Caught (up) in traffic

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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.

On road crashes along Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City

I frequently travel along Sumulong Highway as it is one of the faster routes among my alternatives between my home and my workplace. Quite often there are road crashes along this road including at sections where you assume people would be more careful driving or riding along. This assumption, while logical, doesn’t seem to hold for Sumulong Highway. The following photo shows a scene where a motorcycle rider probably lost control and took a spill near Padi’s Point.

An overloaded jeepney passes the scene of a crash involving a motorcycle. The rider, who can be seen seated on the curb at right, survived but obviously looked shaken by the experience. He could have easily have been run over by another vehicle after his spill. 

I thought about how safety can be improved along Sumulong Highway. This was certainly a case where crashes cannot be wholly blamed on the road. There’s just too many risk takers including those who are called “camote riders” along this highway. Perhaps the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) or the Antipolo traffic unit can initiate a program where they apprehend reckless drivers and riders in order to educate them about safe driving/riding? There’s no need to set-up checkpoints but they should observe behaviour and flag down or chase those endangering others and themselves along this highway.

More high capacity transit for Antipolo!

Two years ago, I wrote about Antipolo being ripe for high capacity public transportation. So far, work is progressing along the Line 2 Extension to Masinag but there’s no word about it being extended further (Cogeo? Marikina?). I have always maintained that the demand in Cogeo, Antipolo is already established and a mass transit line terminating there will certainly be a game changer in terms of commuting. In fact, it may contribute to rapidly developing that area and hasten the development of Antipolo’s government centre, which is a few kilometres further along Marcos Highway.

Schedule and fares for the P2P bus service between Robinsons Place Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas Center.

There is now a P2P bus service between Robinsons Place Antipolo and Robinsons Galleria via Ortigas Avenue. And then there is the newest P2P service between SM Masinag and the Makati CBD. The first has very limited capacity at present and have few patrons (regular passengers) based on what I’ve observed and the rough survey my students did for a class project. I still have to see the second one from SM Masinag but I assume it has a higher demand considering a lot of people already commute from that area to Makati. I say so because there’s a nearby UV Express terminal that’s always crowded with people every time I pass by in the morning. This should also translate into demand for the afternoon/evening period. However, I am not so optimistic about the off-peak periods (I hope I’m wrong!) as most P2P services my students have surveyed so far indicate really low occupancies during the off-peak periods.

Is P2P the way to go for Antipolo (and its neighbouring towns like Cainta, Taytay and Marikina)? I think this is still basically a stop-gap measure and a mass transit line as well as complementing conventional buses would still be the most suitable for these rapidly and steadily growing areas. Ortigas Avenue is ripe for a high capacity system that should perhaps be grade separated. The demand was there more than two decades ago. I seriously believe that the Province of Rizal, the City of Antipolo and the high-earning Municipalities of Cainta and Taytay should exert more effort and lobby for a mass transit line serving the Ortigas corridor.

Traffic congestion along Sen. L. Sumulong Memorial Circle

I was on some errands and had to pass through the Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong Memorial Circle from Taktak to the other side of Antipolo near the Lico Circle. The section from Robinsons Antipolo where the Sumulong Circle intersects with Sumulong Highway until C. Lawis Street is being widened and photo below shows the work in progress. The road is a dangerous one especially at night. There are a lot of electric poles in the middle of the newly constructed lanes and power and phone lines dangling in many places. The unfinished parts have a lot of excavations, construction material and debris from the demolished buildings.

Widened section of Sen. L. Sumulong Memorial Circle

I took the following photos while traffic was at a standstill:

Initially, it was not so obvious what the cause of congestion was except for the dramatic sag along the road. Both sides appeared to be congested.

Closer observation showed my direction to be congested up to a certain point whereas the opposite direction across from me was free flowing and traffic build-up along the other side also appeared to be from a certain location at the bottom part of the sag.

It turned out that out of the 6 lanes of the road, only 3 lanes were available to moving traffic – one lane along my way and two along the opposite. Vehicles were parked along 2 lanes of the road in front of the Antipolo City Police Station and 1 lanes across from it. It seems quite ironic  considering the police is also tasked with traffic enforcement and management and yet the problem emanated from their station. I am not sure whose vehicles are those that are parked along the road. Perhaps many are owned by police officers? By comparison, the national high school beside the station and the nearby hall of justice did not seem to generate as much vehicular parking as the station. The obvious solution though would be to have an off-street parking lot or facility. Looking at Google Maps, there are some locations along M. Santos Street where a multi-level parking facility can be built but land needs to be acquired first and that can be a difficult task. Another option might be to relocate the main station (i.e., headquarters) elsewhere where there is space for proper facilities including off-street parking. Perhaps they should have a place at the new government center being developed by Antipolo?