Caught (up) in traffic

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Responding to the transport impacts of road crashes

Last March 9, traffic was terrible along Marcos Highway and roads connecting to it including Imelda Avenue and Sumulong Highway due to a truck that slammed into the scaffolding of the Line 2  Extension across the Sta. Lucia Mall, and barely missing the newly constructed column supporting the girders and elevated tracks of Line 2.

[Photo not mine but sent by an officemate who was glad to have taken his motorcycle that day instead of commuting by car.]

Following are comments I captured from Waze as I tried to get information about the traffic situation:

It is very clear from travelers’ comments that most were frustrated and many were angry about what seemed to be a very slow response from authorities in clearing the crash site and getting traffic to move faster. I myself wondered how a crash like this with its impacts manifesting in severe congestion along major roads was not dealt with as urgently as possible by so many entities that were not without capacity to act decisively. The front liner should have been the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and there were at least four local government units directly affected by the congestion: Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Surely, these LGUs could have done more if the MMDA couldn’t, in order to resolve the problem? If the availability of heavy equipment was an issue, weren’t there available equipment from Line 2 contractor, DMCI, or perhaps from the construction sites nearby (Ayala is constructing a huge mall near the area.)? Surely, they could lend a payloader or mobile crane that can remove the truck or at least help unblock the area?

I finally decided to turn back and work from home instead that day. Later, I learned that authorities had to stop traffic along Marcos Highway around 11:00 AM in order to tow the truck and clear the area for traffic to normalize. I hope this serves as a lesson in coordination among government entities and that future incidents like this will not results in a “carmaggedon” like Friday’s congestion. One thing that also became obvious is that travelers passing the area are all dependent on road-based transport and the primary reason why a lot of people were affected by the crash. The expanded operations of the Line 2, whenever that will be, will surely change transport in these areas and for the better.

Where exactly will the Line 2 Extension stations be?

A good friend asked me about where the two additional stations of the Line 2 Extension will be. Most articles state that there will be a station at Masinag and at Emerald but since work on the stations has not commenced then many are still speculating on the final locations and how the station will be laid out with respect to the elevated tracks. However, if you look closely, you will see something like a hint to where the stations and their platforms will be laid out. Following are two photos; each showing features of the elevated tracks that taper off at what looks like the start and end points for the stations.

emerald-sta-l2Future Emerald Station in front of Robinsons Metro East?

masinag-sta-l2Future Masinag Station across SM City Masinag

Another observation and particularly at Masinag is how tall the structure seems to be. The platforms appear to be already at the 4th level if you compare the elevated tracks to the pedestrian overpass that represents the 2nd level. It seems that the Masinag Station will be quite a tall one and invites more questions from observers especially prospective and current users of Line 2. Perhaps it will be 4-storey building with commercial spaces for shops and restaurants? How massive will this structure be? Will there be a  connection with SM other than via the existing pedestrian overpass? How will the inter-modal needs be addressed by the station design? Will there be more parking or maybe park-and-ride facilities? Hopefully, these questions can be answered soon.

Updates on the Line 2 Extension: What’s next?

Marcos Highway is part of my regular commuting route and so I have been able to observe the progress of the construction of the elevated tracks for the extension of Line 2. The contractor, DMCI, is nearing the completion of their part of the project. Unfortunately, the stations and the electrical/power systems for the extension have not been bidded out by the DOTr and so there are not a few doubts whether the extension will be operational by 3rd quarter of 2017, which is the original completion date for the whole project. The construction of the two stations alone are expected to take some time and also will have a big impact on transport and traffic despite the construction sites being more concentrated around the stations at Emerald and Masinag. Here are a couple of photos showing what it looks like along Marcos Highway.

line-2-ext-17jan2017DMCI has almost completed clearing the stretch of Santolan to Masinag of their equipment. The barriers that delineated their work space are mostly gone, freeing up a lane each along either side of Marcos Highway. This has eased traffic along this major thoroughfare connecting Metro Manila to the east.

img_3823The pedestrian overpass across Vermont Royale has been retrofitted so the center section passes under the Line 2’s structure.

Timing is of the essence for the two additional stations of Line 2. As I said, the projected completion and start of operations was 3rd quarter of 2017. Of course, the last quarter of this year would still be most welcome but further delays mean more losses on the part of commuters and, overall, the government. Perhaps it was a mistake for the previous administration to have not included the stations in the package that DMCI eventually got and now has almost completed? Maybe the current administration should expedite the remaining parts of the Line 2 extension. This should prove how serious the current government is with its promises for better public transport (i.e., mass transport).

Improvements to alternative route between Rizal and Makati

I finally got another look at the conditions along the alternate road to Highway 2000 and C-6 Extension a couple of weeks ago while en route to Bonifacio Global City. Traffic along Ortigas Ave. is usually terrible these days even during the weekends due to the road and drainage works between Cainta Junction and Brookside. I am glad to say that there have been significant improvements to the section of Don Hilario Cruz Ave nearest to the Manggahan Floodway and beside the Megawide plant. There have been significant developments, too, along C-6 Extension in the Lupang Arenda area of Taytay, Rizal. Here are some photos of the area.

2015-11-14 10.18.11Don Hilario Cruz Ave., the road beside the Megawide plant and parallel to Highway 2000, is being improved with half the carriageway already prepared for paving. The other half appears to be graded is being used by vehicles.

2015-11-14 10.19.21A roller runs along the base layer of the road that’s being paved. These sections were usually muddy and full of craters during the wet season and very dusty and still full of potholes during the dry season.

2015-11-14 10.26.24Sections of C-6 Extension at the Lupang Arenda area have been widened and the expropriated lands are now being transformed into paved roads. The original sections have been overlayed with asphalt to improve their ride-ability.

2015-11-14 10.27.33Another section in Lupang Arenda shows finished PCCP for the eastbound side of C-6.

2015-11-14 10.28.26Another photo of C-6 extension. Once the finished lanes are usable, authorities will probably divert traffic there so they could also pave the rest of the road.

Travelers between Rizal and Makati/Taguig will benefit the most from the improvements along these roads. These will increase road capacity as well as travel speeds along this route. Now, if only authorities can also improve C-6 itself in Taguig…

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.

Updates on the LRT 2 Extension – no more trees!

It’s been a while since I last passed by along Marcos Highway. This morning, I was a bit surprised by what I saw (or perhaps, more appropriately, what I didn’t see). The median along the section between Imelda Avenue all the way to Santolan has been cleared of trees. This was already expected as the contractor was already clearing the median for the past weeks. The work entailed fencing off the inner lanes of Marcos Highway and has caused congestion with the highway’s capacity significantly reduced and many motorists slowing down to observe what was going on (usyoso). Following are a few photos of Marcos Highway taken this morning.

2015-11-04 09.52.45DMCI removed the barriers securing the inner 2 lanes to reveal a median clear of trees. The median will be where the columns for the elevated LRT Line 2 extension to Masinag will be constructed.

2015-11-04 09.52.49I wonder what will become of the pedestrian overpasses along Marcos Highway. These structures would have to be redesigned with respect to the elevated structure of the LRT Line 2.

2015-11-04 09.53.09Here’s the conspicuously clear median along Marcos Highway approaching Ligaya. The Ayala development can be seen on the right side along the Quezon City bound side of the highway.

2015-11-04 09.56.01Waiting – Line 2 currently terminates just after Santolan Station where trains make the switch for the return journey.

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.