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Roads to Baguio: Marcos Highway – Part 2

To open September, I continue on the feature on Marcos Highway. Following are more photos I took on our way back to Manila from a short vacation in Baguio.

2016-06-11 11.27.46Many sections of Marcos Highway have some form of protection against landslides or rock slides. Note the concrete faces fences along the left in the photo.

2016-06-11 11.28.23There are many structures along the highway including houses and stores

2016-06-11 11.28.28The mountain limits sight distance along curves like this.

2016-06-11 11.28.40We encountered this group of motorcyclists heading up to Baguio on what appeared to be what is termed as “big bikes”, that typically are the more expensive ones, too. Other photos in this series will show these motorcycles. I lost count of them while we were traveling the opposite direction. 

2016-06-11 11.29.28This seems to be a popular stop for hungry travelers. The location though and its driveway are not at all desirable from the highway engineering perspective.

2016-06-11 11.29.36Combination of signs to guide motorists along this sharp curve.

2016-06-11 11.29.45Curved sections like this one offer breathtaking views of the mountains.

2016-06-11 11.29.55Shoulders may function as space for emergency stops including for breakdowns or changing tires. Full shoulders allow for stopped vehicles to be completely clear of the traveled way. That is, they don’t pose as obstacles that traffic would need to evade.

2016-06-11 11.30.37More examples of poorly located establishments along a curve

2016-06-11 11.30.52The road seems to disappear in the mountains

2016-06-11 11.31.15Another home along the highway and right at one of the curves. This one seems to be wisely located behind the barriers though its pretty obvious where their driveway is located.

2016-06-11 11.32.45Conspicuous location for a religious site along the highway

2016-06-11 11.32.57More motorcyclists and their big bikes

2016-06-11 11.33.36Barriers along both side of the highway seem sturdy enough to keep vehicles from flying off the road in case their drivers/riders lose control. This section offers enough to satisfy sight distance requirements and noticeably does not feature double yellows like the other photos in this post.

2016-06-11 11.33.54A residential community along the highway including this big house just clear of the shoulder.

2016-06-11 11.34.03Another community including a home atop the mountain. The barriers appear to be newly constructed along with the PCC paved shoulders. These would have to be painted for them to be visible to motorists especially at night-time or when visibility is poor.

More photos of Marcos Highway soon!

LRT Line 2 issues: elevated tracks vs pedestrian overpasses

The ongoing construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension has reached a point where it is clear that several pedestrian overpasses will be affected by the project. Following are photos of overpasses between Angel Tuazon Ave./Felix Ave. and Masinag. Most are clearly along the  elevated superstructure of the Line Extension and will have to be redesigned if not removed. Some are relatively new and so brings some questions whether those behind the overpasses coordinated with the proponents of the Line 2 Extension project.

Line 2 v overpassThe practically new pedestrian overpass near the Vermont Royale subdivision gate will have to be redesigned to give way to Line 2’s elevated tracks. This is the view along the westbound side of Marcos Highway. Hopefully, the design will not be similar to the somewhat awkward and, some say, ‘people-unfriendly’ designs of overpasses along EDSA due to the MRT 3 tracks.

IMG_1222Here’s a view of the same overpass from the eastbound side of Marcos Highway.

IMG_1223Another overpass that will have to be dismantled from the looks of the columns currently under construction is the one near the Filinvest East gate.

IMG_1224The overpass across from SM Masinag may also have to go but since there will be a stations to be constructed in this area, there is an opportunity to integrate the pedestrian walkway with the elevated station.

I will try to take photos of other overpasses between Santolan and Sta. Lucia that may be affected by the construction of the Line 2 extension. The ones across Robinsons Metro East and De La Paz though might be integrated with the station that is to be constructed in the area. This would be similar to the SM Masinag overpass, which will presumably be integrated with the Masinag Station of the Line 2 extension.

Line 2 Extension construction at full swing

The construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension from Santolan, Pasig City to Masinag, Antipolo City is now in full swing. The contractor, DM Consunji, Inc., has occupied several lanes of Marcos Highway and the reduced capacity of the highway has led to moderate to severe congestion along sections from Ligaya to Masinag. At certain times, construction work required more space than the 2 lanes usually occupied by construction equipment and materials. Following are a few photos of the project showing various stages in the construction of the Line 2 extension.

IMG_0803Section in front of SM Masinag also showing the pedestrian overpass across Marcos Highway

IMG_0804Section in front of Vermont Royal Executive Village also showing a newly constructed pedestrian overpass that looks like it will be cleared by the elevated tracks.

IMG_0805Columns under construction along Marcos Highway across from Golden Meadows Subdivision.

IMG_0806Columns completed and under construction across Town & Country Executive Village – the photo also shows another pedestrian overpass but from the completed column its clear that modifications aren’t needed for the overpass.

IMG_0807Construction at the current end of the elevated tracks at Santolan, Pasig City

Construction works are expected to go on for at least a year before the trains can start test runs along the new tracks. This is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of commuting along this corridor once the extension becomes operational and hopefully DOTC is already planning an extension further towards Cogeo or perhaps branch out to Marikina via Sumulong Highway.

Trip cutting with respect to the LRT Line 2

Trip cutting is one of the undesirable behaviors of public utility vehicle drivers. It is most common with jeepneys and UV Express than with buses.

The findings of the study completed by our students last June 2015 are the following:

  • It was proven that trip-cutting behavior is a common practice by both jeepney and UV Express drivers with routes along Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard, covering parts of Pasig City, Marikina City and Quezon City.
  • The underlying factors involving trip-cutting behavior by PUV drivers were found to be the following:
    • Jeepneys and UV Express unload most of their passengrs during peak hours at the LRT Santolan and Katipunan Stations – there was a higher likelihood for passengers to ride the Line 2 from these stations to their destinations including Cubao and the University belt. A lot of passengers are students and trying to keep their schedules. Road transport can be very unpredictable and the trains offer more reliable travel times.
    • Drivers can maximize profit by having shorter trips and at the same time having passengers at full capacity – jeepney and UV express drivers unloading most of their passengers at the stations and turning around there (i.e., cutting their trips) means they avoid the congestion along Aurora Boulevard and faster turnarounds translate to their being able to carry more passengers thereby earning more revenues.
  • It was observed that the top trip-cutting routes for PUVs along Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard are as follows:
    • For jeepney vehicles:
      • Cogeo – Cubao and Antipolo – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Santolan Station;
      • Calumpang – Cubao and SSS Village – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Katipunan Station.
    • For UV Express vehicles:
      • SSS Village – Cubao and Cogeo – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Santolan Station;
      • Marikina – Cubao and Rodriguez/Montalban – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Katipunan Station.

The following recommendations were made in relation to the findings of the study:

  • Route modification of top trip-cutting routes to take into account the realities with respect to the current demand.
  • Study on supply of PUVs with respect to the Cubao terminal station in relation to trip-cutting violations.
  • In the future, when the construction of the LRT Line 2’s Masinag and Emerald stations is completed, it is recommend to that further route modifications be made relative to these new stations.

Such studies are important especially in light of the construction of railway lines including this case of the extension of Line 2 from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo. There is an opportunity here for the rationalization of jeepney routes to complement the obviously higher capacity and more efficient trains of Line 2. Rationalization here translates to the shortening of jeepney routes with many units terminating at Line 2 stations. ‘Cogeo-Cubao’ jeepneys would become Cogeo-Masinag jeepneys while ‘Antipolo-Cubao’ jeepneys will become either ‘Antipolo-Masinag’ or ‘Antipolo-Emerald’ jeepneys. A Masinag route end would apply to ‘Antipolo-Cubao via Sumulong Highway’ jeepneys while the Emerald route end would apply to ‘Antipoli-Cubao via Junction’ PUJs. Such will reduce the travel distances covered by the jeepneys as well as reduce their travel and turnaround times. Also, such a rationalization will lead to a better structured public transport system following a hierarchy among modes.

What’s wrong with Marcos Highway?

Traffic along the eastbound direction of Marcos Highway in the late afternoons to evenings have worsened particularly for the section stretching from Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City to Imelda Avenue in Cainta. It takes me at least 45 minutes just to traverse that section and then just under 30 minutes the rest of the way to my home in Antipolo. In addition, there is the traffic along Katipunan, which can be quite unpredictable despite the traffic signals now installed at two major intersections near Ateneo and Miriam. The congestion along Marcos Highway is usually due to several factors:

  • Rush hour(s) traffic – the sheer number of vehicles during the afternoon/evening peak is enough to cause traffic congestion along Marcos Highway. This is no longer for an hour but for a period usually spanning about 4 hours (5 to 9 PM). It’s become so bad that I am no longer surprised when I go home late some nights to find out it’s still congested at certain points (usually Santolan and Ligaya) past 9 PM.
  • People occupying the road – commuters waiting for a ride along Santolan, Ligaya and Metro East/Sta.Lucia often occupy not just one but 2 to 3 lanes of Marcos Highway. This drastically reduces road capacity. For some reason, the MMDA and LGU traffic enforcers could not persuade them to clear the carriageway or at least encroach only on the outermost lane.
  • Errant road public transport – loading and unloading operations of jeepneys and UV express happen in the middle of the road. This is partly due to the fact that people already occupy 1 to 3 of the outermost lanes of the road. It is also partly due to driver behaviour as many PUV drivers are unruly. These are also maybe because the enforcers are not doing their jobs managing traffic and apprehending those violating rules and regulations whether driver or pedestrian.
  • Major trip generators – there are already 4 malls along Marcos Highway (SM Marikina, Robinsons Metro East, Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall, and SM Masinag) and a 5th is already under way with Ayala constructing a mall at Ligaya. These will attract and produce significant traffic with vehicles generally contributing to congestion in the direct vicinity of the malls but spreading along all major roads. Unfortunately, Marcos Highway is one if not the only access road that these malls have.

A lot of people using their own vehicles live in areas served by Marcos Highway including those beyond Masinag and Cogeo. There are so many subdivisions and other residential areas in these parts east of Metro Manila that vehicles from these residential areas alone can cause sever congestion at Masinag Junction. But this should not come as a surprise given that there is no efficient mass transport system in these areas, which are served primarily by jeepneys and tricycles. Obviously, the quality of service of existing road public transport encourages people to get their own vehicle. And obviously, too, the solution is in a project that is considered “bitin” – LRT Line 2, which currently terminates at Santolan. The extension project has long been delayed and could have a significant impact on transport and traffic once it is constructed and becomes operational.

The past two weeks, I have proceeded to take C-5 and turned to Ortigas Avenue Extension on my way home. Surprisingly, traffic has not been bad at Cainta junction and I have only occasionally encountered congestion at the section in front of the BF Metals plant where jeepneys turning around tend to block traffic during their maneuvers. I estimate that I average just under an hour on this route, a savings of 30+ minutes from my original home-bound route via Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway. I figure that I will most likely keep using this route as traffic will continue to worsen along Marcos Highway in the run-up to Christmas.

The need for mass transit to the east of Metro Manila

I wanted to use a title stating “the demand for mass transit to the east of Metro Manila” but the word “demand” for me seemed a bit technical (I associated it with the supply and demand concepts for transport.) and would need some numbers to support it. So I settled for the word “need” instead of “demand” so I could be flexible (i.e., more qualitative) with the way I wrote this article. “Need” is a more pedestrian term that can easily be understood and imagined, and there is no lack for images of this need for more efficient and higher capacity modes along the main corridors to the east of Metro Manila. The main corridors are Ortigas Avenue and Marcos Highway, which have the highest road capacities among other roads (i.e., higher capacities than A. Bonifacio Avenue in Marikina, the Batasan-San Mateo Road, or C-6/Highway 2000). These are also the corridors along which most public transport services may be found. Such connects the eastern towns (e.g., Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo, etc.) to the transport hubs of Cubao and Crossing, which are major transfer points for many people taking public transport. Of course, there are UV Express services from these eastern towns that go directly to CBDs like Makati and Ortigas.

You can observe the crowds at Katipunan and Santolan Stations of the LRT Line 2 as well as the people waiting for their ride home along Marcos Highway. I have observed that there are also lots of people along Ortigas Avenue from Tikling Junction to C-5 who religiously and patiently wait for their rides to school, office or home. This happens everyday and this regularity seems to be a never-ending sacrifice of time and patience. These people do not have much of a choice except taking whatever public transport is available to them. Many probably can afford to have a car or already have a vehicle in their household. Unfortunately, that vehicle is not usually enough for their commuting needs and so they are captive users of an inefficient public transport system (there are some who question if what we have can really be called a system).

 

IMG08724-20140603-1814People waiting for a ride in front of Robinsons Metro East along Marcos Highway in Pasig City – these have occupied 3 lanes of the highway as they position themselves for the next available jeepney. There is a UV Express terminal at the mall and another at the nearby Sta. Lucia mall but these are not for the destinations these people are going to.

News that the LRT Line 2 Extension from Santolan to Masinag would finally be constructed was initially met with speculation. Such news have been circulating for so many years but no actual work could be seen along Marcos Highway to convince people that the project was underway. Now, that the soil test samplings have been completed, people are anxious about the actual construction of the extension. I think this is a project long overdue and the question that needs to be answered is if the line needs to be extended further, perhaps until Cogeo. I believe there is a tremendous market for this mass transit system along this corridor where a lot of residential subdivisions and relocation sites have sprouted over the years. The DPWH recognised this as a high capacity corridor and is already widening the road from Masinag to Cogeo.

Hopefully, the Ortigas Ave.-Manila East Road corridor can also have its own mass transit line. The regular bus services along this corridor is no longer sufficient and operations are not so efficient despite what appears as competition among 2 bus lines. There had been a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Line proposed for this corridor but there seems to be no progress towards the realisation of that project. Whichever of rail or BRT would be the option for the corridor though, it doesn’t take a genius or too many consultants to determine the need for a good mass transit line along this corridor. When that will be is a question with an answer that is still up in the air. Perhaps the local governments of Rizal, especially the province, should push for such transit systems. The governor and mayors should champion such systems that will definitely benefit their constituents and translate into real revenues for their LGUs from the certain business that will come along these corridors.