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There’s another mall being constructed along the westbound side of Ortigas Avenue Extension just before the Lucky Gold Plaza and across from the One Oasis residential enclave. That area is already very congested as will be attested to by the thousands who pass this way especially during the morning rush. Here’s a photo of the mall that is currently under construction as seen from the bridge crossing the Manggahan Floodway. The steel frame on the left and behind the pedestrian bridge is the mall’s.
Among the future major traffic generators that will likely make traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue worse are the following:
- Residential development across Countryside subdivision
- Town center development near Valley Golf
Commuters using this corridor will likely find traffic worsen (could it really get worse than what it is now?) and traffic schemes by the LGUs along the corridor (i.e., Pasig, Cainta and Taytay) will not be enough to alleviate traffic over the medium to long term. Only a dedicated mass transit line can provide significant improvements for travel along this corridor.
I am still wondering about the mass transit solution for this corridor. There are arguably more people traveling along Ortigas Avenue compared to Marcos Highway that already has Line 2 under construction. I’m sure if you asked people when a mass transit line’s needed along Ortigas, they will reply “years ago”. Being one who has traveled along this corridor since the 1970s (I was a resident of Cainta and then of Antipolo), I can say that traffic indeed has worsened over the last 3 decades. Travel demand management (TDM) measures such as number coding and transport systems management (TSM) schemes such as Pasig’s one-way scheme will not be enough to address the growth along the corridor as they were and are not enough in the first place.
What’s been causing some traffic congestion along Ortigas Ave. Extension is the collapse of a side of the mountain at a section just before the Antipolo City arch (if you’re coming from Tikling Junction). The soil probably was already saturated after the past few days heavy rain and it didn’t help that the old wall holding the soil and consisting mainly of blocks was also already weakened (I am assuming that it was built following standards for such walls.).
The area had been partially cleared of soil and rock, which initially blocked 2 lanes of the 4-lane road. Kudos to the DPWH for their work clearing part of the debris and easing traffic along this busy thoroughfare.
The wall at this section was completely obliterated revealing soil that appeared to be already unstable.
Hopefully, funds can be allocated very quickly in order to build the necessary slope protection. Perhaps the barrier should be designed to allow for more water to seep through without compromising the structure. Such weep holes are necessary especially given the saturated soils due to heavy rainfall experienced during this wet season and others in the future.
There are two important traffic news stories yesterday:
- MMDA successfully clears parked vehicles outside La Salle Greenhills
- MMDA sets drop off, pick-up points for Ateneo students
For some reason that’s a bit surprising for many, the MMDA seems to have solved two of the most enduring issues on traffic congestion along two major thoroughfares. LSGH is along Ortigas Avenue while Ateneo is along Katipunan Avenue (C-5). Both have high trip generation rates and a significant percentage of their trip gen is comprised of private vehicles. While, Ateneo’s trip generation has led to traffic congestion due to the sheer number of trips the university attracts, the congestion due to La Salle is due to the poor traffic management and lack of parking spaces for vehicles attracted by the school.
I only wonder why it took so much time to address these problems considering the solutions mentioned in the articles are basically ones that could have been implemented years ago. In the case of La Salle, good old fashioned traffic enforcement apparently did the trick. But then, the MMDA even with the LGU constraint could have been stricter before whether when they were under Bayani Fernando (BF) or any of his successors as MMDA Chair. With Ateneo, the scheme is very similar if not the same as what BF proposed over a decade ago when he was MMDA Chair. At that time though a touchy issue was the U-turn scheme he installed along Katipunan that cost trees and the former service road on the west side of the avenue. We can only hope that these claimed ‘successes’ will be sustained and ensure smoother flow of traffic along the major roads they directly affect.
With the worsening congestion along Marcos Highway due to the construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension to Masinag, I have been using Ortigas Avenue as an alternate route to go home. Granted, the stretch from the Park Place gate near Cainta Junction and Brookside is currently undergoing roadworks elevating that entire section (which is prone to flooding), and this is the main cause of much congestion as fewer lanes are usable to traffic. However, what is perceived to be relief from traffic once the project is completed will eventually and surely revert to a very congested Ortigas Avenue.
Traffic congestion along Ortigas Extension is primarily due to a dependence on road transport, particularly private vehicles, by people living along Ortigas Ave. and the roads feeding into it. The Manila East Road, for example, passes through the most populous towns of Rizal outside of Antipolo City. The dependence on road transport (especially private vehicles) is due to limited options for public transport. There are buses, jeepneys and UV Express but these, too, contribute to congestion due to their increased numbers and limited capacities given the high demand for public transport. Among the infrastructure proposed along this corridor is an overpass along Ortigas Ave. at Cainta Junction. A mass transit system has also been required along this corridor for a very long time but for some reason, such infrastructure has not been provided.
Congestion stretches all the way along the Manila East Road
There is a proposal for a mass transit system along this corridor. Following are references to the project:
From the PPP Centre: https://ppp.gov.ph/?ppp_projects=ortigas-taytay-lrt-line-4-project
From CNN Philippines: http://cnnphilippines.com/metro/2015/07/22/neda-approves-naia-lrt-ppp-projects.html
I found it quite odd that the stations are not referenced according to the more common place names for the locations. For example, ‘Bonifacio Avenue’ should be ‘Cainta Junction’ and ‘Leonard Wood’ should be ‘Kaytikling Junction’. Nevertheless, this is the least of our concerns pertaining to transport and traffic along this corridor.
Perhaps the conditions are ripe now to finally implement transport infrastructure projects along this corridor. The proposal and approval of a rail transit line by NEDA means the corridor has the national government’s attention. The local government leaders along this corridor are also more progressive and aggressive than their predecessors. These include a very dynamic mayor in Cainta and the former governor-turned mayor in Antipolo. A collaboration towards better transport among these two LGUs alone would be influential and instrumental to improving travel along Ortigas Avenue.
Here are some more recent photos of the morning traffic congestion and counter-flow scheme along Ortigas Avenue. The counterflow scheme starts at the approach to the Manggahan Channel Bridge and ends at the approach to C-5 right after the Rosario Bridge. This counter-flow scheme has been used by Pasig, as far as I can remember, since the early 1980s. Ortigas Avenue is one of those roads where the directional distribution of traffic very pronounced for the peak direction.
Vehicles crowding towards the counter-flow lane on the eastbound side of Ortigas Avenue. Traffic along this lane is moving, unlike the standstill you will likely experience along the westbound side. This is particularly true at the bridge where buses and jeepneys occupy two lanes and stop for long periods to get passengers. Congestion is exacerbated by vehicles coming out of the residential development in the area. Pasig and MMDA traffic enforcers fail miserably at their duties here. Perhaps this is a job for the PNP-HPG?
The effort of positioning towards the counter-flow lane is worth it as traffic moves faster here. The argument for counter-flow lanes (or zipper lanes as they are also called) is based on the availability of capacity along traffic lanes of the opposing direction that can be used to optimize utility of these unused lanes (i.e., off-peak direction) by peak traffic. This is a classic transport systems management scheme directed towards efficient and optimum use of existing facilities.
I have written about the common causes of congestion along Ortigas Avenue. The past articles mentioned the undisciplined loading and unloading along the entire stretch of the road and particularly at either ends of the Manggahan Floodway bridge in Pasig City. I have also written about the congestion caused by private vehicles generated by a private school just a stone’ throw away from DOTC headquarters. This time, I focus on Ortigas Avenue Extension, particularly the stretch from Cainta Junction to Valley Golf.
The current and more critical choke points along Ortigas Ave. Ext. are along the stretch of the road between Cainta Junction and Valley Golf. These are due to the road and drainage works along that section that effectively made the westbound side of Ortigas a single lane road between Brookside and Park Place. There are also road and drainage works along the eastbound side between Brookside and Valley Golf where the entire road section is being elevated. This section is flood prone and has been problematic during the wet season when heavy rains often result in flash floods.
Counter flow along Ortigas Avenue Extension – this scheme has been the only option for the section between Valley Golf and Park Place Subdivision as the work proceeds one lane at a time. At the time, I took this photo, the counter flow lanes allowed for 2 lanes each for both the eastbound and westbound directions of this corridor. The past week, however, I noticed that during the afternoons and evenings, I noticed that two lanes were allocated for westbound traffic while only one was for the eastbound direction. This should not be the case as the peak direction in the afternoon to the evening is eastbound when people are home bound mainly from work and school.
The section across from STI is another choke point as the area is one of the ends of the project raising the elevation of the avenue as well as improving the drainage along the road. The traffic along this area has improved much though vehicles still have to slow down to transition between the old pavement and new pavement sections, as well as vehicles turning towards Hunters ROTC Road.
Unfinished sections – at the time this photo was taken, work along the site was intermittent. Commuters making the observation are often frustrated and much disappointed when they see none working along the construction site. The Mayor of Cainta did very well by talking to the contractor and apparently discussing with the latter how to improve traffic conditions as well as how to expedite the implementation of the project. My own observation was that conditions did indeed improve after that meeting (which was related by the Mayor in his Facebook page) and people could see workers busy with the project even at night time.
Traffic will continue to be bad along Ortigas Avenue Extension until this project is completed. While there should be some significant improvement in traffic flow after completion, congestion will again steadily worsen for this corridor whose private vehicle traffic continues to grow. Public transport is provided by buses, jeepneys and UV Express (whose numbers have ballooned during the last 5 years) and these have contributed a lot to congestion because of their drivers’ behavior particularly when they stop for passengers at areas like Valley Golf, Brookside, Cainta Junction, Ever, Countryside, Manggahan and Rosario.
There is hope though as news proclaim that the NEDA Board has approved the LRT 4 project along this corridor. A mass transit system is indeed necessary and this was required perhaps over a decade ago already. I do hope that this ‘LRT’ is more like the current Line 2 trains and stations than the Line 3 kind. Line 2 is a heavy rail system while Line 3 is light rail. The Ortigas corridor requires a heavy rail system considering the passenger demand in the areas that will be served by the transit system. I also hope that Line 4 is implemented like Line 2 with the government taking responsibility for constructing the system. I have maintained my view that the current administration is too fixated with Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that it had practically given up its responsibility to the general public to provide an efficient and equitable means of public transport for commuting. I just now wonder what became of the proposed BRT line along this same corridor. Perhaps the BRT option has already been abandoned by the DOTC in favor of rail?
Causing much traffic congestion the past weeks and especially these days are sections of Ortigas Avenue Extension. This is basically caused by roadworks between Cainta Junction and Valley Golf. The section between Brookside and Valley Golf is being raised. The section is a low portion of the road and is almost always flooded whenever there are heavy rains due also in part to the creek in the area. The westbound side of that section is completed and the contractor is now working on the eastbound side. The section is a wider segment of Ortigas and it’s possible to close one lane at a time while having 2 lanes usable for traffic along either side of the road.
The more severe congestion is along the westbound side where another contractor is working on drainage between Junction and Brookside. The section in front of the RRCG bus depot only has one lane usable by traffic and so westbound traffic is regularly backed up for hundreds of meters. How bad is it on a weekday? It took me 30 minutes to pass the area between 5:15 and 6:00 AM last Monday.
Eastbound traffic splits into two lanes separated by roadworks
The left lane is part of an already elevated westbound side of Ortigas Ave. Ext. The inner eastbound land has already been graded and ready for concrete pouring. The base course layer is visible in the photo.
Section near Hunters ROTC Road (right where the grey SUV is coming from) and STI, and approaching Valley Golf.
Past STI, the traffic lanes go back to normal just before the intersection at Valley Golf.
Traffic is so severe along Ortigas Ave. Ext. that I am sure a lot of people are looking for alternate routes. Those from Antipolo, Taytay and towns along the Manila East Road would likely take the routes utilizing the floodway including Highway 2000 and C-6. Others would find the longer route via Sumulong Highway and/or Marcos Highway to be worth the time and fuel. Hopefully, work will be continuous along Ortigas and roadworks will be completed before we are deep into the typhoon season this year.
One alternative route for my daily commute is Ortigas Avenue. While there are several choke points along this road, I will focus on those between the Ever mall and Cainta Junction. Congestion is also usually experienced between the Manggahan Bridge and Ever but these are mostly due to traffic interruptions because of vehicles turning to and from the many subdivisions whose access/egress line up along Ortigas Ave.
The Ever mall is already a given as a significant traffic generator in the area. However, there is something about its circulation particularly the flow of vehicles in and out of the complex that detrimentally affects Ortigas Ave. traffic. While through traffic along the eastbound direction should use Ortigas Ave., many opt to go through the wide driveway of Ever in order to bypass the choke point that is the exit driveway of the mall. Many of these exiting vehicles are jeepneys turning left into Ortigas westbound (their routes terminate here and make their turnaround via Ever’s driveway). These effectively block the flow of traffic along Ortigas eastbound especially in cases when the westbound direction is also congested (i.e., due to sheer volume as well as stopping vehicles across the mall).
Vehicles exiting from Ever and turning left to Ortigas westbound
Once eastbound vehicles are freed from the blockage of left-turning vehicles, they have to merge with significant right-turning traffic from Ever that includes buses and mostly through traffic vehicles whose drivers were ‘wise’ to have taken the driveway instead of Ortigas to get through the choke point. The situation results in another choke point right after the first one as the traffic along two lanes of Ortigas eastbound merge with the traffic equivalent to 2-3 lanes turning right from Ever. The total of 5 lanes of traffic squeezing into 2 lanes immediately after is a prime example of a bottleneck.
Narrow eastbound two-lane section – additional space should be expropriated to widen Ortigas at this section
Right after the short 2-lane section is a sudden widening of Ortigas Ave. in front of BF Metals. I have heard it said that this is the ideal road width for Ortigas Ave. considering the volume of traffic passing through this major corridor connecting Rizal province with Metro Manila. There are practically 4 lanes for each direction at this short section so its easy to project these lanes on maps to see what properties would need to be expropriated if the objective is road widening. (Of course, the best option should still be to pursue a mass transit system along this corridor.)
Ideal road width – Ortigas Avenue at its widest is the section across BF Metals. Vehicles here spread out along the many lanes suddenly available. But then people will eventually and immediately realize this is the mouth of a funnel. Note the sign indicating that vehicles are entering the Province of Rizal from this point.
The eastbound section in front of BF Metals is usually parking lot in the evenings. This is due mainly to the 4 lanes almost abruptly constricting into 2 lanes just past BF Metals. Compounding things is the U-turn slot located here where many jeepneys whose routes end at Cainta Junction make their turnaround. Turning vehicles are assisted by “tambays” earning their money by blocking eastbound vehicles to make way for U-turning vehicles.
Finally, there is Cainta Junction itself, which is a signalized 4-leg intersection that handles a tremendous volume of traffic all-day. I am sure that there are efforts for the traffic signal settings to be optimized but more often there is human intervention for traffic management at the intersection. Whether this causes more severe congestion is quite obvious to many travelers going through this intersection. Queues along Imelda Ave./Felix Ave., for example, can reach way past Village East even reaching Vista Verde on a bad day. This only shows that the intersection is already severely saturated and conventional traffic management or signal settings can no longer handle the traffic. Perhaps the next stage of engineering intervention for this intersection is grade separation or the construction of a flyover or two at the intersection. Notably, such a project should including strategic widening along Ortigas Ave in order to balance the number of lanes feeding into and receiving traffic from the intersection.
A view of the traffic approaching Cainta junction – there are only 2 lanes along the eastbound side of Ortigas and public utility vehicles stopping here only exacerbates the congestion along the road.
Is road widening the ultimate solution to Ortigas Ave congestion? I personally don’t think so. As I have mentioned earlier in this post and in previous posts the key is still to come up with a mass transit system to serve this eastern corridor. Yes, there will eventually be a Line 2 along Marcos Highway, the main alternate (or competing?) route to Ortigas but is is obvious that even with a railway line along Marcos Highway and connecting to Aurora Blvd., there will still be an urgent need for a similar capacity line along Ortigas. The buses and jeepneys can no longer handle the demand and their poor levels and qualities of service have given rise to a proliferation of UV Express and pushed people to purchase cars and motorcycles. Congestion can be reduced significantly with a mass transit system along Ortigas. Without this transit system, Ortigas will just continue to be congested even if the entire corridor is widened; except perhaps if it is widened like Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City. I don’t think that is possible and practical.
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.
As there are increased calls for more bikeways, we try to look at some good examples of what I’d call “practicable” road sharing. I term it “practicable” because it is something doable or is already being done or practiced. I tried to find a few good examples of practicable road sharing to show that it can be done and usually if all road users respect each others’ right to use the road. This respect can be developed over time and requires some familiarity for each users behaviors. Of course, there will always be abusive or disrespectful people on the road including drivers of different types of vehicles. Reckless or unsafe driving is not limited to public transport or truck drivers. There are also many unruly private vehicle drivers who endanger the lives of others whenever they are on the road. Then there are the motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – all road users and also with bad apples or “pasaway” among them.
Road sharing happens everyday in Antipolo City in the Province of Rizal. Along Ortigas Avenue and Sumulong Highway – the two main routes to and from Antipolo, you will see motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians sharing what are mostly 4 lane, undivided sections of the two major roads. Antipolo is a very popular destination for cyclists so even during weekdays you will find a lot of people cycling up and down the mountain roads even during the night time and very early mornings. While many are recreational riders, many, too, are doing this for health. I would bet that a good percentage might be biking to work or school but there are no hard statistics to show this (topic for research?).
Sharing the road shouldn’t be too difficult. However, road users need to have respect for each other’s right to use the road. I have observed many instances where one or more road user types are guilty of “disrespect” and tend to hog the road as if making a statement that “i am king of the road” rather than “i have the right to use the road.” Here are among my pet peeves:
1. Slow moving trucks or jeepneys hogging two lanes and not giving way to other vehicles to pass them.
2. Jeepneys and private vehicles racing up or down the mountain roads and overtaking even in perilous sections (i.e., those already identified as prone to crashes).
3. Tricycles taking up the middle lanes and maneuvering anywhere.
4. Cyclists taking up the middle lanes or sometimes the entire two lanes of any direction preventing other road users to pass them.
5. People crossing anywhere along the road especially at blind sections (curves) where sight distance is limited.
There are practically no pedestrian sidewalks along most of Ortigas Extension and Sumulong Highway so pedestrians would have use the carriageway. As there are a significant number of people walking (e.g., students, workers, and even joggers or walkers), motorists and cyclists need to be careful not to hit these people. The same people, however, need to be aware of these vehicles and should exercise caution, always being alert as they use the road properly. Ultimately though, I would like to see walkways built along Ortigas and Sumulong especially since there is already an increasing demand for walking especially during the summer months when Antipolo holds its fiesta and a lot of people go on pilgrimages on foot to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
There is practicable road sharing in Antipolo because most road users are already familiar with each others’ behavior and accept each others’ presence and rights on the road. These road users are likely residents of Antipolo or nearby towns or regular visitors to the city. They are “nagbibigayan sa daan.” The “pasaway” people are likely the newer ones who seem to think that the way they drive or ride (i.e., unsafe) elsewhere is the norm. Of course, that goes without saying that familiarity with the roads and its users also breed risk takers who think they already know the road and have the skill and experience to drive like crazy. Here is where effective enforcement (e.g., timely apprehensions and reminders) and engineering (e.g., traffic signs and pavement markings) comes in to address the gaps in safety in order to reduce if not totally eliminate crash incidence along these roads.