Caught (up) in traffic

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Tricycles in the Philippines – Part 2

In a previous post on tricycles, I featured some photos taken from various trips I’ve taken around the country. Closer to home are tricycles that provide some convenience to commuters along a stretch of C-5 that is more commonly known as Katipunan Avenue. The example below is of a typical tricycle traveling along a section that cuts through lands of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

IMG06669-20130905-0855Tricycle along Katipunan Avenue

Tricycles do not necessarily just roam around to get passengers like what we usually see. They do have formal terminals though the informal ones outnumber these and typically cause problems due to the spaces they tend to occupy. These spaces include road space, the consequence of which is a reduction in road capacity, and sidewalks, which deny pedestrians space for walking. The first causes or exacerbates congestion while the second mainly puts people at higher risk as pedestrian safety is compromised. Following are photos of tricycle terminals taken from recent trips north of Manila in the provinces of Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union.

IMG06846-20130920-0903Tricycle terminal at the Moncada Public Market

IMG06905-20130920-0947Tricycles still dominate traffic along the Manila North Road in Urdaneta, Pangasinan where they have terminals around the public market and at the intersections of side streets.

IMG06947-20130920-1047Roadside tricycle terminal in La Union where the newly paved shoulders are occupied by tricycles waiting for passengers from a nearby public school.

IMG06983-20130920-1113Tricycle terminal in front of the Civic Center in Agoo, La Union and just across the church.

More on tricycles and their terminals in succeeding posts!

U.P. Town Center

Passing along the University of the Philippines’ part of Katipunan, one will see a new development at the area where the UP Integrated School (UPIS) is currently located. The UP Town Center is being promoted as part of a university town center concept and is the second major Ayala development on UP land after the Technohub in the north side of the 493-hectare campus. The surrounding area to the newly built Town Center will most likely host business process outsourcing (BPO) including call centers that currently populate Technohub.

I learned that the development’s design was reviewed on the UP side by a team that included faculty members from UP Diliman’s College of Architecture and School of Urban and Regional Planning. I assume that they were able to cover most if not all the aspects of the design for this particular development and the rest that will follow once UPIS moves to the main campus and the entire lot is developed much like into what Technohub is at present. I would assume that they provided recommendations to Ayala and that these recommendations were used to improve on potential issues with the development. However, my worry is that the transport or traffic component of the design (i.e., transport impact assessment) was not sufficient for the traffic that will be generated by the development. While Technohub had no serious problems regarding traffic as it was along the wide Commonwealth Avenue, the Town Center was located in the narrower C-5 that is the route for much private traffic as well as trucks.

Let us look at the potential problems for the UP Town Center in relation to transport and traffic. For one, the development is close to a major intersection, the junction of Katipunan-CP Garcia. The current traffic signal cycle for the intersection allows for continuous through traffic for the northbound side of Katipunan. Thus, traffic in front of the development, which is along this same northbound side of C-5 will be continuous. Vehicles slowing down to enter the parking lots at either end of the building will likely slow down traffic along C-5. Meanwhile, there are no driveways or bays for transport to load/unload passengers in front of the building. Instead, the driveway is right after Katipunan-C.P. Garcia intersection and does not appear to be designed for jeepneys, taxis and cars will, instead, likely stop on the road and such will mean one lane of C-5 will be occupied, contributing to a decrease in the capacity of the roadway.

Another thing is the parking. Currently, there are limited spaces as understandably the area is still being developed and the lots are temporary facilities. I presume that there will be more spaces available soon considering the parking generation characteristics of such types of developments that tend to attract car-owning people though perhaps the target is a broader range of customers.

And then there are the issues regarding walking and cycling. One friend was asking if there were bicycle racks at the Town Center. I saw none (yet?) but perhaps there will be facilities for cyclists. As for walking, this section of Katipunan is more walkable compared to the segments in front of Ateneo and Miriam where cars seemed to be parked or standing everywhere and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. Along the side of the U.P. Diliman campus, there are sidewalks where pedestrians can safely walk. On the Town Center’s side, there are also sidewalks and we hope these can still be improved once construction is at full swing. Perhaps what requires attention for both pedestrians and cyclists are crossings. With the increased traffic along C-5 due to the opening of the Luzon Avenue overpass crossing Commonwealth, it has become more dangerous to cross C-5. As such, there is a need to address such issues as surely there will be significant pedestrian traffic crossing to and from the Town Center.


2013-09-28 14.45.18No driveways or bays for public transport? Construction work continues for the soon to open UP Town Center even as the fences are taken down to reveal a modern building that will host restaurants and shops.

2013-09-28 14.45.38The UP Town Center is already attracting traffic as some restaurants and shops have already made “soft” openings.

A colleague once made the comment that the Town Center was not really for UP but, like the Alabang Town Center, was for the posh residential subdivisions in the area. These include nearby La Vista, Loyola Grand Villas and Ayala Heights subdivisions. Also, it will likely attract more car users than public transport users as locator restaurants and shops are mainly upper-middle to upper class. There are no Jollibees, Chowkings or McDos here. For now, the developer and UP Diliman deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt in as far as the development’s design is concerned. Perhaps the issues I mentioned above will be addressed once the entire area leased to Ayala would have been fully developed. And until then, there would be opportunities to check and ascertain if the development is indeed people friendly and something that can be called a university town center and not just another commercial development that attracts traffic.

Floods and traffic

Transport and traffic problems take a backseat to the flooding problem during this time of the year in the Philippines. Since there are practically only two seasons (dry and wet) in the country, floods become a genuine concern once monsoon rains arrive and these are usually complicated by a high frequency of typhoons between August and November. Many major roads in Metro Manila are prone to flooding including Espana Avenue, Araneta Avenue, Gil Fernando Avenue, Ortigas Avenue, and EDSA. Flash floods often lead to traffic congestion and commuters and motorists alike would have a hell of a time traveling yet it seems very little has been done to address a situation that’s been here since the Spanish period. This is a perception by many people and a reasonable one given the historical evidence of flooding in the area and elsewhere in the country.

IMG06611-20130819-1323Pedicab ferrying passengers in a flooded residential area

There are many images on the current floods in Mega Manila that one can find in various reports online and on TV. The Telegraph provides good photos for describing the situation around Metro Manila and the surrounding areas, and especially in the low-lying areas like Marikina, Malabon, Rodriguez and Cainta. These images could have been taken in any other year in the past and the images would probably be the same with slight changes in some buildings that could have been improved (e.g., additional floor?) in response to the flood experience.

Floods and possible solutions have been the topics of discussions every year and usually during this rainy season. While there have been efforts to address this problem, these are usually and obviously not enough and a more comprehensive approach is needed. Quite obviously, too, solutions that tend to dig up faults in urban planning throughout Metro Manila have led nowhere as legitimate residents and other locators in these areas are not in a position to give up their properties just like that. Relocating informal settlers and others who have encroached from waterways and other critical areas is a start but will have limited impacts in part because Mega Manila does not have a good drainage system in the first place.

Expensive as they are, engineering solutions like perhaps what Tokyo has done in this underground wonder. Of course, this example is a kind of ultimate solution and would require tremendous resources to realize. But then this is also like the transport and traffic problems we are experiencing where years (or decades) of inaction and hesitation due to resource and technical questions have led to the despicable transportation we have now The reality is that solutions will not get cheaper as we continue to balk at the cost of the required solutions. Floods and traffic will not be solved overnight. It will take years to improve the lives of many people in flood prone areas and implementing solutions should have started yesterday.

More bikeways please!

After the construction of  a bikeways network in Marikina City, the city became a poster child for sustainable transport in the Philippines. The bikeways was initiated with assistance from the World Bank for the pilot route and was later expanded by the city under the leadership of its Mayors, the former MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando and his wife Marides Fernando. The bikeways were promoted as a good practice example for non-motorized transport (NMT), with the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of the University of the Philippines Diliman involving the Marikina City Bikeways Office (MCBO) in its studies and advocacy work on Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST).

IMG06409-20130713-0951Bikeways between pedestrian walkway (red pavement) and parking slots in Marikina City.

Acad Oval 2Bike lane along the Academic Oval at UP Diliman in Quezon City.

IMG03425-20120707-0831Bike lane integrated into the sidewalks along Marcos Highway in the cities of Marikina, Pasig and Antipolo.

IMG05323-20130121-1142Bike lanes (red pavement) in Malate, Manila.

IMG06119-20130531-1027Bike lanes integrated with the sidewalks along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

IMG06120-20130531-1027Bike lanes integrated with the sidewalks along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list of bike lanes and bike ways in the Philippines. I am sure there are similar projects in other cities and I am aware that cycling is becoming more popular around the country. These are but examples of what has been accomplished so far and it is clear that we need to do more to promote cycling not just as a sport or for recreation but, more importantly, as a means for commuting. Integrating cycling into one’s daily routine is a healthy and money-saving option, and segregated bikeways and bike lanes ensure the safe travels for cyclists. This, of course, is in consideration of the little respect cyclists (and pedestrians) get from motorists who believe road space is theirs alone.

Swapang! or the perils of walking

Walking to the jeepney terminal for a ride to the university, I was irritated by the constant honking behind me as motorcycles rode up the sidewalk to avoid the weaving into congested traffic along Aurora Boulevard. And so I tried to stand my ground allowing only  half the space of the sidewalk for these motorcycles to pass through. As far as I’m concerned, I was already too generous giving part of the space that is for pedestrians and not for motorized traffic. Still, there were a few motorcyclists who seem to think they had the right of way as they attempted to convince me give up more space so they could practically take over the sidewalk. I didn’t give way and assumed they were cursing me inside their helmets. Manigas sila! I thought that in the end, sila ang asar at talo in this situation, not me.

ImageMotorcycles dominating space for pedestrians

At one point, I held my ground and didn’t give way to the motorcycles behind me [Advisory: This is not for everyone especially those who are “pikon” or who are looking for a fight.]. I knew my rights and I was walking on the pedestrian sidewalk. Unfortunately, a bicycle came along and I gave way only because I also appreciated cycling and understood that pedestrians and cyclists are sort of “kindred spirits” in a world dominated by motorized transport. The bicycle was immediately followed by two motorcycles including one that almost sideswiped the cyclist. I took the photo above  to better show the situation.

The other day, I chanced upon a similar situation as I was driving in heavy traffic along Amang Rodriguez in Pasig City. What little space was available for pedestrians along a narrow sidewalk along this road connecting Marikina and Pasig cities.

IMG06407-20130710-0736Motorcycles using a narrow pedestrian sidewalk to avoid traffic congestion along Amang Rodriguez

These cases are clear examples of swapang attitude or behavior that is prevalent among many road users. Unfortunately, these are not apprehended or accosted by traffic enforcers. The latter seem to be more engrossed with number coding and swerving violations, anyway, that they seem to have forgotten all the other traffic violations that included this brazen behavior of motorcyclists. Perhaps enforcers should go back to the basics and take more notice of all those other violations (e.g., speeding, counter flowing, beating the red light, beating the green light, etc.) to improve and promote discipline on our roads.

Pedicabs at your service

Pedicabs are among the most common modes of public transport around the country. These are usually found in residential areas including subdivisions or villages where they provide services to people who find it far to walk between their homes and the village gate. However, in many other places, particularly in the rural areas, pedicabs along with tricycles represent the main public transport mode for short trips. And because the main roads connecting barangays or barrios may be national roads, one will find these non-motorized transport traveling along national roads and clearly violating a law prohibiting such transport from using the national highways.

Pedicabs serving rural areas are often tolerated because of a lack of convenient public transport services in barangays. Many communities that happen to be located along national highways are often served by pedicabs (and/or motor tricycles) since jeepneys or buses come along quite sporadically, especially during the off-peak hours. Their drivers and passengers though are often at risk from motor vehicles, especially buses and trucks, that travel at higher speeds and with which crashes are highly likely to result in fatalities.

IMG05991-20130425-0639This guy earns 10 pesos for a special (single passenger only) ride from the national highway to the Leyte Landings monument in Palo. Normal fare is 6 pesos per passenger if you share the ride with others. It’s a decent job and the man earns an honest living pedaling his pedicab to ferry people to and from government offices around the area.

IMG05999-20130425-1525Pedicab queue at the junction of national roads are quite common in the rural areas.

IMG05973-20130425-0553Pedicab traveling along a national highway in Leyte.

In the urban setting, pedicabs operate in many streets and in many cases travel along major roads. Many are considered nuisances in traffic as they are slow moving and do risky maneuvers. In certain cases, like Intramuros and Pasay, they are just too many and may cause congestion simply by their numbers in general traffic. One can also wonder why they are necessary in many places if the walking environment can be improved for pedestrians so that they would not need to take short rides via pedicabs. While we are aware of the social dimensions of pedicab services (i.e., mainly their being the source of income or livelihood for a lot of people), there is the view that many of these same people are misguided in their being allowed to operate so many pedicabs and thereby making many believe it is the “only” livelihood they can depend on. The local governments should be made answerable to these questions regarding pedicab proliferation where they are not suitable.

IMG06056-20130507-0947Pedicabs along a Manila street near Tutuban and the PNR station.

IMG05504-20130221-1604Pedicabs in Intramuros, Manila near Mapua Institute of Technology.

IMG_6256Pedicabs operating along a section of EDSA in Pasay City near the provincial bus terminals.

IMG04130-20120829-1516Pedicab along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City near the BIR Road and Agham Road, ferrying people from the EDSA MRT station to offices along the said roads.

Then, of course, there are the pedicabs serving the private or gated residential subdivisions. While tricycles have been the ones to first establish services for these villages, pedicabs have become the choice for many where noise and emissions from tricycles have become irritants and serious issues to residents. The slower-moving pedicabs pose less risks to children playing on the streets or pedestrians walking on village carriageways.

IMG06046-20130504-1536Pedicabs at an exclusive residential subdivision – depending on the fare policies set by local governments, barangays or village associations, pedicabs may charge somewhere between 5 to 10 pesos per passenger depending on the distance traveled, and in some cases the weather conditions (i.e., in many areas, pedicabs charge more when its rainy and especially when streets are flooded).

Luzon Avenue Flyover

The Luzon Avenue flyover spanning the width of Commonwealth Avenue is now open to two way traffic. Previously, only the northbound side was open, allowing vehicles to cross Commonwealth from Tandang Sora Ave./Katipunan Ave. to Luzon Ave. and towards Congressional Avenue. I took a few photos of the flyover and the vicinity of Luzon Avenue en route to NLEX a few days ago.

IMG05830-20130415-0926The Luzon Avenue flyover has a total of 4 lanes, divided by a median island.

IMG05831-20130415-0926The lamp posts indicate a well lighted road during night time. The pedestrian walkways on either side are quite narrow and I think the designers of the flyover could have widened this feature of the facility.

IMG05832-20130415-0927A view of Commonwealth Avenue from the flyover.

IMG05833-20130415-0927Along the other end of the flyover is Luzon Avenue, which has been widened to accommodate the flyover and the at-grade sections connecting to the QMC-bound side of Commonwealth Avenue.

IMG05834-20130415-0927A pedestrian overpass was constructed at the foot of the Luzon Ave. flyover so pedestrians will not cross at this critical part of the flyover when vehicles would typically be picking up speed as they descend (or ascend on the other side) the flyover. There are still construction work along the northbound side of Luzon Avenue.

IMG05835-20130415-0927Luzon Avenue, which is a 6-lane, 2-way road divided by a median, is quite crowded with either side of the road occupied mostly by informal settlers. There is also an informal wet market (talipapa) along the road.

IMG05836-20130415-0928The pavement is elevated compared to the land on either side of the road. There are stores and shops set up by those living along the road.

IMG05837-20130415-0928Side streets are narrow and could probably accommodate only cars or small vehicles like tricycles (also shown in the photo traveling along Luzon Ave.

IMG05838-20130415-0928Some stalls are just along the street like this fruit stand that’s already on the carriageway. The photo also shows a better view of a side street with parked vehicles along one side of the road.

IMG05839-20130415-0928Approach to Congressional Avenue – there is another pedestrian overpass near the junction with Congressional. Note the height of the plant box on the median that is designed to discourage or minimize jaywalking across Luzon Ave.

IMG05840-20130415-0929Water works at the junction of Luzon Ave. and Congressional Ave. Luzon Ave. continues as a narrow 2-lane street towards the direction of Bgy. Holy Spirit.

UP Village transformation

UP Teachers Village in Quezon City is a good example of a residential area that has been transformed over a few years. This transformation was enabled mainly by its streets, particularly Maginhawa Street, being open to general traffic. Teachers Village roads are often used as short cuts between major roads like Commonwealth Avenue and C-5/Katipunan (via C.P. Garcia Street), and Elliptical Avenue, Kalayaan Avenue and V. Luna. Due to both significant foot and vehicle traffic, what used to be homes along the streets have become restaurants, shops, offices, or even schools. There are many cases of homeowners who have found their houses less livable due to the noise and air pollution attributed to traffic (Note: There are so many tricycles in the area.). These have sold their property to people who used it instead for business. Unfortunately, despite the approval of the local government of the changes in land use, most establishments clearly have not satisfied basic building code requirements such as those for parking and pedestrian facilities.

IMG05790-20130408-1656On-street parking along both sides of Maginhawa Street in Teachers Village

IMG05791-20130408-1656Schools and commercial establishments like restaurants and shops are found along Maginhawa Street. Most do not have adequate parking spaces for customers.

Maginhawa Street has been widened to accommodate more vehicular traffic. Unfortunately, widening the road has only led to more on-street parking as shown in the preceding photos. People also are often forced to walk along the carriageway because because sidewalks are usually blocked, with some establishments using the space for al frresco set-ups. Developments need to be inspected to check if they comply with basic requirements such as parking and pedestrian facilities. Development and land use changes can be justified but proponents must be made to comply with the minimum requirements of the National Building Code in order to mitigate potential impacts to the community.

Tandang Sora Avenue road widening

The stretch of Tandang Sora Avenue between Commonwealth Avenue (Luzon Avenue Flyover) and Capitol Hills Drive is currently being widened as part of the Luzon Avenue project. Work here has been delayed by not a few glitches including the issues regarding the right-of-way acquisition. This area used to be home to a lot of informal settlers, including many who have lived in the area for decades as they were tolerated by the land owners. Many had to be relocated and were compensated to give way to the section of Tandang Sora that connects to the also unfinished Luzon Avenue.

The following photos were from a month ago when work was still ongoing along the southbound side of the road. This southbound side is actually the old 2-lane, 2-way section of Tandang Sora that was rehabilitated following completion of work on the expansion northbound lanes.

IMG05734-20130310-1531Heavy equipment are everywhere along the section like the roller (pison) on the right side of the photo working on base layer of the pavement. The concrete barriers are used to prevent vehicles from entering the work zone.

IMG05735-20130310-1531Both northbound and southbound traffic were using the northbound side of the road. The median island separating NB and SB sides of the the road is shown in the photo. The building on the right is actually a condemned structure.

IMG05736-20130310-1531Concrete pavement has been laid out along the SB lanes but was still undergoing curing.

IMG05737-20130310-1532Approach to the intersection with Capitol Hills Drive

Yesterday, I was able to take a few photos of the same section and found that the rehabilitated southbound lanes were already usable to traffic.

IMG05779-20130401-1146Tandang Sora junction with Luzon Avenue

IMG05780-20130401-1147Newly opened southbound lanes – 3 lanes are of PCCP but there are still construction work ongoing including drainage and sidewalk construction.

IMG05781-20130401-1147Sidewalk and median barriers are in various stages of construction along the section. I think they built barriers to anticipate problems regarding jaywalking.

IMG05782-20130401-1147Approach to the intersection with Capitol Hill Drive – one problem that needs to be solved along Tandang Sora is roadside parking. Informal settlers who own vehicles park these along the road. There are also stores, eateries and vehicle repair shops along the section that occupy sidewalks and encourage parking by customers.

Once the section is completed and with the future completion of Luzon Avenue, it is expected that traffic will increase along this section. The improved capacity of the road is also expected to ease traffic along the Capitol Hills Driver-Zuzuaregi Street route, which has become congested due to vehicles traveling between Commonwealth and C-5 whose drivers want to bypass the usually constricted Tandang Sora section.

Buses speeding along Commonwealth Avenue

Traveling along Commonwealth Avenue last Holy Thursday, we couldn’t help but notice the buses racing against each other along the wide highway. One bus speeding along the motorcycle lane almost hit a motorcycle along that lane. Traffic was free flowing and speed limits obviously were not being enforced or followed. Running at 60 kph, our vehicle was always passed by buses and cars alike, their drivers probably enjoying the wide space and the knowledge that there will be few if any traffic enforcers along Commonwealth. We saw a few underneath the Tandang Sora flyover but they were relaxed and seem to turn a blind eye over speeding violations along the highway. The video below was taken last Thursday and showed three buses speeding along Commonwealth, occupying lanes that they are not supposed to be using (Note: Public transport are supposed to run along the two outermost lanes of the highway marked with yellow lines.)