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Habal-habal and skylab in Surigao Del Sur

Following are more examples of motorcycle taxis from our recent study. The photos were taken at a terminal in a town in Surigao Del Sur. Both habal-habal and Skylab were there waiting for passengers to transport to the barrios.

surigao-4Skylab with roof integrated with the extensions

surigao-3Habal-habal with makeshift roof

surigao-2Haba-habal and skylab at terminal in Tandag, Surigao De Sur

surigao-1More motorcycle taxis at the terminal

Note that many have roofs and these appear to be especially fabricated for either type of vehicle. In the case of the Skylab, the roof is connected to the extensions on either side of the motorcycle similar to how sidecars of motorized tricycles are fabricated to integrate a roof for the driver. While there are similar set-ups for habal-habal, many are more makeshift where the canvass roof’s columns are made of wood or even bamboo and are tied to the motorcycle.

Motorcycles as goods transport

Our study on motorcycle taxis revealed most if not all of these “habal-habal” and “Skylab” being used to transport goods as well. These include agricultural products, food, construction materials, fuel, poultry, and others you would not see your typical courier service motorcycles will carry.

[All photos courtesy of Mr. Sherman Avendano of the National Center for Transportation Studies]

agusan-5A motorcycle bearing what appears as goods for or from the market treading a muddy and puddle-full road.

agusan-6Motorcycle transporting what looks more like lumber than firewood.

agusan-7Skylab carrying what looks like 4 sacks of rice.

I was gifted by my wife with a coffee table book she got from one of her trips to Vietnam. The book contains photos of motorcycles in Vietnam being used to transport various goods including furniture, water bottles, crafts and even items like tractor tires, water tanks and roofing. I guess one can also compile a similar set of photos to come up with a Philippine version of that book.

Habal-habal in Agusan

The initial part of our research on motorcycle taxis has been completed last December 2016. We are currently drafting a paper for submission to an international conference to be held later this year. The paper contains the outcomes of the surveys undertaken in Surigao Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte and Metro Manila. These include a profile of motorcycle taxi drivers and vehicles that gives us a good idea of how much these people earn and the typical range and loads (passengers and goods) they carry.

Following are photos of motorcycle taxis in Agusan. I won’t post too much detail on the net income of drivers/operators but I guess they earn enough (some even more) given the typical cost of living in these areas where they operate. Motorcycle taxi drivers/operators actually are part of the so-called underground economy where, despite the work and income, people don’t pay their taxes like regular employees or professionals at various workplaces.

[All photos courtesy of Mr. Sherman Avendano of the National Center for Transportation Studies]

13Typical habal-habal with 3 passengers

17“Skylab” with roof – the planks or extensions on either side of the motorcycle are the main features of this motorcycle taxi.

05Typical rural roads in areas served by habal-habal are unpaved. These are muddy during the wet season and dusty during the dry season. As such, it can be a rough ride for those using motorcycles and perhaps even rougher by car.

06Habal-habal passing by a puddle on the road – the passengers are obviously children likely on their way to school based on their uniforms

More on motorcycle taxis soon!

Habal-habal in Metro Manila

I posted about our ongoing research on motorcycle taxis. One of our subject areas are Pasig and Taguig in Metro Manila. These would likely represent the urban motorcycle taxi operations that we wanted to document and assess. One terminal I specifically asked our staff to visit as part of the recon/pre-survey activities is located at Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City near where the Pasig River connects with the Laguna de Bay. It is along Circumferential Road 6 and, based on my observation, has transferred locations several times since C-6 was being widened and paved.

14-nov-2016-11-35-00-amThis is the terminal at Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City along C-6 and near the Napindan Ferry Terminal.

14-nov-2016-11-35-12-amThe current terminal stands along what used to be the older C-6 lane. The newer paved section of the widened C-6 is shown in use. It used to be closer to the bridge that crossed the Pasig River and near the Napindan Ferry Terminal.

14-nov-2016-11-35-26-amThe habal-habal riders and operators have an organization and are generally tolerated by the local government. Unlike their provincial “relatives”, they usually only take one passenger seated at the back of the rider. Two passengers are not unusual or irregular especially if one is a child.

I will post about the characteristics of habal-habal operations soon. However, I don’t want to preempt the research we are doing so I would also prefer that we submit our report first and maybe even submit a paper or two for publication before I post them here. Among the things we have obtained so far are video recordings of what its like to ride these motorcycles. We used an action camera mounted on the rider’s helmet for this purpose. Our staff also did a quick interview of the service providers and will be doing a full survey soon to get substantial information for our research.

Skylab – motorcycle taxi

We are currently doing research on motorcycles and a major part of the research is on motorcycle taxis. Motorcycle taxis are popular in many areas in the Philippines despite national and local government agencies have not sanctioned or legalized their operations. There are two popular versions of the motorcycle taxis – the habal-habal and the Skylab. Both are basically motorcycles with some add-ons to increase passenger capacity or to be able to carry more goods or cargo.

The habal-habal is carries all passengers or cargo on the motorcycle with some variants having a plank for extension to the back or a customized seat over the gas tank that is usually for children. The Skylab owes its name from the US satellite that fell to the earth in the 1970s. The shape of the satellite inspired innovative extensions along each side of the motorcycle. This enabled riders to take in triple the number of passengers they could with the habal-habal set-up.  Both have variants with roofs.

The following video shows a Skylab in Surigao Del Sur care of a very good friend, Dr. Alex Ladaga of Surigao Del Sur State University, whom we are collaborating with in this research:

More on these motorcycle taxis soon!

Motorcycle lanes along Sumulong Highway?

I noticed something along my commute and that is the newly marked pavement along Sumulong Highway at the section in Barangay Mambugan until Barangay Mayamot at Masinag Junction. I guess this is more likely part of Antipolo City’s initiative in managing motorcycle and tricycle traffic. In a meeting with the City Administrator, Robert Nacianceno, last year, he said that the city was moving towards improving road safety. That included addressing concerns about tricycle and motorcycle operations that has led to crashes and congestion. Motorcycle lanes designated by blue pavement markings are not new and likely was inspired by the MMDA’s initiatives along major roads in Metro Manila.

MC lanes sumulong2Motorcycle running along the designated lane

MC lanes sumulong1The blue markings are present along both sides of Sumulong Highway

The real challenge with these motorcycle lanes would be on the enforcement. That is, how would the city be ‘encouraging’ motorcyclists and tricycle drivers to stick to the outer lanes of the highway. Such would require a tremendous effort for the city as they will definitely have to apprehend erring motorists and also clear the designated lanes of obstructions. Should this program be successful along Sumulong Highway, perhaps they should consider the same for Marcos Highway.

Curiosities of transport services in Metro Manila

There are a few interesting observations we can make out of transport services in Metro Manila and chief among them is the poor quality of service that we can generalize among most if not all modes of public transport available to commuters. This poor quality of service of public transport is what drives many people to aspire to own and drive or ride their own vehicle. Already there has been a surge in motorcycle ownership in Metro Manila and its neighboring towns and cities (collectively Mega Manila) and car ownership is also on the rise. These trends have led to increased congestion along many roads. And we will probably not see a significant improvement until the mass transit projects have all been completed. These include the Line 2 Extension to Masinag, the MRT 7 along Commonwealth, the Line 1 Extension to Cavite, and yes, the capacity improvement of MRT 3. Hopefully, there will also be BRT lines along C-5 and Quezon Avenue to complement the rail transport projects.

The UV Express is actually a response to poor public transport services as it evolved out of the FX taxi services of the 1990s that later mixed with informal van and AUV services. These are actually a precursor of today’s ride sharing modes. Only, in those days when the FX service was born, you didn’t have tools like apps to facilitate your ride. People had to agree about the fares and the destinations from terminals like those in Cubao (Quezon City) and Crossing (Pasig/Mandaluyong).

But let us focus on three services that would not have been attractive if only services by their conventional counterparts were (very) satisfactory and if there was a comprehensive and efficient mass transit network in the metropolis. These are Uber, P2P buses and airport express buses.

Uber offers services much like that of the conventional taxi. Its advantages are mainly having recent model vehicles (not dilapidated ones), a better driver (this attribute is quite subjective), and an app-based system for availing services. Fares are generally more expensive than those for regular taxis. And there is a surge pricing for when congestion is really bad. It has a very good feedback mechanism that allows passengers to evaluate their drivers. However, this wouldn’t have been necessary if taxi drivers in general were more disciplined and courteous to their passengers.

P2P buses operated by Froehlich Tours offers services much like that of conventional buses. Its current advantages over conventional buses are that it operates express services, buses are new, well-maintained, and with drivers that appear to be more disciplined than the typical public utility bus driver. A friend’s take is that P2P’s are the bus equivalent of UV Express. It is not at all necessary if the quality of service of regular buses were much better than it is right now. And I am referring to the practically stop anywhere, recklessly driven and poorly maintained regular buses.

Premium airport buses have recently been introduced and these are operated by Air21, which is a freight forwarding company. It is a service that’s long overdue given the many difficult experiences of people to and from NAIA’s passenger terminals. While an airport limousine bus service should have been provided many, many years ago it also is a reflection of the poor quality of airport taxi services. Airport taxis are expensive and according to many stories circulating can be predatory.

What I am driving at, if it is not yet so obvious, is that many ‘new’ services are actually borne out of crappy services of conventional modes. There are many lessons to be learned here in and lest I be accused of neglecting other Philippine cities, I should mention that Metro Manila presents so many lessons to be learned by other rapidly growing and urbanizing areas in the country. At this time we can mention Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro and perhaps Clark/Angeles as metropolitan areas to watch in terms of transport system development. Hopefully, there’s a kind of reverse psychology in their approaches to address their transport needs in that they avoid what has been done in Metro Manila. Surely, transport services in these other cities can do better than Metro Manila’s.