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On the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on urban planning

Here is another timely article on the effects of COVID-19 on urban planning. Past pandemics have influenced the way cities are designed and COVID-19 is no different as we are now learning a lot of lessons on how towns and cities need to be laid out or structured to prevent future outbreaks from spreading so quickly while also allowing for a more effective actions in response to infections.

van den Berg, R. (2020) “How Will COVID-19 Affect Urban Planning?”, The City Fix, https://thecityfix.com/blog/will-covid-19-affect-urban-planning-rogier-van-den-berg/ [Last accessed: 5/15/2020]

On transport for essential workers

One of the major issues during this enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or lockdowns that the government has imposed pertains to the transport needs of other essential workers. I say ‘other’ because unlike the frontliners, who include mainly medical personnel such as doctors, nurses and others directly involved in combatting this pandemic, there are varying takes on who belongs to the category of these ‘other’ essential workers. To simplify, I believe these should include those working in factories producing food items, medical equipment and supplies, and people working in supermarkets, drugstores, markets and banks. People involved in transportation such as truckers or logistics personnel are essential. So are public transport providers. How will food and other supplies travel from where they’re produced (i.e., farms, fish ports, factories, etc.) to the places where they are needed if our supply chains are compromised due to a lack of personnel?

Here is a recent article about the reduction of public transport services that has affected ‘essential’ workers in the Bay Area in the US:

Davies, A. and Marshall, A. (2020) “Public Transit Cuts Hurt ‘Essential’ Workers Who Need It Most”, wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/transit-cuts-hurt-workers-who-need-most/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_TRANSPORTATION_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Transportation_TopClickers_040620&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=WIR_TopClickers_EXCLUDE_Transportation [Last accessed 4/7/2020]

In our case, there seems to be a double standard in how the national government sees our LGUs are trying to provide transport services. The cases of Pasig and Davao concerning the use of tricycles as public transport comes to mind but I will leave that topic for another article (soon!).

On transportation after the Covid-19 pandemic

Our lives will never be the same after this pandemic. The term ‘after’ is actually quite vague because various estimates figure that the Covid 19 pandemic is expected to have multiple outbreaks over the next 1 to years. A big part of our lives and particularly our daily routines is travel. This refers mainly to our regular commutes between our homes, workplaces, schools, shops, and other typical places that transportation engineers and planners like to term as origins and destinations. Transport will definitely be impacted by the pandemic as we seek to have physical distance between people. Public transport will be hard hit as, for one, as the number of passengers will have to be limited per vehicle. What were crowded buses with 60+ passengers (including those standing) will likely have only 20 to 30 passengers depending on the layout. Jeepneys that used to seat 20-24 passengers (excluding sabit or hangers as these are prohibited in the first place) may only accommodate 8 to 10 passengers, again depending on the layout. Tricycles will have to carry only one passenger in the sidecar with no-one allowed to sit behind the driver. Here’s an article and much stats on how the pandemic is disrupting transit elsewhere but particularly in US cities:

Judging from what was practically the elimination of traffic congestion along Metro Manila and other cities’ roads, it is clear that we cannot go back to transportation where cars dominate road space. And so public transport will have to carry that additional burden of private car users being required to use public transport modes instead. While its possible to do the number crunching to determine bus, jeepney, van and train frequencies, it is uncertain if there are enough manpower to run these vehicles under a protocol to ensure that passengers (and drivers and conductors) will not be infected or spread Covid-19.

Planning for the new normal – post Covid-19

There have been many discussions lately about urban planning and transport planning in relation to the pandemic currently gripping the world. There are opinions and assessments about topics such as population density, employment, public transportation, physical or social distance, as well as the prospects for reducing car dependence.

Here is a nice article that compiles some of the better articles on planning related to the current Covid-19 pandemic that’s affecting our planet:

Brasuell, J. (2020) Debating the Future of Cities, and Urban Densities, After the Pandemic, planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/108814?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03232020&mc_cid=a891454817&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed 3/24/2020].

The world will never be the same after what everyone has gone through during this pandemic. Let us not wish we could go back to normal because, as the saying goes, that “normal” was what got us here in the first place.

Keep safe everyone!

Jeepneys? No, they’re buses

I spotted this vehicle along my commute earlier today and couldn’t help but state that this is not a jeep or jeepney as DOTr or LTFRB seem to be marketing it to be. By all indications, this is a departure from the jeepney design and should be called a bus or mini-bus. Perhaps it can still be considered a jitney but that is a stretch. It wouldn’t hurt efforts towards route rationalization and public utility vehicle modernization to call this a bus or mini-bus. In fact, that should be a conscious effort towards changing mindsets about what vehicles are most appropriate or suitable for certain routes.

Premium Jeep beside a conventional one somewhere in Bayan-bayanan, Marikina City

On Taal and Tagaytay

We were frequent visitors to Tagaytay the years prior to the rapid commercialization and (over)development of the city. While we still go there occasionally, We have not been able to enjoy the city and its environs as much as we did before. Nevertheless, we genuinely feel for the people (the real residents but not necessarily for the carpetbaggers) of Tagaytay and other cities and towns affected by the eruption of the volcano. They deserve better and yet they should also heed the advice of science over those of politicians who have taken advantage of them and now claim innocence over what is perceived as a lack of preparedness for such a calamity.

Dawn over Taal – I took this photo from the balcony of what was our favorite bed & breakfast hotel in Tagaytay. I thought this showed a rather peaceful scene complete with the background of roosters giving everyone a wake-up call.

I had wanted to post an aerial shot of Taal volcano. I have one or more somewhere in an old folder when the planes (not sure our origin) I were on flew over the volcano. Unfortunately, these are probably in my older computers or portable drives. I will for these and post them soon.

The problem with public transport in the Philippines…

There is a collage of two photos, one taken in 1975 and another in 2019, showing buses that managed to squeeze themselves into a jam. The 1975 photo was taken at the ramp of the overpass near Liwasang Bonifacio (Quiapo, Manila). There is a commentary describing the photo that attributes ‘monstrous daily traffic jams’ to the behavior of Filipino drivers. Special mention was made of public transport drivers and the photo showed proof of this. This was 1975 and motorization had not reached the levels we are at now so the

The problems pertaining to driver behavior persist today and probably even worsened along with the general conditions of traffic in Philippine roads. I say so since the volume of vehicular traffic has increased significantly from 1975 to the present and there are much more interactions among vehicles and people that have led to a deterioration of road safety as well. Traffic congestion and road crashes are asymptomatic of the root causes of most of our transport problems. And so far, it seems we have had little headway into the solutions. The photos speak for themselves in terms of how many people can easily put the blame on poor public transport services despite the fact that cars are hogging much of the road space. And what have authorities done in order to address the behavioral issues that lead to these incidents?

Someone joked that the guy in the 1975 photo who appeared to be posing in disbelief of what happened is a time traveler. The 2019 photo shows a similar guy with a similar pose though with more people around. Maybe he can tell us a thing or so about what’s wrong with transportation in the Philippines and provide insights to the solutions to the mess we have.

New jitneys for the Cubao-Rosario route

The Cubao-Rosario jeepney route is among the older ones in Metro Manila connecting a major commercial center (Cubao) to a growth area (Ortigas Avenue corridor). The route also includes a significant part of C-5 (then called E. Rodriguez Ave.) that now has Megaworld’s Eastwood, Robinsons’ Bridgetown, and another development (joint venture between Ayala and Eton). At the corner of C-5 and Ortigas on the eastbound side is an SM project.

The route is now Cubao – Sta. Lucia (Pasig). This is not to confuse it with another Sta. Lucia, which is in Cainta. The jitneys now terminate and turnaround at the border of Cainta and Pasig between SM East Ortigas and BF Cainta. The jeepneys used to turn around near C. Raymundo and then under the Manggahan Floodway Bridge.

New vehicle but same drivers (behavior and attitude)? A driver returns to his illegally parked vehicle (it’s on the sidewalk) after what looks like him just finished answering the call of nature in the bushes beside the vehicle. Operations are basically the same with the only difference being the vehicles. The same goes with P2P buses driven by the same drivers of ordinary buses.

The old signboards of the jeepneys plying this route included Libis and Murphy, which were the area landmarks for the route. Libis is a Barangay in Quezon City where part of Eastwood is located. Murphy was Camp Murphy, the old name of what is not Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame. It was a single camp during the American Period. There are still jeepneys bearing those signboards and printed at the sides of the vehicles.

TSSP 2019 Conference in Cebu City

We just concluded the 2019 version of the Annual Conference of the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP). This year’s conference was co-organised with the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJR), whose College of Engineering hosted the event. The conference included a pre-event activity – the Workshop for Young Researchers (WYRe) held on July 25, the conference proper on July 26, and the Technical Tour at the project site of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) project on July 27. Here are some initial photos from the conference:

Dr. Sheilah Napalang, former Director of the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) and now Asst. Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), facilitating the Workshop for Young Researchers (WYRe).

Backdrop for the plenary sessions of the conference

Opening program speakers included (L-R) Rev. Fr. Cristopher Maspara, OAR (USJR President), Dr. Ricardo Sigua (TSSP President), Dr. Enrico Paringit (DOST-PCIEERD Executive Director). The photo also shows our co-organizers, Dr. Dennis Anthony Kilongkilong (Dean of the USJR College of Engineering) and Engr. Elvira Sales (Chair of USJR Dept. of Civil Engineering).

More photos on the conference in the next post!

One small step and a giant leap

Here’s a different kind of article that blends three of my favourite topics – transport, space and watches. Its the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. That’s the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It took a lot of calculations for men to finally reach the moon and return safely to earth. There certainly were a lot of factors that affected the trip and these are not as simple as traveling between points A and B like what we usually try to figure out for conventional earthbound transport.

Did you know the first watch on the moon was an Omega Speedmaster chronograph? They needed them and other instruments for their precision that’s required for such sensitive and demanding missions.

Subsequent versions of the moon watch have already had updated movements inside them but these Speedmasters are still the standard in as far as NASA is concerned.

There were actually 2 moon missions in 1969. The first one, Apollo 11, in July and the second, Apollo 12, in November. The next one, Apollo 13, was a failure in terms of the moon mission but succeeded in terms of the astronauts surviving what must have been a terrifying ordeal in space. If you watched the movie, there was a part there that was supposed to have happened where they used it the chronograph of their watch to time a procedure they had to do while troubleshooting their module.

Quite expensive these Omegas are. However, there’s another watch that has been officially recognised as used on a moon landing. That other moon watch is a Bulova (sorry Rolex but the watch that was supposed to have been brought to the moon was more an accessory or memento than an instrument actually used by an astronaut on the moon). Here’s a piece associated with the 4th (Apollo 15 in 1971):

Back of a Bulova moon watch model stating the mission when it was used.