Caught (up) in traffic

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Old rail timetable to Antipolo

I found this on the internet – a timetable or schedule for trains bound for what are now destinations in Rizal (e.g., Antipolo, Taytay, San Mateo and Montalban). Pasig and Marikina used to be part of Rizal province with the capital at Pasig (thus, Kapitolyo).

From the schedule, one can see that the main line was between Manila and Pasig (Rosario). From Rosarion, the line branched out towards either Antipolo or Montalban (now Rodriguez). Certain trains like Nos. 41, 45, 47, 51 and 56 terminated in Antipolo while others at Montalban. Again, one cannot help but wonder what if these lines were sustained and still operational (of course, upgraded) today. Commuting would have been different for many of us residing in Rizal and along these lines.

Road safety history – first fatality and crash

Have you ever wondered when the first road crash involving a motor vehicle occurred? Or who was the first person to die (i.e., fatality) in a car crash? Here’s a brief but informative article on this topic:

Sal (April 15, 2022) “Who Was the First Person Ever to Die in a Car Crash?” Medium.com, https://sal.medium.com/who-was-the-first-person-ever-to-die-in-a-car-crash-8385add6cbcb [Last accessed: 4/20/2022]

Were you surprised about the 3 mph speed of the car that ran over the first fatality involving a car? That’s really slow considering the speeds of vehicles these days and how high speed limits are along streets where there are many pedestrians. Meanwhile, the circumstances about the first crash appears to be similar to what we still have now. That is, reckless driving, increasing speed limits and (truth be told) pedestrians not being aware of their surroundings (say what you will but the car was traveling at 4 mph and there was a claim that the driver tried to get the attention of the victim to no avail). I agree though with the author that this was a portent of worse things to come as road crashes has become a top killer and health concern.

History: article on how jaywalking came to be

I am sharing this article on the invention of jaywalking. It is a very informative articles and gives context to the current situation where cars dominate streets and car-centric policies and infrastructure diminish pedestrians and walking. I’ve always said that history should enlighten us about how it was, how it came to be and what we need to change now if we are to attain a more sustainable transport system that will contribute to improving safety and ultimately, quality of life.

Thompson, C. (March 29, 2022) “The invention of ‘Jaywalking’,” Marker, https://marker.medium.com/the-invention-of-jaywalking-afd48f994c05 [Last accessed: 4/2/2022]

To quote from the article:

“It’s not totally clear who invented the phrase, but it was a fiendishly clever portmanteau. In the early 20th century, the word “jay” mean an uncultured rube from the countryside. To be a “jaywalker” thus was to be a country bumpkin who blundered around urban streets — guileless of the sophisticated ways of the city…
Ever after, “the street would be monopolized by motor vehicles,” Norton tells me. “Most of the children would be gone; those who were still there would be on the sidewalks.” By the 1960s, cars had become so dominant that when civil engineers made the first computer models to study how traffic flowed, they didn’t even bother to include pedestrians.”

The article showed photos of pre-automobile times in the US. Here’s a photo of pre-automobile Manila for context:

And here’s Manila during the American period but with most people walking or taking public transport in the form of the tranvias:

Chaotic as the scenes appear to be, these streets were definitely safer and perhaps saner than what he have now. The challenge is how to re-orient our streets and reclaim it to favor people instead of cars.

On women and the railroads in Ukraine

Ukraine has been in the news lately due to what analysts think is an impending invasion by Russia. Ukraine, of course, used to be part of the Soviet Union. However, they have initiated what Russia thought was unacceptable, which is applying to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That constituted a threat to Russia right at its doorsteps. Russia, though appear to be egging for a fight ever since they snatched Crimea from Ukraine and covet resources in that country that would likely benefit the west more as Ukraine moves to closer ties with what Russian leadership still regard as enemies.

The article I am sharing though is not about conflict but of railways in a country rich in railways history and heritage. Ukraine’s railway system date back to pre-communist times, before their inclusion in what was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Here’s a nice read on Ukrainian railroads and the women who help keep their trains running:

Mallonee, L. (May 31, 2020) “The Women of Ukraine’s Railroads Keep the Trains Running,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/women-ukraine-railroads/?utm_medium=social&utm_social-type=owned&mbid=social_twitter&utm_source=twitter&utm_brand=wired [Last accessed: 2/21/2022]

UPSE Discussion Paper on Martial Law and the Philippine Economy

To those who were looking for references on the Philippine economy during the Martial Law years, look no further than a recent discussion paper from the UP School of Economics (UPSE). To quote from their social media post:

UPSE Discussion Paper No. 2021-07 (November 2021)
📌Title: Martial law and the Philippine economy
🖊Authors: Emmanuel S. de Dios, Maria Socorro Gochoco-Bautista, Jan Carlo Punongbayan
📄Abstract: Part of a proposed anthology, this article provides a concise review of the economic performance during the period of the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1985) from a comparative historical perspective. We examine the external events and internal policy responses that made possible the high growth in the early years of martial law and show that these are integral to explaining the decline and ultimate collapse of the economy in 1984-1985. The macroeconomic, trade, and debt policies pursued by the Marcos regime—particularly its failure to shift the country onto a sustainable growth path—are explained in the context of the regime’s larger political-economic programme of holding on to power and seeking rents.
📖 Read the full paper here: https://econ.upd.edu.ph/dp/index.php/dp/article/view/1543/1027

https://econ.upd.edu.ph/dp/index.php/dp/article/view/1543/1027

Why is this relevant to transportation in the country? Economic performance and policies during that period strongly influenced if not practically dictated infrastructure development during the period. Add politics to the mix and you get what ultimately affected future administrations in terms of debt servicing and other financial or fiscal issues that needed to be addressed due to the debt incurred during that period.

We should learn from this and hopefully not repeat it. Unfortunately, the fiscal discipline and reforms during the previous administration appear to have been abandoned and the current spending and borrowing spree will likely handicap future administrations. Are there bad debts around? Probably! And so there will likely be a need to do some due diligence during the transition to a new administration after the elections this year.

What they are not saying about UTSMMA and Metro Manila’s first subway line

My social media feed is suddenly filled with shares of articles (the same PR text apparently) from the Department of Transportation, its Secretary and his fans and local rail aficionados about the progress of the Metro Manila Subway Project, which is dubbed as Metro Manila’s first subway line. While these posts start and appear as factual narratives, they are silent about certain facts that the writers conveniently did not include as part of their narrative. Perhaps it is because they are currently allied with the son of the dictator who decided vs. building what could have been the country’s first subway line and a game-changer for commuting in the metropolis.

UTSMMA or the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area was completed in 1973 and was immediately followed by a Feasibility Study on the Manila Rapid Transit Rail Line No. 1 that was completed in 1976. Here’s a nice render of a subway station platform from that FS:

Two things that need to be said:

  1. Marcos decided against the subway line in favor of LRT Line 1 after being heavily influenced by a World Bank report and the succeeding MMETROPLAN (funded by the WB). It is also said that he wanted to have the bragging rights to the first mass transit line in Southeast Asia but Singapore’s first MRT line would finish ahead of Metro Manila’s if the Philippines pursued the subway. The latter was a late and fateful decision because commitment to the RTR Line 1 could have been made earlier and construction could have started ahead of Singapore’s (and likely finished ahead if there were no major delays).
  2. The corruption during the Marcos dictatorship led to succeeding administrations including the current being saddled by debt and unable to put up major transportation infrastructure such as a subway line for decades (this is already well documented so denial or refusal to understand is the burden of the denier – no logic or fact can can probably change such people’s views or beliefs) without piling up more debt.

That said, I would caution vs. delaying the subway project any further. It is already almost 40 years since a subway was due and though the alignment is totally different from what was planned in the 1970s, there’s potential here to revolutionize how people will commute in Metro Manila. It will only become more expensive to build in the future.

Is it really a golden age for railways in the Philippines? Or is it just a great catch-up?

The government and many railway fans in the Philippines have dubbed the construction and rehabilitation of railway lines as a “golden age of railways in the Philippines.” Many, especially those who have aspired for railway development in the country agree with this monicker.

But is it really a golden age or are we just playing catch-up due to the backlog of railway projects in the country? Rehabilitation, after all, means there was a period of deterioration, even neglect by the government (i.e., across several administrations starting from Marcos) that led to poor or discontinued services.

A “golden age” is defined as “a period in a field of endeavor when great tasks were accomplished.” Indeed, by definition we can qualify the current one as such but let me point out the facts from history that railways development in the country (both long distance and urban transit) started in the late 1800s before the revolution that led to declaration of Philippine independence from Spain in 1898, and while many of our revolutionary leaders were abroad, mainly in Europe where I’m sure they took the trains and trams to move about. Here’s a link to the website developed by a research program in the University of the Philippines that focused on mass transit development in what is now the Metro Manila area:

Website for the UP-EIDR program on railways development in Metro Manila

Since railway development in the late 1800s started from scratch, perhaps the current development is more of a “second” golden age for railways, and not ‘The’ golden age for railways. This wouldn’t have happened or won’t be necessary if we rehabilitated the tranvia after WW2 or allocated resources to preserve and maintain the PNR and other lines like how our Southeast Asian neighbors did to their own railways. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have enviable railways including preserved, operational steam locomotives that are now practically moving museum pieces. But since we are into catching-up and there’s been significant progress on this end, perhaps the right term shouldn’t be “Golden Age” but “Renaissance”. It’s actually quite a catchy phrase “Railway Renaissance,” if you bother to consider it.

On preserving old transit systems

Many old cities have either retained or phased out their old road-level transit systems. I am referring mainly to rail-based streetcars rather than road-based ones such as buses. Even the indigenous types of road-based public transport may be phased out and usually in the name of modernization. Some though, like Singapore’s rickshaws and Manila’s calesas are still existent but you will find them either during odd hours or in tourist areas.

A good example of a city that has retained and preserved its transit system that is San Francisco in the US. The city still has a running cable car system, and its street cars maintained and operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). These are practically operational, traveling museums. The streetcars, for example, are of different models – a collection of streetcars from various cities around the world that have phased out this transit systems a long time ago. So it should not be surprising to see a different street car every time. And one could try to ride each one in operation while staying in city.

San Francisco’s cable cars are still operational and are used by people on their commutes

Here is an article about Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) trams:

Schmall, E. (September 2, 2021) “Kolkata’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Trams, Once Essential, Are Now a Neglected Relic,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/world/asia/kolkata-india-trams-calcutta.html?smid=url-share [Last accessed: ]

What are your thoughts about preserving or phasing out these transit systems?

Nostalgia: On old photos of transport in the Philippines

I like browsing old photos on the Philippines. Of particular interest are photos showing transportation during the Spanish and American periods. I came upon this photo of a tranvia station at Plaza Goiti in front of Sta. Cruz Church. The church is still there though it looks very different from the structure in the photo below. This is probably due to the reconstruction and renovations done over the years (it was seriously damaged during World War 2).

 

The source of the photo is a collection I found on the internet. Note that if you clicked the photo, you will be taken to another site where you can view other photos as well. Meanwhile, here is a screen capture of the area from Google Street View:

Plaza Lacson with Sta. Cruz Church in the background to the left of the statue of former Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson

Plaza Goiti is now Plaza Lacson with a statue of the former Mayor of Manila standing in the open space. Of course, the tranvia is no longer there but there are buses and jeepneys as well as tricycles providing public transportation in the area. The population is also higher and denser than when the first photo was taken (ca. 1910) but it seems the Sta. Cruz district is still a walkable area. We hope it will remain to be so and more initiatives are taken to have more improvements or enhancements to encourage active transport as well as public transport use over private motor vehicles.

On the Boeing 747

We deviate from our usual topics that are mostly about land transportation to something about air transportation:

Waldek, S. (February 10, 2021) “How the Boeing 747 Changed the Way Airplanes are Designed,” Architectural Digest, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/how-boeing-747-changed-way-airplanes-designed?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_021021_2&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight [Last accessed: 2/14/2021]

My first flight on the Boeing 747 was back in 1996 when I first traveled overseas to Tokyo. I was booked on a Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight and the airline used B747’s on the regular flights between Manila and Narita. Later, I was on another Northwest Airways, JAL and Korean Air B747’s for homecoming trips and a trip to Seoul. While in Japan, I usually took the Shinkansen for long distance domestic trips. I even had the chance to ride Pakistan Air’s B747 that was a half passenger, half freighter plane. The flight between Narita and Karachi in the 1990s had a stopover in Manila that meant cheap tickets between Manila and Narita (also because passenger demand for the airline was not as high since PAL, JAL and NWA were the airlines of choice between MNL and NRT. I was even upgraded to Business Class en route to Narita the only time I flew on PIA in 1998.

Here’s a model of a Delta B747-400 we got from one of our trips. Delta acquired Northwest and its flights to Asia.