Caught (up) in traffic

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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.

“Sharing the road” – bandwagons and fads? Let’s hope not!

There seems to be a lot of talk about “sharing the road” and the initiatives to have more bikeways. I hope I am proven wrong but it seems to me as if these current programs and projects are more of a fad. A lot of people (and local governments) join the bandwagon with little understanding of what needs to be done. It’s usually because of the good PR they get out of these that they agree to coming up with the token carless street or the haphazardly implemented bicycle lanes. More than PR, some cities are aware of the opportunities that come with such initiatives as international agencies and groups are willing to spend money to support such programs and projects. The question really is on sustainability and doing the right thing not only on initiating things or coming up with programs but on the substance itself. And by substance I mean that programs should also go into the details of designs. Too often, the “pwede na yan” approach is taken and this just won’t do.

2014-02-28 08.31.21The MMDA painted the sidewalks in White Plains and designated them as bikeways, in a way alienating pedestrians.

A vision for what people want to have is there but it is ultimately how the achieve the vision that needs a lot of work. For example,¬†bills are being filed in congress to force the creation of bicycle lanes along major highways. (And mind you there are a lot of similar bills filed in congress that upon closer inspection actually have little substance.) The premise here seems to be that if you build them then people will start cycling. That was not the experience in Marikina, which boasts of the country’s only bikeways network that includes many off-street sections. These bikeways were built at a time when the perception and analysis pointed to a critical mass of cyclists in that city that was thought to be surely the tipping point in terms of non-motorised transport. Nowadays, the same bikeways are used by motorcycles and tricycles and most cyclists we see are not commuters (e.g., cycling between home and work/school) but recreational cyclists. It would take Marikina some effort to promote commuting by bicycles and much effort in enforcement to correct the misuse of the bikeways. The “new” bikeways in Quezon City appear to be poorly conceptualised as the MMDA decided to paint the sidewalks along EDSA northbound without addressing the obstacles like electric posts. Still, it is an effort to put NMT in the consciousness or awareness of the general public (thanks in part to media’s making these news worthy items).

Cities like Pasig and Taguig like to show-off Ortigas Center and Bonifacio Global City, respectively, as their faces when in fact the cities have not done much in their original cores. The running joke is that the real Taguig is not the areas to the west of C-5 but the old Taguig, which is to the east. This Taguig is the one plagued by narrow streets and the proliferation of tricycles. It was not so long ago that a former mayor imposed e-tricycles on BGC (where they were not suitable) while not doing much to lift a finger in the mayhem of tricycles in old Taguig (e.g., along Gen. Luna). As for Pasig, you just have go along the Pasig River and the Manggahan Floodway to see what it has accomplished so far in those areas.

There are no quick fixes to the transport and traffic problems our cities are facing. In the case of Metro Manila, much is at stake for the long-delayed mass transit projects. And the DOTC’s announcements of projects being formulated or proposed are no longer taken seriously as they have not delivered on any of these despite 4 years of this current administration. For other cities, it is important to learn the hard lessons from the experience of Metro Manila. There is also a need for a drastic change in transport and traffic policies in our cities. Iloilo, for example, has built an expensive bike lane along Ninoy Aquino Avenue (Diversion Road) and has marketed its Esplanade as a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. Yet the city has not acted on the clamour to revisit the overpasses along Gen. Luna (Infante and Jalandoni flyovers). The latest information I got from the city is that there are issues in the design of the bikeway along the Diversion Road as the surface (they used pavers) is not suitable for cycling. It seems, also, that the city and cyclists were not consulted by the DPWH when the bikeway was designed and constructed resulting in many cyclists using the Diversion Road itself for traveling. This last example is a lesson for our local governments¬†and national agencies that they need to cooperate with each other and turfing has no place in transport and traffic if we are really serious about bringing solutions to problems we encounter everyday.

About me?

Looking at the data on which articles on this blog have been read lately, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of hits on the “About” feature of the blog. I don’t have my name there and there are only subtle hints as to who I am so I guess researchers like students are disappointed to find that they cannot quote a name of some person writing about transportation and traffic in the Philippines. I like to keep it that way so I remain somewhat anonymous while I continue to write about issues we have faced, are facing and will be facing for the foreseeable future. At times, I catch my material being used by our students at the university and others. I am flattered when I hear people talking to me about someone writing on a blog about transport problems and offering solutions and then learn that they were referring to my blog.

I know that one implication of this preference of mine is that my opinions will remain mine and unattributed except perhaps to the few who know who is really writing these articles. That’s okay with me and I am comfortable about my somewhat anonymous identity online. That way, I can write more freely though I am aware of my responsibilities as a writer. I try my best to be fair while being firm in my opinions in my writings. I’ve known many persons who have served and continue to serve in government and to be honest, everyone did good in one way or the other so credit should be given where and to whom its due. Problem is that we continue to suffer a lot from decisions, policies and actions made over a long period and not the past few years and sadly many of those people responsible for such are very much around in government or in the private sector. Even worse, nadadagdagan pa as we have seen in more recent times.

I know that there are many others who are more experienced and can write better than me. Unfortunately, many of them don’t use this medium for getting information and factual opinions out there. Many prefer to publish in technical journals or present in academic venues like conferences and symposia, and would likely only make an occasional comment on Facebook (if they’re on FB) about transport/traffic-related articles posted there. Then there are those who feel like its their responsibility to reply or comment on whatever is written by others that they don’t quite agree with. One such person even wrote a multiple-part article in reply to an opinion article that he didn’t agree with. Now that’s what I call overkill!

It is unfortunate and frustrating for me that if I were to look back at some of the stuff I’ve written, I could just copy and paste the entire article today and it won’t matter because we haven’t gone anywhere near a solution to certain problems that have been lingering for quite some time now. Yes, that’s how serious our problems are in this country! And that’s what makes me keep on writing in my own way and writing about transport and traffic, not about me.

Still know nothing about me

Enjoying the performances at the Sting concert the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the couple of pingbacks this blog recently received from some hecklers (or trolls?) who obviously didn’t understand what I wrote about the AGT currently being tested at the UP Diliman campus. Calling me a “so-called” expert in transport gets my attention but then I’m not the sort of person who’s insecure about my experiences, talents and skills so I’d rather dedicate a song to these fellows. Just a tip… try to read the other articles in the blog to better understand how and why I write about topics on transport and traffic before you make your conclusions about what’s been written.

Advisory

The photos featured in this blog are free and will continue to be free since I do not have any intentions to gain profit from this hobby of mine. All the photos do not have watermarks that could obscure features of interest in the photos. Most if not all the photos are originals taken by me or my staff when we are out in the field or simply traveling from one place to another. And so I cannot assure the quality of many photos.

For those doing research on the internet and especially for school projects or papers, I would urge you to do the right thing and properly acknowledge where you got the photos. I am very aware of a lot of people taking images from the internet and passing them off as if it were their own. While there is little I can do to prevent that, I think it is my responsibility as a member of the academe to make this advisory on such matters of intellectual property and integrity.

Thank you for your attention and read on!