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Some concerns about future rail ridership

Traveling along Commonwealth Avenue and Marcos Highway the past week, I both hopeful and worried about what happens after the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension finally becomes operational. Much has been said or reported about the potential of these two lines to change the way people commute; at least from the areas served by these two mass transit lines. However, how big an impact these would have in terms of actual reduction of private car use  remains to be seen.

Will there be significant decreases in the volume of motor vehicles along Commonwealth Avenue, Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard? Or will there be just the same traffic along these roads? The worry is based on the likelihood that those who would be taking Lines 2 and 7 would be people who are already taking public transportation and not those who have chosen to leave their cars (or motorcycles) at home.

Our students have been studying ridesharing and P2P bus operations the past few years and the conclusion has so far been a shift from one mode of public transport to what’s perceived as a better one. It’s somewhat a difficult thing to accept for advocates of public transport especially those behind TNVS, P2P buses and railways but it is what it is, and its important to accept such findings in order for us to understand what’s going on and come up with better ways to promote public transport and convince car users to use PT.

Traffic flows at the Masinag junction with the Line 2 Masinag Station and elevated tracks in the background

What is more intriguing is the proposed subway line for Metro Manila. The alignment is different from the ones identified in previous studies for the metropolis and from what I’ve gathered should have stations that serve a North-South corridor that should make for a more straightforward commute (i.e., less transfers) for those taking the subway.

Probable MM Subway alignment (from the internet)

It is another line that has a big potential as a game-changer for commuters but we won’t be able to know for sure until perhaps 5 or 6 years from now. What we know really is that there was a lost opportunity back in the 1970s when government should have pushed for its first subway line instead of opting for the LRT Line 1.

On conducting a national travel survey in the Philippines

There’s a nice article about the National Household Travel Survey regularly conducted by the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):

Lewin, M. (2019) “Learning from the National Household Travel Survey,” http://www.planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/102508?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-02042019&mc_cid=03588de77e&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 2/6/2019]

There is a lot to learn from such surveys and especially if historical results can be compared in order to establish trends and issues. I recall that we attempted to engage the then National Statistics Office (NSO) back in 2005 for them to include certain items in the national census but for the purpose of data collection for inter-regional passenger and freight flow. That didn’t bear fruit but perhaps it is about time to reconsider and for the Philippine Statistics Agency (PSA) to include questions specific to travel in the census.

Ideally, of course, is to have our own national travel survey where we can obtain data not just for inter-regional or even inter-provincial or inter-island passenger and freight transport characteristics. Data from a national household travel survey would give us details on a lot of things including but not limited to the following:

  • Average commute data – e.g., commute travel times & commute distances for those taking private or public transport
  • Vehicle ownership data – e.g., car, motorcycle and bicycle ownership and usage
  • Travel cost data – e.g., various cost components for traveling via private or public transport

Such information can be categorised a number of ways like according to age, gender or income. It will definitely help us understand how people travel including their perceptions and choices. It can help formulate solutions to a lot of issues, transport and traffic-related, that cities and municipalities are trying to address. Of course, this will definitely involve big data but this is not a new thing, and large data sets have been used in many transport studies including those for Metropolitan Manila (e.g., MMUTSTRAP, JUMSUT, MMUTIS, MUCEP) and the inter-regional study (SIRPAFF) we did a decade and a half ago. The advantage now is that we have more sophisticated tools for analysing such data.

Some suggestions for the bike lane along C-5/Katipunan Avenue

In the spirit of the season, here are some recommendations or suggestions (if this term is preferred) for the bike lanes drawn along Circumferential Road 5. First, rather than a token lane that will fit exactly the width of a pedicab, I suggest that an entire lane be allocated for either side of C5/Katipunan Ave. But at the very least perhaps it should be half a lane rather than a third. Second, instead of a green line that can be invisible to many during the night time and on days like this rainy Saturday, have a double yellow as a delineator. This definitely has more clout than the solid green line, which is unfamiliar to most road users. Third, the bicycle lane must be painted for it to be clearly marked for bicycles. And last, the lanes must be protected, physically, from likely encroachments of motor vehicles. Perhaps bollards can be installed similar to what Pasig has done along Julia Vargas. Here are a couple of illustrations I quickly made using PowerPoint as I updated my lecture material for complete streets.

Suggestions for the bike lane along the NB side of Katipunan Ave. (C-5)

Suggestions for the bike lane along the SB side of Katipunan Ave. (C-5).

The NB side of Katipunan is less challenging with respect to the design details required for driveways and public transport stops. That is mainly because this is where the two schools, Ateneo and Miriam, are located. The SB side is more complicated due to the way the establishments there were developed. Note the roadside parking on the photo and there are numerous driveways from the condos, shops and restaurants on this side of Katipunan. Recall that this side used to have a service road where the two outermost lanes are, and a tree lined island separate this two-way road from the main carriageway of C-5. Perhaps it would be nice to re-imagine Katipunan with this service road again. I will leave the intersection and driveway details as a challenge to my readers and students. The same for a more complete re-imagining of Katipunan Ave.

 

 

Article on housing and transportation

Here’s another excellent piece from Todd Litman about the dynamics of housing and transportation. This is a very relevant topic in many cities today and especially so for those like Metro Manila, which is struggling with issues pertaining to affordable housing and transportation infrastructure and services. Arguably, a lot of households are spending more than the 45% threshold of incomes mentioned in the article but people continue to get homes away from the city as these are relatively cheaper than those closer to their workplaces and schools. Unfortunately, transportation costs are on the rise and congestion and a lack of an efficient transport system are among the culprits for what many have already labelled as undignified and atrocious costs of commuting.

Litman, T. (2018) “Affordability Trade-Offs,” planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/99920?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-08092018&mc_cid=e2a69b6eb4&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 8/9/2018]

I envy the guy for being able to present these topics clearly. It is a complex subject and one that isn’t understood by many in government who are supposed to be responsible for crafting and implementing policies and programs to address issues pertaining to affordable housing and commutes. I wonder if Todd is coming over for the ADB Transport Forum. He’s make for a good resource person in some of the sessions there and perhaps can also be invited to speak about this and other relevant and urgent topics in a separate forum. Anyone out there care to sponsor him?

Why does it seem to be congested on the way out of BGC?

Why does it seem like its more congested in BGC nowadays especially during the afternoon peak hours when people are heading home from work? The simple answer to the question may be found in the set-up of barriers from the exit ramp of the flyover from Market! Market! I took some photos of the situation the wife related to me. This was along her regular commute and now she avoid the area; taking the Kalayaan route instead and using the U-turn flyover to get to the northbound side of C5.

Familiar scene along C-5? What’s new here is that authorities have extended the barriers from the foot of the flyover from BGC and effectively blocked vehicles from merging early with C-5 through traffic.

It doesn’t seem obvious but 2 lanes of vehicular traffic merge into 1 lane in order to merge left.

Most vehicles are northbound. The sign in the photo points to which lanes to take if you are northbound (Pasig) or turning towards Pateros. The U-turn flyover effectively blocks traffic from the rightmost lane (including those along the service road) from merging with northbound traffic in the inner lanes.

Note the the barriers segregating northbound traffic from Pateros-bound traffic.

I think this is a simple case where the barriers shouldn’t have been extended the way they are now and restricting space for merging. The effect on C-5 traffic is minimal while causing unnecessary congestion along the flyover and into BGC. What seems like a solution to some (i.e., certain people in authority) clearly leads to more problems – in this case more congestion.

The vehicle of the future is the bicycle!

I’m sharing yet another article I found interesting and agreeing with.

Thomson, C. (2018) “The Vehicle of the Future has Two Wheels, Handlebars, and is a Bike,” wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/vehicle-future-bike?mbid=social_fb [Last accessed: 5/14/2018].

With all the hype the hi-tech transport modes are getting, it is as if these are indeed what most people will be riding many, many years from now. Well, walking should still be there and remains as the most basic among mobility options. But then bicycles should also be a major mode, and perhaps with some innovations to boot in both the bike and the infrastructure necessary to promote its use.

On the Grab – Uber merger

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from Uber confirming what was in the news for some time then, and what was rumoured a longer while back. Uber Philippines was closing shop after merging with main competitor Grab, while the mother company also acquiring a stake in Grab. Later, I also received a message from Grab (I use either depending on availability and cost.) welcoming Uber users to Grab.

The result so far has been frustrating if not disappointing to many who have relied on Uber for commuting and the typical trips that you usually associate with taking a taxi.

Recent news revealed that Grab is using an even more punitive pricing scheme compared to Uber’s surge pricing. While the LTFRB moved to scrap this, Grab has been apprehensive, stating that this was an incentive for their drivers. There is actually another side to the concept of surge pricing that LTFRB does not or seems to refuse to understand. That is, that dynamic and more expensive fares related to congestion (or road conditions) is something that’s actually related to the concept of congestion pricing. This actually penalises the use of vehicles like private cars or taxis in favour of higher capacity transport like buses or, if available, trains.

Even more recent is the news that Grab is suspending about 500 of its drivers for excessive cancellation and/or rejection of trips. Unlike Uber before, Grab drivers have the “luxury” of knowing where a potential passenger is heading. That gives the driver the option to accept or reject a proposed fare. Uber drivers didn’t know where the potential passenger was heading and to my knowledge, was stricter with penalising their drivers. The only caveat I know is that passengers can also be penalised if the driver requests for a cancellation and the passenger obliges out of good faith (e.g., An Uber driver in Cebu requested me to cancel the request as he claimed he was caught in traffic and would be penalised if he canceled. I ended up protesting Uber penalising me 100 pesos for my cancellation. Uber did not act on it in my favour.).

The issues surrounding the Grab/Uber merger though should not be there in the first place if we had good taxi services. When I say good I am referring to the quality of service provided by taxis in Singapore and Japan. Of course, they also have good public transportation there so there’s also a case for what most people will likely be taking instead of cars and taxis (which operate similarly as cars). One wonders how and why LTFRB seems to be so strict vs TNCs while being lax with taxis. Meanwhile, DOTr is scrambling on the desperate catch-up work it has to do about mass transit lines and public transport rationalisation. Good luck to us commuters!