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Requiem for the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys?

From the time Metro Manila and Rizal transitioned to General Community Quarantine (GCQ), there have been limited public transport services connecting the two considering most Rizal towns are like bed towns to Metro Manila. The term “bed town” refers to towns, or municipalities, even cities, that are basically the place of residence of persons who during the day time usually travel out to workplaces or schools outside their areas of residence. Many who reside in Rizal province actually work or study in Metro Manila. Similar cases may also be found in the other provinces surrounding Metro Manila like Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite. These connections are made mainly by public transport, which for the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas currently comprise about 70% of total trips. The rest is by private transport. [Note: Not counted are trips mainly by walking and cycling. While everyone walks, walking is usually at the ends of the commutes.]

Current public transport services now comprise of buses plying the Antipolo-Cubao and Taytay-Gilmore routes that were among the first operationalized under the rationalization program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr). For the Antipolo-Cubao route, several companies have shared the load with mostly aircon buses running between Quezon City and Antipolo City. I wrote recently that there are now non-aircon (referred to as ordinary) buses serving this route and that in addition to the main line (Aurora Blvd.-Marcos Highway-Masinag Junction-Sumulong Highway via) there was now a branch going through Cogeo and via Olalia Road.

Aircon bus approaching the Robinsons Antipolo terminal

Non-aircon (ordinary) bus plying the Antipolo-Cubao route along Sumulong Highway past the Masinag Junction

We got a comment about how perhaps DOTr and LTFRB plans to introduce variations to main routes including adding to the route number to distinguish one variation from another. While the original route signs look like the one on top of the windshield in the Aircon bus in the first photo with the white box on the left displaying the route number, the bus in the second photo shows two boxes. The second box to the right of the route name is blank. So perhaps there can be an ‘A’ to refer to the original Route 9 and ‘B’ can refer to the one via Cogeo. Does this mean there can also be a ‘C’ and that can be via the even older route via Felix Avenue, Cainta Junction and Ortigas Avenue. If this becomes a reality, then that probably puts the proverbial last nail on the coffin of the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys. Jeepneys would have been phased out for the route in favor of the higher capacity buses.

Other buses operating the Antipolo-Cubao route

I had mentioned in previous posts that more buses have been deployed to serve the Antipolo-Cubao route. The route had already evolved to have two alternatives: the original route via Aurora Boulevard, Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway, and the variant that goes through Cogeo and passes through Olalia Road to/from Sumulong Highway. Here are a couple of photos showing a couple more bus companies that used to ply other routes via EDSA.

Jayross Lucky Seven Tours bus – these used to ply the Fairview-Baclaran route via Commonwealth Avenue and EDSA with all aircon buses.

Diamond Star bus – these used to ply the Malanday-NAIA route via EDSA with both ordinary and aircon buses

More photos of other buses now serving the Antipolo-Cubao route.

Antipolo’s bus port

I like taking photos of aircraft of various airlines in airports. Among the photos I like taking are of their tails aligned to show the different airlines docked at the terminals. As we were stopped at an intersection just across from the Robinsons Antipolo public transport terminal, the wife took this photo of buses at the terminal. To me, the terminal has become somewhat like a bus port; with buses serving the long distance routes between Cubao in Quezon City and Antipolo in Rizal province. That’s about 20+ kilometers via Marcos and Sumulong Highways.

What used to be a small amusement part has been cleared prior to the lockdown in March and the area now functions as a parking lot for buses serving the Antipolo-Cubao via Masinag Junction and Antipolo-Ortigas Center routes. The latter was already operational prior to the lockdown with P2P buses leaving every 30 minutes.

When the Antipolo-Cubao bus route first started operation when Rizal and Metro Manila first transitioned to GCQ, there were three (3) companies operating along the route – G-Liner, RRCG and EMBC. All used air-conditioned buses. Before MECQ in early August, there were additional companies including those that deployed regular or non-aircon buses. I will try to take more photos of the terminal, the buses and the paratransit providing local transport (i.e., within Antipolo). These are tricycles of different models including the conventional motorcycles with sidecar, the tuktuks, and the e-trikes.

Route 9: Antipolo-Cubao

I keep forgetting posting something about the buses that now operate along the Antipolo-Cubao route. Route 9, as the DOTr and LTFRB have designated this route covers one of 2 routes connecting Antipolo and Quezon City’s older CBD. Route 9 is via Sumulong Highway and Masinag Junction. The older route via Felix Avenue and Cainta Junction has not been revived. Both routes used to be served by jeepneys; many of them the “patok” kind that were known for speeding and risky maneuvers. It seems, at this time, that these will not be allowed to operate again along these routes with the rationalization efforts of the government. Following are photos taken at the Robinsons Antipolo transport terminal, which is where one of the end points of Route 9 is located.

 

Buses maneuver at the spacious terminal grounds at Robinsons Antipolo.

There are two bus services currently terminating here. One is the P2P bus service between Robinsons Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria, and the other is Route 9 between Antipolo and Cubao, Quezon City.

Many of the buses were “pulled out” from their former routes. The term pulled out is actually inaccurate since public transport operations were suspended during the lockdown.

The transport terminal is an intermodal one that’s supposed to cater to buses, jeepneys, vans and tricycles. There are currently no UV Express vans operating here and traditional or conventional jeepneys have yet to return to Antipolo.

A big part of the terminal is an area reclaimed from a failed amusement park that occupied the corner of this lot. The rides and other equipment were removed prior to the lockdowns.

There are minimal restrictions to the vehicles accessing the terminal grounds. Here you see a taxi and tricycle moving about. Cars may be parked nearby and these (parked cars) were not uncommon before the lockdown as some people practiced “park and ride” with the P2P buses.

EMBC buses such as this one used to ply the Tanay – Divisoria and Tanay – Quiapo routes

G-Liner buses are a familiar sight in Rizal where they are probably the oldest company continuing service since the 1980s. Correct me if I’m wrong but I only remember them being in operation in the 1980s. Before them were Metro Manila Transit Corp. buses and the baby buses that plied the Binangonan-Recto route.

G-Liners now operate two routes from the rationalization program: Antipolo-Cubao and Taytay-Gilmore.

The passenger capacities of the buses and the service between Antipolo & Cubao have been significantly reduced due to health protocols. Thus, buses can only carry perhaps up to 40 or 50% of their seating capacity. I mentioned seating capacity here because of physical distancing requirements and the ban on standees. Previously, a bus left every 5 minutes and their frequency could not cover the demand along the route. Recently, I observed more buses in operation and the addition buses from two more bus companies that used to ply the Fairview-Baclaran and Fairview-Alabang routes. These could probably help ease the supply issues.

More on the Antipol-Cubao service soon!

Post-ECQ at the Robinsons Antipolo transport terminal

I should probably have posted this right after Antipolo transitioned to GCQ beginning May but the transport terminal at Robinsons Antipolo was basically just a parking lot for supermarket customers for that entire month. We are still under GCQ now but most restrictions like the quarantine and barangay coding have been eased. And with Metro Manila already under GCQ, that means more people moving about especially those who have started going to their workplaces. Here are photos of the terminal taken sometime mid-May before I lined up for the supermarket in the morning.

Idle P2P bus and closed booth – I usually took the P2P bus when I have meetings in the Ortigas CBD area. I usually alight at Medical City where its easy to get a ride (Grab) to my destination. If it was a meeting at ADB or somewhere near it, I just walk from Galeria.

I didn’t know before that there were vehicles (likely vans) traveling between Antipolo and Lucena City in the Province of Quezon. Perhaps the route is via the Rizal “backdoor” (i.e., via the Rizal towns of Teresa, Morong, Tanay, Pililla, and then via Laguna through Mabitac, Siniloan, Pangil, Pakil, Paete, Lumban, Pagsanjan, and then Luisiana, Lucban and Tayabas in Quezon). This is typically a 3.5 to 4.5-hour trip depending on traffic conditions and the number of stops travelers make in between the ends.

Antipolo-JRC is probably among the oldest jeepney lines connecting Antipolo with Metro Manila. JRC stands for what was Jose Rizal College. It is now Jose Rizal University or JRU but few jeepneys use JRU as most people are still familiar with JRC. I have fond memories of this jeepney line as I used to commute on these jeepneys when I was in high school. My school was located along Shaw Boulevard and I took the jeepney because it was the one that passed and stopped in front or just across from our school. Other jeepneys from Rizal turned at Capitolyo to go to the EDSA-Crossing terminal via the United Lab road. [Note: the chairs in the photo are not for the terminal but for customers who lined up for the supermarket. Note the distance between each chair.

Regular bus services for Antipolo

Finally, there is a regular bus service between Antipolo and Cubao. This will be between the Robinsons Antipolo transport terminal and the Araneta City (formerly Araneta Center) via Sumulong Highway, Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard. This is a more significant development than the P2P bus service between Antipolo and Ortigas CBD (i.e., Robinsons Antipolo and Robinsons Galeria) as this is a regular bus service with what appears to be designated stops. I say what appears to be designated stops based on the fare matrix released by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory  Board (LTFRB).

I have written about this in the past and communicated this to local and national officials and yetWill this spell the decline and eventually phasing out of the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys? Probably not unless there is a strong move for a phaseout. The operation of the Line 2 Extension will surely impact them, too. But they can and should survive even for feeder services with respect to the rail and buses.

Cooperative work among LGUs to address transport problems along Ortigas Avenue Extension?

I saw a recent post about a meeting hosted by Pasig City. The Mayor of Pasig City recently held a meeting where he invited the mayors or Antipolo, Cainta and Taytay to discuss, among other things perhaps, transportation along Ortigas Avenue. Ortigas Avenue is a corridor shared by several LGUs most notably the Rizal towns of Antipolo (which is the provincial capital and a highly urbanized city), Cainta and Taytay. The latter two are among the richest municipalities in the country; a fact I underline here since that also should translate to them having the resources or means to help come up with transport and traffic solutions.

Morning rush traffic starts very early these days. This photo was taken around 6AM on a Thursday along the westbound direction just after the Manggahan Bridge. The pedestrian overpass at C. Raymundo junction is shown and the dark colored buildings are at Robinsons’ Bridgetown development. Note the commuters along the right waiting for a ride.

Photos paint a thousand words. The Taytay Mayor attended the meeting. He has been under fire for the horrendous traffic caused by the mismanagement of Tikling Junction as well as the Barkadahan Bridge area that was and is supposed to be a major alternative route for Rizalenos heading to their workplaces in Makati and BGC. More recently, there were posts about the traffic signals installed at Tikling Junction that basically invalidates the roundabout concept for the junction. The result last Thursday, the first day of operations for the signals, was hellish traffic that backed up a couple of kilometers along the Manila East Road and Ortigas Ave. Extension (some reports say until Cainta Junction). This, even as the signal settings were supposedly done with help from the MMDA.

Antipolo was represented by its former Mayor and husband to the current one. He also happens to be a former Governor of the Rizal Province and likely to run again as his mother, the current governor, is on her 3rd term. It seems to me that the province is not so interested in solutions for Ortigas Avenue despite most of its constituents traveling through the corridor to get to their workplaces and schools. Marcos Highway is not the main corridor for Rizal towns as it basically carries only Antipolo and maybe some of Tanay (via Sampaloc) traffic. Ortigas Avenue Extension branches into two major roads from Tikling – Ortigas Ave Extension, which ends at the capitol, and the Manila East Road, which connects to practically all of Rizal towns with San Mateo and Rodriguez (Montalban) being the exceptions. It is time for the province to pay attention to this commuting problem experienced daily by her constituents.

The Mayor of Cainta seems not as interested as the others, sending a representative who appears to be not one of the top officials (the traffic chief with a rank of SPO1=Master Sergeant is lower ranked than a councilor)  of the Municipality to such an important meeting. In fact, he is currently now embroiled in a controversial faux pas involving himself by not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. What’s more is his downplaying this and appearing to be even justifying the act. He eventually apologized but not before stating his moves. He is not new to publicity (stunts?) and knows how bad publicity still translates to good publicity especially in this days of fake news and trolls (he apparently has many on social media). He seems to forget that transport and traffic solutions for Ortigas Ave will likely benefit anyone seeking reelection or higher office in Rizal. He is on his last term as mayor and the break-up with some of his allies including his former Vice Mayor who ran against him in the last elections shows the limits of his political career. What was rumored as plans to run for Rizal governor might just be downgraded to perhaps Vice Mayor? In any case, he should show more interest and effort in finding solutions beyond traffic management and not by himself but in cooperation with others with whom his jurisdiction shares the problems with. Perhaps the initiative of the Pasig Mayor presents an opportunity for such cooperative work? Many people are very interested in this and will be watching – and hoping.

Ortigas Center congestion

A couple of Thursdays ago, I was in the Ortigas CBD area to attend a conference on statistics. I hitched a ride with an old friend who was also going there and so we had some time to catch up on life and other topics we usually talked about since our college days. Being on the passenger seat also meant I had some opportunities to take photos of the traffic situation in the vicinity of the venue of our conference. Here are some photos I took of traffic in the Galleria – ADB area as we drove along ADB Avenue.

Congestion along ADB Avenue across from Robinsons. The ADB building is shown ahead of the vehicles.

Most of the vehicles turned out to be turning towards Guadix and headed for Poveda. These are traffic generated by the exclusive school where most if not all students’ mode of transport is by car. This causes much of the congestion in the area at this time of day as well as during dismissals in the noontime and afternoon.

Vehicles bound for Poveda (building is in the background) and EDSA.

View of Ortigas bound vehicles filed along Sapphire Road – this photo was taken at the bridgeway connecting Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. The relatively uncontested road is the Robinsons’ driveway.

The photos show how dependent to cars many people working in the Ortigas CBD are. Many of them live outside of the CBD including those residing in the Rizal towns to the east of Metro Manila. The number of people using their own cars put so much strain on the major thoroughfares including and perhaps especially Ortigas Avenue, which serves as a main arterial connecting the CBD to many parts of Pasig, Quezon City (via C5) and the very progressive towns of Rizal Province such as Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo City.

It is a wonder why up to now, there is no mass transit system along Ortigas Avenue when the demand is very high and continuous to increase with the development of lands along it.  SM, Robinsons and Megawide are among the major players now developing their plots of land to become high density commercial/office/residential areas. And these will surely translate into more trips generated and worse traffic congestion. Perhaps the mayors of Pasig, Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo plus the governor of Rizal can get together to discuss and agree about solutions where each LGU can contribute for the betterment of their constituents’ commutes?

Evidences of demand for Line 2 beyond Masinag (again)

My commute between my home and office usually takes me to Masinag where I make the choice between traveling via the typical Marcos Highway route or via the alternative Marikina/Tumana route. Here is a scene that I usually see whenever I pass by the informal UV Express terminal just past the Masinag junction along the westbound side of Marcos Highway and just before the Decathlon sports facility currently under construction.

Passengers waiting for UV Express vans or AUVs to return around 8 AM. The latter serve the Cogeo – Makati (Greenbelt) route, which could take 2 or 3 rides using other modes of public transport (e.g., one ride to Cubao and another from Cubao to Makati)

Note how many people cannot get a ride around 8 AM. If only there were more efficient options then these people would likely take them but for now the obvious and practical choice for them is the UV Express. Others, of course, can just walk further to SM Masinag where there is a P2P bus service also heading to Makati. Recently, a new “experimental” route was opened between Cogeo and SM Aura in Taguig using modern jitneys.

Once completed, Line 2 should be able to provide an alternative for these commuters but there is still the issue of a seamless transfer in Cubao. There is no direct connection between the Line 2 and Line 3 stations with the former connected to the Gateway Mall while the latter is connected to Farmers. That is a significant walk between the two stations.

But where do the commuters in the photo come from (origin?)? Most likely don’t reside around Masinag Junction though there are many residential area around this location. Many are ferried here by tricycles, jeepneys or private vehicles. Many likely have their own cars but opt not to drive to/from Makati. That is actually a good thing and something that needs to be sustained rather than give a reason for these people to use cars for their commutes. And so there is a need to extend Line 2 perhaps to Cogeo, and a branch to Marikina. The Marikina branch, as I’ve mentioned before, could terminate at the Marikina Sports Center. Meanwhile the extension to Cogeo should not stop there but continue further towards Antipolo’s new government centre. This corridor’s population is steadily increasing and the transport demand must be addressed not by low capacity modes but by a mass transit system. The low to medium capacity modes should be in support or at most supplementary to the high capacity system with the Line 2 as backbone.

Traffic management schemes for the Marcos Highway bridge rehab

The rehabilitation of the Marcos Highway Bridge in Marikina has necessitated traffic management schemes at the bridge itself and along alternative routes to alleviate congestion in the area. These are collectively called traffic or transport systems management (TSM) schemes with the objective of optimising existing infrastructure and resources without necessarily building something entirely new. These are quite different from travel demand management (TDM) schemes that include number coding and truck ban policies that are already being implemented (though Marikina does not implement the number coding scheme).

Traffic build-up at the approach to the intersection with FVR Road (To Riverbanks). This is now a signalised intersection as traffic from Blue Ridge/White Plains is now allowed to cross to FVR Road.

Using the route via FVR Road (Riverbanks) means you don’t have to cross the Marcos Highway Bridge and travellers will merge with those who crossed the bridge just before the Line 2 Santolan Station.

In the mornings, one lane each is allocated for either the eastbound or westbound traffic. That’s practically a total of 3 lanes (+2 lanes westbound for the SM Marikina Bridge) for the westbound direction and a single lane for the eastbound side. This is logical given the directional distribution of traffic at this time of day and the alternative routes already available to travellers.

 

Here are a few photos taken on a night time drive. Note that this was taken by a passenger. Don’t even try doing this (taking photos) while driving a vehicle, and especially not while on a motorcycle.

Entrance to the bridge right after Maj. Dizon – this part is not affected by the rehab works but vehicles position themselves to shift towards the left side, which is the usable part of the bridge.

Both lanes of the westbound side of the bridge are used for eastbound traffic. Westbound traffic are all along the SM Marikina bridge for a total of 2 lanes each for either direction of flow. The cones are not removed for practicality since they would have to be installed for the morning when one lane is allocated for the westbound traffic.

Vehicles shift to the right to return to the correct lanes for eastbound traffic along Marcos Highway at the Santolan area. Note the westbound vehicles shifting towards the underpass and SM Marikina on the left.