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Kalayaan Bridge (BGC – Ortigas Center Link)

The Kalayaan Bridge, also known as the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) – Ortigas Center Link opened about a year ago and was supposed to ease traffic along the usual routes along EDSA and C5 that crossed the Pasig River. The new bridge is located between the EDSA and C5 bridges and is a more direct route to and from BGC if you reside in Pasig and choose the route to/from BGC via Pasig/Shaw Boulevard.

The approach ramp to the bridge from the BGC side is in the vicinity of the Uptown part of BGC. The bridge goes over Kalayaan Avenue, which is one of the major access roads to BGC from C5 or EDSA, and J.P. Rizal Avenue Extension but there is access and egress to Kalayaan Avenue. 

The ramp is practically a single lane with painted bike lanes on either side of the bridge. There is noticeably no space for pedestrians on this bridge. That is only a curb on the right side. This lack of pedestrian provisions is a major flaw of this bridge.

A lone cyclist traversing the bridge – the merge for traffic from BGC and vehicles from Kalayaan Avenue is seen downstream.

Approaching the merging section (from this perspective; its diverging on the other side) of the bridge.

A motorcycle merges with the traffic from BGC. Notice the chevron markings separating merging flows as well as the yield marking for vehicles coming from Kalayaan (i.e., priority is for vehicles coming from BGC). The bridge from this section becomes two lanes per direction. There is, however, a risky part for cyclists who will cross paths with vehicles coming from Kalayaan. Cyclists from BGC will have to cross a lane to get to the bike lane on the outer side of the bridge. There is no space for pedestrians along this bridge.

There is only this part of the bridge where there appears to be a sidewalk. Was this really the design for this bridge? It is very obvious that many people failed in both design and implementation of this project.

The view towards the Pasig side of the bridge. There are two lanes per direction and narrow bike lanes along the curbsides.

There is an intersection at the end of the bridge but the road immediately at the right is closed to  incoming traffic so right turns are currently prohibited despite the pavement markings that indicate they were allowed at one time.

The road leads to this intersection which is in area generally referred to before as ‘Pioneer’. The area hosts many warehouses or storage buildings and I remember going here many years ago to check out the imported wood furniture and office surplus items. Turning right leads one to the area generally known as ‘Unilab’ because that was where United Laboratories had their plant and offices. It retained the property where now stands an events venue. Further on leads you to Kapitolyo and the Estancia Mall.

 

On asphalt overlays and opportunities to rationalize pavement markings

Entire road sections along my commuting routes have had recent asphalt overlays or are being prepared for it. This is part of the national government’s regular maintenance program for roads implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Newly asphalted pavement along the eastbound section of Ortigas Avenue Extension – can you guess how many lanes will fit here?

The previous photo was taken one week ago. This is what the section looks like after the contractor restored the pavement markings. I say restore because these are practically the same 3 lanes prior to the asphalt overlay to the rigid pavement structure.

Pavement marking delineating the traffic lanes, median and gutter

I wonder if the DPWH included bike lanes when they contacted the asphalt overlay and pavement markings for this road. There was none before and the new overlay presented a blank slate to which Class III bike lanes could at least have been provided. There is already an increasing number of bike-to-work traffic along Ortigas Ave. Ext. and the Manila East Road, which connects the large towns of Rizal and serves as one of the major arterials connecting the Province of Rizal to Metro Manila (the other being Marcos Highway).

Asphalt overlays like this provide opportunities to rationalize road space through adjustments to the pavement markings. Granted that there’s significant bus and truck traffic along this road, it is still possible to allocate or at least delineate 1.5m to 2m for cyclists. That should also help in making motorists aware of bike traffic and in the long run influence behavior towards safer travels for all road users.

Is the concept of induced demand a hard sell?

Here’s a quick share of an article on ‘induced demand’ particularly why it appears to be a hard sell:

Blumgart, J. (February 28, 2022) “Why the concept of induced demand is a hard sell,” Governing, https://www.governing.com/now/why-the-concept-of-induced-demand-is-a-hard-sell [Last accessed: 3/8/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Transportation experts say that the way to defeat induced demand, and actually ease traffic, would be to price roadways through tolls and congestion fees. But such alternatives are not popular. It’s hard to imagine running a political campaign on such a promise, as opposed to pledging an answer that looks free and easy… “Highway expansion is an attractive project regardless of your political orientation or what the state of the economy is,” says Thigpen. “There’s always a good argument for why we should be expanding highways. We need more jobs, or we need to unlock economic opportunity. There’s always a good political argument in favor of that.”

That last statement there relating highway or road expansion to politics is relevant everywhere. In our case in the Philippines, politicians are perceived to be very conservative and the type to use road projects as accomplishments. They are not as progressive as politicians abroad who may have the backgrounds and/or advocacies relating to sustainable transport to pursue the more difficult programs and projects needed improve the transport system. Instead, most are content with projects that they can put their name on and claim as hard accomplishments. Many of their constituents appear to agree. And agencies like the DPWH are only too happy to support this never-ending road construction and widening projects with the length of roads and the number of lanes added being their metrics for success. Of course, these (e.g., understanding and how to address induced demand, performance metrics, etc.) need to change if we really want to transform our transportation system towards something more efficient for everyone’s benefit.

Traffic along EDSA? Can we still widen this road? No, we can’t so we need something better than being dependent on cars. Incidentally, MMDA is planning to bring back motorcycle lanes along EDSA. Currently there are also bike lanes along either side of this road; a product of the pandemic that is now under threat of being removed.
Morning rush traffic along Commonwealth Avenue prior to the MRT 7 construction. What used to be 10 lanes per direction has been reduced but we still don’t know if Line 7’s eventual operation will make a dent on this congestion.

The case for bike lanes

There is a strong push for more bike lanes to be developed along both major and minor roads. Many pop-up bike lanes that were implemented and permanent bike lanes constructed in 2020, mostly during the lockdowns, to address the needs of ‘frontliners’ who opted to bike to work have been retained and even upgraded to adhere to guidelines issued by the DPWH. While these bike lanes are not yet as comprehensive as desired and most are not the protected types, recent developments have threatened their existence and consequently the safety of cyclists (especially bike-to-work) and the promotion of cycling as a primary mode of transport.

Biker with a passenger – angkas is not just for motorcycles but can also apply to bicycles as well

We need to transform our streets where it is possible in order to take advantage of the increasing popularity of cycling that has convinced some people to select cycling at least for their last mile trips and hopefully for the most part(s) of their commute. From a transport planning perspective, we should also determine if these mode shifts can be sustained and perhaps increased with proper integration of public transport and active transport thrusts.

The recent removal of protected bike lanes or barriers that serve to protect cyclists using the lanes in some cities are examples of regression rather than progression. These come as a surprise as these cities have made leaps and bounds so to speak in developing their bike lane networks. Where did the orders to do so originate and are staffs of these cities communicating, discussing and coordinating these actions? Apparently, there are internal conflicts and perhaps, I dare say here, politics involved. It is also possible that within LGUs, the concepts, visions and plans for transportation are not harmonized or understood making one project by one clique unacceptable to another or others. I know from personal experiences that LGU traffic engineering & management and operations staff are often not in synch with their planning counterparts. This is not and should not be a given since both need to collaborate in order to address transport and traffic issues that need more comprehensive and progressive approaches compared to what have been practiced before.

LGUs cannot rely on strategies and tactics that are along the lines of “ganito na ginagawa noon pa” or “ganito na inabutan ko”, which only proves these were ineffective (i.e., why not try other techniques, methods or strategies instead?). Transformations and paradigm changes to solve transport problems cannot be achieved by denying the change, innovation or new ideas required for emerging as well as persistent issues/problems.

Is it difficult to understand the phenomena of induced demand?

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]

Partially completed road widening along a road in Batangas – was this necessary given the traffic in the area before, during and after this pandemic?

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.

On experiments and crowd-sourcing for solutions

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. 🙂

More parks and trees = longer lives

Here is an article about a topic that seems unrelated to transportation but is actually strongly related to it. We already know about the benefits of tree-lined boulevards and parks as lungs of a town or city. The following article discusses the benefits and advantages of having more parks and trees.

Yanez, E. (November 19, 2020) “More Parks, Longer Lives,” Parks and Recreation, https://www.nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2020/december/more-parks-longer-lives/

I suddenly recall what were tree-lined national highways across the country. Many of these trees were cut down to give way to road-widening projects of the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)., Nevermind that the widening was not really required in many if not most cases, and that the trees were never replaced or was there ever an effort to do so. The results have been disastrous in terms of the environments along these roads. Transport systems can also be developed with parks and trees in mind; especially if active transport were the focus of the development. Surely parks and trees will enhance the environment and encourage more people to walk or cycle. This should translate into better overall health and wellness for people.

On designing street for bicycles

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

On car-shaming and reducing car use

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.

National Transport Policy is out!

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.