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I’m sharing a recent article that laments about how transport departments in the US seemingly don’t understand the concept and phenomena of induced demand. Is it really difficult to understand or are transport officials including highway planners and engineers deliberately ignoring what’s staring them in the face?
Zipper, D. (September 28, 2021) “The Unstoppable Appeal of Highway Expansion,” Bloomberg City Lab, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-09-28/why-widening-highways-doesn-t-bring-traffic-relief [Last accessed: 10/10/2021]
The topic in the article is very much applicable to our own Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The DPWH’s key performance indicators (KPIs) need to change from the typical “kilometers of road constructed” or “lane-kilometers of roads widened” to something like “travel time between points A and B”. Agencies like the DPWH always like to claim they are for solving traffic congestion but we already know widening roads just won’t cut it. It has to be more comprehensive than that and involve the entire transport system rather than just a part (i.e., the road). And it has to be a collaborative effort with various other agencies like the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and local government units. Unfortunately, too, these agencies like the DOTr and those under it, and many (not all) LGUs also like to go at it solo so we end up with piecemeal solutions that are also often out of context.
If you didn’t notice, the government (national agencies and local government units) has implemented and successfully employed experimentation and crowd-sourcing to find solutions for transport and traffic problems. In the case of experimentation with traffic, this has been going for a while now but not at the level of those conducted during Bayani Fernando’s stint at the MMDA. At the time, full scale experiments were undertaken as the agency dabbled with the U-turn scheme. The ultimate product of that time are the twin U-turn flyovers at C5-Kalayaan. I say ultimate because it involved both experimentations and traffic simulation, where the latter was used to justify the U-turn flyovers over what was originally proposed as an underpass along C-5. As I recall, the model was not calibrated or validate contrary to the agency’s claims. I say so because I personally saw how the model ran and the presentations were more like demonstration of the software used. Meanwhile, the DPWH at the time made their own simulation models and did the necessary calibration and validation to come up with sound models for other projects including the Quezon Avenue-Araneta Avenue underpass.
Crowd-sourcing, mainly through social media is a more recent approach. It is not an entirely new animal because prior to social media, there were a lot of inter-agency committees that included people from various stakeholders (some invited, some not) who were the primary “sources”. The crown now is larger and perhaps more diverse. Whether this is a conscious or unconscious effort is uncertain. And this can easily be denied or shrugged-off. But in this age of social media, there are just so many enablers or influencers for crowd-sourcing each of whom have their own agenda. Some mainly to promote or prop up the current administration. Some to mainly criticize without offering solutions. And others to invite constructive scrutiny or assessment while also providing options to address problems and issues. It is the latter group whose opinions and recommendations should carry more weight if indeed the administration is fishing for solutions from the so-called crowd.
Consider the following recent examples (not in any order):
a) Closing U-turn slots along EDSA
b) Requiring face masks for all who are outdoors including cyclists
c) EDSA carousel
d) Resumption of public transport with mostly air-conditioned vehicles
e) Bike lanes along major roads
f) Public transport reform (in general)
There are others but the six listed above have been discussed a lot on social media after government picked up an idea or two about them, and implemented each seemingly without conducting due diligence or paying attention to the details including potential glitches. They ended up with mixed results, many very costly (I wouldn’t say disastrous at this point). However, in all cases, they seem to welcome (though at times begrudgingly or feigning resistance) crowd-sourced solutions particularly those from organized groups who are only too happy for themselves to be in the limelight.*
One thing is for sure and that is that there is still a lack of capabilities among government agencies and LGUs when it comes to transportation. Don’t get me wrong. National government and many LGUs have the resources and capacity to address transport problems. However, their capabilities are in question here because they seem to be unable to harness their capacities and resources to come up with sound and suitable solutions. In the end, they appear to buckle under the pressure of their own crowd-sourced schemes only to emerge as manipulators after they are able get what they want with the willing assistance of the naive.
*Some of these are true advocates who have worked hard to make transport better for all while others are the bandwagon types (nakikisakay lang) who are content dropping key words that now sound cliche at every opportunity. I leave it up to my readers to determine which are which. 🙂
There have been a lot of discussion both online and offline about coming up with bike lanes for Metro Manila. Already, there are examples of pop-up bike lanes in some cities while others have had bike lanes and bikeways constructed years ago (e.g., Marikina and Iloilo). While agencies like the DPWH and MMDA have formed technical working groups (TWG) for bike facilities, the perception is that these are moving too slowly (dragging?) and have not produced any gains in so far as design recommendations or guidelines are concerned. Just how important are such guidelines and perhaps at the beginning, context setting, to come up with suitable designs incorporating cycling (and walking) rather than the usual car-centric set-ups? Here’s another article I am sharing that argues for these street designs:
Jaffe, E. (2020) “The most important bike technology is…street design”, medium.com, https://medium.com/sidewalk-talk/the-most-important-bike-technology-is-street-design-401c94065b5c [Last accessed: 7/26/2020]
People biking to work along the Marcos Highway bridge’s painted bike lane
Here is another article I am sharing (re-sharing?). I have seen or read a lot of posts on social media about how we should not go back to the car-centric traffic before the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and its variations. I do agree with this point. However, I take reservation about how some people seem to be resorting to car-shaming rather than be more proactive and progressive about coming up with strategies and/or plans that I hope would be evidence-based or supported by valid data. As the article states, “it takes more than car-shaming to change car use”:
Jaffe, E. (2020) “It takes more than car-shaming to change car use”, Medium, https://medium.com/sidewalk-talk/it-takes-more-than-car-shaming-to-change-car-use-107e28ccb2cf [Last accessed: 4/29/2020]
A key message from the article: “People are most open to changing their travel habits during major life events, such as a move. But even a well-timed message isn’t enough.” Perhaps the opportunity is here now to reform our transportation system. But that will take a lot of will or effort from all sectors most especially the national agencies (e.g., DOTr, DPWH) and local governments who have the authority and responsibility to implement changes. These changes include the assignment of exclusive lanes for bicycles, public transport and logistics while restricting car use. There are also other elements that need to be in place as we transition into the so-called “new normal” and so there will be a lot going on among the sectors or parties collaborating or interacting for transportation. Hopefully, there are context-sensitive strategies that will be adopted and implemented in order for everyone to transition more efficiently and effectively. And as they say…life goes on.
The National Transport Policy is out and there’s a lot of buzz about the wording of the policy. NEDA released the following infographics on their official Facebook page:
Definition of what the policy is about
Hierarchy of transport modes (note the emphasis on walking and cycling)
Checklist for programs and projects: I am already anticipating what proponents will be writing to justify projects according to this checklist.
I will reserve my commentaries for future blogs. There is really a lot to discuss about this policy and how it will implemented (properly or improperly), There are lots of different ideas, advocacies, interests and agendas on transportation that come into play here. And we can only hope that the policy and its implementing rules and regulations will be clear enough (not vague as to have so many loopholes) for this policy to effect transformation and inclusive and sustainable development.
So what does the DPWH say about signs and their installation? The DPWH in their Highway Safety Design Standards (Part 2: Road Signs and Pavement Markings Manual) states the following:
It’s plain and simple and yet we find a proliferation of ads masquerading as signs and entities such as the MMDA and LGUs not properly (or strictly) implementing the provisions of the DPWH manual. It is also sad to see practitioners actively trying (and succeeding) to circumvent this provision in the DPWH manual.
We did some studies a few years ago on the state of pavement engineering in the Philippines. Among the things we found was that conditions for the proper curing of concrete used for pavements of national roads are not usually met. This applied mainly for both Portland Cement Concrete Pavements (PCCP), which was the main subject of our study but also applied to Asphalt Concrete Pavements (ACP) as well as we documented practices for both types of pavements.
Last year, the traffic along Ortigas Avenue Extension was hellish for quite some time between the Rosario Bridge and Cainta Junction. One time, we eventually inched our way past De Castro, and lo and behold this scene while it was raining:
Rollers (pison) making a pass at the asphalt laid by a paving machine. Note the wet roads due to the heavy rains that afternoon.
Workers patching up the edges of the overlay as a foreman and what appears to be engineers directing them. That’s a asphalt paver in action. Note the already wet asphalt? That will have implications over the short term; often resulting in distress way ahead of the intended life of the ACP.
Dump trucks lined-up carrying aggregates for the asphalt overlay; occupying one lane of Ortigas Avenue Extension.
The queues from the westbound side stretched from Countryside to Junction. Since the intersection was already affected by the spillover, the section from Junction to Brookside was also congested.
The situation I described above is something that could have been managed other ways but would still result in severe traffic congestion as at least 2 lanes were occupied by construction (one being paved and another for staging). There were also other incomplete drainage works that exacerbated the situation. So as far as traffic management goes, I thought the contractor did the best it could given the conditions. However, I question the asphalt overlay work during heavy rains. The implications is the reduction in the intended or design life of the ACP (i.e., reduced life most likely due to the rainwater and wet conditions with the bitumen not being able to bind the aggregates as effectively as desired. And so that means the aggregates tend to loosen up more quickly resulting in the deterioration of the pavement and lead to more costly maintenance of roads.
I was looking for a list of projects said to be prioritized by the current administration in the Philippines and mentioned in the presentation made by government yesterday. Here’s one I found from GMA News:
Noticeable for me are the following:
1. No mention of major bridge projects that were heavily hyped both on mainstream and social media – these bridges include those that were proposed to connect the islands of Panay and Negros, Negros and Cebu, and Cebu and Bohol. It doesn’t mean, of course, that these have been abandoned but likely only sidelined for the moment.
2. Break-up of Clark Green City into several components – this seems to be a more realistic approach especially considering how big and complex this project is, and how many agencies or entities are and will be involved
3. Mass transit projects in Metro Manila – these include big ticket projects such as the proposed subway, BRT and the rehabilitation of PNR lines. These are all projects that should have been done a long time ago but for various reasons have been delayed. Say what you will about so much resources being poured into Metro (Mega?) Manila but it is the economic center of the country and efficient transport will go a long way in generating resources that can eventually be used in other parts of the country.
4. Emphasis on Clark Airport – it seems to me that the current administration is focused on developing Clark as the alternative (if not the main) gateway to the greater capital region. This is a departure from the hype we have received about a replacement for NAIA including one that was proposed at Sangley Point in Cavite.
5. Scaling down of Mindanao Railways – instead of pushing for a much grander (and unrealistic I think) railway project for the entire island, they identified a more realistic and perhaps practical line connecting Tagum, Davao and Digos. One colleague noted, however, that this corridor is already heavily serviced by buses and vans so rail ridership is at best threatened from the start.
What’s your take on the proposed projects and the list in general?
There are hazardous worksites along Sumulong Highway. These are related to current drainage works and construction of pedestrian facilities (sidewalks) along the highway. Travelers can see the steel reinforcing bars (rebars) sticking out and posing risks to road users. Following are some photos we took as we traversed the stretch near La Montana, Palos Verdes and Cavaliers Village.
Highway drainage works along Sumulong Highway
Steel reinforcing bars sticking out of the drainage works along the Masinag-bound side of Sumulong Highway.
More hazardous worksites
These pose dangers to most road users and especially motorcyclists and cyclists who may experience a spill that can lead to riders being impaled by the rebars. The contractor definitely is violating safety codes in as far as construction sites are concerned and these are in plain view of the public. The DPWH as well as the local government of Antipolo City should act immediately and decisively in order to prevent untoward incidents concerning such worksites. There should be measures such as physical barriers that would protect road users against such hazards. There are currently none.