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Planning for the new normal – post Covid-19

There have been many discussions lately about urban planning and transport planning in relation to the pandemic currently gripping the world. There are opinions and assessments about topics such as population density, employment, public transportation, physical or social distance, as well as the prospects for reducing car dependence.

Here is a nice article that compiles some of the better articles on planning related to the current Covid-19 pandemic that’s affecting our planet:

Brasuell, J. (2020) Debating the Future of Cities, and Urban Densities, After the Pandemic, planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/108814?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03232020&mc_cid=a891454817&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed 3/24/2020].

The world will never be the same after what everyone has gone through during this pandemic. Let us not wish we could go back to normal because, as the saying goes, that “normal” was what got us here in the first place.

Keep safe everyone!

Comments on current transport issues – Part 3: On the obstacles to the PNR trains

2) On the obstacles to the PNR operations

We have done studies before when studies on the PNR were not considered fashionable. People who did research on rail transport were more interested in Lines 1, 2 and 3, and dismissed the PNR as a lost cause. There were many transportation experts who ridiculed it and even taunted PNR about their poor service. And yet we did our studies because we had an appreciation of the importance of this line and how it could play a major role in commuting if given the resources to improve their facilities. It was shown that the line could be more advantageous for commuters particularly those traveling between the southern parts of Metro Manila and Makati and Manila. These would be both workers and students who will benefit from the shorter travel times and less expensive fares. The downside then (and still at the present time) was the long headways between trains. That is, you can only catch a train every 30 minutes.

This photo taken more than a decade ago show the typical conditions along many sections of the PNR. It is pretty much the same today and the agencies involved (DOTr and PNR) have done little to reduce the informal settlers along the line. No, they didn’t just appear now, and are throwing garbage, rocks and other debris on the trains. This was already happening years ago.

Fast forward to the present and they seem to be getting a lot more resources than the last 30+ years. A Philippine Railway Institute (PRI) has been created. New train sets have just been delivered and went into operation. Unfortunately, the new trains were met with rocks and other debris as they traveled along sections occupied by informal settlers. The incident damaging the new trains puts further emphasis on the need to the need to address the squatter problem along the PNR line. Should fences be built to protect the trains and passengers? Should people be relocated? I think both need to be done in order to secure the line and in preparation for service upgrades including more frequent train services (i.e., shorter intervals between trains). And we hope to see the DOTr and PNR working on this as they attempt to attract more passengers to use their trains.

Walking in Singapore

The recent trip to Singapore was like a sentimental journey for us. We had lived in the Lion City for almost 2 years and consider this a second home (actually a close third for me because I consider Yokohama as a second home having lived there for 3 years). Among the things we truly missed about Singapore aside from friends (many of whom have already moved to other countries) and food were the public transport and the walking. Singapore is a walkable city and the excellent public transport along with the land use planning has allowed healthier commutes for people.

The environment along Orchard Road is inviting and conducive for walks.

Wide sidewalks can accommodate more people and don’t make it feel so crowded even during the peak hours.

 

It was easy to log more than 10,000 steps per day in Singapore. In fact, I was happy to have walked an average of 11,000+ steps per day for the 3 days were there. One could only hope we can have similar infrastructure in the Philippines.

More on walking and public transport in Singapore soon.

Article on housing affordability and sprawl

There is a new article from Todd Litman that discusses the state of housing in the context of affordability and sprawl. While this is mainly based on the experiences in the US and Canada, there are many other cities from other countries involved. I noticed an interesting comment on his Facebook post about the elephant in the room being culture. I would tend to agree with this view and in the case of the Philippines is perhaps also heavily influenced by our being under a repressive Spanish regime that was succeeded by an American-style. I say repressive because although there was a semblance of planning during the Spanish period, the urban form revolved around the plaza where church, government, market and schools were located. Social class defined residential ‘development’ also followed this with the wealthier families having homes closer to the center while those in the lower income classes where farther and perhaps even beyond the reach of the sound of church bells. The Americans changed much of that and introduced a larger middle class and the incentive of becoming home and land owners, which during the Spanish period was practically non-existent except perhaps to the buena familias and ilustrados. Fast forward to the present, being a land owner is still very much a status symbol along with being a car owner. Homes in the urban centers (e.g., Makati CBD, Ortigas CBD, BGC, etc.) are very expensive and people would rather reside in the periphery (thus the sprawl) and do their long commutes.

Here is a  link to the article:

Unaffordability is a Problem but Sprawl is a Terrible Solution

[Litman, T. (2017) Unaffordability is a problem but sprawl is a terrible solution, Planetizen, Retrieved from http://www.planetizen.com, February 17.]

What do you think?

Shopping malls and Ortigas Avenue Extension traffic congestion

Recently, I noticed that traffic has somewhat eased along the eastbound side of Ortigas Avenue Extension. For one, this was probably due to the completion of road works and the reopening of lanes between Cainta Junction and Brookside. This improved traffic flow as traffic personnel didn’t have to resort to the balancing act that is the counter-flow scheme they had been employing to alleviate congestion for mostly home-bound traffic. But a major contributor to congestion was the Ever Gotesco Mall in the former Riverside industrial complex. Malls like this are major trip generators and if traffic coming in and out of the malls are not managed properly or facilities are not provided for efficient movement of people and vehicles, then there will surely be congestion along access roads. I stated that the Ever mall ‘was’ a major contributor because the mall recently closed down and the property is now fenced off from the road. At present, there is practically zero traffic that can be attributed to the former mall.

Following are a few photos of the closed and fenced off property that was the Ever Ortigas mall.

ever ortigas3Jeepneys and UV Express vehicles now use the service road of the mall as a terminal.

ever ortigas2It’s now a breeze passing through the eastbound section of Ortigas Extension in front of the former mall. There are signs stating the property has been acquired by retail giant SM. It will probably be transformed into an SM mall.

ever ortigas1This driveway used to cause congestion as jeepneys and private vehicles exited the mall through this driveway and many turned left towards Ortigas westbound. These vehicle often effectively blocked traffic along the eastbound direction with queues reaching all the way past Countryside and reaching De Castro on a bad day.

There were only two shopping malls along Ortigas Avenue Extension – the Robinson’s Place near Cainta Junction and Ever Gotesco. Ever has recently close but it is expected to re-open as an SM Mall sometime in the near future. SM doesn’t have a mall in the area and the ‘nearest’ ones would be Megamall, Marikina and Taytay (not counting the Super Center beside Tiendesitas and the Super Center along Felix Avenue). If indeed an SM mall will be there soon, we could expect heavier traffic in the area given the trip generation characteristics of SM. Perhaps, though, there is an opportunity to improve traffic in the area if SM can consider some improvements to its driveways and circulation. They could probably do something like what SM Novaliches had done with their generous setback to ensure that there will be no serious congestion along Quirino Avenue due to mall-generated traffic.

SM will not be the only major commercial development that is expected to generate traffic that will lead to congestion along Ortigas Extension. Almost across the former Ever mall is a commercial development under construction with a building I think is too close to the road. Then there is also the commercial/residential project that is being constructed along the westbound side of Ortigas Extension near the Kaytikling Junction in Taytay, Rizal. I wonder if these had the necessary traffic studies to support their impacts on at least the immediate areas they will be affecting.