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Category Archives: Public Transport
On San Francisco’s cable cars
Here a quick share of an article on San Francisco’s iconic cable cars:
Carren, D. (May 11, 2023) “Why SF cable cars are so iconic: a history,” The Bold Italic, https://thebolditalic.com/why-sf-cable-cars-are-so-iconic-a-history-895e30e50784 [Last accessed: 5/14/2023]
From the article:
“Though a scant remnant of what they once were, the three remaining lines are almost always packed with riders, running every 8 minutes for 16 hours a day, clanking along with a lurch’s awkward grace and an artful clattering. The crowd hangs tight to the handholds and the poles and their hats through hairpin turns, and a daring few lean out with one arm, wildly waving to signal all is still quite well.”
I have been to SF a few times and enjoyed using the cable cars among other modes to go around the city. In fact, in one of our stays in SF, we deliberately booked a hotel close to the end point of one of the lines so we can use it more frequently to go to downtown SF.
San Francisco’s cable cars at the Hyde Street turnabout ca. 2011.
A vintage US Army Jeep – the ancestor of the jeepney
We were visiting the studio of a friend last weekend and learned that he was a history buff. He did historical reenactments as well as researched on militaria including the uniforms worn by combatants in World War II. The latter was part of his work towards more accurate uniforms being used for period films. A surprise for us was that he also collected vintage cars that included two US Army Jeeps and a truck that were parked in their garage.
A US Army Jeep greeted us as we entered their studio premises
The 4-cylinder engine of the Jeep
Another view of the engine. Notice, too, the front grill of the vehicle.
A second jeepney is parked behind the first. This second one had a canvass top on and a radio antenna that’s supposed to be original.
There’s the steering wheel and the machine gun mount.
The wipers whose design was retained by the jeepneys
I had always wanted to see an intact specimen of this jeep. The surplus units eventually were modified or customized to become the first jeepneys that seated 4 to 6 passengers at the back (they were shorter back then. The designs were based on the auto calesa, which were cars that were modified to become public transport vehicles with bench seats at the back. The rest, as they say, is history and we now still have what are termed as conventional jeepneys that now seat 16 to 24 passengers at the back of the driver.
On air quality in subways
I saw this article on Wired and immediately read it as the topic to me was interesting. I have been using when I lived in Japan in the 1990s and in Singapore in 2010-2o12. I have used the transit system in many other cities including in the US and Europe. And so the topic of air quality in subways (particularly the stations and inside the trains) got my attention. I guess this is not entirely an issue for ground-level and overhead systems like what most of Lines 1, 2 and 3 and the PNR are. Only Line 2 has one underground station (Katipunan Station) and perhaps has that issue. Here is the article about the air in subways:
Baraniuk (April 24, 2023) “The Filthy Truth About Subway Air,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/subway-air-health/ [Last accessed: 4/25/2023]
To quote from the article:
“The big unknown is whether all of this particulate matter is actually causing health problems for people. Millions of commuters use metro systems, in many cases for multiple hours a day, five days a week, for years on end. And thousands of transport workers spend even longer in the tunnels. But there are no widespread signs of severe or acute health problems among these populations, even if pollution levels in subways exceed recommended limits. Could there be more subtle, chronic effects, however—impacts on lung, brain, or heart function?”
Indeed, metros or subway systems have been operating for over a century and so far there is limited that we know about the health risks concerning their use by passengers. But this is something to keep in mind as the Philippines builds its first subway line in Metro Manila. The depots and the situation of workers thought may be a different matter. I recall one of my colleagues at the university doing a quick study of the Line 3 depot, which is underground (i.e., underneath the Trinoma Mall), and measurements showed the air quality to be quite bad. Imagine working there and being exposed to that everyday. Those conditions merit further study but require immediate action to improve working conditions considering the impact to health.
Motorela – Paratransit in Cagayan de Oro
Our recent trip to Cagayan de Oro reacquainted us with their paratransit. While they looked like tricycles at first glance, they are actually 4-wheeled. Instead of a motorcycle with side car (with one wheel), this is a motorcycle fitted with a body that has two wheels (total 4). These are called motorela, which look like the Thai tuktuk.
These can seat 9 passengers including the driver. The design though appears to put a lot of stress on the motorcycle due to the weight of the attachment plus the weights of passengers. Typical motorcycles are not built for these loads.
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 pedestrian facilities and climate change
Here is an article that articulates the importance of walking and pedestrian facilities in sustainability and ultimately fighting climate change. It argues that if we had the infrastructure and facilities to make it easier for people to walk, they will and are likely to walk rather than use their cars. This is not limited to short trips as walking can be in combination with public transportation, making it an integral part of trips where public transportation covers the main commute and walking is the proverbial last mile travel.
To quote from the article:
“Walking, biking, and transit need to be prioritized, and treated as legitimate forms of transportation. This means stepping up efforts to collect data on sidewalks the way we do for roads, investing in complete walking networks before engaging in expensive new road projects and making sidewalk construction and maintenance a municipal responsibility rather than an individual one.”
Article share: Redesigning Streets for Livability: A Global View
I am sharing this article on redesigning streets. It is actually a promotion for a book: “Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities”.
To quote from the article:
“Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities is an expansive 270-page volume that explores the evolving potential of the most ubiquitous public space in our cities. It offers ideas, tactics and strategies from across the world on how our streets are being, and, can be rethought, recast, repurposed and redesigned towards greater resilience and resourcefulness. The globally diverse opinions and case studies in this book remind us why cities with limited means can offer profound lessons to affluent societies that take their prosperity for granted. And in turn, how the virtues of effective urban administration and reinforcement seen in developed societies could reassuringly serve to inspire less economically developed ones.”
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 electric vehicles overshadowing public transportation
There seems to be much ado about electric vehicles. Here in the Philippines, there is much hype about hybrid and electric cars as incentives are now in place for people to purchase them at reduced prices and in Metro Manila at least, there is that additional incentive of these vehicles being exempted from the number coding (vehicle restraint) scheme. Here’s an article
Woodhouse, S. and Mohsin, S. (January 26, 2023) “EV Hype Overshadows Public Transit as a Climate Fix,” Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-25/public-transit-gets-left-behind-in-us-climate-change-conversation [Last accessed: 1/28/2023]
Some quotes from the article pretty much describes why we must focus on improving public transportation to increase or at least retain riderships:
“If we want to reduce carbon emissions we can’t just have technology-focused answers…
“Buses and trains have a fraction of the greenhouse gas impact of private cars, whether internal combustion or battery-powered, according to the International Transport Forum. A 2021 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that the energy saved by passengers in the US using public transit rather than personal vehicles saved 63 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018 — roughly the equivalent of taking 16 coal-fired power plants offline for a year…
“In the postwar era, the US prioritized building out its road network, leaving transit behind. For decades, highways and roads have consumed about 80% of federal transportation funding, with transit getting only 20%. In 2019 state and local governments spent $203 billion on highways and roads alone, with a quarter of expenditures coming from federal transfers. At the local level, continued car use is fueled by suburban development patterns and land-use practices like minimum parking requirements, which require developers to set aside space for vehicles. Outside of major cities, transit options are often limited, and historically low level of public support translate into poor convenience and reliability…
“We’re not going to be able to successfully fight climate change — and prevent more damage to the climate — without heavily investing in mass transit and specifically public transit.”
Here is something I shared last year:
You’ve probably seen the image that evolved from the original comparison of 50 people on cars, bus and motorcycles from Munster, Germany. The variant is 50 people on conventional cars, 50 people on electric cars and 50 people on self-driving cars. That is another perspective (road capacity and congestion-wise) of how electric vehicles will affect traffic.
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?