jeepney and how it has supported many families, there are also bad ones that have allowed them to remain practically unchanged over so many decades. The same applies to the opposition – those who call for a phase-out or outright modernization without understanding the terms given to drivers and operators and the overall context and situation regarding the modernization program. It is easy to take sides. The question is if you are aware and understand the details about the issues here.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 2: reasons for a strike
The current transport strike is not about fare hikes or the rising prices of fuel. Those are the most common reasons for jeepney drivers and operators going on strike. It’s quite simple for these reasons: Drivers protest when government refuses to increase fare rates amidst rising costs of operations and maintenance. And they don’t when fares are reduced as fuel prices are going down.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) through its Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is tasked with evaluating operations and maintenance costs of public utility vehicles and prescribe the minimum and incremental fares for these services. Fare hikes (and reductions) are the consequence of fuel price increases (or decreases) but are not set as dynamic or automatic. Fuel prices, as can be observed, can fluctuate and currently change every week. Fares are not automatically adjusted whether fuel prices are increasing or decreasing and are heavily regulated by government in part to supposedly protect the interests of the riding public. As such, fare matrices or the structured fares according to the various routes and the distances covered by public utility vehicles
The reason for the current transport strike is generalized as a jeepney phaseout. The term ‘phaseout’ actually refers to the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP) of the government that seeks to replace all conventional jeepneys with ‘modern’ or ‘modernized’ units. The latter include mini-bus types as well as those that retain the conventional jeepney form but usually larger and with newer engines and interior layout. This is not necessarily a phaseout like the one I described in Part 1 along the LRT Line 1 corridor.
Again, much of the opposition cites the high cost (and therefore unaffordable) of a modern jeepney. The financing schemes currently available as well as the requirement for jeepney operators and drivers to be part of a transport cooperative to avail of these financing schemes are still considered unacceptable by many. And yet, government seems unwilling to extend resources in order for operators and drivers to be able to afford a new vehicle. The old jeepneys would still have some value but definitely not near a substantial down payment needed for low monthly payments. These monthly payments cannot be covered by the typical boundary (basically rent) for operators or the daily income for drivers.*
What is the cost of replacing conventional jeepneys with new, ‘modernized’ vehicles? Well, let’s assume that a new vehicle costs 2.4M pesos. Also, perhaps cover only the ones operating in the urban setting (i.e., exclude for now those serving provincial routes especially those used also for freight (e.g., top loads)), say 50% of the estimated 250,000 units need to be replaced. That goes up to 300 billion pesos. If we were to replace only Metro Manila jeepneys, that will be 132 billion pesos. These numbers can be compared to the cost of major projects like the Metro Manila Subway (488 billion), the Bataan-Cavite interlink bridge (175 billion) and the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan (735 billion). Would it be worth it (benefits-wise) to invest in new jeepneys?
*Of course, this also indicates a flawed business model for jeepney operations. But that’s another story.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 1: introduction
A nationwide week-long transport strike by jeepney operators and drivers From a CNN news report yesterday, it was stated that an estimated 4 out of 10 or 40% of jeepney drivers will be going on strike and halting operations for a week. These are supposedly members of the group Manibela, which claims to have over 100,000 members nationwide (Aren’t you curious how many jeepneys there actually are nationwide? There are supposedly more than 250,000 public utility jeepneys operating across the country with about 55,000 in Metro Manila.). The other 40% are certain that they will not be going on strike and these include members of the more established groups like PISTON, ACTO and Pasang Masda as well as those who belong to the many transport cooperatives that were formed the last so many years in part for the purposes of modernization. The remaining ones are undecided and include those also affiliated with those groups and those who claim to not have any affiliations.
If media companies like GMA, the defunct ABS CBN and even government station PTV have archives dating back to the 1970s, they will probably see that similar interviews have been conducted of jeepney drivers. Libraries like the National Library or perhaps those of leading universities like the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University would likely have archives of newspapers from way back. I remember UP Diliman having microfiche facilities but I am unsure to what year they have archives. You will likely read similar reports and interviews about jeepney operations during those times. The idea and initiatives for phasing out the conventional jeepneys is not a new thing or topic. It has been out there for quite some time but in different forms and contexts.
For example, there was a proposal to phase out jeepneys along the corridor of the LRT Line 1 in the Feasibility Study for the railway line as well as in the Metro Manila-wide studies that were conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jeepneys plying the Monumento-Baclaran and Monumento-Harrison Plaza routes were among those identified for phasing out. Careful reading of the reports though will also show that ‘phase out’ actually meant ‘rationalizing’ or ‘rerouting’ the jeepney services so they will complement the mass transit line. That never happened and the jeepneys still operate today (probably many are still the same jeepneys from the 1970s and 1980s!). Do passengers ride them from Monumento to Harrison (or vice versa)? Probably not as the travel will be too long compared to riding the train. They survive because of the short trips, usually less than 4 kilometers, by passengers who probably should be walking or cycling instead if we were in a Japanese, Korean, Singaporean or European city.
Fast forward today, the call apparently is for a phase-out in favor of the “modern” jeepneys (many are actually mini-buses). Jeepney operators and drivers are also being called to join or form cooperatives under which they can be part of programs that will replace their conventional jeepneys with a ‘modern’ unit. One issue here are the terms for the replacement or the acquisition of a new vehicle. The cost of a new vehicle varies and can be more expensive than a new SUV (e.g., more expensive if not as expensive as a new Montero, Fortuner or Everest) depending on the model and the size of the vehicle. This is apparently the most significant concern among others that is being cited by those opposing or resisting modernization, which they equate to a ‘phase out’.
One of the ‘modern’ jeepney models currently operating in Metro Manila
More in the next article for this series…
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.
Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability
Here is a quick share of an article about the link between walkability and affordable housing.
“While early pandemic pundits predicted the ‘death’ of urban areas, recent trends show that people—perhaps more than ever—value the benefits of compact development and easily accessible amenities and services. But “Demand drives up costs and can reduce low- and moderate-income households’ opportunity to live in highly walkable areas,” the report warns.”
Source: Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability
Some people seem to be baffled why people choose to purchase homes and reside in the suburbs or away from the city centers. It is actually simpler than what many tend to overthink and attribute purely to the condition of our transportation system. It takes two (or more apparently) to tango and housing affordability is critical for the Philippines’ case.