Caught (up) in traffic

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On Quezon City’s Kalayaan Avenue bike lanes

Another example of what can be called “pwede na iyan” bike lanes are those found along Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City. To be fair, the city made an effort to paint the bicycle lane and put up signs for this. However, one will observe that there is poor enforcement in relation to the bike lane as you would find vehicles parked on the lane. There is also the question of bicycle traffic as there doesn’t seem to be many cyclists along Kalayaan, making the space fair game for other vehicles including tricycles and motorcycles. Then there is the matter of connectivity. The Kalayaan bike lane seems to be isolated and does not have a connection to any other bike lane. The lane around the Elliptical Road, for example, is in the inner side of that road. Teacher’s Village does not have bicycle lanes but perhaps it is not (yet) necessary to have exclusive lanes in the still predominantly residential area (note: commercial establishments are still on the rise along major roads in the village).

Vehicles parked on the Kalayaan Avenue bike lane

Free flowing traffic along Kalayaan – notice the vehicles parked on the sidewalk?

One big question comes to mind with regards to such bike lanes: How do we improve the situation in order to encourage more people to bike?  There are many answers to this question and the answers branch out to the infrastructure, policy, social and even societal, and other aspects concerning cycling. What we should bear in mind and what Quezon City and perhaps MMDA should work on is a strategy for promoting non-motorised transport (NMT) that includes walking and cycling that can be implemented metro-wide with safety and efficiency (incl. connectivity) as the main objectives rather than have piecemeal projects for show or demonstration.

Updates on the MRT Line 7 construction

I recently posted some photos showing the progress of work on the Line 2 Extension. This time, I wanted to show photos on the progress of the Line 7 construction along Commonwealth Avenue. Following are some photos my companion took this morning as we headed for Novaliches. Work continues along this major corridor even on Sundays. While it has caused much congestions and therefore inconvenience, the continuous work offers hope to those who will benefit from this mass transit line once it becomes operational.

Columns rise along Commonwealth Avenue just across from the Ever mall and St. Peter’s church.

Here’s a traveler’s view of the ongoing construction along Commonwealth Avenue.

Concreting even on Sundays – it was quite congested today near the Fairview Market due to lanes occupied by heavy equipment including several concrete mixers lined up along one lane to supply the mix.

I have several former students who are now working on the Line 7 construction in various capacities. I usually get my updates from them. I am happy for them to be involved in such a major infrastructure undertaking. Hopefully, their experiences will be useful for other future railway lines in the country.

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. –