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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.
I am sharing the long list of projects submitted by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe. This is a public document and I think should be circulated for transparency and so people will know what projects are proposed to be covered
List of sectoral projects that the Department of Transportation intends to implement and draft bill for emergency powers: dotr-list-of-projects-and-draft-bill
I leave it up to my readers to determine which among the projects listed really require emergency powers. Many I think do not require emergency powers especially since the period requested for such powers is 2 years and not the duration of the current administration’s term. Perhaps those requiring emergency powers would be programs and projects aiming to overhaul our public transport system, which is currently much dependent on road-based modes. Public transportation services do not follow the suitable hierarchy as seen along major corridors served by low capacity modes. An overhaul (i.e., rationalisation) will touch the very sensitive nerves of bus, jeepney, UV express and tricycle operators and drivers and could trigger an avalanche of TROs to prevent or discourage government from doing what should have been done decades ago to bring order to our chaotic transport. I believe emergency powers coupled with the current admin’s political capital (and the “action man” image of Pres. Duterte) can help bring about genuine reform (and change!) to transport in our cities.
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.
Worksite 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?
Completed 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.
I had only recently written about appointments to top government posts when I learned about the offer of the DPWH top position to a politician who is also the son of power couple of former and present senators. Their core business is real estate development so there is definitely going to be conflicts of interest whenever certain infrastructure are built that will favour the development of their lands. This is basically the issue for the controversy regarding the Circumferential Road 5 Extension more than 6 years ago, which alleged that former Sen. Manny Villar (then running for President) influenced the DPWH to construct the highway that mainly benefited lands his company developed.
Having a politician at the helm of the DPWH is not a good idea. While apologists for the President-elect want us to give the guy a chance and explain that the soon-to-be-President probably saw something in the congressman that makes him qualified for the job, I must disagree with them given what I’ve seen up close with the DPWH. Here are a few arguments against a politician being DPWH Secretary:
- A politician as head of the DPWH will be more likely to give in to politicians (e.g., congressmen) requesting the appointments of ‘more favourable’ District Engineers (i.e., those who will do their bidding). This is basically going back to the ‘padrino’ system that is undesirable for such posts as they become prone to abuse and anomalies particularly in contracting.
- The DPWH Secretary chairs the Road Board, which is in-charge of funds collected from Motor Vehicle Users Charge (MVUC). This means the Secretary will have a say on how funds will be allocated and disbursed under the difference special funds (e.g., Special Road Safety Fund and Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund). A politician will have no qualms approving requests for projects proposed by his allies or party-mates regardless of the merits or justification (weak?) of a program or project. This position requires objectivity and insulation against political pressure that may lead to questionable decisions.
- Governance-wise, the DPWH Secretary is expected to have a clear vision for the agency and must be an imposing figure to an organization where everyone under him including Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries will be organic staff. This is unlike other agencies where the Secretary gets to bring in his/her own people to appoint as senior officials (e.g., DOTC). And DPWH will only perform as good as its head. Outgoing Sec. Singson has shown how good and efficient DPWH can be under an excellent Secretary. Past heads have already shown how bad DPWH can be.
A couple of friends also mentioned that the DPWH Secretary sits on the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is basically under the DPWH. There is conflict of interest here because the Villars own a water concessionaire in Primewater. The DPWH Secretary will also sit on the Infrastructure Committee (Infracom) that screens and approves major infrastructure projects around the country.
Since the next President has already decided on his choice for DPWH Secretary and the nominee has already accepted this, then we can only cross our fingers and hope that his appointee will be doing a good job and will uphold the current mantra of the DPWH: right projects, right cost, right quality, right on time and right people.