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Last March 9, traffic was terrible along Marcos Highway and roads connecting to it including Imelda Avenue and Sumulong Highway due to a truck that slammed into the scaffolding of the Line 2 Extension across the Sta. Lucia Mall, and barely missing the newly constructed column supporting the girders and elevated tracks of Line 2.
[Photo not mine but sent by an officemate who was glad to have taken his motorcycle that day instead of commuting by car.]
Following are comments I captured from Waze as I tried to get information about the traffic situation:
It is very clear from travelers’ comments that most were frustrated and many were angry about what seemed to be a very slow response from authorities in clearing the crash site and getting traffic to move faster. I myself wondered how a crash like this with its impacts manifesting in severe congestion along major roads was not dealt with as urgently as possible by so many entities that were not without capacity to act decisively. The front liner should have been the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and there were at least four local government units directly affected by the congestion: Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Surely, these LGUs could have done more if the MMDA couldn’t, in order to resolve the problem? If the availability of heavy equipment was an issue, weren’t there available equipment from Line 2 contractor, DMCI, or perhaps from the construction sites nearby (Ayala is constructing a huge mall near the area.)? Surely, they could lend a payloader or mobile crane that can remove the truck or at least help unblock the area?
I finally decided to turn back and work from home instead that day. Later, I learned that authorities had to stop traffic along Marcos Highway around 11:00 AM in order to tow the truck and clear the area for traffic to normalize. I hope this serves as a lesson in coordination among government entities and that future incidents like this will not results in a “carmaggedon” like Friday’s congestion. One thing that also became obvious is that travelers passing the area are all dependent on road-based transport and the primary reason why a lot of people were affected by the crash. The expanded operations of the Line 2, whenever that will be, will surely change transport in these areas and for the better.
The title of this article is actually a bit tame and on the diplomatic side of trying to describe transportation and traffic in this city that was once relaxed a retreat for many. I had wanted to end February on a good note and so I decided to defer posting this until March.
We used to frequent Tagaytay and liked spending some rest and recreation time there to the tune of being there almost once a month at one time. Needless to say, at the time travel to Tagaytay from our home in Antipolo took us only about 2 to 2.5 hours excluding our usual stop at Paseo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. We liked the city so much that we even considered making it a second home; even inquiring and looking at properties there.
Fast forward to the present and it has become an excruciating travel with the highways leading to the city already congested. It didn’t help that when you got there, you also had to deal with serious traffic congestion. This started not a few years ago when the city approved developments by major players including Robinsons, SM and Ayala. The developments by SM and Ayala proved to be the backbreakers with Ayala coming up with the first mall in the city and SM operating an amusement park beside its prime acquisition that is the Taal Vista Hotel. Now, there is another mall under construction by Filinvest and right at the corner of the rotonda where the Aguinaldo Highway terminates.
Vehicles queue along the Tagaytay – Nasugbu Highway towards the Rotonda where Tagaytay traffic enforcers attempt to manage traffic but appear to create more congestion instead.
More on Tagaytay soon…
There are two malls currently under construction along Ortigas Avenue Extension – SM East Ortigas and Waltermart Taytay. Nearing completion is the SM East Ortigas, which looks like a very big mall. It is the former Ever mall beside Riverside Subdivision and close to one of DMCI Homes’ first developments. It will open on December 2 and there are already a lot of promotional tarps announcing this along major roads including C-5, Felix Avenue and, of course, Ortigas Avenue.
Waltermart is further up towards Tikling Junction. These two are actually from the same mother company SM, which has somewhat diversified its retail business so it now includes the SM malls, Savemore, Waltermart and the newly minted S-Mall. These two are sure to generate a lot of traffic and cause more congestion with the SM East Ortigas already in an area where Ortigas Ave. Extension is regularly congested. I am not aware of any studies conducted with respect to this mall but I assume there is a transport impact study somewhere. Personally, I would ask SM to look into the case of SM Novaliches for something sort of a solution to the traffic problem right in front of the mall. Quirino Highway is widest along the section where SM Novaliches is, with the mall providing a very generous setback to accommodate multiple lanes for traffic to flow smoothly at least in front of the mall. That seems possible with SM East Ortigas especially since there is practically only 2 lanes for the westbound direction of Ortigas Ave. Ext. at this area.
Waltermart is a different thing because it is in an area where there is generally no congestion along Ortigas Ave. Ext. I also assume there is a traffic study somewhere providing traffic management schemes or alleviation measures in case congestion occurs due to the mall and its high density residential development component (it is part of a complex called “The Hive”).
I am speculative about the expansive lot vacated by Mitsubishi Motors beside the Panasonic complex. I wonder if any of the big developers are acquiring it and perhaps developing it into a major mixed use project. There is also the lot where Consolidated Tobacco used to be just across Countryside Subdivision and close to SM East Ortigas. Such future developments require careful study for its transportation impacts and the Municipality of Cainta should take a proactive stance for major developments that will generate a lot of traffic. Ortigas Ave. Ext., even after some widening, remains as a road with high potential and regularity for congestion. Only a mass transit system can probably decongest it but that will take some time to realize.
A friend asked me about my commute after the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had implemented a tweak in the number coding scheme. To those not familiar with the recent adjustments to the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or more popularly known as the number coding scheme, the MMDA has recently eliminated the window that was applied to many roads. The 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM window is no more and the MMDA also extended the coding period to 8:00 PM from the old 7:00 PM lifting.
My observation from my personal experience commuting in the mornings between Antipolo and Quezon City is that my travel times have somewhat improved. After Undas, I have enjoyed travel times of 45 minutes to 1 hour during the same morning periods when I choose to travel. This has improved significantly from the 1.5 hours I had spent prior to the adjustment. My usual route was mainly through Marcos Highway so perhaps its not just the coding aspect but also the fact that much of the construction work for the LRT Line 2 Extension have been completed and there have been less obstructions due to this project between Masinag and Santolan. My homebound trips seem to have improved too for the same reasons although not as significant as my morning commute. Another friend has similar observations and is very happy about the big improvements he says he now enjoys considering he has even longer commutes between Antipolo and Manila (Intramuros) or Makati (Gil Puyat).
But generally speaking, is it possible that there are significant positive impacts of the tweak in the number coding scheme? My assessment is that it is very possible and very likely especially if we see it from the perspective of vehicle trip reduction due to the adjustments made in the restraint policy. The number coding scheme is a travel demand management (TDM) measure designed to reduce vehicle traffic through vehicle use restraint. By introducing the coding window many years ago, the restrictions to vehicle travel were in effect relaxed and that encourage more people to use their cars.
The elimination of the coding window means people could not move their times of commute to later than 7:00 AM or earlier than 3:00 PM. It meant people whose vehicles were “coding” had to leave (forced?) early and go home late. Extending the coding period to 8:00 PM probably was probably a back-breaker to many people. And then the difference now compared to the 1990s and decade after that is the availability of the more reliable Uber and Grab vehicles that many car-owners had no option to use before. I’m not a psychologist but perhaps such factors have led to an improvement in traffic conditions. How long this would last shouldn’t be so difficult to tell given the experiences in the past and the fact that population and vehicle ownership continues to rise. Perhaps a year or two if no significant improvements in transport (e.g., mass transit projects) happen.
Starting November 14, the MMDA is also supposed to be clamping down (read: stricter implementation) on the motorcycle lane policy along EDSA, C5, Commonwealth and Macapagal Blvd. I’m not so sure how they will be doing this as enforcement along the stretches will require a lot of manpower.
My colleagues and I have been talking about accomplishments and legacies. In particular, we had a spirited discussion about what we have been doing in terms of transportation projects that we have been involved in. I think everyone wants to have something physical to remember them by. And these should be positive and constructive and not memories of controversies or anomalies like those in major projects that will be associated with corruption or abnormalities in the processes by which the projects were implemented.
The ‘problem’ with being involved in policy making and planning is that these often lead to outputs such as reports and maybe even laws. If one is lucky enough then perhaps its in the form of a legislation rather than a Department Order. But those legislations and memos often do not acknowledge the people who contributed to its drafting. They will be associated with the politicians (e.g., senators and congressmen) and officials (e.g., secretaries, undersecretaries) who sponsored, co-sponsored or issued them. It will be good to have some sort of evidence to show and prove that you were instrumental in planning, designing and/or implementing a project.
The appointment of a new Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary in Art Tugade had me recalling our meeting with him to present the outcomes of our study on a major commercial development at Clark Freeport. He was appreciative of our work and mentioned that Clark had implemented many of the recommendations of the Master Plan we had developed for the Freeport back in 2010. All the major recommendations were implemented during Tugade’s watch at Clark. Following are the most notable ones:
The Mabalacat Gate and Public Transport Terminal of the Clark Free Port Zone
McArthur Highway – M.A. Roxas Highway – First Street rotunda
The lead for these projects was Dr. Ricardo Sigua who is the one of the leading transportation engineers in the Philippines and currently the Director of the Institute of Civil Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is also the head of the Road Safety Research Laboratory of the National Center for Transportation Studies where he is also a Research and Extension Fellow. Others involved in these projects were Dr. Karl Vergel, Dr. Noriel Christopher Tiglao and Dr. Jose Regin Regidor, all from UP Diliman and affiliated with the NCTS.
I noticed something along my commute and that is the newly marked pavement along Sumulong Highway at the section in Barangay Mambugan until Barangay Mayamot at Masinag Junction. I guess this is more likely part of Antipolo City’s initiative in managing motorcycle and tricycle traffic. In a meeting with the City Administrator, Robert Nacianceno, last year, he said that the city was moving towards improving road safety. That included addressing concerns about tricycle and motorcycle operations that has led to crashes and congestion. Motorcycle lanes designated by blue pavement markings are not new and likely was inspired by the MMDA’s initiatives along major roads in Metro Manila.
Motorcycle running along the designated lane
The real challenge with these motorcycle lanes would be on the enforcement. That is, how would the city be ‘encouraging’ motorcyclists and tricycle drivers to stick to the outer lanes of the highway. Such would require a tremendous effort for the city as they will definitely have to apprehend erring motorists and also clear the designated lanes of obstructions. Should this program be successful along Sumulong Highway, perhaps they should consider the same for Marcos Highway.