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On Metro Manila having one of the worst transit systems in the world

This is a follow-up to the previous post on the UC-Berkeley Study. Here is an example of how media featured the study outcomes:

https://www.facebook.com/CNNPhilippines/videos/1089453421728393

I didn’t see whether there was a response from government. These studies end up as features and nothing more if these do not prompt or push authorities to act on the problem. Even experts from academe or industry are reduced to being commentators or even pundits providing context, assessments and opinions, even recommendations that are perceived to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps government is already desensitized about these issues and will just trudge along at its own pace? In the end, it is the commuters mostly taking public transportation who continue to suffer and lose productive time to their daily travels.

Old rail timetable to Antipolo

I found this on the internet – a timetable or schedule for trains bound for what are now destinations in Rizal (e.g., Antipolo, Taytay, San Mateo and Montalban). Pasig and Marikina used to be part of Rizal province with the capital at Pasig (thus, Kapitolyo).

From the schedule, one can see that the main line was between Manila and Pasig (Rosario). From Rosarion, the line branched out towards either Antipolo or Montalban (now Rodriguez). Certain trains like Nos. 41, 45, 47, 51 and 56 terminated in Antipolo while others at Montalban. Again, one cannot help but wonder what if these lines were sustained and still operational (of course, upgraded) today. Commuting would have been different for many of us residing in Rizal and along these lines.

MRT 4 on the way – a monorail along the Ortigas Avenue corridor

I’ve seen and read articles and discussions about the proposed MRT Line 4 along Ortigas Avenue. I’ve written about having a mass transit line along this corridor in the past as it is one of my alternate routes between our home and my workplace. The Line will have the following stations (based on the news articles that came out):

  1. Taytay – likely at the junction near the Taytay Public Market;
  2. Manila East Road – likely near SM City Taytay;
  3. Tikling Junction – major transfer station for those going to Antipolo and beyond;
  4. San Juan – (future/provisional station) near Valley Golf; will probably materialize when Sierra Valley is completed and occupied;
  5. Cainta Junction – major transfer station for those heading towards Marcos Highway;
  6. St. Joseph – likely near or across SM City East Ortigas;
  7. Rosario – major transfer station for those going to Pasig, Marikina and even Quezon City
  8. Tiendesitas – (future/provisional station) possible transfer for people traveling along C5;
  9. Meralco – likely near the Meralco main gate;
  10. EDSA – likely across Robinsons Galeria and another major transfer station;
  11. Greenshills – likely across Virra Mall;
  12. Bonny Serrano – likely near the junction and transfer for people heading towards Camp Crame; and
  13. N. Domingo – end station connecting to Line 2 at Gilmore.

Following are photos of the current soil test locations for Line 4, all of which are along the eastbound side of Ortigas Avenue Extension between Cainta Junction and Tikling Junction:

Soil test across the former G-LinerĀ 

Soil test near Brookside

Soil test before Valley Golf near Mandaue Foam

Soil test just after the junction with Valley Golf across from the Primark commercial center.

I will not be commenting on Line 4 and its being a monorail at this point. I will probably be writing about this and the idea of having cable cars for Rizal in another post.

On “beautiful” train stations

Here’s another article I am sharing that presents a list of some of the world’s most beautiful train stations. I say some because in my opinion, there are many others that we can consider beautiful according to various criteria and preferences. After all and as they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Funderburg, L., Cott, A. and Cherner, J. (August 1, 2022) “The 37 Most Beautiful Train Stations in the World,” Architectural Digest, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/best-train-station-architecture-slideshow?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_080122_1&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight [Last accessed: 8/2/2022]

I’ve seen many of these stations particularly the ones in the Netherlands, Australia and the US. The wife also sent me photos of other stations in her travels in Europe and the Americas. But there are many else to include in the list depending on your taste. Southeast Asia has many though perhaps for restoration. Japan definitely has many classic and contemporary/modern designs. And Central Asia should also have many that can be compiled into a list. I wonder what we can include or if there’s something in the future to look forward to in the Philippines.

Here are a couple in my list that aren’t in the article:

Den Haag Station, The Netherlands

Santa Fe Station, San Diego, USA

Flashback: Transport Infrastructure Framework Plan for the Philippines

I was reading an article yesterday about the outgoing NEDA Director General stating that Philippines needing a long term strategy for infrastructure development that will address the shortcomings or gaps due to unsolicited proposals. There was already something like this drafted almost a decade ago and under the auspices of the returning NEDA DG. Unfortunately, while NEDA accepted the Final Report of the study, they never adopted it as a policy that could also be imposed on agencies like the DOTr (still DOTC back then) and the DPWH. So for a sort of Throwback Thursday and on the last day of the Duterte Administration, I am sharing the promotional video produced for the framework plan that was supported by The World Bank.

The study was conducted by Cambridge Systematics (not related to Cambridge Analytics as far as I know) and was implemented at the same time as the JICA Dream Plan study for Mega Manila. I recall there is also a video on the latter and it listed all the infrastructure projects needed to address the transport problems of the Greater Capital Region. The Infra Framework Plan for the country mentions the various infrastructure projects ongoing and proposed for the Philippines but focuses on the soft side (i.e., strategies) including the reforms and institutional set-up that need to be in place for everything to come together and produce the desired outcomes in the long term. Sadly, strategies and plans are not well appreciated despite their being essential as foundations. While the Build, Build, Build mantra of the outgoing administration is worth praising for attempting to do the catch-up needed in as far as certain transport infrastructure is concerned, it falls short of what are necessary and to be prioritized. Instead, it ended up accommodating projects that are “nice to have” but should not be prioritized considering our limited resources and the undesirable foreign debt racked up by government. Hopefully, the returning NEDA DG and other officials will be able to steer the country clear of the current and future crises that may end up bringing more hardships on Filipinos.

Articles on railway safety

I shared a link to a Medium writer who specialized on articles about air crashes. These were investigative articles that provide details about air crashes especially since these are all tragedies and include those that have remained mysteries like Malaysian Airline Flight 370.

I am sharing today another collection of articles pertaining to transport safety. This time they are about railway or rail safety. Here is the link to the collection of articles from Max Shroeder:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com

And here is an example of what he writes:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com/stressful-schedule-the-2005-amagasaki-japan-derailment-12156ddd488

Again, there is much to be learned about these incidents. The circumstances, factors and experiences need to be examined in order to draw lessons from these incidents and reduce the likelihood of them happening again. In the case of the Philippines, this is especially applicable as the country rebuilds its long distance railways infrastructure with a line connecting Manila and Clark, Pampanga along what used to be called the Main Line North (MLN) of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and another currently being rehabbed and for upgrading to the south in what was called the Main Line South (MLS). Other rail projects are also underway like the Metro Manila Subway and the MRT Line 7. All pass through populous areas, and railway crashes may not just lead to passenger and crew fatalities and injuries but also the same for those residing or working along these rail lines.

Compilation of railway incidents

I found this page on Medium that’s features railways incidents (e.g., derailments, crashes, etc.). It is a good resource or reference for railway safety since the articles provide details about each incident. The writing style is investigative so they make for engaging reads:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com

There’s another site about air crashes that I will also share later.

On women and the railroads in Ukraine

Ukraine has been in the news lately due to what analysts think is an impending invasion by Russia. Ukraine, of course, used to be part of the Soviet Union. However, they have initiated what Russia thought was unacceptable, which is applying to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That constituted a threat to Russia right at its doorsteps. Russia, though appear to be egging for a fight ever since they snatched Crimea from Ukraine and covet resources in that country that would likely benefit the west more as Ukraine moves to closer ties with what Russian leadership still regard as enemies.

The article I am sharing though is not about conflict but of railways in a country rich in railways history and heritage. Ukraine’s railway system date back to pre-communist times, before their inclusion in what was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Here’s a nice read on Ukrainian railroads and the women who help keep their trains running:

Mallonee, L. (May 31, 2020) “The Women of Ukraine’s Railroads Keep the Trains Running,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/women-ukraine-railroads/?utm_medium=social&utm_social-type=owned&mbid=social_twitter&utm_source=twitter&utm_brand=wired [Last accessed: 2/21/2022]

Video share: replacing railroad ties

Here’s a quick share of a video of the modern, ‘state of the art’ way to replace railroad ties (sleepers):

https://fb.watch/asCUATrxEk/

I suddenly recall how satisfying or relaxing it was to watch concrete being mixed manually. I think watching the video above gives a similar feeling.

What they are not saying about UTSMMA and Metro Manila’s first subway line

My social media feed is suddenly filled with shares of articles (the same PR text apparently) from the Department of Transportation, its Secretary and his fans and local rail aficionados about the progress of the Metro Manila Subway Project, which is dubbed as Metro Manila’s first subway line. While these posts start and appear as factual narratives, they are silent about certain facts that the writers conveniently did not include as part of their narrative. Perhaps it is because they are currently allied with the son of the dictator who decided vs. building what could have been the country’s first subway line and a game-changer for commuting in the metropolis.

UTSMMA or the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area was completed in 1973 and was immediately followed by a Feasibility Study on the Manila Rapid Transit Rail Line No. 1 that was completed in 1976. Here’s a nice render of a subway station platform from that FS:

Two things that need to be said:

  1. Marcos decided against the subway line in favor of LRT Line 1 after being heavily influenced by a World Bank report and the succeeding MMETROPLAN (funded by the WB). It is also said that he wanted to have the bragging rights to the first mass transit line in Southeast Asia but Singapore’s first MRT line would finish ahead of Metro Manila’s if the Philippines pursued the subway. The latter was a late and fateful decision because commitment to the RTR Line 1 could have been made earlier and construction could have started ahead of Singapore’s (and likely finished ahead if there were no major delays).
  2. The corruption during the Marcos dictatorship led to succeeding administrations including the current being saddled by debt and unable to put up major transportation infrastructure such as a subway line for decades (this is already well documented so denial or refusal to understand is the burden of the denier – no logic or fact can can probably change such people’s views or beliefs) without piling up more debt.

That said, I would caution vs. delaying the subway project any further. It is already almost 40 years since a subway was due and though the alignment is totally different from what was planned in the 1970s, there’s potential here to revolutionize how people will commute in Metro Manila. It will only become more expensive to build in the future.