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More major traffic generators along Ortigas Ave. Extension?

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.

That’s another mall being built across the Bali Oasis near the Manggahan Floodway

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.

Landslide in Antipolo

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.).

img_3038The 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.

img_3039The 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.

Addressing congestion due to school traffic congestion

There are two important traffic news stories yesterday:

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.

On the severity of traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue and the necessity of a mass transit line

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.

2015-10-10 17.20.46Severe traffic congestion along both directions of Ortigas Avenue Extension

2015-10-10 17.23.15Congestion stretches all the way along the Manila East Road

2015-10-17 18.25.14Night-time traffic congestion at the Tikling Junction

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.

On the Ortigas Avenue counter-flow scheme again

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.

2015-09-18 08.45.31Vehicles 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?

2015-09-18 08.54.05The 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.

Causes of congestion along Ortigas Ave. Extension

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.

IMG12071-20150823-1659Counter 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.

IMG12072-20150823-1701The 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.

IMG12073-20150823-1701Unfinished 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?

Ortigas Avenue Extension Roadworks

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.

IMG11845-20150626-1806Eastbound traffic splits into two lanes separated by roadworks

IMG11846-20150626-1807The 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.

IMG11847-20150626-1807Section near Hunters ROTC Road (right where the grey SUV is coming from) and STI, and approaching Valley Golf.

IMG11848-20150626-1807Past 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.