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Streets of Olongapo: Rizal Avenue

Olongapo City is located in the Province of Zambales, the only city in that province, and beside the Subic Freeport. It is a pioneer in public transport service innovations in the form of the first initiative on the color-coding of jeepneys according to their routes. Despite what seemed to be forever being linked to the Freeport in terms of economic development, the city has enjoyed continued growth and is currently experiencing more challenges attributed to this growth. Among these challenges are those pertaining to traffic congestion and public transport services for the city. A Transportation and Traffic Management Plan Study was conducted by UP Diliman through the National Center for Transportation Studies and is up for formal adoption of the city.

Following are photos taken along the city’s main street, Rizal Avenue, where many of the city’s transport and traffic problems are manifested.

IMG02223-20120412-1438Cyclist pedaling along Rizal Avenue beside a yellow jeepney taking passengers at the designated stop at curbside. Downstream are parked vehicles along the road.

IMG02224-20120412-1438More parked vehicles at either side of Rizal Avenue effectively reducing road capacity for the 4-lane street.

IMG02225-20120412-1439On-street parking is a problem for the city as there are few, if any, off-street parking facilities in the city. On-street parking turnover is quite low since many of the parked vehicles are not clients or customers but establishment owners or managers.

IMG02226-20120412-1439Most of Rizal Avenue is undivided but there are median barriers along the section in front of the public market to reduce jaywalking among pedestrians.

IMG02230-20120412-1440The section in front of city hall – just across are many commercial establishments and on-street parking.

IMG02256-20120412-1544Another view of the Rizal Avenue, this time along the westbound side, with the the market on the left side. The yellow jeepneys are quite conspicuous and remind me of the UP Ikot jeepneys.

IMG02258-20120412-1545A monument to the Ulo ng Apo, from which the name of the city is said to be derived from, is right in the middle of a rotunda at a major intersection along Rizal Avenue. Around the rotunda are commercial establishments and a major provincial bus terminal.

IMG02262-20120412-1547There are designated stops for jeepneys along the avenue but these are often crowded out by parked vehicles. As a result, jeepneys could not maneuver properly and end up unloading/loading passengers in the middle of the road.

IMG02263-20120412-1549On-street parking along curves tend to impede the flow of traffic. There are also issues where electric posts like the one shown in the photo have not been transferred, posing risks to vehicular traffic.

IMG02265-20120412-1550Another example of a designated jeepney stop along the avenue where parked vehicles constrict maneuvering space for jeepneys.

IMG02266-20120412-1550A monument to the volunteers of Olongapo during the Mt. Pinatubo episode after the closure of the U.S. Naval Base in what is now a Freeport. I wonder if the building under construction in the photo has enough parking spaces for the traffic it generates.

IMG02267-20120412-1550More jeepneys and more on-street parking – there is a perception that there are too many (oversupply) of jeepneys. Note though that most PUJs in Olongapo are not the bigger 20 to 24 seater jeepneys we see in Metro Manila but the older, 16 to 18 seaters like the ones shown in the photo.

IMG02268-20120412-1550Some on-street parking spaces are “reserved” by establishments. I didn’t mention that on-street parking is free of charge and such situation probably encourages longer parking durations. Perhaps the city should seriously consider parking fees to reduce long-term parking and ensure smoother flow of traffic along its streets. There are examples of these parking schemes in other cities including Makati City that Olongapo can adopt and adjust.

Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road: Lubao bypass road

The Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road was often congested along sections passing through populated areas of towns along the highway. Among the busiest (and most congested) was the section in Lubao. This necessitated the eventual construction of a bypass road for travelers to be able to reduce delays caused by various elements including local traffic (e.g., tricycles and pedicabs). The following photos describe the bypass road and the traffic using it.

The bypass road is easily identified with the conspicuous signage and lane markings. The junction is right after this bridge.

The pavement markings along the bypass road is inadequate and appears to be inappropriate given the carriageway width. There are also many people crossing the highway at various points.

The bypass road should have been a two-lane, two-way highway with shoulders at either side of the road. The yellow line in the middle of the road may be appropriate to advise against overtaking or passing but the white broken lines should be replaced by solid lines to delineate the shoulders from the traveled way. Yup, that’s a tricycle along a national road.

The highway is elevated probably to prevent flooding (of which the area has lots of experience including the times when lahar was a severe problem in the area). As such, travelers can see the rooftops of a lot of most houses along the highway.

The bypass road narrows to 3 lanes at certain sections.

Scene along the highway sections along which is a river. Quarrying for construction materials like sand is quite common and a major source of revenue for many Pampanga towns. Such activities have also been controversial due to the fees charged by the local governments, particularly how these are divided among towns and where these are used.

The space provided along the single lane direction is obviously inadequate considering that trucks tend to encroach upon the opposing traffic lane.

The 3-lane section approaching a junction. There were no signs or rumble strips to warn drivers about the presence of a junction.

There are no signs to inform motorists of the presence of this junction at a curved section where the 3-lane road transitions into 4 lanes. This is actually an unsafe location for a junction and requires both geometric and traffic engineering interventions to prevent crashes from occurring.

The chevron signs indicating the curvature of the road section are quite few. Perhaps the highway engineers became too conscious of the controversies elsewhere where there seems to be an abundance and propensity for such signs. The embankment for the highway is visible from the photo.

Lower section of the bypass road with concrete barriers apparently designed for waters to flow through. Notice that the section is not as elevated as the previous ones judging from the rice plantations on either side of the road.

Rumble strips along the highway to warn the driver of a hazardous section

13Curved section with signs that seem to be too small considering the speed limits (40 kph). Meanwhile, there is a single chevron sign on the other side of the road.

Straight, level section is quite tempting for speeding. Such designs actually encourage speeding, and many vehicles we observed (including ours) exceeded the 40 kph speed limit.

Traffic along the highway is quite light even during the peak periods – further proof that 2 lanes are enough for the bypass.

The concrete barriers do not seem sufficient or able to stop large trucks should these be involved in crashes where vehicles are run off the road.

Aside from tricycles, there is a significant motorcycle traffic along the bypass road.

I think sharp curves like this section requires more chevron than what was installed along the highway.

Straight, level section approaching the west junction with the Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo highway. The tall electric pole marks the junction.

Closer to the junction, the electric pole looms and become more conspicuous to travelers.

Power line pole in the middle of an island that’s part of the channelization for the bypass road’s intersection with the GSO Highway.

It is clear that the Lubao bypass road has benefited many motorists often hindered by congestion along the GSO road. However, given the opportunity to design a safe highway, it seems that many elements were not satisfied in terms of safety. As such, the bypass road presents us with a high potential for road crashes at present and when traffic eventually increases over time. There are, of course, options that can be implemented to improve the situation along the bypass road and its junctions with the GSO Highway.