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Will a flyover at Katipunan-C.P. Garcia solve the traffic problem in the area?

I read a news article about the proposal by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to construct a left-turn flyover at the intersection of Katipunan Avenue (C5) and C.P. Garcia Avenue in Quezon City.  The flyover is supposed to be for vehicles turning left from the northbound side of Katipunan to C.P. Garcia Ave., which goes through the University of the Philippines Diliman

Will the flyover solve the traffic congestion problem in the area, particularly at the intersection and Katipunan in general? I would say no, it would not solve the congestion problem both for the intersection and for Katipunan. This assessment is due to the following reasons:

  1. The overpass does not address the root cause of congestion in the area, which is trip generation related. There are many major trip generators along Katipunan alone including three major schools (UP, Ateneo and Miriam) and a mall (UP Town Center). Add to this the traffic generated by the high density residential developments along Katipunan (notice the high rise condominiums lining up across Ateneo and Miriam?) and the through traffic coming from various areas that use C5’s Katipunan section.
  2. Congestion is caused by saturated intersections corresponding to Ateneo Gate 3 and main gate of Miriam College. Traffic going in and out of these schools are favored over through traffic along C5 resulting in congestion in the area. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to build overpasses to bypass these intersections.
  3. Congestion is caused by vehicles bound for and coming from the UP Town Center. The congestion due to traffic generated by the commercial development is actually alarming considering it is not yet completed and trips attracted and produced is not yet at full potential.
  4. The heaviest flows at the Katipunan-C.P. Garcia intersection are along Katipunan (northbound and southbound through traffic). Logic and traffic engineering principles point to grade separation to be more appropriate for such traffic and NOT for the left turn movement. A flyover should also be able to bypass UP Town Center as vehicles bound for the mall already blocks traffic along both sides of Katipunan and directly affects the intersection.

I think the DPWH should do well to re-assess their proposal along the lines of the reasons I have listed here rather than continue with the folly of building a left turn overpass alone. UP Diliman should also resist this overpass as, based on the news article, it would mean UP giving up some 8,000 square meters of its property for the project. UP already has given a lot for widening C.P. Garcia but that goes without saying that a through flyover might also require UP to give up property and particularly from its National Science Complex for such a project.

Trip cutting with respect to the LRT Line 2

Trip cutting is one of the undesirable behaviors of public utility vehicle drivers. It is most common with jeepneys and UV Express than with buses.

The findings of the study completed by our students last June 2015 are the following:

  • It was proven that trip-cutting behavior is a common practice by both jeepney and UV Express drivers with routes along Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard, covering parts of Pasig City, Marikina City and Quezon City.
  • The underlying factors involving trip-cutting behavior by PUV drivers were found to be the following:
    • Jeepneys and UV Express unload most of their passengrs during peak hours at the LRT Santolan and Katipunan Stations – there was a higher likelihood for passengers to ride the Line 2 from these stations to their destinations including Cubao and the University belt. A lot of passengers are students and trying to keep their schedules. Road transport can be very unpredictable and the trains offer more reliable travel times.
    • Drivers can maximize profit by having shorter trips and at the same time having passengers at full capacity – jeepney and UV express drivers unloading most of their passengers at the stations and turning around there (i.e., cutting their trips) means they avoid the congestion along Aurora Boulevard and faster turnarounds translate to their being able to carry more passengers thereby earning more revenues.
  • It was observed that the top trip-cutting routes for PUVs along Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard are as follows:
    • For jeepney vehicles:
      • Cogeo – Cubao and Antipolo – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Santolan Station;
      • Calumpang – Cubao and SSS Village – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Katipunan Station.
    • For UV Express vehicles:
      • SSS Village – Cubao and Cogeo – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Santolan Station;
      • Marikina – Cubao and Rodriguez/Montalban – Cubao routes in relation to the LRT Katipunan Station.

The following recommendations were made in relation to the findings of the study:

  • Route modification of top trip-cutting routes to take into account the realities with respect to the current demand.
  • Study on supply of PUVs with respect to the Cubao terminal station in relation to trip-cutting violations.
  • In the future, when the construction of the LRT Line 2’s Masinag and Emerald stations is completed, it is recommend to that further route modifications be made relative to these new stations.

Such studies are important especially in light of the construction of railway lines including this case of the extension of Line 2 from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo. There is an opportunity here for the rationalization of jeepney routes to complement the obviously higher capacity and more efficient trains of Line 2. Rationalization here translates to the shortening of jeepney routes with many units terminating at Line 2 stations. ‘Cogeo-Cubao’ jeepneys would become Cogeo-Masinag jeepneys while ‘Antipolo-Cubao’ jeepneys will become either ‘Antipolo-Masinag’ or ‘Antipolo-Emerald’ jeepneys. A Masinag route end would apply to ‘Antipolo-Cubao via Sumulong Highway’ jeepneys while the Emerald route end would apply to ‘Antipoli-Cubao via Junction’ PUJs. Such will reduce the travel distances covered by the jeepneys as well as reduce their travel and turnaround times. Also, such a rationalization will lead to a better structured public transport system following a hierarchy among modes.

University of the Philippines Diliman Bikeways Flyer (2005)

Searching for material on the proposed bikeways network at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, I came across a draft of a flyer. The flyer was intended for use in consultations with stakeholders including members of the UP Diliman community (e.g., staff, students, faculty and residents). I recall that there was also a committee established for the purpose of planning and implementing the UP Diliman Bikeways. Unfortunately, the network was not fully realised and took a few years before a major component was implemented but under a different project – the UP Diliman Model Traffic Safety Zone project.

The UP Diliman Bikeways Flyers 2005

A copy of the flyer in PDF may be found here:

The UP Diliman Bikeways Flyers 2005

At present, UP Diliman is again considering the bikeways network proposal and has initiated some studies towards determining its feasibility including what routes would be most viable. Incidentally, our students in one of the engineering elective courses offered by the Institute of Civil Engineering is currently surveying candidate routes and they should be finished with this task by middle of March. It would be interesting to see which “corridors” can be proposed as the next components of the network to be realised.

Enforcing bus lanes along Commonwealth Avenue

Commonwealth Avenue always seems to be the subject of road safety or traffic discipline initiatives every now and again. Quezon City together with partners in other government agencies like the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) have embarked on another program aimed at reducing the occurrence of road crashes and other incidents along this busy corridor. It actually reminds me of the “traffic discipline zone” designation of Commonwealth not a decade ago and before public transport lanes were physically allocated along the highway.

They are failing miserably if I am to base success on observations of the behavior of drivers of  public transport vehicles alone along this major highway. They get away with a lot of reckless driving including suddenly switching lanes, speeding, and tailgating. There are also cases where vehicles and pedestrians cross the wide highway at points that are prone to crashes. I am not aware of a lot of apprehensions being made of these reckless drivers along Commonwealth except perhaps at the foot of the Tandang Sora flyover where MMDA enforcers seem to be congregating on most days armed with one of two of the agency’s speed guns. But then it seems “business as usual” for the same drivers and riders along the rest of Commonwealth so the initiatives are not effective deterrents against irresponsible road use.

2015-02-01 09.39.02You can always see buses on the wrong side of the road along Commonwealth Avenue especially along the section between Fairview Market and Regalado. They do this to get ahead of other buses and then bully their way to make a stop or turn right at an intersection.

2015-02-01 09.39.15This bus in particular was weaving in traffic, bullying smaller vehicles to give way as it raced other buses along Commonwealth Avenue. Such behavior among public transport drivers is one of the major ingredients for road crashes.

It’s been a year now since the tragic crash involving an out of line provincial bus in the Cordillera. That was partly the result of poor monitoring and enforcement by the LTFRB. While the major reason for the crash was reckless driving (i.e., the driver was allegedly speeding at a critical section of the highway), this could have been avoided if the bus wasn’t operating in the first place. The very same policies along Commonwealth apply to these provincial buses and fatal crashes could’ve been avoided or minimised if the LTFRB can just exercise its mandate effectively.

Lane discipline

Among many peoples’ pet peeves in traffic would probably be the propensity for lane changing among many drivers and riders. This is especially true for wide multi-lane roads like Commonwealth Ave., Marcos Highway and EDSA. While it can be an understandable behaviour for free flowing traffic along long stretches where weaving can be executed safely, lane changes can be quite risky at intersections and may instantly lead to crashes. These are likely the bases for the swerving violations that the MMDA and other traffic enforcers became notorious for issuing for a time.

We chanced upon a scene at the Commonwealth Ave.-Mindanao Ave. intersection in Novaliches where a car seemed to have attempted to cut in front of a bus in order to make a turn but got hit by the bus. From the angle of the collision, it appears that the driver of the car likely maneuvered for a U-turn and made the critical assumption that he could beat the bus for the turn. It was obvious that the bus was in the right position while the car was not. This is often the case for drivers who do not care for positioning themselves along the correct lanes at intersections and seem to rely on their guile to get ahead of others. Such drivers might just be the same ones who would likely do counter-flows also to get ahead of others queued along the right traffic lanes.

IMG09144-20140803-1104White car attempts to make a U-turn right in front of a bus and gets hit by the bus whose driver likely did not notice the white car sneaking in front of the vehicle.

Lane discipline becomes more important with the revival of traffic signals all around Metro Manila. In addition, it is also important for the appropriate lane markings to be placed at intersection approaches. Such markings are supposed to guide drivers where they should position themselves so that they will not block traffic going in another direction. These can also aid in the enforcement of lane discipline as vehicles on the wrong lanes can be apprehended. This was the case in Cebu City in the 1990s when the city adopted the SCATS traffic signal system, which employed detectors embedded on the pavement along the approaches to intersections. These detectors helped determine whether there is demand for a particular movement (left, through or right) and so requires lane discipline for the system to work effectively. –

The return of traffic signals at Katipunan

It’s been more than a decade since the MMDA implemented what was formally called the Grand Rotunda Scheme. To most, it will always be the U-turn scheme that was implemented all around Metro Manila. After seeing what seemed like success along roads like Commonwealth and Quezon Avenue, it was concluded that the U-turns were the answer to Metro Manila’s traffic woes or at least the part that’s blamed on signalized intersections. The perception by many at the time was that traffic signals were not working and caused so much congestion as evidenced by the long queues at intersections. This is not entirely false as intersections with in-optimal settings would definitely bring about congestion especially along corridors or networks where signals are not coordinated. It was, however, a generalization at a large scale and led to more experiments of opening and closing slots in order to determine which would be the most effective combinations. These experiments and their outcomes include drivers becoming more aggressive in order to maneuver ahead of others at the U-turn slots. Weaving has become the norm and in many cases have increased the risk of road crashes.

IMG09196-20140901-0625Traffic signals have been installed and the section of the median island has been removed across Ateneo’s Gate 3. This will become a three-leg intersections once again but I hope the signals will not favor Ateneo over through traffic along C5.

IMG09197-20140901-1339Traffic lights are already installed along the southbound side of Katipunan at the approach to the junction with Miriam College’s Main Gate. This will be a four-leg intersection as across Miriam is B. Gonzales Street that connects to Esteban Abada.

The signals are supposed to be operational starting September 13, which is a Saturday. Perhaps this is to try it out first during that weekend and for the MMDA to do some tweaks before the real deal that is traffic on Monday. But then how can you simulate traffic generated by the two schools in the area except maybe if there is significant enough traffic on Saturday? Did the MMDA or its consultants do some simulation using their computers and the VISSIM software they acquired many years ago? Or will we see more of the experiments as signals are fine-tuned according to the conditions along Katipunan?

We are hopeful that the signals along Katipunan will help improve the traffic along this very busy corridor. The results for sections of C5 from Libis (QC) to Ugong (Pasig) are promising and many people I know have told me that traffic has improved. Of course, this may also be partly due to the one-lane policy the MMDA has implemented for trucks. It’s never just one scheme or measure that will work wonders for Metro Manila traffic. It will always be a combination that will alleviate traffic woes in the metropolis. We’ll soon know what will become of traffic along Katipunan. We should, however, temper expectations at least for the 6:30 – 7:30 AM period during weekdays when traffic peaks in the vicinity of Ateneo and Miriam. The sheer volume of vehicles generated by the schools will overwhelm any system that is put up in the area. Nevertheless, for the rest of the day at least traffic flow should improve when signals are operational once again for Katipunan.

Re: traffic congestion along Katipunan

Yesterday was a holiday in Quezon City so most offices and schools were closed. It was not a holiday elsewhere so through traffic along Katipunan Avenue would have been “normal.” This is assumed especially for trucks that have been blamed as the cause of the severe congestion. I was curious about how traffic would be with the holiday in QC and through traffic could practically be “isolated.” There still was significant traffic generated by establishments like restaurants and cafes along Katipunan. It was a regular weekday and not like it was a Sunday. Following are photos that were taken around 2:00 PM when the truck ban is not enforced in the area.

IMG09162-20140819-1328Free-flowing traffic along the section across from the UP Town Center – There were no long queues at the approach to the Katipunan-C.P. Garcia intersection. 

IMG09163-20140819-1331Free-flowing traffic along Katipunan across from Ateneo – the two universities generated few private car traffic yesterday during a period when there’s usually a lot coming in and out of the campuses due to the dismissals in the early afternoon.

IMG09164-20140819-1332Free-flowing traffic along the Katipunan-Aurora overpass – in the early afternoons, the northbound side of Katipunan is usually full of vehicles mainly private cars and trucks. While there were many trucks yesterday, their numbers were not enough to cause traffic jams.

I think the traffic situation yesterday provided a clear picture that the major traffic generators along Katipunan are mainly the reason for traffic congestion along the stretch from Blue Ridge to Balara. These are mostly the schools (Ateneo, Miriam and UP) that generate so much private vehicle traffic on weekdays and Saturdays. Sundays are different because there’s no school nor work at offices on this day. With the QC holiday, the through traffic was still there owing to work and school in other cities (e.g., Residents of QC would still have to travel to Makati or Ortigas if their workplaces are located there. Similarly, students residing in QC whose schools are in the University Belt in Manila would have to travel.). This means there is really a need to understand why there is congestion and what causes it. A lot more effort is needed for this understanding and to ultimately reduce traffic congestion along this stretch of C5. Pointing fingers among agencies and simply putting the blame on one sector of traffic (e.g., trucks) will not get us anywhere. The solution will require strong cooperation among stakeholders and will definitely be not a painless undertaking for many.