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A quick update on the Line 2 Emerald Station construction

Here are a couple of photos of Line 2’s Emerald Station, which is under construction. There’s significant progress in the construction but this will definitely take months to complete along with the Masinag Station, which is in a similar state of progress in construction.

Here is what the Emerald Station, which is just across from Robinsons Metro East and Sta. Lucia Mall, looks like. It’s still far from being completed but you can already see what seems to be an area underneath the tracks where people can cross from one side to the other. Stairs have been constructed to connect what could be a station concourse to the street level. The building under construction to the right in the photo is Sta. Lucia’s. From the looks of it, this will be an office building, likely to host a BPO office. We hope that the station will have direct connections with the two malls as well as this office.

Right after the station is the intersection of Marcos Highway with Felix Avenue and Gil Fernando Avenue where there is still pedestrian overpass that allows people to cross the wide roads safely. There are only rare instances when people attempt to cross at street level here but there were some security concerns as there was a spate of snatching incidents on the overpass. Cainta authorities seem to have addressed this despite some border issues with Marikina and the former has posted policemen to deter crime on the overpass.

The last image connects to the first one in the sense that there should be a connectivity for the existing pedestrian infrastructure (i.e., overpass and sidewalks) with the future Emerald Station. This connectivity would be in the form of suitably designed walkways that can and should include provisions for cyclists, too. Perhaps the two malls can pitch in to make these designs a reality and not just be content with token steel structures like what are usually constructed elsewhere and at the junction near the station. There is a good opportunity here to come up with good design that can become a good example for replication.

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 the relationship between public transport use and enhanced traffic safety

I found this article while browsing the AASHTO Journal:

APTA Study Says Higher Transit Use Results In Fewer Traffic Deaths, https://aashtojournal.org/2018/08/31/apta-study-says-higher-transit-use-results-in-fewer-traffic-deaths/ [Last accessed: 9/5/2018]

The article contains a link to the report, which would be a good reference for those who want to show proof for the argument for public transportation development and use vs. dependence on cars. I think its possible to come up with our own version of the graphs shown in the report especially those that show less traffic fatalities per 10,000 residents vs. annual trips using transit per capita. However, this will require data collection and analysis for at least the highly urbanised cities (HUCs) in the country. I say at least because these cities would be the ones likely to have the resources to determine the stats necessary for such an assessment.

The ill-located terminal at Ligaya along Marcos Highway

There is a newly constructed public transport terminal in what is popularly known as the Ligaya area along Marcos Highway in Pasig City. The terminal is right across from the new Ayala Feliz Mall. The terminal is mostly unused or under-utilised. The jeepneys and UV Express vehicles that were supposed to use the terminal seldom go there as the natural stop for most coming from Pasig to Marikina would be closer to the junction of Marcos Highway with Amang Rodriguez Avenue. There is also the U-turn slot nearby where many passengers dare to cross to in order to catch a ride. Sinasalubong ng mga tao ang jeepney na lumiliko dito and the traffic enforcers in the area generally turn a blind eye to this.

The practically empty terminal during evenings

Late at night, the terminal is dark with the lights turned off. Most times I pass by the area in the mornings and afternoons, there are few, if any, PUVs at the terminal and you don’t see a congregation of a lot of passengers there as with other terminals. Did Ayala make a mistake with this terminal? For one, it is known already that while this area is a transfer point for many passengers, the location of the terminal with respect to the established U-turn slots make it unsuitable and undesirable for most PUVs. Then there is the impending operations of the Line 2 Extension whose nearest station will be hundreds of meters away across Robinsons Metro East and Sta. Lucia Mall. I think Ayala needs to construct a physical connection to the terminal if only to increase the number of people going there and therefore attract PUVs. Finally, the area is not a terminus (or last stop) for PUVs so it doesn’t make sense for them to spend time there except perhaps during off-peak periods (i.e., for rest). However, it is not attractive even for the latter since there seems to be no amenities including stores or maintenance shops to support PUVs.

Article on housing and transportation

Here’s another excellent piece from Todd Litman about the dynamics of housing and transportation. This is a very relevant topic in many cities today and especially so for those like Metro Manila, which is struggling with issues pertaining to affordable housing and transportation infrastructure and services. Arguably, a lot of households are spending more than the 45% threshold of incomes mentioned in the article but people continue to get homes away from the city as these are relatively cheaper than those closer to their workplaces and schools. Unfortunately, transportation costs are on the rise and congestion and a lack of an efficient transport system are among the culprits for what many have already labelled as undignified and atrocious costs of commuting.

Litman, T. (2018) “Affordability Trade-Offs,” planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/99920?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-08092018&mc_cid=e2a69b6eb4&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 8/9/2018]

I envy the guy for being able to present these topics clearly. It is a complex subject and one that isn’t understood by many in government who are supposed to be responsible for crafting and implementing policies and programs to address issues pertaining to affordable housing and commutes. I wonder if Todd is coming over for the ADB Transport Forum. He’s make for a good resource person in some of the sessions there and perhaps can also be invited to speak about this and other relevant and urgent topics in a separate forum. Anyone out there care to sponsor him?

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?

Increasing the number of TNVS units? Not so fast!

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is planning to increase the number of TNVS units (i.e., rideshare vehicles) in Metro Manila to meet what is perceived as the demand for them based on the numbers provided by TNCs like Grab. The problem with this number they want to eventually achieve, 65,000 units supposedly, is that this is based on current transport conditions in the metropolis. Also, this is based on data that is biased for the interests of TNCs, which obviously want to increase their driver and vehicle base in order to maximise profits. Here is a nice article that should provide some context from abroad where rideshare vehicles are actually generating more car traffic and taking people away from public transport.

Fried, B. (2018) “Uber and Lyft Are Overwhelming Urban Streets, and Cities Need to Act Fast,” Streetsblog, https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/07/25/uber-and-lyft-are-overwhelming-urban-streets-and-cities-need-to-act-fast/ [Last accessed: 7/26/2018]

Currently under construction are the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension projects and soon there will also be the Line 1 Extension. Also, in the pipeline are the proposed subway and rehabilitation of PNR that is supposed to revitalise its commuter line. These are examples of projects that will likely be game changers in terms of commuting with the objective of drawing people away from car use. In the bigger scheme of things, perhaps there is a need to rethink numbers for TNVS and instead focus on improving taxi services in Metro Manila. The same can be said for other cities as well where there is already a need for better public transport services to avert a transport future similar to what Metro Manila is already experiencing now.