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Previous to the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, there were typically a lot of trips being made that many can regard as unnecessary. These are not the typical “to work” or “to school” trips that are being made on a regular basis (e.g., every week day). With the easing of the quarantine everywhere around the country, it seems a lot of people who felt they’ve been cooped indoors or have been limited in their activities have gone out. Many seem to have thrown caution to the wind, too, as evidenced from the many photos being shared showing people doing mass (bike or motorcycle) rides, shopping in crowded streets, etc. It becomes even more worrying now that Christmas is fast approaching when more people are going out to shop or visit relatives and friends. The following are quite basic while we are still experiencing the pandemic:
a. Required/imposed travel restraint – reimposition of the number coding scheme implemented by the MMDA with variations in certain LGUs such as Makati City (no mid-day coding windows) and those in the periphery (longer coding windows during mid-day), and limited implementation of the truck ban for certain roads (these of course will have certain exemptions for vital goods);
b. Increased number of public utility vehicles – the DOTr and LTFRB have been proceeding so slowly (but surely?) in re-establishing or resuming public transport services as they realized there will be no other opportunities like this to implement their rationalization and modernization plans simultaneously. However, the pandemic necessitates physical distancing and other measures to reduce if not eliminate the risks of infection
c. Making all modes available and viable as an option for commuters – Needless to say but all options must be provided for safe travel (esp. commuting). By ‘all’ I mean both motorized and non-motorized modes must be given as options to commuters, whichever they choose must be a safe option for them. That means providing the necessary facilities for walking and cycling, and, as mentioned, adding or augmenting public transport supply where necessary. By ‘commuters’ I mean those who really require traveling. These include our front liners and essential workers. Despite the push for local tourism, I personally believe this should be limited and LGUs need to discourage excursions that have the potential for spreading the virus.
d. Voluntary travel restraint – this is for everyone to consider rather than set aside. I guess given the easing of quarantine restrictions, many people have already had their fare share of going out including children and senior citizens who can now go out for some fresh air. Those opportunities should have already contributed to easing mental health issues, too. However, with the impending (if not yet here) increase in the infections once again, perhaps we should exercise self restraint during these holidays. This self-restraint can also be considered as sacrifices not just for one’s sake but for others especially loved ones we don’t want to get sick with COVID-19.
We still do not know who among us are or can be carriers and who can pick-up the virus and become very ill. As such, we should still be very careful, and adopt and practice measures to reduce infection risks. This goes very well with the spirit of the season. Let’s make the necessary sacrifices to beat this pandemic. Do not ‘gift’ your loved ones with Covid-19!
There are actually a lot of data available on mobility if you know how to look for them. One good source is Apple. Yes, Apple has access to thousands of smart phones that allow them to track individuals (oh you didn’t know that?) movements. Here is the link to Apple’s data:
And here is a graph showing mobility trends in the Philippines from that resource:
Some politicians and political appointees are now saying that we are in this predicament about COVID-19 because of a lack of discipline. That is bullshit. Many stayed home and/or reduced their movements. And then there’s that study showing 90% wore masks when they go out. No, it’s not lack of discipline that’s the problem but the lack of essential services and goods that are supposed to be delivered by those who are suppose to govern and the deficiencies from the start in addressing the spread of the virus especially from abroad. Perhaps these people criticizing Filipinos should look at their mirrors more closely and look left, right and across from they comfy seats to see what’s wrong with the way government has been handling the pandemic?
I took the following photos inside a mall that’s close to my residence. One had to go inside to get to the drugstore located at the second level of the mall so you can see what it looks like during the lockdown. Not surprisingly, it is deserted but it looks clean and orderly. It seems that mall’s doing maintenance work and I did see a couple of janitors inside. They are probably the skeletal staff of the mall in-charge of making sure the building does not deteriorate during the lockdown period.
This used to the a very busy area leading to the supermarket and the appliance shop. The area also usually was at the events venue and often set-up here are the weekend stalls selling local items including our favorite cashew butter and sylvanas.
A look back at what was usually a crowded area at the center of the mall as I moved up the working escalator
The second level was also practically deserted with only a few customers going to the drugstore and the occasional janitor or security personnel going around
Across from where I was walking was another crowded area as this is the food court with the cinemas just beside it.
View of the ground floor as I descended on the non-functioning escalator on the other side of the second level.
I saw the photos posted on social media and the news yesterday as people crowded at mall entrances on the first day after the lifting of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in many cities. Of course, they are still under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) but more people are allowed to go outside their homes with businesses like the malls starting to resume operations. I sure hope this ‘excitement’ and the resulting crowds will not lead to a worse second wave of Covid-19 infections. That will surely lead to the reimposition of ECQ in those areas. There are lessons to be learned from the reopening of businesses like shops and restaurants once quarantines have been relaxed. Those are lessons that are mostly from the experiences of other countries that we should carefully and meticulously consider in order to avoid the mistakes that have led to a second wave of infections. Let us not lead ourselves towards recklessness or irresponsible behavior that can spell disaster to many. Let us not think that things will go back to the ‘normal’ we used to live.
We start April with a nice article from Cities of the Future. The article explains how traffic patterns will be changing due to Covid-19. They have already changed for most of us who have to deal with quarantines and lockdowns. And we should not expect things to go back to normal. “Normal” here, of course, is “Business As Usual” or was that. It is quite clear that we cannot and should not go back to BAU and it is probably going to be good for most of us. There will definitely be a lot of adjustments and sacrifices especially for commuters who have been dependent on cars for travel. The transport industry, too, will have to deal with the new supply and demand dynamics. And government should be up to the task of engaging and rethinking how policies and regulations should evolve to address issues coming out of the “new normal” in transportation.
Valerio, P. (2020) Traffic patterns are going to drastically be very different, says Micromobility expert , Cities of the Future, https://citiesofthefuture.eu/traffic-patterns-are-going-to-drastically-be-very-different/ [Last accessed: 4/3/2020]
Traveling at noontime along Sumulong Highway in Antipolo City, I chanced upon the changing of morning and afternoon shifts for a national elementary or grade school. The scene is similar to that of the high school I posted previously but there were more people here considering many grade school children were with their parents or guardians, easily doubling (more?) the number of persons generated by elementary schools. However, there are few private vehicles generated by this public school and so congestion along Sumulong Highway is due to the sheer number of people entering, exiting and waiting at the school’s single gate and the tricycles manoeuvring in the area. I also noticed here that most people did not take a vehicle to go to/from school but walked to/from their homes. Again, this underlines the issue about where we send our children for schooling and how they commute. It also says something about the quality of schools that ‘force’ parents to choose the more exclusive ones located a good distance away from where they reside.
Students arriving at the school have to fall in line and wait for the morning batch to come out. There is very limited space outside the school so people including parents and guardians spill out of the sidewalks and occupy part of the curbside lane.
Causing some congestion were tricycles manoeuvring as they brought in students. Those waiting for their potential or intended (sundo) passengers were lined up along the curb side.
I chanced upon the changing of the shifts for a national high school. This was the time of day when the morning shift students were dismissed (i.e., coming out of school) and the afternoon shift students were coming in.
Students come out of the school to mainly either walk or take public transport (mostly tricycles) to their homes.
Most vehicles give way to people, especially students, crossing the busy street. There are usually traffic aides in the area who help manage traffic and to ensure pedestrians may safely cross or move about.
There are no severe traffic congestion here unlike those generated by many exclusive or private schools. There is actually a private school just beside this public high school that also generates significant private vehicle traffic but somehow manages not to congest this major road that’s part of the L. Sumulong Memorial Circle the way another private school congests Sumulong Highway in the mornings.
Is this simply because of the school being a public school as compared with private schools? Perhaps it is, given the perceived disparity in income classes concerning those going to typical public schools and those going to typical exclusive schools. But income disparity aside, wouldn’t it be possible for most students to just walk or take public transport to school? I actually envy the public school students in the photos above as they can walk to school. And that is because they likely live near the school, which is something that is a desirable situation if public schools are at least at par in quality with the more established private schools (especially the sectarian ones where many parents likely prefer their children to go to). This disparity in quality leads to people residing in relatively long distances away for the preferred schools to travel (often with their private vehicles) to and from the exclusive schools. The point here is that it really is more complicated than what it seems in terms of trip generation.
I had a nice view of the parking lot of the hospital where my mother-in-law was staying for a couple of days to recover from a bad case of dehydration. The doctors wouldn’t say it was severe but because Mama was 75 years old, they had to treat her condition. But that isn’t what I’d like to write about in this post. It’s really about parking.
I noticed from my times on hospital watch (relieving my wife who spent the couple of nights with her) that the parking lot didn’t get full during the day. The hospital was a good sized one and generated a lot of trips but mostly those taking public transport (mainly tricycles). But this was more a community hospital than one in the league of the St. Luke’s and Medical City, which generate much more private traffic and requires much more parking spaces.
A view of the parking lot of Clinica Antipolo
Friends have always made the observation that parking is difficult in the major private (e.g., St. Luke’s, Medical City, Makati Med,etc.) and public hospitals (e.g., PGH, NKTI, Philippine Heart Center, etc.). I agree with these observations as we have our own experiences where it was difficult to get parking spaces for when we go to these hospitals for check-ups or to visit relatives or friends admitted there. For one, these hospitals are the “go to” places for specialists and modern medical equipment, never mind that these are also the most expensive in terms of medical and laboratory/test expenses. I guess that to be a doctor with their practices in these hospitals means a lot and ups the prices of their services? I say that based also on observations that standard tests (blood, urine, stool, etc.) are much cheaper in other hospitals or clinics. Doctor’s professional fees, too, tend to be less expensive for when you consult with them in the ‘minor’ hospitals.
Major hospitals can also be teaching hospitals and I’m not just referring to internships or residents but medical schools hosted by the hospitals. And many did not consider these schools when the hospital buildings were initially built so schools don’t have their own parking spaces and patients, doctors, hospital staff and students end up competing for parking spaces. Medical City, for example, even instituted some parking fee measures to deter long term parking or those who appeared to have attempted to park for free and therefore occupying slots that would have otherwise have been revenue-generating for the hospital.
Of course, there would be those who would be reacting to this situation and say that people going to the hospital should be taking public transportation. Perhaps this is easier said than done for many cases in Metro Manila? I’m not familiar with similar conditions in other cities like Cebu, Iloilo and Davao but perhaps it is not as severe as those in major hospitals in the capital region. Major hospitals in Metro Manila also attract a lot of people from surrounding provinces like Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite. Again, this is because of the reputations of these hospitals. Even the current President went to Cardinal Santos Medical Center for his recent check-up.
And so the parking problem will persist unless there are better options for public transportation. Incidentally, ridesharing may have helped ease the parking dilemma since TNVS provides a very good alternative to the private car for such hospital trips. I do know Grab, for example, has booking booths at Medical City, Cardinal Santos and St. Luke’s. I personally don’t think additional parking spaces (or buildings) are required. It would be more like a parking management challenge for these hospitals. And in any case, these parking spaces would be mostly empty and therefore idle at night time and Sundays.
A proposed one-way scheme for EDSA, C-5 and Roxas Boulevard raised not a few eyebrows among transportation and traffic professionals. While it seems to some that the three major thoroughfares are parallel or can be paired in such a way that EDSA can be one-way southbound, and C-5 and Roxas Blvd. can be one-way northbound, it is not as easy at it seems because these arterial carry a heckuva lot of traffic compared to the roads they are being compared to (New York?). The road network layout is also quite different. We have a circumferential and radial road network as the backbone of road-based transportation. A one-way scheme could be more effective if we had a grid type network where you have several pairs of roads that can be designated as one-way streets.
Take the case of Tacloban City, whose central business district has a grid-type network with intersections relatively closely spaced. The city implemented a one-way scheme as shown below:
Note the pairs of roads designated for one-way flow. These basically make for efficient traffic circulation provided the capacities of streets and intersections are not significantly reduced by factors such as on-street parking and other roadside friction. This can be achieved in various places in Metro Manila where streets are similarly laid out and there are multiple pairs to promote good circulation. Makati, for example, has many one-way streets in its CBD, and these are also in pairs. While having high capacities, EDSA, C-5 and Roxas Boulevard just does not have the closely spaced intersections to effect efficient circulation. In fact EDSA (or C-4) and C-5 are arterials that function to distribute the traffic carried by radial roads such as Roxas Blvd., Shaw Blvd., Commonwealth Ave, Aurora Blvd., etc.
A better option is to focus on improving road -based public transport by setting up high capacity, express bus services with exclusive lanes. These may not necessarily be full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems but requires a drastic reduction and restructuring of current numbers of buses along EDSA and their deployment along corridors like C-5 and Roxas Blvd. Express means longer intervals between stops (hint for EDSA: express bus stops coinciding with MRT-3 stations), and increased travel speeds made possible by exclusive lane(s). This could have been piloted during the APEC meetings in the previous administration where 2 lanes for each direction of EDSA were appropriated for APEC vehicles. These lanes could have been used afterwards for a BRT (-lite?) system and what could have been an pilot could have also provided an appreciation or “proof of concept” for BRT in Metro Manila that we could have learned a lot from.
There’s a nice article on Wired that argues for giving an incentive to commuters to give up driving (i.e., using their cars to go to/from workplaces). My only comment here is that it might have better chances elsewhere but not in the Philippines where such incentives often are seen as dole-outs and, despite guidelines or rules for implementation, are likely to be abused or taken advantage of in many offices. This is especially true when cities do not have good quality public transportation and you have low priced motorcycles and cars on sale with the many dealerships. Sad to say but the Philippines is not ready (not mature enough?) for such schemes.
The article is by Aarian Marshall and appeared on the online version Wired last March 26, 2017.
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…