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Kalayaan Bridge (BGC – Ortigas Center Link)
The Kalayaan Bridge, also known as the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) – Ortigas Center Link opened about a year ago and was supposed to ease traffic along the usual routes along EDSA and C5 that crossed the Pasig River. The new bridge is located between the EDSA and C5 bridges and is a more direct route to and from BGC if you reside in Pasig and choose the route to/from BGC via Pasig/Shaw Boulevard.
The approach ramp to the bridge from the BGC side is in the vicinity of the Uptown part of BGC. The bridge goes over Kalayaan Avenue, which is one of the major access roads to BGC from C5 or EDSA, and J.P. Rizal Avenue Extension but there is access and egress to Kalayaan Avenue.
The ramp is practically a single lane with painted bike lanes on either side of the bridge. There is noticeably no space for pedestrians on this bridge. That is only a curb on the right side. This lack of pedestrian provisions is a major flaw of this bridge.
A lone cyclist traversing the bridge – the merge for traffic from BGC and vehicles from Kalayaan Avenue is seen downstream.
Approaching the merging section (from this perspective; its diverging on the other side) of the bridge.
A motorcycle merges with the traffic from BGC. Notice the chevron markings separating merging flows as well as the yield marking for vehicles coming from Kalayaan (i.e., priority is for vehicles coming from BGC). The bridge from this section becomes two lanes per direction. There is, however, a risky part for cyclists who will cross paths with vehicles coming from Kalayaan. Cyclists from BGC will have to cross a lane to get to the bike lane on the outer side of the bridge. There is no space for pedestrians along this bridge.
There is only this part of the bridge where there appears to be a sidewalk. Was this really the design for this bridge? It is very obvious that many people failed in both design and implementation of this project.
The view towards the Pasig side of the bridge. There are two lanes per direction and narrow bike lanes along the curbsides.
There is an intersection at the end of the bridge but the road immediately at the right is closed to incoming traffic so right turns are currently prohibited despite the pavement markings that indicate they were allowed at one time.
The road leads to this intersection which is in area generally referred to before as ‘Pioneer’. The area hosts many warehouses or storage buildings and I remember going here many years ago to check out the imported wood furniture and office surplus items. Turning right leads one to the area generally known as ‘Unilab’ because that was where United Laboratories had their plant and offices. It retained the property where now stands an events venue. Further on leads you to Kapitolyo and the Estancia Mall.
Pasig to Lucena vans
I was surprised to see a sign at the transport terminal of SM East Ortigas announcing van services between the mall and Lucena City (SM City Lucena terminal). This seems to be a very convenient service and it is via a route I consider to be quite scenic. This is the one via the “backdoor” of Rizal through the towns of Teresa, Morong, Tanay, Pililla in Rizal, Laguna province (Famy, Paete, Lumban, Pagsanjan, etc.) and Quezon province (Luisiana, Lucban, Tayabas).
Modern jitneys (actually more like mini-buses)
Close-up of sign showing the transport service between SM East Ortigas and SM Lucena in Quezon Province.
On Pasig’s ordinance promoting and supporting the use of bicycles
I am posting a couple of LGU issuances that would be good references to other LGUs as we all tread along through these quarantines, curfews and lockdowns (or whatever it is they call it these days). First off is the Ordinance from Pasig City. The city has been in the news quite frequently for the very progressive, responsible and active handling of the situation led by its popular mayor Vico Sotto. His policies and programs are claimed to be based on data or information on his constituents that his team is using with much efficiency. This shows us how data analytics can prove useful in times of crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The ordinance also shows a grasp of realities for transport and the so-called “new normal” that people have been talking about once we transition out of the quarantines and lockdowns.
I guess it begs the question if Pasig is also coming out with a formal policy or statement regarding other modes of transport such as tricycles, jeepneys and buses. They did allow tricycles for a while until national government told them to cease tricycle operations citing health issues while not really delving into details to find a way to improve people’s mobility during these times. Meanwhile, other LGUs specifically one that is close to the President’s heart has defied the very same orders from national agencies to restrict tricycle operations as public transport. I will post that issuance next…
Cooperative work among LGUs to address transport problems along Ortigas Avenue Extension?
I saw a recent post about a meeting hosted by Pasig City. The Mayor of Pasig City recently held a meeting where he invited the mayors or Antipolo, Cainta and Taytay to discuss, among other things perhaps, transportation along Ortigas Avenue. Ortigas Avenue is a corridor shared by several LGUs most notably the Rizal towns of Antipolo (which is the provincial capital and a highly urbanized city), Cainta and Taytay. The latter two are among the richest municipalities in the country; a fact I underline here since that also should translate to them having the resources or means to help come up with transport and traffic solutions.
Morning rush traffic starts very early these days. This photo was taken around 6AM on a Thursday along the westbound direction just after the Manggahan Bridge. The pedestrian overpass at C. Raymundo junction is shown and the dark colored buildings are at Robinsons’ Bridgetown development. Note the commuters along the right waiting for a ride.
Photos paint a thousand words. The Taytay Mayor attended the meeting. He has been under fire for the horrendous traffic caused by the mismanagement of Tikling Junction as well as the Barkadahan Bridge area that was and is supposed to be a major alternative route for Rizalenos heading to their workplaces in Makati and BGC. More recently, there were posts about the traffic signals installed at Tikling Junction that basically invalidates the roundabout concept for the junction. The result last Thursday, the first day of operations for the signals, was hellish traffic that backed up a couple of kilometers along the Manila East Road and Ortigas Ave. Extension (some reports say until Cainta Junction). This, even as the signal settings were supposedly done with help from the MMDA.
Antipolo was represented by its former Mayor and husband to the current one. He also happens to be a former Governor of the Rizal Province and likely to run again as his mother, the current governor, is on her 3rd term. It seems to me that the province is not so interested in solutions for Ortigas Avenue despite most of its constituents traveling through the corridor to get to their workplaces and schools. Marcos Highway is not the main corridor for Rizal towns as it basically carries only Antipolo and maybe some of Tanay (via Sampaloc) traffic. Ortigas Avenue Extension branches into two major roads from Tikling – Ortigas Ave Extension, which ends at the capitol, and the Manila East Road, which connects to practically all of Rizal towns with San Mateo and Rodriguez (Montalban) being the exceptions. It is time for the province to pay attention to this commuting problem experienced daily by her constituents.
The Mayor of Cainta seems not as interested as the others, sending a representative who appears to be not one of the top officials (the traffic chief with a rank of SPO1=Master Sergeant is lower ranked than a councilor) of the Municipality to such an important meeting. In fact, he is currently now embroiled in a controversial faux pas involving himself by not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. What’s more is his downplaying this and appearing to be even justifying the act. He eventually apologized but not before stating his moves. He is not new to publicity (stunts?) and knows how bad publicity still translates to good publicity especially in this days of fake news and trolls (he apparently has many on social media). He seems to forget that transport and traffic solutions for Ortigas Ave will likely benefit anyone seeking reelection or higher office in Rizal. He is on his last term as mayor and the break-up with some of his allies including his former Vice Mayor who ran against him in the last elections shows the limits of his political career. What was rumored as plans to run for Rizal governor might just be downgraded to perhaps Vice Mayor? In any case, he should show more interest and effort in finding solutions beyond traffic management and not by himself but in cooperation with others with whom his jurisdiction shares the problems with. Perhaps the initiative of the Pasig Mayor presents an opportunity for such cooperative work? Many people are very interested in this and will be watching – and hoping.
Ortigas Center congestion
A couple of Thursdays ago, I was in the Ortigas CBD area to attend a conference on statistics. I hitched a ride with an old friend who was also going there and so we had some time to catch up on life and other topics we usually talked about since our college days. Being on the passenger seat also meant I had some opportunities to take photos of the traffic situation in the vicinity of the venue of our conference. Here are some photos I took of traffic in the Galleria – ADB area as we drove along ADB Avenue.
Congestion along ADB Avenue across from Robinsons. The ADB building is shown ahead of the vehicles.
Most of the vehicles turned out to be turning towards Guadix and headed for Poveda. These are traffic generated by the exclusive school where most if not all students’ mode of transport is by car. This causes much of the congestion in the area at this time of day as well as during dismissals in the noontime and afternoon.
Vehicles bound for Poveda (building is in the background) and EDSA.
View of Ortigas bound vehicles filed along Sapphire Road – this photo was taken at the bridgeway connecting Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. The relatively uncontested road is the Robinsons’ driveway.
The photos show how dependent to cars many people working in the Ortigas CBD are. Many of them live outside of the CBD including those residing in the Rizal towns to the east of Metro Manila. The number of people using their own cars put so much strain on the major thoroughfares including and perhaps especially Ortigas Avenue, which serves as a main arterial connecting the CBD to many parts of Pasig, Quezon City (via C5) and the very progressive towns of Rizal Province such as Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo City.
It is a wonder why up to now, there is no mass transit system along Ortigas Avenue when the demand is very high and continuous to increase with the development of lands along it. SM, Robinsons and Megawide are among the major players now developing their plots of land to become high density commercial/office/residential areas. And these will surely translate into more trips generated and worse traffic congestion. Perhaps the mayors of Pasig, Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo plus the governor of Rizal can get together to discuss and agree about solutions where each LGU can contribute for the betterment of their constituents’ commutes?
The Barkadahan Bridge situation
The Barkadahan Bridge is currently undergoing rehabilitation. To be accurate, the old bridge is being rehabilitated and upgraded/retrofitted to be able to carry the traffic projected to use it being a vital link between the Province of Rizal and Metro Manila via Pasig and the C-6 corridor. The bridge is named after the “friendship” established among Rizal municipalities and Pasig City for an area that has been subject of a territorial dispute among them. These are the municipalities of Cainta and Taytay (Rizal Province) and the city of Pasig. The bridge spans the Manggahan Floodway, much of which is in Pasig City.
To increase the capacity for this crossing, which is the most direct route to C-6 and popular among many headed to Taguig/BGC and Makati, a new bridge had been constructed to the south of the old one. The older one had 2 traffic lanes and was no longer sufficient for the volume of vehicles crossing it after the expansion of C-6 resulting to it steadily gaining more users over the years. Use of this route cut down travel times between Rizal and BGC and Makati by at least 30 minutes based on our experiences using the route.
Late last year as far as I could recall, the new bridge opened and immediately increased capacity but then congestion quickly set-in due to two factors: the traffic management at the intersection with the East Bank Road and the constrained (two-lane, two-way) leg of Highway 2000. Add to this the lack of discipline by local traffic in the form of tricycles and motorcycles counter-flowing in the area.
Earlier this year, signs were posted around Rizal about the then impending project for the rehabilitation of the old bridge. The signs advised for most travellers to avoid using the Barkadahan Bridge due to the congestion in the area because of the project. It turns out that what was thought by most as a project retrofitting the old bridge alone was actually a bigger one involving increasing the capacity of the Highway 2000 leg of the intersection with the East Bank Road. Following is a photo posted at the official Facebook page of the Rizal Provincial Government showing the demolition of buildings and other structures along the Highway 2000 leg. The photos were taken from the new Barkadahan Bridge approaching the intersection, the southbound direction of the East Bank Road, and from the westbound side of Highway 2000.
Demolition and clearing of ROW for the expansion of Highway 2000 in relation to Barkadahan Bridge [Photo collage from the Lalawigan ng Rizal Facebook page]
From the photos above, it is clear that at least 2 lanes will be added to Highway 2000 and that this leg will soon be well-aligned with the Barkadahan Bridge, which will also have a total of 4 lanes. Hopefully, this project will be completed soon and within the year (before December?) in order to alleviate the commuting woes of Rizalenos working in the BGC and Makati CBD areas. Of course, that goes without saying that there is also a need to optimise the traffic signals at the intersection and to strictly enforce traffic rules and regulations vs. erring motorists in the area.
Traffic management schemes for the Marcos Highway bridge rehab
The rehabilitation of the Marcos Highway Bridge in Marikina has necessitated traffic management schemes at the bridge itself and along alternative routes to alleviate congestion in the area. These are collectively called traffic or transport systems management (TSM) schemes with the objective of optimising existing infrastructure and resources without necessarily building something entirely new. These are quite different from travel demand management (TDM) schemes that include number coding and truck ban policies that are already being implemented (though Marikina does not implement the number coding scheme).
Traffic build-up at the approach to the intersection with FVR Road (To Riverbanks). This is now a signalised intersection as traffic from Blue Ridge/White Plains is now allowed to cross to FVR Road.
Using the route via FVR Road (Riverbanks) means you don’t have to cross the Marcos Highway Bridge and travellers will merge with those who crossed the bridge just before the Line 2 Santolan Station.
In the mornings, one lane each is allocated for either the eastbound or westbound traffic. That’s practically a total of 3 lanes (+2 lanes westbound for the SM Marikina Bridge) for the westbound direction and a single lane for the eastbound side. This is logical given the directional distribution of traffic at this time of day and the alternative routes already available to travellers.
Here are a few photos taken on a night time drive. Note that this was taken by a passenger. Don’t even try doing this (taking photos) while driving a vehicle, and especially not while on a motorcycle.
Entrance to the bridge right after Maj. Dizon – this part is not affected by the rehab works but vehicles position themselves to shift towards the left side, which is the usable part of the bridge.
Both lanes of the westbound side of the bridge are used for eastbound traffic. Westbound traffic are all along the SM Marikina bridge for a total of 2 lanes each for either direction of flow. The cones are not removed for practicality since they would have to be installed for the morning when one lane is allocated for the westbound traffic.
Vehicles shift to the right to return to the correct lanes for eastbound traffic along Marcos Highway at the Santolan area. Note the westbound vehicles shifting towards the underpass and SM Marikina on the left.
On the impacts of the closure of the Marcos Highway Bridge
The Marcos Highway Bridge was scheduled for rehabilitation in the next four months starting last week. While it will not be totally closed to traffic, the scheme reducing its capacity will surely lead to congestion along Marcos Highway. This congestion should be expected along other roads as well, as travellers, particularly those taking private transport will be using alternative routes in order to avoid this area. Those coming from the east will likely go through Marikina City via the parallel route comprised of Sumulong Highway and A. Bonifacio Avenue. Others will turn to A. Rodriguez (Ligaya). And perhaps others may go via Ortigas Avenue Extension. These alternative routes correspond to the other bridges crossing the Marikina River connecting the Rizal province and part of Marikina and Pasig to Metro Manila.
A photo of the bridge prior to its partial closure
I will write more on this topic once I get more information on what’s happening to the traffic in the area. Meanwhile, I do know that my usual alternative route via Marikina and Tumana seems to have more than the usual traffic during my commute. While it is easy to attribute this to the partial closure of the Marcos Highway bridge, this could also be just a normal variation in the typical daily traffic for that route.
The unsafe situation at the U-turn slot near Ligaya (Feliz Mall)
I have been observing the U-turn slot at Ligaya just across from the Ayala Feliz Mall. Most of the times I pass by the area on my way home in the afternoons or evenings, I see that there are many people there meeting jeepneys head-on and getting ahead of other passengers waiting to get a ride who won’t risk crossing the busy Marcos Highway for this. There are usually no enforcers (MMDA or Pasig’s) in that area. Most of them congregate at the U-turn slot before this (across from the Mariposa motel) to flag down vehicles whose drivers are violating the number coding scheme. I finally had the opportunity to get a couple of photos care of the wife who took the photos as we turned to head to Feliz.
The photo shows people crowding the area at the U-turn slot in order to have a better chance at getting a jeepney ride. Many jeepneys turning here are actually cutting trips. So there are two clearly illegal activities going on here that the MMDA or Pasig City enforcers turn a blind eye to. The situation regarding the commuters is unsafe and requires attention. There is supposed to be a transport terminal across from the mall. And don’t mind the political ad (yes that stupid one in the background by an opportunist running for the senate).
Here is another photo of the people at the U-turn slot. Note that most if not all are worker types who are more likely to be risk takers; meeting jeepneys head-on (sumasalubong) and hanging on (sabit) if all seats are taken. Allowing or tolerating this means other people who don’t want to risk it cannot get a ride.
A footbridge will soon be constructed at the area but this may not solve this concern as it only addresses the crossing safety issue in the area. And so we urge those responsible for enforcing traffic rules and regulations to do their job and address this problem that concerns both safety and public transportation. Hindi lang naman number coding violations lang ang dapat tutukan ng mga enforcers. There are other more serious and safety-related concerns that they need to work on.
The Ortigas Center bike lanes, complete streets and road diets
The MMDA recently stated they were planning to apply the road diet concept to EDSA by narrowing the current lane widths in order to add one lane per direction. While the idea seems to of good intention, the mention and application of road diet is flawed. I have previously shared an article on social media showing the definition and examples of complete streets:
Clearly, complete streets are for the benefit of everyone (i.e., inclusive) and not biased for motor vehicles. Here is a photo of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City showing the correct application of the Complete Streets and Road Diet concepts to an urban street. Note the elements for cycling and walking that are very prominent in the re-design of the street.
Protected bike lanes at either side of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center
We hope to see more of these re-designs in many other cities and towns in the Philippines. It is not a really difficult concept to apply or adopt as technically these are not complicated. However, there needs to be a change in the mindset of planners and engineers when they do these exercises considering how car-oriented our designs are. It is easy to say we want more people-oriented transportation facilities until it dawns on us how dependent we are on cars and resist the efforts to realise more sustainable designs.