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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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.