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Why do we keep widening roads?
I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.
On the coordination of traffic signals
I took a couple of photos while we were traveling along Espana Boulevard. I wanted new photos of the traffic signals along Espana to use as visuals for my examples whenever I discuss traffic signals and their coordination or synchronization in my lectures.
Green signal for traffic. If the traveler is able to travel at the optimum speed, one will be able to catch the green light at so many intersections along Espana. The road is the major thoroughfare in the area and traffic along it is prioritized over those from the side roads to maximize the throughput along Espana.
If one catches a red light at one intersection, it is possible that the traveler will catch a red light in the next intersection(s).
On reducing driving and its inherent risks
Ever since the automobile was invented and eventually mass-produced, there has been an increasing risk associated with motor vehicle traffic. Laws, policies and regulations have also been influenced to favor the car rather than people. And so we now have what is termed as a car-oriented and dependent transportation system that seems so difficult to undo as most people appear to be enamored by the car. Owning a car (or even a motorcycle if you want to extend this idea of individual ownership) remains an aspiration to a lot of people.
Here is a link to the compact version of a comprehensive report by Todd Litman that presents and argues for a new paradigm where driving is considered a risk factor. There are data and a table comparing old and new traffic paradigms to help us understand the situation and what needs to be redefined or re-framed in order to achieve our safety targets or vision.
Litman, T. (October 20, 2022) “Driving as a Risk Factor: A New Paradigm,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/119287-driving-risk-factor-new-paradigm?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10202022&mc_cid=beacdc2a04&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/28/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Safer vehicles, roads, and driving may reduce crashes but achieve few other goals, and sometimes contradict them. Transportation demand management and smart growth policies increase safety in addition to helping to achieve other planning goals, and so can be considered win-win solutions.
More comprehensive safety analysis tends to support social equity goals. Many conventional safety strategies, such as larger vehicles with more passenger protection, and wider roads with fewer intersections, tend to increase walking and bicycling risks. In contrast, lower traffic speeds, TDM, and Smart Growth tend to improve safety, mobility, and accessibility for people who cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive.”
The key takeaway here should be that people should have the option of not driving at all in order to reduce the risks associated with driving as well as reduce congestion. A more comprehensive
On making streets safer through woonerfs
One of the new things I learned when I was taking up transportation planning as an undergraduate student in the 1990s was about the woonerf. Our teacher then was a Visiting Professor from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He introduced to us many concepts in that elective course that paved the way to a number of us proceeding to specialize in transportation. What is a woonerf? Well, here’s a nice article defining the woonerf and providing some examples:
Ionescu, D. (October 6, 2022) “What is a Woonerf?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/woonerf?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10062022&mc_cid=9d60b3d668&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/10/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Translated as “living street,” a woonerf employs strategies like traffic calming devices and low speed limits to force drivers to slow down and safely share street space with pedestrians, cylists, and others, often without raised curbs separating cars and pedestrians. In the Netherlands, where the woonerf originated in the 1960s, motorized traffic within woonerf zones is limited to walking speed…
…A woonerf is not a pedestrianized street, but rather one where multiple users and vehicles co-exist. However, a woonerf can be converted to car-free uses using bollards or other barriers. The woonerf maintains utilitarian uses like loading docks and parking while making the roadway safer and more accessible to non-drivers.”
There should be many applications to the woonerf in the Philippines especially in areas where the dominant land use is residential and through traffic should be discouraged. This is goes well with the complete streets concept that is now being promoted and in fact pre-dates the concept and was well ahead of its time.
Counting cars…and other vehicles as well
I saw a couple of these counting instruments set-u by the DPWH, one along Ortigas Avenue Extension and another along Sumulong Highway. These are mobile counting machines that are used to count vehicles along both directions of the roads. These are supposed to be calibrated to be able to distinguish among the various types of vehicles using the roads. I assume the classifications would be according to the types used by the DPWH and not simply a general count of the number of vehicles. I wonder though if these can accurately count smaller vehicles like motorcycles, bicycles and PMD’s like the one in the photo below.
If these can be calibrated to count bicycles and PMDs, it would allow for the establishment of baseline numbers and expansion or seasonal factors for what are now termed as micromobility modes. The recent bicycle counts done through volunteers and during peak hours cannot be expanded simply because there are no reference factors that can be used for this purpose. The available expansion or seasonal factors with DPWH derived from 24-hour counts at strategic locations along national roads only account for motor vehicles. These cover the variations of motor vehicle traffic over long periods of time (e.g., 24/7) that allows one to determine Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) as well as typical traffic during certain days of a week (e.g., traffic on a Monday or a Sunday).
Articles on examining the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion
Planetizen recently published a three-part series of articles examining the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion:
Part 1: Brasuell, J. (April 13, 2022) “Planning and the Complicated Causes and Effects of Congestion,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/features/116834-planning-and-complicated-causes-and-effects-congestion [Last accessed: 5/17/2022]
Part 2: Brasuell, J. (April 20, 2022) “How Planning Fails to Solve Congestion,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/features/116914-how-planning-fails-solve-congestion%5BLast accessed: 5/17/2022]
Part 3: Brasuell, J. (May 12, 2022) “Planning for Congestion Relief,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/features/117153-planning-congestion-relief?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-05162022&mc_cid=34b0612d40&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 5/17/2022]
I think these articles are a must read especially for students (and not just practitioners or professionals) and is sort of a crash course on transportation engineering and planning. It covers many concepts and learnings from so many decades and touches on certain programs that are most effective in reducing car trips. To quote from the article, the top 12 programs based on case studies in Europe are:
- Congestion Pricing (12-33% reduction in city-center cars)
- Parking and Traffic Controls (11-19% reduction in city-center cars)
- Limited Traffic Zones (10-20% reduction in city-center cars)
- Workplace Mobility Services (37% drop in car commuters)
- Workplace Parking Charges (8-25% reduction in car commuters)
- Workplace Travel Planning (3-18% drop in car use by commuters)
- University Travel Planning (7-27% reduction in car use by university commuters)
- University Mobility Services (24% drop in students commuting by car)
- Car Sharing (12-15 private cars replaced by each shared car)
- School Travel Planning (5-11% reduction in car use for school trips)
- Personalized Travel Planning (6-12% drop in car use share among residents)
- App-Based Incentives (73% – proportion of app users declaring reduced car use)
Are we ready to confront congestion and at the least start discussing these car trip reduction programs? Or are we content with the current discourse, which remains car-centric?
History: article on how jaywalking came to be
I am sharing this article on the invention of jaywalking. It is a very informative articles and gives context to the current situation where cars dominate streets and car-centric policies and infrastructure diminish pedestrians and walking. I’ve always said that history should enlighten us about how it was, how it came to be and what we need to change now if we are to attain a more sustainable transport system that will contribute to improving safety and ultimately, quality of life.
Thompson, C. (March 29, 2022) “The invention of ‘Jaywalking’,” Marker, https://marker.medium.com/the-invention-of-jaywalking-afd48f994c05 [Last accessed: 4/2/2022]
To quote from the article:
“It’s not totally clear who invented the phrase, but it was a fiendishly clever portmanteau. In the early 20th century, the word “jay” mean an uncultured rube from the countryside. To be a “jaywalker” thus was to be a country bumpkin who blundered around urban streets — guileless of the sophisticated ways of the city…
Ever after, “the street would be monopolized by motor vehicles,” Norton tells me. “Most of the children would be gone; those who were still there would be on the sidewalks.” By the 1960s, cars had become so dominant that when civil engineers made the first computer models to study how traffic flowed, they didn’t even bother to include pedestrians.”
The article showed photos of pre-automobile times in the US. Here’s a photo of pre-automobile Manila for context:
And here’s Manila during the American period but with most people walking or taking public transport in the form of the tranvias:
Chaotic as the scenes appear to be, these streets were definitely safer and perhaps saner than what he have now. The challenge is how to re-orient our streets and reclaim it to favor people instead of cars.
On the number coding options for Metro Manila ca. 2022
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recently announced that the agency was studying options for a new number coding scheme under its Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP). UVVRP is basically a travel demand management (TDM) program focused on vehicle use restraint. In this case, private vehicles, particularly cars, are the target of volume reduction. Here’s a graphic from their Facebook page:
The schemes are not really new as these were also considered before. Are the conditions new at all? Are we assuming things changed due to the pandemic? Or will there just be a return to the old normal in terms of traffic congestion? Here are some past writings on the topic including a 3-part series I wrote back in May 2011:
- From Odd-Even to UVVRP…and back
- Traffic congestion in Metro Manila: Is the UVVRP Still Effective? – Part 1
- Traffic congestion in Metro Manila: Is the UVVRP Still Effective? – Part 2
- Traffic congestion in Metro Manila: Is the UVVRP Still Effective? – Conclusion
I think many of the arguments I made in those more than decade old articles hold or apply to the present. Even with the increasing popularity of active transport in the form of bicycle facilities appear to have not made a dent to the transport problems in the metropolis. Many questions abound and I have seen and read comments pointing to the many transport infrastructure projects currently ongoing around Metro Manila as proof that transport and traffic will be improving soon. Transportation in general may indeed improve once the likes of the Metro Manila Subway, Line 7, Line 1 Extension, and the PNR upgrades come online (i.e., all operational) but we have yet to see their impacts outside the models created to determine their potential benefits. Will they be game changers? We do hope so. Will UVVRP be needed in the future when these mass transit lines (including others in the pipeline) are all operational? Perhaps, but a scaled down version of this TDM scheme might still be needed and may suffice if people do shift from their private vehicles to public transportation. The fear is that most people eventually taking the trains would be those who are already commuting using road-based public transport like buses, jeepneys and vans. If so, the mode share of private transport will not be reduced and those traffic jams will remain or even worsen. Maybe we should be discussing road pricing now?
Article on people-oriented traffic management
Here’s a quick share on a topic that is also very relevant especially for local government units – traffic management. To quote from the article:
“Today, when the mobility of Filipinos is severely constrained by limited public transport capacity, …and when there is heightened pressure for private vehicle use, there is no better time to re-orient traffic management in the Philippines in order to prioritize inclusive, efficient and environmentally sustainable travel modes. The crucial ingredient is not infrastructure but political will.”
Siy, R.Y. (January 8, 2022) “People oriented traffic management,” Mobility Matters, The Manila Times, https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/01/08/business/top-business/people-oriented-traffic-management/1828593 [Last accessed: 1/8/2022]
The article makes perfect sense as traffic management in the country has always been car-oriented including the strategies, policies, schemes, measures and others that have focused on facilitating private car travel over active and public transport modes. The challenge here is how to bring this up front and an election issue at both national and local levels.
Transportation topics at the College of Engineering’s Professorial Chair Colloquiums
The College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman started holding its annual colloquiums (plural because each Institute and Department under the College are holding their colloquium mostly during this last quarter of the year).
The Department of Mechanical Engineering already held theirs last September. There were four topics on transportation: 1) Dr. Gerald Ko C. Denoga (Fernando N. Serina Mechanical Engineering Professorial Chair) presented on “Reduction of Light Rail Transport Energy Demand via Powertrain Modeling and Optimization of Operating Parameters”; 2) Dr. Juvy A. Balbarona (Renato M. Tanseco Professorial Chair) presented on “Timetable Optimization for Light Rail Transit (LRT 1)”; 3) Asst. Prof. Roderaid T. Ibanez (Team Energy Professorial Chair) presented on “Energy Demand Quantification and Conservation Strategies of Bus Transport Terminal Facilities along EDSA”; and 4) Dr. Edwin N. Quiros (Federico E. Puno Professorial Chair) presented on “Fuel Economy Results from Diesel engine Tuning for Steady Speed and Drive Cycle Operation”.
There is one transport related topic in the Department of Computer Science colloquium. On October 25, Dr. John Justine S. Villar (Dean Reynaldo Vea Professorial Chair) will be presenting on the “Efficiency Measurement of Domestic Ports in the Philippines Using Data Envelopment Analysis.”
The Institute of Civil Engineering will be holding its colloquium on October 28 – 29, 2021 with the following transport-related topics: 1) Asst. Prof. Rosabelle Louise A. Caram (DCCD Engineering Corporation Professorial Chair), “Utilization of Plastic Laminates in Asphalt Cement Mastic”; 2) Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano (David M. Consunji Professorial Chair in Engineering), “Validation of a Customized Local Traffic Simulator (LocalSim)”; 3) Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor (Ambrosio Magsaysay Professorial Chair in Engineering), “Pedestrian Safety Assessment Within Public Elementary School Zones in Quezon City using Star Rating for Schools”; 4) Dr. Ricardo DG. Sigua (Dr. Olegario G. Villoria, Jr. Professorial Chair in Transportation/Logistics), “Study of Motorcycle Rider Casualties at Signalized and Unsignalized Intersections”; 5) Dr. Karl B.N. Vergel (Quintin and Norma Calderon Professorial Chair), “Estimation of Transportation Energy Demand of the Philippines”.
Other departments have not posted yet about their schedules or topics yet. The Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (EEEI), for example, will have their colloquium this coming October 25 but have not posted a detailed schedule yet. They usually have several transport-related topics including those on traffic signals, vehicle detection, and bike share innovations.
More details and updates including registration to these colloquia may be found at the UP College of Engineering Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/updengg