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About the weather and other thoughts this weekend

We interrupt our regular posts with an article on the current state of the weather and some thoughts while a super typhoon (Mangkut) was devastating the northern and central Philippines. First the article from Wired:

Rogers, A. (2018) An Equator Full of Hurricanes Shows a Preview of End Times, http://www.wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/an-equator-full-of-hurricanes-shows-a-preview-of-end-times/?CNDID=37243643&mbid=nl_091418_daily_list1_p4 [Last accessed: 9/15/2018]

I am not into doomsday articles and thinking but am always fascinated by it if has foundations in science and fact rather than of religion or the “prepper” type of thinking. This one is based on fact and should not be dismissed as “fake new” – an excuse many use if the information presented to them offers an inconvenient truth about our state of affairs or, in this case, state of the earth.

Gloomy weather brought about by Typhoon Mangkut

I was thinking about the bad weather and what previous strong typhoons have brought about early this morning as I was awaken by the sound of the strong winds and the heavy rains that followed. I easily come awake and cannot sleep whenever we have inclement weather. Its been like this since my childhood as our home was in a flood prone area.

The last times there were typhoons comparable in perceived and actual physical impacts, the socio-political impacts also eventually manifested. Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) in 2009 dumped record rainfall across a wide area that included Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region 3) and Southern Luzon (Region 4A). The government’s response then and the issues that came about afterwards essentially contributed much to the doom for many of the administration’s candidates in the 2010 elections including its standard bearer who was Defense Secretary at the time. The follies of many politicians and government agencies were also exposed and most people judged them for that in the elections.

Come 2013, another typhoon, Haiyan (Yolanda), laid waste to much of the central Philippines. It was a super typhoon that again caught most, especially government, unprepared for the devastation that was its outcome. It spelled disaster, too, to many political aspirations with the then Interior Secretary becoming the poster boy somewhat for the government’s failures. Apparently, many of the lessons of Ondoy were not heeded despite gains here and there in weather forecasting and disaster preparedness. But then these were perceived to be more on the side of politicians. There were no lack in politicking, self promotion and grandstanding. And there was even more drama among rival sides in Philippine politics. There was enough material for fodder come 2016.

The current administration is much aware of the issues and the dangers of playing into the same script. After all, they created much of the political storm that led to an almost complete defeat of the previous admin’s ticket (the current VP survived that and hopefully gets to finish her term instead of being replaced by the ambitious son of a former dictator). But the present set of leaders and wannabees are not lacking for distasteful maneuvers as relief goods are being prepared by government agencies and local government units bearing the name (and sometimes even face) of aspirants for electoral posts in the 2019 elections. Among these are a Presidential “alalay” who is somewhat desperate for a senate post if only to protect himself from charges once his sponsor(s) bow down from power.

Will Mangkut/Ompong effect positive change in the country? Perhaps so and we can only hope it will be for the better. And that we, as a people, learn from mistakes we have made including electing certain people who are not fit or qualified to lead us.

Merry Christmas!

I just want to greet all my readers a Merry Christmas!

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May your wishes be granted and may you be safe and healthy with your family.

Peace on earth!

Cooling off in Baguio

I haven’t posted in a while because I’m on a break in Baguio. I made sure to take a lot of photos en route to the so-called “Summer Capital of the Philippines.” These include photos of NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX, Kennon Road, and other roads. I will be taking more when we go back this weekend. The coming posts should be interesting for those following his blog. 


A new Department of Information

The big news today is the creation of a new Department by virtue of a new law signed by the outgoing President. The news article describing this new Department may be found in the following link:

Department of Information and Communications Technology created

This is a significant development as the next President of the Philippines already named his man for the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and now he has to deal with a new Department and more appointments.

With the DOTC (or DOT?) now reduced to dealing only with transportation, perhaps it can be more focused on the issues it needs to address immediately, over the next 6 years and beyond (i.e., from a strategic perspective). Also, perhaps the next administration can take a look at the possibility of having a merger of the transportation department and DPWH. Of course, such a merger would require a really good person on top to lead. This person should not only be an excellent manager but also a master strategist, with a clear and progressive vision for a modern, efficient transportation system for this country.

 

Bus fixation and quick fixes

The mainstream news and social media have featured a lot about buses recently. These were mostly government initiatives:

  • P2P bus services – are operated by a tourist transport company (and now also by a large bus company that operates some routes for Bonifacio Global City). P2P stands for ‘point-to-point’, referring to the end points of a fixed route. For example, buses run non-stop between Trinoma in Quezon City and Glorietta in Makati. These are express buses that offering services that regular bus companies should be providing their passengers in the first place. Since these are non-stop (no pick-ups or drop-offs in between origin and destination, the main advantage is of course reduced travel times. They still operate in mixed traffic so travel times can still be reduced significantly if they had their exclusive ROW. That would make them operate like a BRT.
  • Airport premium bus services – are offered by a logistics company owned by a controversial government official heading a sensitive post. At 300 PhP per passenger, a close friend made the observation that you can get a decent enough taxi for that price. And if you were part of a group,  then you can probably pool your money to get Uber instead.

There is also the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Road Train, which is an exaggeration of sorts for a multi-articulated vehicle. Typical ‘stretched’ vehicles are the articulated and bi-articulated buses commonly used in BRT systems. The DOST’s Road Train prototype seems to be a combination of 5 buses. Thus, there is the allusion to a train.

The fixation on special buses seems like a stop gap measure (and some state they are), an attempt to address problems due to the government’s failure to deliver any major mass transit projects during its 6-year term. The LRT Line 2 extension doesn’t count as it only began construction a few months ago and won’t be operational until more than a year from now when there is already a new administration in power. The MRT-7 also doesn’t count as an accomplishment of this administration as it is a project that’s been in limbo for over a decade and only has also started work the past two weeks. Actually, these two rail projects were part of the list of low hanging fruits transport consultants and development agencies have identified at the start of the current administration. Hopefully, there are no major snags towards their completion in the next 2 years or so in order to open up opportunities to rationalize road public transport especially along Commonwealth Avenue and Marcos Highway where the impact of high capacity, quality mass transport will be felt once the Line 2 Extension and Line 7 are operational.

Voyeurism

This seems to be an unusual topic for this blog. However, I thought I’d comment about voyeurism in relation to transport or traffic as I observed a lot of people having cameras installed on their vehicle’s dash boards and local government units utilizing CCTV cameras for monitoring traffic.

In the case of LGUs, while there are already many cases where action was taken by authorities for traffic violations and other anomalies that they see on their camera, there are still as many cases when there are no actions taken to address issues. These include instances where CCTV cameras recorded reckless driving or riding and the videos were clear enough to identify the vehicles involved. These videos were likely not used to

Then there is the concern with motorists who have dash cams and are able to record reckless driving and other issues as they travel. Some post their videos on social media with the more interesting ones becoming click baits as they are shared by many. I found it disturbing that people take videos of road crashes and appear not to help the victims. They are essentially voyeurs, too. Posting these things on social media doesn’t count as help. It seems insensitive and unemphatic for people to be recording stuff and saying something about how these shouldn’t be and yet do nothing about the situation. Certainly, these are sins of omission that can be regarded along the lines of the sins committed that they recorded and shared.

Tire conditions

While stopped at an intersection, my eyes wandered to look at the vehicles around me. I took a photo of the rear tires of a truck stopped beside me. Following are some observations about the tires:

  • Most if not all the tires were re-treads
  • Most of the tires are worn out
  • One tire is already damaged and should not have been used in the first place

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Such conditions of trucks’ tires reflect the state of many commercial vehicles in the country. The same observation applies to public utility vehicles. I guess there have been many instances of tire blow-outs involving trucks and jeepneys. These have not been reported as they often lead to traffic congestion (i.e., when a vehicle is forced to stop and block traffic), which is not at all an uncommon experience to many. Few perhaps have led to high profile road crashes featuring fatalities. Still, the potential for major crashes is there and it is contributory to disasters that are always just waiting to happen in many of our roads.

Sudden intended acceleration? Intended ones are more dangerous!

The motoring community in the Philippines has been in rather heated discussions regarding the Mitsubishi Montero’s alleged defect that causes what has been termed as ‘sudden unintended acceleration’ or SUA. This term refers to the vehicle suddenly, and without the driver doing anything, rapidly accelerating, forward or backward, and hitting anything in its path. The proofs to these alleged incidences are supposed to have been documented by many including videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and even shared or used by mainstream media. The vehicle’s manufacturer itself denies that there is a defect in the model(s) being cited for SUA. They have also released a new model of the vehicle in the market and most people not paranoid about SUA seem not to mind the buzz about the alleged defect. The new model, after all, is supposed to be free of that particular defect considering the manufacturer, despite its denials, should have been aware of the complaints and concerns.

Defect or none, I think what’s more dangerous is not the ‘sudden unintended acceleration’ of vehicles. In fact, I am not aware of any fatalities attributed to this and all the videos I’ve seen alleging the defect happened in parking lots and driveways. These have caused only minor injuries and, surely, damage to properties. What is more dangerous and should be the concern by all is the intended acceleration leading to speeding (or over-speeding) that is so common in our roads regardless of whether these are expressways or city streets. Such behaviour are almost always intended and therefore the drivers are very much aware of their actions and in control of their vehicles. In control, that is, until they hit something or, worse, someone. Such irresponsible and often reckless behavior plague our roads and one person’s folly can be the doom of others as is usually the case in road crashes involving (over)speeding.

Differences: pro-walking vs. anti-car

I came across this article posted at the Planetizen site entitled Pro-Walking, or Anti-Car. It is a good article that heads-on addresses the the differences of being pro-walking to that of being anti-car in terms of transport policies in cities. I think these concepts including the “nuts to crack” list provided by the author is relevant not only to cities that want to promote walking and cycling over car use, but to individuals and groups as well who seem to be following a hard line when in comes to their advocacy to recover road space in favor of pedestrians and cyclists.

The worst traffic of the year on Dec. 19?

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) issued a statement a couple of days ago in reaction to comments online and offline about how transport and traffic have gone from bad to worse in December and especially in the past week. The agency warned people about the worst traffic congestion of the year happening today, December 19, and media immediately branded it as traffic armageddon. Reactions on social media varied from the hostile, desperate, to resignation about their plight for their commute today.

The worsening congestion this time of year is actually part of a pattern, a cycle of ups and downs in terms of person, freight and vehicular traffic. In our case in the Philippines, we usually expect traffic to be bad during certain times of the year and in many cases along specific routes or roads. During the Undas period (All Saints and All Souls holidays), for example, we expect congestion along the expressways and other major roads connecting Metro Manila to the provinces to its north, east and south. During the first days of classes around June (for most schools), it is also expected that congestion will be severe along roads leading to and in the vicinity of schools, especially the big private schools that generate a lot of private vehicle traffic.

December is usually the worst month for traffic because of the increase in economic activity this time of year as people travel more like to earn a bit more income and for shopping. The end of the year also brings about a lot of culminating or concluding activities for offices and even schools so trip generation tends to increase for all types of trips. However, traffic has naturally increased every year and this refers to person, freight and, consequently, vehicle traffic. And so it is inevitable that transport and traffic becomes worse every year unless a major intervention is made in the form of a mass transit system along a specific corridor.

I am not sure if the MMDA or the DPWH keeps records of daily traffic so that we can have a quantitative basis for this. The LRTA and MRTC should have data on this based on ticket sales and the tollway operators would also have data on this based on their toll collections. Such information can provide a strong indication of which dates are the most likely for severe traffic congestion and perhaps allow for prediction and the provision of ample advice for commuters.

Will today be worse than the past few days and will it be the worst day of the year in terms of traffic? Or will Dec. 22, 23 or even 24 turn out to be worse than today’s traffic? Perhaps the statement from the MMDA is a way of psyching people about what could be the worst traffic of the year. This application of psychology may make people more aware of and therefore conscious about traveling today. This may actually lead to less traffic to the relief of many people. Or this may be a way for the MMDA to escape from blame considering they did make the statement ahead of today and this manner of “I told you so” basically excuses them from the public’s ire.