Passing by the DOST compound last week, I saw that the newer of the two AGT prototypes the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has funded through the Metals Industry Research and Development Centre (MIRDC) is already atop the test track along Gen. Santos Ave. in Bicutan, Taguig City.
The Bicutan AGT is larger than the prototype in UP. The former is a 120-passenger capacity train while the latter is a 6-passenger vehicle.
There are four on-going pre-feasibility studies on proposed AGT lines – UP Diliman in Quezon City, Litex in Quezon City, Gen. Santos Ave., Bicutan in Taguig City, and Baguio City. I am familiar with the first three, which is being implemented by UP but know little about the 4th, which is being implemented by a private consulting firm. The transport aspects (i.e., ridership estimates) of the Litex and Bicutan AGTs are almost complete and the estimated riderships are not encouraging considering the competition from road-based public transport comprised of jeepneys and tricycles along the proposed alignments.
There is a similar dilemma for the loop option proposed for UP Diliman that will be competing with the jeepneys operating in the campus. That is why another option is currently being studied, i.e., a line connecting Philcoa – the UP Town Center and Aurora Boulevard via UP, C.P. Garcia Ave. and Katipunan Ave. This line presumably would have significant ridership as it passes through major traffic generators in 3 major schools (UP, Ateneo and Miriam) and a commercial area (UP Town Center). It will likely become the mode of choice for people usually passing through the UP campus from Aurora Blvd. to get to Philcoa and beyond, and vice versa. And with the traffic congestion along Katipunan, a transit system with its own right-of-way should have better travel times compared with road-based transport.
A big issue about the AGT vehicles is the certification required before these are allowed to carry passengers in a real system. The current vehicles are prototypes so these will be subject to more refinements towards the model that would actually go into service in the foreseeable future. There is no update on this and the MIRDC and DOST don’t seem to be seeking more rigid and independent tests to certify the safety and integrity of this Philippine-made system. Perhaps the DOTC can help them on this through the LRTA or the PNR?
It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system being developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC). Instead of “reinventing the wheel” in writing an update article, I will just point my readers to the “official” item from the DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD). The following link provides a very detailed update on the AGT project including the pre-feasibility studies being undertaken for where the system might be deployed:
Unfortunately, there is no information on the locally-developed AGT undergoing rigorous testing towards certifying its being safe for public use (i.e., as public transport). There are few testing facilities for such vehicles including those in the US, Japan, Korea and Europe. The DOST needs to collaborate or engage a legitimate testing center that will objectively conduct the strict tests required to ensure the AGT is technically sound and therefore safe for use. Leap-frogging for these technologies does not mean one also can bypass certain requirements for standards and the DOST owes it to the people who will ride this transit system to have it certified – validating its motto “proudly Philippine-made.”
The DOST-MIRDC has built another prototype vehicle for its Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) project. The vehicle is larger than the one at the University of the Philippines Diliman as each vehicle would have a capacity of 120 passengers (seated and standing). They are also building another elevated test track at the MIRDC compound across from the main DOST compound in Bicutan, Taguig City, and along Gen. Santos Avenue. This is a significant upgrade from the 30-passenger capacity vehicles at UP Diliman (60 for a 2-car train) as a 2-car train with 240 passengers means much more capacity for a real line using such vehicles. To compare, 5-minute headways along one direction could carry 720 passengers per hour for the UP Diliman prototype while the Bicutan model can carry 2,880 passengers per hour.
Two prototype AGT vehicles with maximum capacity of 120 passengers at the MIRDC compound in Bicutan, Taguig City.
The design is very much the same as the first prototype vehicle, with its distinctive look including the snout, headlights and skirt.
The vehicle looks like it was inspired by the large provincial buses that, if seats are configured as benches and the body is stretched to be longer, can accommodate more passengers.
I don’t know how long this elevated test track will be but to be able to have substantial tests for the new vehicles this should be longer and would need to be extended beyond the MIRDC compound. That means the tracks would pass through land occupied by the Polytechnical University of the Philippines (PUP), which is a state university, and Camp Bagong Diwa, which is under the Philippine National Police. Can this line serve the areas along Gen. Santos Avenue? I think so but it will be competing with tricycles and jeepneys. Tricycles are the dominant public transport mode here despite Gen. Santos being a national road. Taguig City would have to find a way to address issues pertaining to a reduction or phase-out of tricycles as the communities in the area might be dependent (unfortunately) on these for their livelihood.
Back in Tokyo last February, I made sure that time to go and ride the Yurikamome Line, an automated guideway transit (AGT) system serving the Odaiba area and beyond. These areas are reclaimed land from Tokyo Bay and features many modern buildings. It used to be that the only transit system resembling rail serving the area was the Yurikamome. It was relatively expensive compared to both Tokyo JR and subway lines and there weren’t much choices so people, especially residents in that area welcomed bus services and the Rinkai Line of the Tokyo Waterfront area Rapid Transit (TWR), which is the same company that operated the Yurikamome AGT. The AGT is a driverless train with rubber tires and running on guideway tracks instead of rail. Capacities are similar to light rail and are more suitable to residential and medium intensity commercial or office areas.
Escalators to the station platform at Shinbashi
The Yurikamome is popular with children whom their parents usually take on the front seat for a magnificent view of the line and adjoining areas. I think some parents tell their children they can pretend to be the train driver given the best seats are right at front.
The AGT is driverless and that means you can be seated up front.
Escalator and platform at Daiba Station.
Stairs from the platform at Shinbashi Station
The approach to Odaiba Kaihin Koen Station from Daiba Station shows the equivalent of a switch (rail) for the guideway tracks along the other direction.
Section along the Rainbow Bridge. Note the roads on either side of the AGT guideways.
Auxiliary guideway tracks to allow trains to change guideways direction. Note that the train picks up electricity along its sides from the rails along either side of the guideway. This allows for continuous movement though there are breaks as the train shifts position.
The guideway to between Takeshiba and Shiodome Stations feature what appears as a rubberized strip for better traction for the tires to the guideway tracks.
The approach to Shiodome Station.
Passing by the test site for the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) prototype at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, you will notice the ongoing work on the construction of three platforms for the AGT. These are the latest improvements to the test track and I assume involves faculty members at the UP’s College of Architecture in the design (based on previous discussions pertaining to this project). Nevertheless, the station at Jacinto Street end of the test track already has a mock-up of a ticketing office and I learned from the staff there that there will also be turnstiles once the station is completed. These would allow for a simulation of passenger operations for the AGT system, which is part of the R&D for this locally-developed transit system.
We were back at the AGT test track last Monday to show the prototype and related works to Prof. Fumihiko Nakamura, Professor and head of the Transportation and Urban Engineering Laboratory at Yokohama National University. He is also currently the Dean of YNU’s Institute of Urban Innovation. Prof. Nakamura is an expert in public transportation and has done extensive work on bus and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. He was Visiting Professor at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand as well as at the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana in Curitiba, Brazil. Previously, we have taken other Japanese professors to visit the site and have a first-hand look at the AGT prototype. These include Prof. Tetsuo Yai, Dr. Daisuke Fukuda and Dr. Hirata of the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech).
AGT running along the test track towards the Jacinto Street end of the line.
AGT leaving the Jacinto “station.” In the photo is the station under construction near Jacinto Street and the entrance to the College of Fine Arts and Veterinary Hospital.
Our guests, Prof. Fumihiko Nakamura, Dean of the Institute of Urban Innovation of Yokohama National University, and his students rode on the prototype and took photos of the ongoing work at the Jacinto station platform.
The Jacinto Station will have a ticketing station and turnstiles to simulate passenger operations. These were demonstrated last year during the test runs conducted in conjunction with the UP Diliman Lantern Parade.
The prototype is now being run at faster speeds (30+ kph?) and this was noticeable for me considering I have taken the test runs several times already including the initial ones when the vehicle was only topping 10 kph. Unfortunately, other tests/assessments have not performed yet including those for stability that will be critical to ensure the safety of the system for actual use. We look forward to the succeeding work including the determination of the AGTs suitability for application along several alignments/corridors identified by the DOST. There is also the current work on another test track at the MIRDC compound in Bicutan, Taguig where they hope to test a larger AGT vehicle. I hope to see that one soon…
The Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is well under way with the initial test runs already being conducted by the agency. Several demonstration runs were also undertaken to show the vehicle and provide an initial experience for various stakeholders including government official, UP faculty, the media and invited guests from the private sector. I am posting a short video taken during one demonstration run where faculty members from UP’s College of Engineering rode on the prototype and also made some initial inspections of the vehicle.
The first phase of tests is expected to be completed during this first quarter of 2013. The next phase, which is expected to be a joint undertaking of DOST and UP, will follow immediately and should involve a multidisciplinary team that will evaluate the prototype. Such assessments are necessary to determine and address issues and/or weaknesses. It is imperative that the AGT would be proven to be safe and sound in its specs before a scale-up in the project.
Already, there are discussions on the future applications of this vehicle, and CBDs and airports are already being mentioned where the AGT would be most applicable. Also being mentioned is the further development of the test track to connect the UP-Ayala Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue and the future University town center along Katipunan with a line along C.P. Garcia Ave. Perhaps, too, such a line would have more ridership if it is extended all the way to Ateneo along Katipunan (C-5). While there is also talk on the AGT along the lines of the existing LRT and MRT lines, the reality is that AGT’s and monorails have significantly less capacities compared to regular commuter lines that are much needed in Metro Manila and other rapidly developing, highly urbanized cities in the country.
I got a copy of the recent study “Development of a Mega Manila Public Transportation Planning Support System” conducted by UP Diliman’s National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) for the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). The main outcome of the study was a planning support system that includes an updated database of bus, jeepney and UV Express routes for Metro Manila and its surrounding areas (collectively called Mega Manila), and a calibrated travel demand model for the region that is supposed to be used by the DOTC and the LTFRB in transport planning including the rationalization of public transport in the region. Among the notable recommendations for addressing public transport issues is the following on the classification of routes according to passenger demand, which I quote from the study:
“…routes and modes may be classified and prioritized as follows:
- Routes with Very High Passenger Demand [>160,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by high capacity modes such as rail-based transit or Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) with passing lanes.
- Routes with High Passenger Demand [100,000 to 160,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by high capacity vehicles such as Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) without passing lanes;
- Routes with Medium Passenger Demand [10,000 to 100,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by PUVs with 60 or less passengers/seats but not less than 22 passengers (excluding driver) such as buses, CLRVs with more than 22 passengers/seats (including driver), or with 90 passengers/seats in the case of double decker or articulated buses;
- Routes with Low Passenger Demand [not exceeding 10,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by PUVs with less than 22 passengers/seats (including driver) such as jeepneys and other paratransit modes.
Under this principle, high capacity modes would have priority in terms of CPC allocation and transit right of way in a particular route over lower capacity modes with the exception of taxis. The latter, after all, operate as private cars rather than PUVs with fixed routes.
Applications to operate bus and/or minibus service in jeepney routes can be considered, but not the other way around. Similarly, bus service applications can be considered in minibus routes but not otherwise.
Based on the analysis of routes, the establishment of public transportation routes and the corresponding modes of services may be based on the following criteria:
• Passenger demand patterns and characteristics
• Road network configuration
• Corresponding road functions (road hierarchy)
• Traffic capacities and
• Reasonable profits for operation of at most 13% ROI.”
[Source: DOTC (2012) Development of a Mega Manila Public Transportation Planning Support System, Final Report.]
An interesting figure in the report is an illustration of how services can be simplified using buses and rail transport as an example. The following figure shows two maps: one showing the plotted EDSA bus routes (left) and another showing a more consolidated (and rational) route network for buses complementing existing and proposed rail mass transit systems.
What are not included in the figure above are the prospects for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems for Metro Manila. Since the Final Report was submitted in mid 2012, there have been many discussions for BRT in the metropolis and current efforts are now focused on the assessment of a BRT line along Ortigas Avenue. The World Bank is supporting the evaluation of a route between Tikling Junction near the boundary of Antipolo and Taytay (Rizal Province) and Aurora Boulevard. There are also informal talks of a BRT line along Commonwealth Avenue but that would have implications on the proposed MRT-7 along the same corridor. Nevertheless, such mass transit systems have long been required for Metro Manila and their construction have been overdue. A more efficient public transport system will definitely have tremendous impacts on how we commute between our homes, workplaces, schools and other destinations. Long distances can easily be addressed by better transport options and could actually help solve issues pertaining to informal settlements, relocations and housing. That topic, of course, deserves an article devoted to this relationship between transport and housing. Abangan!