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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?

PNR Calamba Station

The last set of photos on PNR stations that I have and want to share to my readers is this set on the PNR Calamba Station.

Train loading passengers before proceeding – there are few trains and headways are long so it takes a while waiting for the train to go

DOST-MIRDC’s hybrid electric train – is it undergoing maintenance or has it reached the proverbial “end of the line”?

Head of the train

Interior of the commuter train

Sign verifying which station this is

Station platform

PNR staff having a time-out between train operations

PNR San Fernando, Pampanga

It’s Araw ng Kalayaan (Independence Day) in the Philippines so I thought it was appropriate to feature something related to Philippine history and heritage. Railways in the Philippines played a part in its history being a mode of transport that connected the provinces of major islands like Luzon and Panay. The other railways were more for freight (e.g., agricultural goods) rather than for passengers so the railways in Luzon and Panay, especially the former, had more impact on socio-political events including the wars of independence from Spain and later, the United States. One station that probably figured in the actions during those times more than a 120 years ago is the PNR Station in San Fernando, Pampanga, which was along the main line north that was used by Philippine revolutionaries to transport troops and logistics.

Following are photos of the station, which has been converted into a museum. The proposed revival of this northern rail line will mean that a new station will have to be constructed but it would be good to integrate the old one with the new. Those responsible should work towards heritage preservation in this and other cases of railway stations.

PNR EDSA Station

Another station where our staff conducted surveys at is the PNR EDSA Station. This is the one close to the Magallanes interchange where you can get off if you’re transferring to a bus or jeepney using EDSA, South Super Highway or Chino Roces. Here are some photos taken a few weeks ago.

Station platform with a commuter train in the background. Note the lack of signs and the condition of the railway tracks. 

PNR commuter train – it is noticeable that the train is much shorter compared to the platform. The same platforms served the longer trains serving provincial routes back in the day.

Arriving train beneath the overpass that’s part of the Magallanes interchange (intersection of EDSA and SLEX)

Another photo of the station with a train stopped to unload and load passengers – the service frequency, I’ve been told, is still quite low. The PNR services have a lot of room for improvement but they will have to acquire more rolling stock and rehabilitate their tracks. Perhaps they should also improve their fare collection system (Beep card?)?

PNR Alabang Station

My colleagues conducted a survey at several Philippine National Railway (PNR) stations in relation to studies being made for proposed new railway lines including those for rehabilitation. One was already posting photos on her social media account so I asked if I can use some of her photos here on this blog. She generously obliged so here are photos taken just a few weeks ago at the PNR Alabang Station.

PNR commuter train at the Alabang Station – note the conditions of the railway tracks and how open the station is.

People (not necessarily passengers) walk along the railway tracks

Passengers queued to get tickets for their journey

Station platform

Another photo of the platform and train

Passengers queued for tickets and entering the platform (yes, no turnstiles here) while a surveyor works

Here’s a train that’s about to close its doors after loading passengers

More photos soon!

Failed experiments? On the DOST’s hybrid train and AGT

Our staff were implementing surveys in relation to the proposed railway projects supported by the Government of Japan. They came across this scene showing the DOST’s (through its MIRDC) hybrid electric train.

The hybrid electric train at the PNR Calamba Station. It looks like its being maintained or checked although I’m not sure the crude set-up is appropriate for such undertaking.

The DOST had a much hyped program during the last administration about the development of Philippine-made transport. Among these were the two Automated Guideway Transport (AGT) train sets that were developed by the MIRDC – one with two 60-passenger (seated and standing) cars and a test track in UP Diliman, and another with two 120-passenger cars with test track at the MIRD compound in Bicutan. While both had what were claimed as extensive tests, these were mainly done by DOST/MIRDC personnel with no independent inspections or validations. At one time, I recall that we at UP had discussions with representatives of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries who offered to explore arranging for a technical cooperation project to have a full-scale testing of the AGT’s using their facilities in Japan. We referred them to MIRDC and that didn’t turn out well as the agency (or perhaps under the the instructions of a higher official?) was supposed to have rejected the offer preferring it to be tested locally. That was a major problem because there were no suitable testing facilities or qualified persons or institutions to grant certification for the AGT to be used as public transport.

The last time I checked with folks at DOST and UP, the AGT prototype set-up in Diliman was already being scheduled for dismantling. This probably comes as a welcome development for those who opposed the project from the start. However, there is potential here for continuing research if only funding could be secured and proponents kept open minds and objectivity in the way researches could be done. There was the perception before that the people behind the AGT projects were so engrossed with what they thought were their babies that they blocked critical but objective comments and recommendations about the prototypes and their applications.

As for the hybrid electric train, there is now supposed to be a cooperative project between the MIRDC and PNR. I recall a few months ago that they even had some test runs to show the hybrid train to be running on PNR tracks; even hyping that this could be part of the future of a rehabilitated PNR. Is this true or just PR? Hopefully, the DOST could get the context right, and the DOTr and PNR can support such initiatives for Philippine-made transport. This is especially as the current administration continues to pursue its Build, Build, Build program that has as major features several railway projects.

Den Haag Central Station

One of the most aesthetically pleasing modern railway stations I’ve seen is the Den Haag (The Hague) Central Station. The columns and roof structure alone provide travellers with a feeling of space while also having the functionality required for a central station. Contrast this to the old station feel of Amsterdam Central Station (plus the crowds) and somehow I would rather have the conditions at Den Haag. Of course, I have been to much crowded stations than Amsterdam as I lived in Tokyo and Yokohama for 3 years.

Arriving on the platform at Den Haag Central Station

Looking back towards the end of the platform

To the turnstiles!

Station plaza

Tram stop just outside the station

You can easily get on a tram upon exiting the station. Above is another train line, which crosses the station and its platforms.