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Tag Archives: Rail Transport
Antipolo Station of the old railway line
For readers who are interested in the old railway line to Antipolo, please look at the comments section of this old post from November 2012:
What if Manila retained its old railway lines?
Someone (Thank You!) posted about the Antipolo Station, which is the last one along the line and the station closest to Antipolo Church. While the remnants of the old station at Hinulugang Taktak is well preserved and safe (for now) from any future developments, what remains of the old Antipolo Station is now in danger of being demolished. Antipolo and the DPWH are widening the circumferential road located in the area and based on the dimensions of the sections already completed at Siete Media beside the Robinsons mall, the remains of the old station structure may be lost as well.
In my opinion, the city should preserve this part of its history that is also a part of our railway heritage. While such road widening projects may be important, retaining this piece of history is equally relevant as it provides us with a perspective of the past (i.e., how people travelled, what were their destinations of interest, etc.) and learn some lessons about this (e.g., why we should not have wholly abandoned rail for road transport).
Straddling bus prototype?
What was peddled as a unique public transport mode concept in social media is now a reality. Check out the article and video here:
China’s Futuristic Straddling Bus Is Finally Here
This is a welcome development for public transportation. However, some issues need to be addressed, particularly regarding road safety. Motorists traveling under the straddling bus may have reactions to the vehicle as it passes above them and such may lead to road crashes. Of course, with the advent of driverless vehicles such incidents may be minimised if not altogether eliminated.
Line 2 Extension construction at full swing
The construction of the LRT Line 2 Extension from Santolan, Pasig City to Masinag, Antipolo City is now in full swing. The contractor, DM Consunji, Inc., has occupied several lanes of Marcos Highway and the reduced capacity of the highway has led to moderate to severe congestion along sections from Ligaya to Masinag. At certain times, construction work required more space than the 2 lanes usually occupied by construction equipment and materials. Following are a few photos of the project showing various stages in the construction of the Line 2 extension.
Section in front of SM Masinag also showing the pedestrian overpass across Marcos Highway
Section in front of Vermont Royal Executive Village also showing a newly constructed pedestrian overpass that looks like it will be cleared by the elevated tracks.
Columns under construction along Marcos Highway across from Golden Meadows Subdivision.
Columns completed and under construction across Town & Country Executive Village – the photo also shows another pedestrian overpass but from the completed column its clear that modifications aren’t needed for the overpass.
Construction at the current end of the elevated tracks at Santolan, Pasig City
Construction works are expected to go on for at least a year before the trains can start test runs along the new tracks. This is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of commuting along this corridor once the extension becomes operational and hopefully DOTC is already planning an extension further towards Cogeo or perhaps branch out to Marikina via Sumulong Highway.
EDSA MRT 3 chronicles
A friend referred an article to me today and I thought it would be a very good read to a lot of people interested in what has happened and what is happening to the EDSA MRT 3. I think that this article is so far the most comprehensive, not-necessary-legal treatment of events leading to what we now have as a mass transit system along arguably the country’s busiest thoroughfare:
On a clear day you can see the MRT
It’s a must read for a lot of people who want to know about the dealings related to MRT 3 and perhaps understand how complex this has become. I would also recommend people read the very good discussions in the comment section of the article. It’s good to see the healthy exchange of opinions rather than have trolls ruin them.
Some advantages of rail over road transport
In my previous article, I mentioned how rail transport is important as part of a country’s transport system, particularly on land. I also mentioned a study conducted by our undergraduate students that was completed back in April 2012.
Our students conducted a simple survey, as part of their research, to determine the travel times and costs for public transportation between several origin-destination pairs. These O-D pairs were selected to simulate costs and travel times of commutes using either primarily rail or all road transport. Note the choices of either ‘school’ or ‘office’ paired with ‘home’ somewhere in the south of Metro Manila.
Travel time comparisons for commutes using road and rail public transportation – ‘Road’ refers to the entire commute using road-based transport (i.e., buses and jeepneys) while ‘Rail’ refers to commutes utilizing mainly the PNR but with road transport used in the end parts of the journeys (e.g., jeepney ride from near the PNR Espana Station to UST).
Travel cost comparisons for commutes using road and rail public transportation
Relevant to understanding the above are the following
- Fare rates have changed since 2012. However, this presents a constant change over the fares that are being compared so the basic differences will remain the same across origin-destination pairs.
- PNR services had to be discontinued for some time due to derailments because of poor conditions of tracks.
- Road traffic has worsened since 2012 with several “carmaggedon” episodes showing how vulnerable commuters are when using solely road transport.
- Road public transport services are frequent and practically 24/7. PNR services are of very limited frequency. Waiting times for the trains typically add to travel times in the form of delays, which make commuting by rail an unattractive option due to their unreliability of service.
Railway network for the Philippines?
We start November with an article about railways. There seems to be a lot of buzz about rail these days including talks about the prospects of a subway line in Metro Manila and long distance north-south lines for Luzon Island. These projects, though, will take a lot of time to be constructed and operational, even if these projects started immediately (i.e., next year). That is perhaps one reason why these projects need to be implemented sooner rather than later. And the more these projects are delayed, they become more expensive and also difficult to build (e.g., there are other developments such as roads that may hamper rail and other mass transit projects).
I had a couple of students who did research a little over three years ago on the state and operations of the Philippine National Railways (PNR). Aside from the research manuscript, their work has not been published. The results, however, seems quite appropriate these days as the country and Metro Manila in particular grapples with problems pertaining to commuting that is dominated by road-based transport. I will write about their results here but only show some excerpts as we intend to have part of their work published.
As a first salvo, here’s a map that they were able to get from the Philippine National Railways (PNR). The map shows current and proposed railway lines throughout the country. These include the PNR Main Line South (MLS), which extended to Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Albay. There is also what used to be the PNR Main Line North (MLN) that extended to Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union. Panay Railways, the only other long distance railway system aside from the PNR as late as the late 1970s, is also in the map along with the proposed Mindanao Railways.
This map was provided by the PNR and likely includes data coming from the Rail Transport Planning Division of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). Contrary to the perception of many in the current administration, a lot of railway planning was conducted by past administration and many were sound ideas that justified feasibility studies. As usual, the main obstacle for railways would be the competition with road transport. It was road transport and the construction of expressways and other highways, after all, that dealt the PNR its decline (and death in the case of the MLN) to what remains today.
[Reference: Paragas, L.K.B. and Rañeses, M.K.Q. (2012) Assessment of the Philippine National Railways Commuter Line System, Undergraduate Research Final Report, April 2012.]
Transport in times of rains and insensitive statements
How important is a good public transport system? Part of the definition of a good public transport system is that it should be an all-weather system. This means that even if there is inclement weather, the system would still be functioning and able to ferry people between their homes, workplaces, schools and other destinations. Of course, the exception here would be the times when there are extreme weather conditions like typhoons passing through cities. The rains today and past other days reminds us how difficult it is to commute even when you have your own vehicle. Those who opt to use their own cars now encounter severe traffic congestion with increasing frequencies while those with only public transport as their choice usually have difficulty getting a ride home.
Commuters on the carriageway trying to get a ride home – many brave the strong rains to get ahead of others
It is not just unfortunate but rather depressing that Metro Manila and other major Philippine cities have no efficient public transport systems. The current modes of transport are road-based and dominated by paratransit including jeepneys, multicabs and tricycles. The state of disrepair of the PNR and MRT3, the much-delayed extensions of LRT1 and LRT2, and the much-delayed construction of MRT7 and BRT lines all contribute to the hellish commutes people experience everyday. Combine these with what experts regard as deficient station plaza designs that have led to inefficient transfers between the trains and road-based transport. It is no wonder that a person on bicycle can beat a commuter on a trip between Trinoma in Quezon City and a university in Manila considering the state of MRT3 and the poor transfer conditions between MRT3 and LRT1. This won’t likely be the case in Singapore or Tokyo where the proper hierarchies of transport are well established and with the necessary facilities to support their people-friendly systems.
What’s more depressing, frustrating and disappointing (if its possible to feel all three simultaneously) is how transport officials, including and especially the top official of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), apparently see our transport woes as “not fatal”. Is it really “not fatal”? Increases in the incidence of respiratory diseases due to the increased emissions are attributable to mobile sources (vehicles) and the long hours of road traffic congestion. The increase in the number of fatal road crashes as reported by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is also attributable to a significant increase in traffic volumes. One comment on social media was right on the dot on emergency cases ending up dying due to the ambulances being unable to make it to the hospitals in time for their passengers’ treatments.
And so, there were renewed calls for transport officials to get out of their chauffeured cars and take regular public transport between their homes and offices. The dares include riding the MRT3 during the peak periods and actually experiencing the queues and the crowded platforms and trains. It is no wonder that the image of the Dutch ambassador riding his bicycle to his office has been a popular share in social media because a lot of people feel that leaders should be examples themselves on how each one of us can pitch in to solve transport and traffic problems. Attempts by some government officials (including the top official of the transport department) to ride the MRT3, for example, are met with much criticism because they are given special treatment – they skip the lines and have bodyguards escorting them and clearing the way and space for them to ride comfortably. Clearly, this is not what the common commuter experiences everyday when he or she would have to use something short of MMA skills to get a ride.
Are we helpless against such insensitivity of our officials, many of whom are politicians and professionals associated with oligarchs? Not totally. And next year’s elections offer the commuting public a chance to express what they think about transport in this country and in their cities and municipalities by making transport and traffic urgent issues that need to be addressed and prioritized. Will you vote for candidates who had a hand in the continuing deterioration of transport in the Philippines and who consistently dismiss transport and traffic issues as secondary and just a by-product of non-inclusive economic growth? I surely won’t and will be very critical of candidates’ platforms and proposed programs should they win and become the leaders of this land. A big part of those programs should be how to address transport and traffic issues especially the deficiencies in infrastructure. Addressing these pressing issues on transport and traffic will go a long way in improving the quality of life of Filipinos and ensure a sustainable and inclusive growth for the country.
The LRT Line 2 Extension gets underway
A lot of people have been waiting to see the construction of the LRT Line 2 extension from Santolan in Pasig City to Masinag in Antipolo City. Right after the groundbreaking ceremony last June, there seemed to be no activity along the alingment that was the center of Marcos Highway. Actually, there were already activities as the contractor already deployed personnel to do some surveys including marking the locations of the columns that will support the elevated tracks.
The past week saw the contractor setting up a work zone in the middle of Marcos Highway and stretching from across Robinsons Metro East and McDonalds. The work area included what was the opening for the Felix Avenue-Marcos Highway intersection. This is probably one of the busiest if not the busiest stretches of Marcos Highway so the reduction by one lane for either direction of the highway immediately had a negative impact on traffic. Added to the highway capacity reduction in terms of the remaining available lanes is the further reduction due to the ‘usyoso’ behavor of motorists ‘inspecting’ the work zone as they pass by.
Work zone across from Robinsons Metro East – direction of traffic to Masinag (eastbound)
Work zone at the junction of Imelda Ave. (formerly Felix Avenue formerly Imelda Ave.), Gil Fernando Ave. (formerly A. Tuazon Ave.) and Marcos Highway
Work zone near McDonald’s (on the other side -westbound – of Marcos Highway) and also near a major U-turn slot used by vehicles coming from Imelda Ave that are westbound
Traffic will definitely be heavy along this section and the rest of Marcos Highway once construction is at full swing. I am tempted to say that it might be worse than the NAIA expressway construction site of which the contractor is the same. I just hope the appropriate traffic management measures are implemented and that road users will be cooperative. This will likely be a couple of years’ sacrifice for anyone living along this corridor and the major roads connecting to it. Will there be a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? There should be as LRT Line 2 will finally be able to serve an area wanting of efficient and reliable public transport.
Some thoughts on the EDSA MRT 3 problem
A lot of people reacted when the current Philippine President practically absolved the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) from any fault regarding the issues on the EDSA MRT Line 3 during his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA). The main message in some articles appearing on mainstream and social media is that the President should blame DOTC for the mess. I have the opinion that both DOTC and the private entities involved (MRT Corporation, MRT Holdings) are responsible for the problem and its being continuously unresolved.
A week ago, I got the following question in my email:
Who is it that we could blame for the current state of the rail system? What do you suggest that the government or the private partner do in order for them to improve the line?
Quite frankly, I thought the first question was too direct and blunt as to ask who we can blame for the MRT3 mess. It is also very awkward to answer the second question because it assumes that I am an expert on the legal issues on this matter. I am NOT a legal expert nor would I want to pretend to be one. Here was my reply:
That’s actually a very tricky question. We can’t really blame a specific person or persons but perhaps entire organizations that are supposed to be responsible for the mess that is MRT3. The main or root issue seems to be legal and not at all technical. The technical problems experienced are manifestations of a contract that is a textbook case for how NOT to do a PPP. I am not privy to the details of the discussions between the government and the people involved and behind MRTC so it is awkward to make comments specific to this matter of the contract and all its complexities. Perhaps the DOTC wants to follow “Daang Matuwid” by not budging to the terms laid out by MRTC? Perhaps MRTC is aware of the stakes (plight of the riding public) and is using this to force DOTC into a deal that is not favorable to government? We can only speculate on this without firsthand knowledge of their discussions.
However, from the perspective of transport as a service and as a public good, I would say that MRTC indeed is aware of the public’s clamor for improvement. This is all over the news and social media in the form of commentaries, images and even videos of the undesirable experiences of those taking the MRT3. In the end, DOTC must decide whether it is all worth it to maintain the stalemate with MRTC considering that the public interest is at stake here and things will just become worse with inaction. Perhaps the government should move towards the best compromise they can live with considering the urgency of addressing the problem at hand.
I would like to think that my reply was quite cautious. There have been many allegations and claims from both sides of the table regarding how to resolve the impasse and the conflicts that seem to be interwoven with the contract on the MRT3. Perhaps such cases test the limits of “Daang Matuwid”? Much was and is expected from DOTC considering its battery of lawyers including top officials of the department. Aren’t they supposed to have been involved in discussions and negotiations aside from strategic planning for our transportation in this country? I guess the general public especially those who take the MRT3 for their commutes already know who to blame for their plight…
Daang Bakal and Antipolo’s attractions
I recently wrote about the old railway line that used to run between Manila and Antipolo via a route passing through the town of Cainta that used what was probably the gentlest slope at the time – through what is now Valley Golf, Victoria Valley and Fairmont Subdivisions. Here are some more photos along Daang Bakal, the old Manila Rail Road line that is now a road.
Daang Bakal is a scenic route and one can only imagine how this place looked like when it was still a railway line and the areas along it were still undeveloped.
Hinulugang Taktak has been designated as a National Park and the areas along Daang Bakal at least have been preserved. Users of this road are quite limited to residents of exclusive subdivisions with gates along the road and trips generated by the Immaculate Heart Parish near the Fairmont gate. Public transportation is provided by tricycles that have a terminal at the intersection of Daang Bakal and Taktak Road.
The temporary fence that was made out of tarpaulin material is now in tatters. There is road construction work ongoing though but mainly for the access roads connecting to Pinagmisahan. The concreted area at the right side of the road in the photo seems to be for parking rather than road widening. Traffic is low along Daang Bakal and will probably not require road widening for the foreseeable future.
The main entrance and facilities for Hinulugang Taktak are still closed and there seems to be no activity to indicate that the rehabilitation project is not moving at all.