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On the transportation aspects of Antipolo’s pitch for the senate to relocate there

I was browsing Facebook the other day and found an interesting post by the Antipolo City Government’s official account. They posted about the presentation made by the current mayor to the staff of the Philippine Senate, selling the idea for the Senate to relocate from its current location in Pasay City. There are currently two options known to us: Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City and Antipolo City in Rizal Province.

The Antipolo government’s post stated that it only takes 25 minutes between the the Batasan Complex and the proposed site, which is on land owned by the Antipolo City Government. This was probably based on travel time estimate using a tool such as Open Street Map. This though is inaccurate since travel times are affected by various factors and will vary according to time of day, day of the week and even month.

Open Street Map visualization of travel route and time between Batasan Complex and the proposed site for the Senate

 

Google Maps visualization of alternative routes and typical travel times

 

I took the preceding screen captures at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2017 (Friday). Open Street Map’s version can be misleading because it states a travel time assuming practically no traffic (~26 km in 27 minutes or about 58 km/hr in terms of travel speed). Google Maps version is better as it accounts for typical traffic during a certain time of travel (i.e., 10AM). Thus, there’s the more realistic 1 hour travel time for the same distance (about 26 km/hr travel speed). Google’s is based on crowdsourced data and can be customized based on the day and time of travel (e.g., 8:00 AM on a Monday). And I wouldn’t even want to get into the discussion of the accuracy of the claimed 40-45 minutes to/from the airport (i.e., NAIA). Again, anyone with Waze or Google Maps can get more realistic travel time estimates for such trips.

What would be the transport impacts of such a relocation. For one, employees of the Senate (and I am not even considering the Senators and their closest staff here) would have to travel from their residences to the proposed site in Cabading, Antipolo City. Where do these staff live? If they were from Manila and they take public transport, that probably means they would have to take the LRT Line 2 to Masinag and then take a jeepney from Masinag to the site. Line 2 would present the most efficient option in terms of travel time and cost compared to taking a jeepney or van via Cubao. I am not aware of any direct transport services for them although we can speculate that perhaps new routes can be established. The Senate has shuttle buses so these would also be an option for those taking public transport. Car owners will have to travel and converge along Marcos Highway. It is uncertain when the extension to Cogeo will be decided and constructed, if at all.

There is also mention of the plans for Circumferential Road 6 (C-6). However, the reality is that government is taking its time in upgrading the existing sections in Taguig, Pasig and Taytay. The Taguig sections are in a very bad state now after the onset of the wet season. Dealing with the ROW acquisitions necessary for planned C-6 sections is already a big challenge as the areas are already built up or developed (mostly residential subdivisions).

Having the Senate complex in Antipolo will have repercussions on land use/development as well as land prices and rent. It will be located at a relatively undeveloped part of the city and will likely encourage urbanization there. Antipolo should be careful in regulating land development so that the area will not become another Batasan with all the informal settlements and the low density developments around it. There are many opportunities here to develop the area into a showcase government center and that should include planned development for residential, commercial and institutional uses. The housing options should include affordable walk-up apartments as well as medium rise buildings like those by DMCI and Filinvest. It is important to emphasize that options for affordable housing near the workplace cannot be provided in Fort Bonifacio since land and residential unit prices there are already very expensive; forcing most Senate staff to live outside and away from their offices. Such a situation necessitates long commutes and contributes to congestion.

To be fair, there is a good potential for congestion reduction if the Senate relocates to Antipolo. Perhaps the concept of a “New Town” in the proposed site can be developed in more detail. But questions arise: Will this attract major schools, for example, as well as offices such as BPOs? What is definite is that Antipolo will not be the only LGU that will benefit (economically) here but perhaps much of the Province of Rizal, too, as well as the nearby cities of Marikina and Pasig.

Decongestion can happen if:
a) Senate staff decide to move to Antipolo and environs (e.g., Marikina, Cainta, Tanay, etc.).
b) A significant number of staff reside at the proposed dormitories during much of the weekdays, and go home only for the weekends and holidays.
c) Efficient public transport is provided for them and Antipolo constituents along the corridor to be served.
d) Sustainable transport facilities like walkways and bikeways be developed to reduce dependence on motorized transport especially for short distance travel.

In the end, though, I think it will be the Senators who will be making the decision on this matter. Will they be more practical, pragmatic, or insensitive to the consideration of their staffs? Abangan!

Back to school – concerns about congestion and safety

Many roads again are expected to become more congested as school resumes in most parts of the country especially in cities. But while congestion is usually the top issue along roads near many schools, one concern that usually takes a back seat to congestion is safety. Many public schools in the provinces are located along national highways. Many if not most of their students walk to and from school, usually on the carriageway when the shoulders are too rough, dusty or muddy. This situation for students increase the likelihood of their being hit by vehicles using the road. The risk increases because of their exposure to the dangers posed by motor vehicles. Following are a couple of photos showing typical cases at public schools along national roads. Both are in Antipolo City.

Typical at-grade pedestrian crossing in front of a school. Students in most public schools often commute by walking or taking public transport like jeepneys or tricycles.

Despite this pedestrian overpass across a public school along Sumulong Highway, most students still prefer to cross on the road rather than go up and down the overpass.

Oftentimes, the seemingly obvious solution of constructing overpasses for safer crossings for students does not pan out as planned or intended. There are many underutilized pedestrian bridges since the natural way is still to cross at-grade. Then there is the issue of providing them safer walking paths or walkways. In both photos above, the sidewalks are only token (“puwede na iyan”) and insufficient for the pedestrian traffic supposed to use them. We need to plan, design and provide such facilities for our pedestrians, especially children, who are marginalized compared to those who have their own vehicles for travel.

Wheel clamping in Antipolo

Earlier this year, Antipolo City implemented an aggressive campaign against illegal on-street parking.  This policy was borne out of a new ordinance penalizing on-street parking that has been perceived as the cause of traffic congestion along many of the city’s roads. A more detailed description of the conditions or situations warranting wheel clamping may be found in the Antipolo City website.

The following photos were taken from the Antipolo City Government Facebook page:

The ordinance and its implementation by the city is very timely (some may say overdue) considering that many streets particularly in the city center is already clogged with vehicles parked on-street. In certain cases, there’s double parking; severely constricting traffic flow even along one-way streets. There are (as always) evidence of resistance but hopefully, the city’s resolve will overcome and improve the situation.

I think another thing that should be in Antipolo’s agenda that’s very much related to the problem of on-street parking is the requirement for off-street parking spaces as stipulated in the National Building Code. The Code actually prescribes for the minimum number of slots per building or development but it is the local government that is tasked to implement or enforce the provisions in the NBC. Going around Antipolo, one can observe that there are many establishments clearly in violation of the Building Code provisions. One major university, for example, along Sumulong Highway does not have enough spaces considering the vehicle trips it generates. This situation is compounded by the expansion of the school to include a hospital and the adjacent commercial development that conspicuously also appears to not have enough parking spaces. An LGU can actually have a policy for stricter minimum parking slots. Quezon City and Makati City have ordinances stating so but have had mixed results compared to the outcomes they probably thought about as desirable.

Of course the topic of minimum parking spaces is currently the subject of discussions in other, more progressive cities and countries, and particularly those with better developed public transport and more disciplined land development. While relevant to us here in the Philippines, it is a topic that is not yet ripe for serious discussions given the many concerns (i.e., violations, non-compliance issues) that still need to be addressed by LGUs like Antipolo City at present.

Vermont Royale pedestrian overpass

There was a comment on a previous article asking if the pedestrian overpass across Vermont Royale along Marcos Highway is already usable. The photo in that article showed a still-to-be modified overpass. Following are photos taken last Sunday of the overpass. It shows the lowered mid-section passing under the Line 2 extension structure.

The modified pedestrian overpass across Vermont Royale along Marcos Highway

That’s a pedestrian and a cyclist using the overpass

Responding to the transport impacts of road crashes

Last March 9, traffic was terrible along Marcos Highway and roads connecting to it including Imelda Avenue and Sumulong Highway due to a truck that slammed into the scaffolding of the Line 2  Extension across the Sta. Lucia Mall, and barely missing the newly constructed column supporting the girders and elevated tracks of Line 2.

[Photo not mine but sent by an officemate who was glad to have taken his motorcycle that day instead of commuting by car.]

Following are comments I captured from Waze as I tried to get information about the traffic situation:

It is very clear from travelers’ comments that most were frustrated and many were angry about what seemed to be a very slow response from authorities in clearing the crash site and getting traffic to move faster. I myself wondered how a crash like this with its impacts manifesting in severe congestion along major roads was not dealt with as urgently as possible by so many entities that were not without capacity to act decisively. The front liner should have been the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and there were at least four local government units directly affected by the congestion: Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Surely, these LGUs could have done more if the MMDA couldn’t, in order to resolve the problem? If the availability of heavy equipment was an issue, weren’t there available equipment from Line 2 contractor, DMCI, or perhaps from the construction sites nearby (Ayala is constructing a huge mall near the area.)? Surely, they could lend a payloader or mobile crane that can remove the truck or at least help unblock the area?

I finally decided to turn back and work from home instead that day. Later, I learned that authorities had to stop traffic along Marcos Highway around 11:00 AM in order to tow the truck and clear the area for traffic to normalize. I hope this serves as a lesson in coordination among government entities and that future incidents like this will not results in a “carmaggedon” like Friday’s congestion. One thing that also became obvious is that travelers passing the area are all dependent on road-based transport and the primary reason why a lot of people were affected by the crash. The expanded operations of the Line 2, whenever that will be, will surely change transport in these areas and for the better.

Revisiting Daang Bakal, Antipolo

In a recent trip to a school located near Daang Bakal, I took the opportunity to ask my passenger to take photos of what used to be a railway corridor connecting Manila with Antipolo.

img_3945Section before the Victoria Valley gate (view away from the gate) along which is a community

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img_3949One side of the road has been widened. The other has a lot of trees that would have to be cut or balled in order to build an additional lane.

img_3950Widened section towards the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

img_3951Section across the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

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img_3953Skateboarders 

img_3954Power and light posts are yet to be relocated away and clear of the carriageway after the road was widened

img_3955Many electric posts need to be relocated as they pose dangers to road users

img_3956Section towards Hinulugang Taktak gate – the fence on the left is to secure the national park’s grounds from informal settlers

img_3957Section across Hinulugang Taktak gate

One can only imagine how these places looked like many years ago when the Manila Railroad Company operated the Antipolo Line.

Addressing concerns about hazardous work-sites along Sumulong Highway

The concern about hazardous worksites along Sumulong Highway that I wrote about earlier this week has apparently been addressed. Here are a few photos of those areas and prominent in the photos are the concrete barriers set up by the contractor with “DPWH” painted on each barrier. These are the same barriers that they mass-produced and were just sitting in the project office nearby and not utilized until very, very recently.

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While these areas still pose significant risks to road users. These are not a continuous barrier with only yellow tape connecting them, and people and vehicles can still easily get through between the gaps. Yet, these will do (for now) and is better than nothing. Perhaps, though, the DPWH and LGUs like Antipolo City can do a better effort to compel contractors to improve safety in work sites like this in order to minimize the likelihood of crashes or accidents.