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Roadworks along Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City

The roadworks along Sumulong Highway continues with drainage work along the sections across Palos Verdes and Cavalier’s Village.  They have cleared a lot of trees along the road’s edge on the Masinag-bound side and only one lane is usable for these sections. This has recently caused several road crashes involving all types of vehicles. While there are obvious shortcomings about the worksite on the contractor’s side, many hardheaded drivers and riders continue to operate their vehicles (read: drive or ride recklessly) as if there are no hazards along the road.

IMG_2238Concrete culverts line the Masinag-bound side of Sumulong Highway

IMG_2240Worksite occupies one lane of the 4-lane/2-way highway. Temporary barriers often encroach upon the single lane available to Masina-bound traffic. This leads to many vehicles encroaching on the opposing traffic lane, violating the double line that states “no overtaking.” Perhaps the contractor needs a refresher or a lesson in proper traffic management and signage for worksites?

IMG_2241Completed sections are not immediately cleared, apparently and likely to have proper curing for the concrete. Notice in the photo that the project includes sidewalk construction. Sidewalks will enhance safety for pedestrians and even joggers or hikers going up and down Antipolo.

IMG_2239Notices are nailed to many trees that will be cut down to give way to highway drainage and sidewalks along the Antipolo-bound side of Sumulong Highway.

Pinagmisahan Street, Antipolo City

A couple of weeks ago, traffic had to be rerouted from a section of the city’s Circumferential Road (also known as the Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong Memorial Circle) between the intersection with Taktak Road and Pinagmisahan Street to Pinagmisahan Street. This was due to the preventive maintenance work that had to be done to the pavement. As such travelers including myself had to use Pinagmisahan to travel between Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Ave. Extension. It was not my first time along Pinagmisahan but it was my first to traverse the road from end to end. Following are photos showing sections of Pinagmisahan Street from the Clinica Antipolo end to the Daang Bakal end (i.e., northbound).

IMG_1013Pinagmisahan Street on the left with ‘No Entry’ signs for the Circumferential Road section being maintained.

IMG_1014On a typical weekday, there are many school service vehicles parked along the road. Many of these are for the Montessori school across from Clinica Antipolo, which does not have sufficient parking for vehicles it attracts.

IMG_1015Pinagmisahan used to be a narrow 2-lane road. It has been expanded recently into a 4-lane road with Portland Cement Concrete Pavement (PCCP).

IMG_1016While the expansion included the construction of sidewalks, many electric posts remain in their original positions and pose safety hazards to motorists.

IMG_1017White Cross, which is a popular destination during the Lenten Season and especially during the Holy Week is accessible via this road.

IMG_1018There appears to be many informal settlers living in communities along the road. They have encroached on the RROW and hamper the completion of the expansion of the road.

IMG_1019I think this part of the road is practically the highest in terms of elevation. There should be a good view of the surrounding areas including the city center and Hinulugang Taktak from this area.

IMG_1020Another section of Pinagmisahan showing informal settlers

IMG_1021Curved downward section towards Daang Bakal and Taktak Road – the fence on the left is for Fairmont Subdivision.

IMG_1022Straight section approaching Daang Bakal

IMG_1023Approach to intersection with Daang Bakal – the other lanes of the road is used as parking for visitors of Hinulugang Taktak

IMG_1024Daang Bakal with Hinulugang Taktak on the left

I’m featuring Pinagmisahan here as I thought its timely given a lot of people will be using it this Holy Week to go to White Cross, which has life-size images for the Stations of the Cross.

Tricycle fares in Antipolo City

Tricycles in Antipolo City practically have no defined or restricted areas of operations. Unlike other cities, say Quezon City or Manila, tricycle operations in Antipolo is practically free ranging. You can get a tricycle in Mambugan and ride it directly to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Simbahan ng Antipolo); a distance of 8 to 10 kilometers depending on the route taken. As such, there has been a tendency for tricycle drivers to overcharge passengers even though fares were subject to negotiations and there have bee established average or usual fares for certain trips. Nevertheless, there have been and are still lots of complaints about tricycle fares in the city. This is evidenced from the queries posted on the city’s social media accounts.

This situation begs an important question on whether Antipolo City has official tricycle fare rates. The answer is yes, it does have official rates and this is stated under City Ordinance No. 2009-316. I assume that ‘2009’ here refers to the year the ordinance was signed into law by the City Council. Here’s a graphic from Antipolo City’s Facebook page showing official tariffs and warnings against negotiating fares as well as the maximum number of passengers a tricycle can carry.

 

Antipolo tricycle faresTricycle fares based on official tariffs under City Ordinance No. 2009-316

Those two other ordinances seem to be among the most abused by tricycle drivers and likely very difficult to enforce considering the ranges of tricycles. According to netizens, many tricycle drivers still tend to negotiate fares for long trips and tricycles carrying more than 4 passengers is a common sight in the city especially tricycles that are used as school service vehicles. I tend to wince myself whenever I see a tricycle overloaded with school children negotiating Ortigas Ave Extension or Sumulong Highway. These are unsafe and put a lot of young lives at risk.

Below is an example fare matrix for tricycles posted at the New Public Market along Sumulong Highway and across from the new Robinsons mall in the same area:

2015-11-02 11.02.35Illustrative fares to/from the New Antipolo Public Market

I think there should be similar information posted in other areas around Antipolo City. This is so that people will not be confused about the tricycle fares and so as to minimize the instances when tricycle drivers take advantage of passengers not familiar with trip distances and the fare rates.

The Antipolo City Government is working towards improving transport and traffic in this highly urbanized city. I think this should include regulating tricycle services so that the city could reduce their numbers along national roads like Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Ave. Extension. Tricycles have become a nuisance in traffic and not just for motorists but for cyclists and pedestrians as well. They shouldn’t be traveling long distances and along rolling and mountainous terrains. They tend to be noisy and, perhaps most problematic, are smoke belchers. Hopefully, this can be addressed in the next years as the city continuous to grow and become more progressive. This only means that the city should strive towards a modern, efficient and people & environment-friendly transport system.

Improvements to alternative route between Rizal and Makati

I finally got another look at the conditions along the alternate road to Highway 2000 and C-6 Extension a couple of weeks ago while en route to Bonifacio Global City. Traffic along Ortigas Ave. is usually terrible these days even during the weekends due to the road and drainage works between Cainta Junction and Brookside. I am glad to say that there have been significant improvements to the section of Don Hilario Cruz Ave nearest to the Manggahan Floodway and beside the Megawide plant. There have been significant developments, too, along C-6 Extension in the Lupang Arenda area of Taytay, Rizal. Here are some photos of the area.

2015-11-14 10.18.11Don Hilario Cruz Ave., the road beside the Megawide plant and parallel to Highway 2000, is being improved with half the carriageway already prepared for paving. The other half appears to be graded is being used by vehicles.

2015-11-14 10.19.21A roller runs along the base layer of the road that’s being paved. These sections were usually muddy and full of craters during the wet season and very dusty and still full of potholes during the dry season.

2015-11-14 10.26.24Sections of C-6 Extension at the Lupang Arenda area have been widened and the expropriated lands are now being transformed into paved roads. The original sections have been overlayed with asphalt to improve their ride-ability.

2015-11-14 10.27.33Another section in Lupang Arenda shows finished PCCP for the eastbound side of C-6.

2015-11-14 10.28.26Another photo of C-6 extension. Once the finished lanes are usable, authorities will probably divert traffic there so they could also pave the rest of the road.

Travelers between Rizal and Makati/Taguig will benefit the most from the improvements along these roads. These will increase road capacity as well as travel speeds along this route. Now, if only authorities can also improve C-6 itself in Taguig…

Antipolo public market pedestrian overpass

I took some photos atop the pedestrian overpass connecting the New Antipolo Public Market and the Robinson’s Place mall. The overpass is across Sumulong Highway, which terminates nearby at the intersection with Antipolo Circumferential Road (Daang Bakal), which is currently being widened.

2015-11-02 11.08.00The overpass is a steel structure, including the flooring, which reminded me of factories. This industrial look is not new as there are other overpasses that have been constructed in Metro Manila similar to this.

2015-11-02 11.08.16A look at Sumulong Highway towards Masinag. The highway has 4 lanes and at this section has sidewalks on either side of the road. There is no median island to separate opposing flows of traffic. The Antipolo Public Market is on the left side.

2015-11-02 11.08.25A view of Sumulong Highway towards the Antipolo Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. The Public Market is at the right and the mall is at the left.

2015-11-02 11.08.34The overpass’ stairs are a bit steep and perhaps not so friendly to senior citizens. There should probably be a ramp for persons with disabilities or for cyclists to use as they carry their bicycles to cross using the overpass.

Despite calls from some advocacy groups for pedestrians to be prioritised and for them to cross at-grade, the reality is that we are still far from achieving safe roads for pedestrians given the way motorists run their vehicles. In the case of Antipolo, many jeepneys, UV Express and tricycles (freely roaming the city) are operated by reckless drivers. Private vehicle drivers are not so different and I have seen scenes of road crashes along Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway where those involved are private vehicles including motorcycles. Clearly, many of these people should not have driver’s licenses in the first place given their mindset when driving. So until this improves, pedestrians are safer when they do use these overpasses. Of course, that goes without saying that the location and design of overpasses need to be thought over carefully so that these facilities will be used and not just become white elephants.

On the severity of traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue and the necessity of a mass transit line

With the worsening congestion along Marcos Highway due to the construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension to Masinag, I have been using Ortigas Avenue as an alternate route to go home. Granted, the stretch from the Park Place gate near Cainta Junction and Brookside is currently undergoing roadworks elevating that entire section (which is prone to flooding), and this is the main cause of much congestion as fewer lanes are usable to traffic. However, what is perceived to be relief from traffic once the project is completed will eventually and surely revert to a very congested Ortigas Avenue.

Traffic congestion along Ortigas Extension is primarily due to a dependence on road transport, particularly private vehicles, by people living along Ortigas Ave. and the roads feeding into it. The Manila East Road, for example, passes through the most populous towns of Rizal outside of Antipolo City. The dependence on road transport (especially private vehicles) is due to limited options for public transport. There are buses, jeepneys and UV Express but these, too, contribute to congestion due to their increased numbers and limited capacities given the high demand for public transport. Among the infrastructure proposed along this corridor is an overpass along Ortigas Ave. at Cainta Junction. A mass transit system has also been required along this corridor for a very long time but for some reason, such infrastructure has not been provided.

2015-10-10 17.20.46Severe traffic congestion along both directions of Ortigas Avenue Extension

2015-10-10 17.23.15Congestion stretches all the way along the Manila East Road

2015-10-17 18.25.14Night-time traffic congestion at the Tikling Junction

There is a proposal for a mass transit system along this corridor. Following are references to the project:

From the PPP Centre: https://ppp.gov.ph/?ppp_projects=ortigas-taytay-lrt-line-4-project

From CNN Philippines: http://cnnphilippines.com/metro/2015/07/22/neda-approves-naia-lrt-ppp-projects.html

I found it quite odd that the stations are not referenced according to the more common place names for the locations. For example, ‘Bonifacio Avenue’ should be ‘Cainta Junction’ and ‘Leonard Wood’ should be ‘Kaytikling Junction’. Nevertheless, this is the least of our concerns pertaining to transport and traffic along this corridor.

Perhaps the conditions are ripe now to finally implement transport infrastructure projects along this corridor. The proposal and approval of a rail transit line by NEDA means the corridor has the national government’s attention. The local government leaders along this corridor are also more progressive and aggressive than their predecessors. These include a very dynamic mayor in Cainta and the former governor-turned mayor in Antipolo. A collaboration towards better transport among these two LGUs alone would be influential and instrumental to improving travel along Ortigas Avenue.

Proposals for EDSA and some alternate roads

The hellish traffic congestion along EDSA and other roads in Metro Manila spawned a bunch of ideas for alleviating congestion. Among those that were offered as solutions are the following:

  1. Odd-Even Scheme – suggested by the Philippines President himself in a speech delivered in Mandaluyong City
  2. Car-pooling (and HOV lanes) – suggested by the DPWH Secretary in another forum
  3. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and/or express bus – proposed and being studied by the DOTC

What seems to have been forgotten was a proposal to have two lanes of EDSA, one on either direction, devoted to bicycles. This proposal now seems to be the most viable compared to the above three and could have the potential for major behaviour change towards a departure from motor vehicle use. Cycling along with walking does not require fuel and these modes also promote healthy lifestyles. Also, this could become the ultimate example for road diets, which can also be applied along other roads as well. What sounds or reads like an outrageous idea (i.e., bicycle lanes along EDSA) might just be revolutionary and result in what could be a tipping point for sustainable transport in the midst of traffic mayhem.

EDSA has become the proverbial battleground representing the war with traffic congestion. However, EDSA is just one part of our arterial network comprised of circumferential and radial roads. There is also C-5 (also known for its sections – Katipunan, E. Rodriguez, C.P. Garcia), which is also a very congested road but along which there are few fixed route public transport services. It is a primary alternative route (to EDSA)for people traveling between the northern and southern halves of Metro Manila. It also serves as a collector and distributor, being connected with major radial roads like Aurora Boulevard, Ortigas Avenue and Shaw Boulevard as well as to the South Luzon Expressway. C-5 is a major truck route, however, and so carries a lot of heavy vehicles during the permitted times under the truck ban scheme being implemented in Metro Manila. C-5 is already ripe for a mass transit system and should have one along it. The quickest to put up would be a bus system on exclusive lanes. Strategically though, a rail transit line (likely elevated) should already be planned and implemented and with as seamless as possible connections to current and future lines along major corridors.

There are other routes that can be considered which I think have been overlooked (too much focus on EDSA?). C-6, for example, badly needs to be improved and this has started but is being implemented at a slow pace. This could have significant positive impacts on traffic coming from the east (towns of Rizal province) that are bound primarily for Makati and BGC. But then there also has to be a good road bypassing the narrow and already congested streets of Taguig and Pateros that are currently the only roads connecting C-5 and C-6. The roads on the Rizal side (attention: Cainta and Taytay) also need to be improved including Highway 2000 and the Barkadahan Bridge. Perhaps the Rizal Provincial Government should also get involved in this as such routes are in the best interest of Rizalenos. And then there is also the highly urbanized city of Antipolo that is a major destination and already is the 7th most populous city in the country, whose residents also use this route, which is often a faster option to Ortigas and C-5 despite the poor conditions of roads.

Causes of congestion along Ortigas Ave. Extension

I have written about the common causes of congestion along Ortigas Avenue. The past articles mentioned the undisciplined loading and unloading along the entire stretch of the road and particularly at either ends of the Manggahan Floodway bridge in Pasig City. I have also written about the congestion caused by private vehicles generated by a private school just a stone’ throw away from DOTC headquarters. This time, I focus on Ortigas Avenue Extension, particularly the stretch from Cainta Junction to Valley Golf.

The current and more critical choke points along Ortigas Ave. Ext. are along the stretch of the road between Cainta Junction and Valley Golf. These are due to the road and drainage works along that section that effectively made the westbound side of Ortigas a single lane road between Brookside and Park Place. There are also road and drainage works along the eastbound side between Brookside and Valley Golf where the entire road section is being elevated. This section is flood prone and has been problematic during the wet season when heavy rains often result in flash floods.

IMG12071-20150823-1659Counter flow along Ortigas Avenue Extension – this scheme has been the only option for the section between Valley Golf and Park Place Subdivision as the work proceeds one lane at a time. At the time, I took this photo, the counter flow lanes allowed for 2 lanes each for both the eastbound and westbound directions of this corridor. The past week, however, I noticed that during the afternoons and evenings, I noticed that two lanes were allocated for westbound traffic while only one was for the eastbound direction. This should not be the case as the peak direction in the afternoon to the evening is eastbound when people are home bound mainly from work and school.

IMG12072-20150823-1701The section across from STI is another choke point as the area is one of the ends of the project raising the elevation of the avenue as well as improving the drainage along the road. The traffic along this area has improved much though vehicles still have to slow down to transition between the old pavement and new pavement sections, as well as vehicles turning towards Hunters ROTC Road.

IMG12073-20150823-1701Unfinished sections – at the time this photo was taken, work along the site was intermittent. Commuters making the observation are often frustrated and much disappointed when they see none working along the construction site. The Mayor of Cainta did very well by talking to the contractor and apparently discussing with the latter how to improve traffic conditions as well as how to expedite the implementation of the project. My own observation was that conditions did indeed improve after that meeting (which was related by the Mayor in his Facebook page) and people could see workers busy with the project even at night time.

Traffic will continue to be bad along Ortigas Avenue Extension until this project is completed. While there should be some significant improvement in traffic flow after completion, congestion will again steadily worsen for this corridor whose private vehicle traffic continues to grow. Public transport is provided by buses, jeepneys and UV Express (whose numbers have ballooned during the last 5 years) and these have contributed a lot to congestion because of their drivers’ behavior particularly when they stop for passengers at areas like Valley Golf, Brookside, Cainta Junction, Ever, Countryside, Manggahan and Rosario.

There is hope though as news proclaim that the NEDA Board has approved the LRT 4 project along this corridor. A mass transit system is indeed necessary and this was required perhaps over a decade ago already. I do hope that this ‘LRT’ is more like the current Line 2 trains and stations than the Line 3 kind. Line 2 is a heavy rail system while Line 3 is light rail. The Ortigas corridor requires a heavy rail system considering the passenger demand in the areas that will be served by the transit system. I also hope that Line 4 is implemented like Line 2 with the government taking responsibility for constructing the system. I have maintained my view that the current administration is too fixated with Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that it had practically given up its responsibility to the general public to provide an efficient and equitable means of public transport for commuting. I just now wonder what became of the proposed BRT line along this same corridor. Perhaps the BRT option has already been abandoned by the DOTC in favor of rail?

Road widening along Sumulong Highway

Sumulong Highway is the main road connecting Antipolo City with Marikina City and ultimately to Cainta, Pasig and Quezon City via Marcos Highway. It is basically a 4-lane, 2-way undivided road with several sections that have 3 lanes total probably due to ROW acquisition issues when the highway was widened from the original 2-lane road. I came back from a trip recently to find road works along my commute and took some photos of what would definitely be an improvement to the highway. The uneven number of lanes along several sections of Sumulong has led to road crashes and surely many near misses among motorists and cyclists using the highway. There is also a need to provide space for pedestrians and others on foot considering the highway is one of the major routes to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage – a major pilgrimage site for Filipinos.

IMG11485-20150515-0729Road widening for an additional lane along the inbound lane approaching Sumulong’s intersection with Olalia Road
IMG11486-20150515-0730Construction along the inbound direction of Sumulong Highway include drainage works aside from the construction of an additional lane to make the number of lanes even (2 per direction). At present, there are 2 lanes along the outbound direction and a single lane (shown clearly in the photo) along the inbound lane. The section shown is near the Garden of Gethsemane and Palos Verdes subdivision.

IMG11480-20150514-0729Completed lane, drainage and sidewalk along the outbound direction of Sumulong Highway right after Metro View subdivision.

IMG11482-20150514-0730Widening along the outbound direction between Metro View and Valley Golf includes drainage works. There will be a sidewalk on top of the drainage that should enhance safety for walking/trekking.

IMG11481-20150514-0730There are many informal settlers as well as formal ones encroaching on the RROW. Part of the project is to remove these and other obstructions. I just hope that the sidewalks and the curbside lane will remain clear of obstructions.

The completion of the road widening project is expected to improve the flow of traffic along Sumulong Highway as there will be a continuous 2 lanes available along either direction for safe and effective passing. The additional lane also means public transport may stop along the roadside without blocking through traffic. Trucks and slow moving vehicles (tricycles?) may also be required to take a designated lane. Moreover, since there is a significant volume of bicycle users along Sumulong Highway, there will be enough safe space for them to travel. The current volume of motorised vehicle traffic along the highway requires only 1 lane per direction (2 lanes total) and these are the innermost lanes of the road. Traffic slows down usually because of trucks or tricycle operations/maneuvers. In theory, the 2 outer lanes can be used only for overtaking, stopping and cycling. These should be clear of parked vehicles particularly along areas where there are communities and businesses (e.g., vulcanising, auto repair shops, etc.) along the roadside.

All roads lead to Antipolo: rerouting for the Alay Lakad

The Rizal Provincial Government and the Antipolo City Government recently posted traffic rerouting schemes on their Facebook pages. Lalawigan ng Rizal was the first to post schemes that affect traffic in at least 3 major local government jurisdictions – Antipolo, Cainta and Taytay. The schemes affect the two major corridors that basically lead to Antipolo’s National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (or Antipolo Cathedral to many) – the Ortigas Avenue corridor and the Marcos Highway-Sumulong Highway corridor. There are many major and minor routes connecting to these corridors and are clearly seen in the maps.

Within Antipolo, there are also re-routing schemes, which the Antipolo City Government posted along with a “clearer” re-posting of the maps from the Rizal FB page. The Antipolo FB page includes information/maps on the rerouting within the city center. These schemes will affect traffic circulation including public transport routes. Critical would be the permanent and temporary terminals and parking areas set-up around the city that should be able to accommodate the thousands of vehicles that are also expected to be used by people who won’t be walking or cycling.

What the maps basically say is that from 4:00 PM today, Maundy Thursday, to 6:00 AM tomorrow, Good Friday, the stretch from Cainta Junction to the Shrine will be closed to traffic. This is to allow the hundreds of thousands expected to make the trek to Antipolo to have the road for themselves. What the maps don’t say is that motorcycles and tricycles would likely be allowed, too. I can understand that motorcycles could easily squeeze into the throngs of people but then allowing tricycles to operate among the walkers and bikers would be risky given their drivers’ behavior. Add to this that they would be making a killing out of charging opportunistic fares.

Technically, the rerouting schemes don’t appear to be as well thought of as can be expected from the LGUs. Baka ito lang nakayanan ng staff o ng consultants nila, and surrender na agad ang Rizal and Antipolo with regards to the coming up with more options for people to travel to the Antipolo Shrine? Not all people can walk or cycle but are willing to an could take public transport for their pilgrimage. The maps themselves are a bit crude and the Province of Rizal and City of Antipolo could have done much better maps given the resources of these LGUs. There are open source tools now available as well as your basic software like PowerPoint or Photoshop (even Word!) that can be used to render good quality images to guide people making the Alay Lakad. This is a regular event and though it happens once a year then perhaps the LGUs could have better plans especially to transport people who cannot make the walk to Antipolo. The objective after all is to convey the masses to and from the shrine safely and efficiently – something a mass transport system can do whether via Marcos/Sumulong or Ortigas corridors.

One reminder to all doing the Alay Lakad: keep your garbage to yourselves if you cannot find a proper waste bin. Do not dispose of your waste along the route and make a dumpsite out of Ortigas Avenue, Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway or whatever roads you are taking! Kasalanan din po ang irresponsableng pagtatapon ng basura. While you might be forgiven for these “sins” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (which many will likely take at the Cathedral), nature will have a way of getting back at you for your environmental travesty. –