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What if Ondoy happened today?

With the news of the devastation of Houston by Hurricane Harvey comes articles about transportation in that city. An interesting articles is this one:

Davies, A. (2017) “Hurricane Harvey Destroys Up to a Million Cars in Car-Dependent Houston“. Wired.com.  September 3, 2017. https://www.wired.com/story/harvey-houston-cars-ruined?mbid=nl_090317_daily&CNDID=%%CUST_ID%% (Last accessed 9/4/2017).

The article reminded me of a very personal experience back in 2009 when Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) submerged much of Metro Manila and its adjoining provinces in what was believed to be at least 100-year floods. Greater Metro Manila or Mega Manila is not too dependent on private cars for transportation with an estimated 70% of trips taking public transport (about 30% use private vehicles including motorcycles and taxis). Much of this public transportation, however, is road-based and so the floods did much to affect transportation in the area for the weeks after Ondoy. Car-owners rebounded quite quickly and car sales surged afterwards with many people purchasing SUVs in response to the likelihood of floods.

But what if Ondoy happened today? What if people were as unprepared as in 2009? Perhaps the damage would have been even greater than back in 2009. Mega Manila has become more dependent on cars since then with the current estimates of private vehicle mode shares at around 35%. The increase includes not only taxis and motorcycles, which have enjoyed steep increases in the past decade, but also ridesharing services (i.e., Uber and Grab).

Uber and Grab vehicles are predominantly comprised of vehicles purchased for the main purpose of being driven for income instead of the original concept of ridesharing where the vehicles are already owned and operated only during the free times of their owners (i.e., they provide services only on a part-time basis). Their proliferation and popularity means a lot more vehicles could have been damaged by Ondoy and that the owners of these vehicles likely would not have recovered from the loss even despite their auto insurance coverages.

Metro Manila and other Philippine cities under the threat of similar severe weather systems such as typhoons should build resilient transportation systems. Not surprisingly, among the more resilient modes of transport are non-motorized such as walking and cycling. Pedicabs where almost immediately back on service in Tacloban after Yolanda practically destroyed that city. But then again, an efficient public transport system is also necessary and buses and trains may provide relief from flooded cities. Maybe, a proposed subway system can also contribute if it includes the construction of subterranean drainage systems similar to that of Tokyo’s. These are not easy to develop or build with infrastructure costing much over the long term. However, Metro Manila needs to start building them now as these won’t get cheaper in the future.

Are ridesharing services paratransit modes?

Vuchic (Urban Transit Systems & Technology, 2007) defines paratransit as an “urban passenger transportation service mostly in vehicles operated on public streets and roads in mixed traffic; it is provided by private or public operators and it is available to certain groups of users or to the general public, but it is adaptable in its routing and scheduling to individual user’s desires in varying degrees.” 

Based on the definition and how paratransit modes have evolved over many years, then we could say that the current ridesharing or car sharing services like Uber and Grab are essentially paratransit modes. They definitely fit the definition as do conventional taxis.

Riding the bus in Sydney

We rode the bus twice in Sydney – first to get from the city to Bondi Beach and the second to go to a train station from Bondi Beach. I wasn’t really able to get a lot of photos inside the buses as they quickly filled with passengers and I wasn’t sure what people thought about someone taking photos inside a bus even for touristy purposes. It is usually better to blend in with the crowd than attract attention to yourself; though it probably didn’t matter much since there were so many Asians in Sydney and wherever we went.

You can use the Opal card to pay for your bus fare.

Buses are laid out to optimize the number of passengers it could carry. There are just enough seats for those who need to be seated. Others have to stand but standing space is important for commutes.

Melbourne’s transit system

One thing I always look forward to whenever I am traveling is to try out the public transport system of the cities I am visiting. My first day in Melbourne gave me an opportunity to familiarize with the city’s transportation including the trams and bikeways. Following are some photos I took as I went around the city center on-board their trams. I actually purchased a myki card but discovered a bit later that tram rides were free when you’re within the zone defining the city center. You only need to swipe or tap when you leave the zone where transit will charge the corresponding fares to your destination.

Tram passing by the stop where I decided to stand by to take a few photos while familiarizing with the network map.

Melbourne transit network map and information on priority seats

Inside the circle tram that goes around the city center

Typical transit stop

Vintage tram

Tram crossing an intersection

Modern transit vehicle

I found Melbourne’s transit to be quite efficient and the coverage was comprehensive enough considering the city was walkable and bicycle-friendly. This meant people had many options to move about and this mobility definitely contributes to productivity. More on transportation in Melbourne and Sydney in future posts.

On the East Metro Transport Terminal in Marikina

This site has been visited a lot the past few days by people searching for information on the eastern transport terminal that’s being developed in Marikina City just across from SM City Marikina. I wonder if its for a study (i.e., students doing research) or perhaps some folks curious about the signs they’ve seen while crossing the Marcos Highway bridge across the Marikina River.

Signs informing people about the existence of a transport terminal beneath the bridge

The sign also states BFCT, the first part of which are the initials of the former MMDA Chair/Marikina Mayor. CT probably means ‘city transport’, ‘city terminal’ or ‘central terminal’? I haven’t been to SM Marikina lately so I haven’t had the opportunity to see how complete the facility is and if it is already operational. However, one can see from the bridge, as you travel along the outermost eastbound lane, that work is ongoing and there are vehicles (mostly vans, jeepneys and small trucks) that are parked there.

Is this a good location for a public transport terminal? I believe so; considering that there is a railway station nearby and the area is a convergence point for a lot of people (not only those residing in Marikina and Pasig). Do I think this should be a provincial bus terminal of the same level as the ones proposed for the north and south of Metro Manila? Yes, but only for trips bound for the east (e.g., Rizal and Infanta, Quezon) and south (e.g., Quezon, Laguna, Bicol) via the eastern route (Marcos Highway, Antipolo-Teresa Road or Manila East Road). I don’t think it is appropriate for trips heading to Boracay, Baguio or Ilocos. Buses headed for the latter destinations should terminate at the proposed north and south terminals. Buses to/from those places that would be terminating in Marikina would mean they would have to travel along C-5 in order to get to this eastern terminal. If these are in significant numbers then the traffic generated by such a terminal will contribute to congestion along C-5 and Marcos Highway. Of course, such proposed terminals should be subject to rigorous studies as these facilities can be major traffic generators and some mitigating measures must be in place to address potential issues.

Some articles on walking, biking and transit for wellness

Here are a couple of recent articles on walking, biking and transit:

Walk, bike, and transit benefits boost people of all incomes [McAnaney, P. in Greater Greater Washington, June 13, 2017]

“Bikes are happiness machines.” Behind the Handlebars with cyclist extraordinaire Joe Flood [Maisler, R. in Greater Greater Washington, June 7, 2017]

I posted these partly for future reference but also to promote walking, biking and public transport. These are essential elements for mobility anywhere and governments should ensure that people have these as options for traveling about and not be dependent on automobiles for transport.

On motorcycle taxis becoming the “new king of the road” (cont.)

This is a continuation of the yesterday’s post on motorcycle taxis. The feature appearing in Sunstar Philippines also focuses on the case of Cebu City where there is a rising demand for motorcycles and issues on public transport have given rise to a motorcycle taxi use despite their being basically illegal under current laws/guidelines. Habal-habal as these motorized 2-wheeler taxis are known have been in service in many cities and municipalities but are mostly tolerated in rural areas where conventional public transport services are scarce.

Part II of the feature by Sunstar:

New King of the Road – Part II

There are three articles in Part II:

Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Motorcycles on the rise, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from: http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Habal-habal drivers form group to ‘professionalize’ services, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Hailing a motorcycle taxi with your smartphone, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

 

Part III of the feature by Sunstar:

New King of the Road – Part III

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Even with BRT, motorbikes still needed in Cebu City, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from www. sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Will Cebu City lead the way?, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

I hope these articles on motorcycles and motorcycle taxis will generate meaningful discussions pertaining to their applications and perhaps their regulation. One issue, of course, that should definitely be on the table is safety. That is non-negotiable and assurances by motorcycle taxi transport providers should not be enough to persuade their becoming formalized as a public transport mode. The basis for mainstreaming these should be evidence-based including assessments based on crash (accident) data. Here is something that can be studied by the various schools around the country especially universities that have the capacities and capabilities to conduct such studies in aid of policy formulation at the national and local levels.