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The other TNCs – Wunder and Angkas

The Land Transportation Franchising & Regulatory Board (LTFRB) recently issued a couple of press releases pertaining to two Transport Network Companies (TNCs). The issuances were for Wunder and Angkas to cease operations. Copies of the press releases were posted at the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Facebook page and are reproduced here:

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Prior to these press releases, both Angkas and Wunder have been aggressively promoting themselves in social media. Wunder is the more established entity and is actually based in Germany. Its operations are basically carpooling and match drivers with passengers traveling about the same time and along their likely routes between homes and workplaces/schools.

Angkas appears to be a locally developed app. The big difference here though is that it is for motorcycle taxi services. While it is clear that tricycles (3-wheelers = usually a motorcycle plus a sidecar) used as public transportation are under the jurisdiction of local government units, their operations are governed by national laws. These include tricycles supposedly being banned from operating along national highways. Motorcycle taxis are regulated along the same lines with LGUs having the responsibilities over their operations (refer to my previous posts on habal-habal and Skylab) and are generally tolerated in rural areas where there is a lack of motorized transport services available. As far as the national government is concerned though, motorcycle taxis are prohibited and this is due primarily to safety concerns.

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I don’t know where Angkas gets the “professional motor taxi” tag since it is most likely that riders offering their services are not at all trained or experienced to provide public transport services and on a 2-wheeled vehicles. Such operations are risky especially to passengers. Even in countries like Thailand and Vietnam where motorcycle taxis are generally legal, it is established that such transport modes are unsafe with motorcycles being involved in more crashes compared to other vehicles. Motorcycles also have a higher fatality rate compared to other vehicles.

I think Wunder is different and could actually be closer to the classic (or conventional) carpooling idea compared to ridesharing/carsharing leaders Grab and Uber. Wunder clearly states that its aim is to maximize the available seats for the two likely trips people make with their vehicles. These two trips are usually one in the morning (i.e., to the workplace or to school) and another in the afternoon or evening (i.e., to home). As such, the income derived from Wunder is limited to the 2 trips although a driver can maximize income by accepting multiple passengers. In contrast, many (not all) Uber and Grab drivers in the Philippines operate practically the whole day and are basically taxis. I would recommend that the LTFRB look into the operations and business model of Wunder and perhaps reconsider their decision against it.

Habal-habal in Agusan

The initial part of our research on motorcycle taxis has been completed last December 2016. We are currently drafting a paper for submission to an international conference to be held later this year. The paper contains the outcomes of the surveys undertaken in Surigao Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte and Metro Manila. These include a profile of motorcycle taxi drivers and vehicles that gives us a good idea of how much these people earn and the typical range and loads (passengers and goods) they carry.

Following are photos of motorcycle taxis in Agusan. I won’t post too much detail on the net income of drivers/operators but I guess they earn enough (some even more) given the typical cost of living in these areas where they operate. Motorcycle taxi drivers/operators actually are part of the so-called underground economy where, despite the work and income, people don’t pay their taxes like regular employees or professionals at various workplaces.

[All photos courtesy of Mr. Sherman Avendano of the National Center for Transportation Studies]

13Typical habal-habal with 3 passengers

17“Skylab” with roof – the planks or extensions on either side of the motorcycle are the main features of this motorcycle taxi.

05Typical rural roads in areas served by habal-habal are unpaved. These are muddy during the wet season and dusty during the dry season. As such, it can be a rough ride for those using motorcycles and perhaps even rougher by car.

06Habal-habal passing by a puddle on the road – the passengers are obviously children likely on their way to school based on their uniforms

More on motorcycle taxis soon!

Habal-habal in Metro Manila

I posted about our ongoing research on motorcycle taxis. One of our subject areas are Pasig and Taguig in Metro Manila. These would likely represent the urban motorcycle taxi operations that we wanted to document and assess. One terminal I specifically asked our staff to visit as part of the recon/pre-survey activities is located at Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City near where the Pasig River connects with the Laguna de Bay. It is along Circumferential Road 6 and, based on my observation, has transferred locations several times since C-6 was being widened and paved.

14-nov-2016-11-35-00-amThis is the terminal at Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City along C-6 and near the Napindan Ferry Terminal.

14-nov-2016-11-35-12-amThe current terminal stands along what used to be the older C-6 lane. The newer paved section of the widened C-6 is shown in use. It used to be closer to the bridge that crossed the Pasig River and near the Napindan Ferry Terminal.

14-nov-2016-11-35-26-amThe habal-habal riders and operators have an organization and are generally tolerated by the local government. Unlike their provincial “relatives”, they usually only take one passenger seated at the back of the rider. Two passengers are not unusual or irregular especially if one is a child.

I will post about the characteristics of habal-habal operations soon. However, I don’t want to preempt the research we are doing so I would also prefer that we submit our report first and maybe even submit a paper or two for publication before I post them here. Among the things we have obtained so far are video recordings of what its like to ride these motorcycles. We used an action camera mounted on the rider’s helmet for this purpose. Our staff also did a quick interview of the service providers and will be doing a full survey soon to get substantial information for our research.

Skylab – motorcycle taxi

We are currently doing research on motorcycles and a major part of the research is on motorcycle taxis. Motorcycle taxis are popular in many areas in the Philippines despite national and local government agencies have not sanctioned or legalized their operations. There are two popular versions of the motorcycle taxis – the habal-habal and the Skylab. Both are basically motorcycles with some add-ons to increase passenger capacity or to be able to carry more goods or cargo.

The habal-habal is carries all passengers or cargo on the motorcycle with some variants having a plank for extension to the back or a customized seat over the gas tank that is usually for children. The Skylab owes its name from the US satellite that fell to the earth in the 1970s. The shape of the satellite inspired innovative extensions along each side of the motorcycle. This enabled riders to take in triple the number of passengers they could with the habal-habal set-up.  Both have variants with roofs.

The following video shows a Skylab in Surigao Del Sur care of a very good friend, Dr. Alex Ladaga of Surigao Del Sur State University, whom we are collaborating with in this research:

More on these motorcycle taxis soon!

Research topics for transportation engineering and planning for 2016-2017?

I observed from my site’s statistics that there have been a lot of interest on research topics in transportation engineering and planning. I regularly post on the undergraduate research topics our students have engaged in. At this point in the first semester of the current 2016-2017 academic year, topics have not yet been assigned and we have only learned how many students have been assigned to our research group. As such, we are still in the process of determining who takes on which topic. Following are topics we have identified in addition to those that had no takers the previous semesters:

Traffic engineering

  1. Anatomy of congestion along EDSA
  2. Anatomy of congestion along C-5
  3. Segregated lane for motorcycles
  4. Impacts of the MMDA’s truck lane policy along C-5
  5. Congestion study in the vicinity of UP Town Center
  6. Assessment of through traffic for the UP Diliman campus

Public transportation

  1. Connectivity study for UP AGT and MRT 7
  2. Feasibility of bus services beyond Masinag junction
  3. Characterization of Internal Public Transportation Operation in UP Diliman and Viability of Introduction of Electric Vehicles
  4. Modelling the Public Transport System of UP Diliman Campus Using CUBE Travel Demand Software
  5. Estimation of Passenger Demand for New Transit System for UP Diliman Using Discrete Choice Model
  6. Characteristics of motorcycle taxis in the Philippines [Habal-habal, skylab, etc.]

Road safety

  1. Severity of injuries of motorcycle riders (helmet and non-helmet users)

Pedestrian & non-motorised transport

  1. A study on walkability along Ortigas Avenue
  2. A study on the characteristics of bike share users in the UP Diliman campus

Transport & Environment

  1. Assessment of Roadside Air Quality along C.P. Garcia Avenue in the Vicinity of UP-ICE Compound

Other topics

  1. Study on the mobility of PWDs in Metro Manila
  2. Assessment of ridesharing in the context of sustainable transport

I’m sure there are other topics but I’m not aware of the specifics at present. Also, we welcome the ideas of our students should they already have topics in mind as long as these preferably fall under the research agenda of our Institute. The topics listed above may appear to be specific but these are still basically very general and can be refined after the students establish their scope and limitations. They can only do that once they have undertaken a decent enough literature review for them also to have a more firm appreciation of their chosen topics. I will post again on this later this year when students would have already put in substantial work on their research proposals (i.e., the objective for this semester).

Mainstreaming e-trikes?

The big news on electric vehicles in the Philippines today is about what the City of Manila has announced as a phaseout of tricycles and pedicabs (i.e., motorized and non-motorized three-wheelers):

Manila will say goodbye to old school tricycles and pedicabs on October 15

According to the article, these will include conventional tricycles, kuligligs (bicycles fitted out with motors or generators + sidecar), and pedicabs. Manila has thousands (about 25,000 according to the article) of these plying roads where they are not supposed to be (tricycles and pedicabs are prohibited by law from traveling along national roads especially as public transportation). From the article, it seems to me that the date mentioned will be the start for a pilot in the Binondo area. No details are given as to how exactly the local government of Manila will be going about replacing 25,000 tricycles, kuligligs and pedicabs with 10,000 e-trikes, including how the e-trikes will be financed and what will happen to the phased out tricycles and pedicabs. We are, however, hopeful that Manila will be successful and perhaps be a model for other LGUs to emulate.

 

Is Antipolo ripe for high capacity and premium transit services?

About 5 years ago, I wrote about transport in Antipolo in another blog. The article was more about this old city being a major destination attracting people for pilgrimage (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) and tourism (e.g.,  Hinulugang Taktak). I am quoting from that article from 5 years ago and adding a few comments here and there. Note that for most of the article, nothing much has changed except perhaps that the Line 2 extension from Santolan to Masinag is now underway.

“There are now many ways from Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces to Antipolo, although several of these eventually merge into three main roads en route to the Shrine. One is via the old route along Ortigas Avenue, a second is the route via Sumulong Highway, and the third is through a “back door” via the Antipolo-Teresa Road. Routes from the general areas of Manila, Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Taguig and the southern cities of Metro Manila and towns from Laguna, Batangas and Cavite will most likely merge to Ortigas Avenue. Meanwhile, people coming from Quezon City, Caloocan, Marikina, Bulacan, Pampanga and the northern Rizal towns of San Mateo and Rodriguez (Montalban) will likely converge along Sumulong Highway. Meanwhile, those coming from the east including the Rizal towns like Tanay, Teresa, Morong, and Jala-jala, the Laguna towns like Paete, Pakil, Pangil, the Quezon towns of Luisiana, Lucban, Infanta and General Nakar, and others will most likely take the Antipolo-Teresa Road that climbs from the east of Antipolo. People from Marikina, Cainta and Pasig generally may take either the Ortigas or the Marcos Highway/Sumulong Highway route.”

I didn’t mention there that another backdoor was via Marcos Highway if one were coming directly from Tanay instead of through Teresa. This route is now popular and traffic has been steadily increasing due in part to some additional attractions in that part of Antipolo and Tanay.

“Public transport to Antipolo these days include mostly jeepneys as the city is the end point of many routes – a testament to its importance even as a reference point for public transportation. One can easily spot the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys in the Araneta Center in the Cubao business district in Quezon City. There are two lines, one via Cainta Junction (where jeepneys eventually turn to Ortigas Avenue) and another via Marcos Highway, turning at the Masinag Junction towards Sumulong Highway). Another terminal is at the EDSA Central near the Ortigas Center in Mandaluyong where Antipolo-Crossing jeepneys are queued. And still there is another, albeit somewhat informal terminal near Jose Rizal University (JRU, which was formerly a college and hence the old JRC endpoint), which passes through Shaw Boulevard, Meralco Avenue and eventually turns towards Ortigas Avenue. Other jeepneys from the Rizal towns all have routes ending in Antipolo Simbahan, referring to the shrine.”

There are also UV Express and shuttle vans (legitimate vans for hire or colorum operations) offering express trips between Antipolo and the same end points of Cubao or Crossing. Others go all the way to Makati in the Ayala financial district. These evolved out of the Tamaraw FX taxis that started charging fixed fares during the 1990’s and competed directly with the jeepneys. These are popular, however, with office employees and students during weekdays and the nature of their ownership and operations do make them serious competitors to the jeepneys even during the merry month of May (fiesta period) and the Lenten Holy Week.

“There was an Antipolo Bus Line before. These were the red buses that plied routes between Antipolo and Divisoria in Manila. These died out sometime between the late 80’s and the early 90’s probably due to decreasing profitability and likely because of its competition with the jeepneys. That bus company, along with the green-colored G-Liners, the red EMBCs (Eastern Metropolitan Bus Co.) and CERTs, and the blue Metro Manila Transit Corp. buses used to form a formidable mass transport system for Rizal and the eastern towns of Metro Manila. There were even mini-buses (one I recall were the Antipolo “baby” buses and those that plied routes betwen Binangonan and Recto with the cassette tapes stacked along the bus dashboard). Most of these, except the G-Liners eventually succumbed to the jeepneys.”

At present, there is another bus company operating along Ortigas Ave and the Manila East Road – RRCG. There is also a revival of the EMBC with buses providing transport services between Quiapo and Tanay. The only other bus is the inter-provincial Raymond Transit, which operates between Crossing, Mandaluyong and Infanta, Quezon via Antipolo, Teresa, Morong and Tanay.

“In the future, perhaps the jeepneys should give way to buses as the latter will provide a higher level and quality of service along Ortigas Avenue and Marcos and Sumulong Highways. Already in the drawing boards is a plan to ultimately extend LRT Line 2, which currently terminates at Santolan, Pasig, to Masinag Junction and then have a branch climb along Sumulong Highway and terminate near the shrine. This will bring back the trains to Antipolo and would surely make the church and the city very accessible to people. I look forward to these developments both in my capacity as a transportation researcher-engineer and a Catholic who also visits the Shrine to pray for safe travel for loved ones and myself.”

This proposition for rationalizing public transport to/from Antipolo and other towns of Rizal plus Marikina is all the more important as the Line 2 extension from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo is currently underway. There is an opportunity here to upgrade public transport following the hierarchy of transport modes. I have noticed, for example, electric and conventional tricycles providing what are basically feeder services but along Marcos Highway between Cogeo and Masinag. And a lot of people have been stranded or have difficulty getting a jeepney or UV express ride along the Marcos Highway corridor. I am aware that the DOTC in the previous administration was mulling an express bus service through Marcos and Sumulong Highways terminating and turning around at Robinsons Place Antipolo. That, of course, never happened but is something that I think is worthwhile and would be beneficial to a lot of commuters.