Caught (up) in traffic

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Ortigas Center congestion

A couple of Thursdays ago, I was in the Ortigas CBD area to attend a conference on statistics. I hitched a ride with an old friend who was also going there and so we had some time to catch up on life and other topics we usually talked about since our college days. Being on the passenger seat also meant I had some opportunities to take photos of the traffic situation in the vicinity of the venue of our conference. Here are some photos I took of traffic in the Galleria – ADB area as we drove along ADB Avenue.

Congestion along ADB Avenue across from Robinsons. The ADB building is shown ahead of the vehicles.

Most of the vehicles turned out to be turning towards Guadix and headed for Poveda. These are traffic generated by the exclusive school where most if not all students’ mode of transport is by car. This causes much of the congestion in the area at this time of day as well as during dismissals in the noontime and afternoon.

Vehicles bound for Poveda (building is in the background) and EDSA.

View of Ortigas bound vehicles filed along Sapphire Road – this photo was taken at the bridgeway connecting Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. The relatively uncontested road is the Robinsons’ driveway.

The photos show how dependent to cars many people working in the Ortigas CBD are. Many of them live outside of the CBD including those residing in the Rizal towns to the east of Metro Manila. The number of people using their own cars put so much strain on the major thoroughfares including and perhaps especially Ortigas Avenue, which serves as a main arterial connecting the CBD to many parts of Pasig, Quezon City (via C5) and the very progressive towns of Rizal Province such as Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo City.

It is a wonder why up to now, there is no mass transit system along Ortigas Avenue when the demand is very high and continuous to increase with the development of lands along it.  SM, Robinsons and Megawide are among the major players now developing their plots of land to become high density commercial/office/residential areas. And these will surely translate into more trips generated and worse traffic congestion. Perhaps the mayors of Pasig, Cainta, Taytay and Antipolo plus the governor of Rizal can get together to discuss and agree about solutions where each LGU can contribute for the betterment of their constituents’ commutes?

The Barkadahan Bridge situation

The Barkadahan Bridge is currently undergoing rehabilitation. To be accurate, the old bridge is being rehabilitated and upgraded/retrofitted to be able to carry the traffic projected to use it being a vital link between the Province of Rizal and Metro Manila via Pasig and the C-6 corridor. The bridge is named after the “friendship” established among Rizal municipalities and Pasig City for an area that has been subject of a territorial dispute among them. These are the municipalities of Cainta and Taytay (Rizal Province) and the city of Pasig. The bridge spans the Manggahan Floodway, much of which is in Pasig City.

To increase the capacity for this crossing, which is the most direct route to C-6 and popular among many headed to Taguig/BGC and Makati, a new bridge had been constructed to the south of the old one. The older one had 2 traffic lanes and was no longer sufficient for the volume of vehicles crossing it after the expansion of C-6 resulting to it steadily gaining more users over the years. Use of this route cut down travel times between Rizal and BGC and Makati by at least 30 minutes based on our experiences using the route.

Late last year as far as I could recall, the new bridge opened and immediately increased capacity but then congestion quickly set-in due to two factors: the traffic management at the intersection with the East Bank Road and the constrained (two-lane, two-way) leg of Highway 2000. Add to this the lack of discipline by local traffic in the form of tricycles and motorcycles counter-flowing in the area.

Earlier this year, signs were posted around Rizal about the then impending project for the rehabilitation of the old bridge. The signs advised for most travellers to avoid using the Barkadahan Bridge due to the congestion in the area because of the project. It turns out that what was thought by most as a project retrofitting the old bridge alone was actually a bigger one involving increasing the capacity of the Highway 2000 leg of the intersection with the East Bank Road. Following is a photo posted at the official Facebook page of the Rizal Provincial Government showing the demolition of buildings and other structures along the Highway 2000 leg. The photos were taken from the new Barkadahan Bridge approaching the intersection, the southbound direction of the East Bank Road, and from the westbound side of Highway 2000.

Demolition and clearing of ROW for the expansion of Highway 2000 in relation to Barkadahan Bridge [Photo collage from the Lalawigan ng Rizal Facebook page]

From the photos above, it is clear that at least 2 lanes will be added to Highway 2000 and that this leg will soon be well-aligned with the Barkadahan Bridge, which will also have a total of 4 lanes. Hopefully, this project will be completed soon and within the year (before December?) in order to alleviate the commuting woes of Rizalenos working in the BGC and Makati CBD areas. Of course, that goes without saying that there is also a need to optimise the traffic signals at the intersection and to strictly enforce traffic rules and regulations vs. erring motorists in the area.

On the impacts of the closure of the Marcos Highway Bridge

The Marcos Highway Bridge was scheduled for rehabilitation in the next four months starting last week. While it will not be totally closed to traffic, the scheme reducing its capacity will surely lead to congestion along Marcos Highway. This congestion should be expected along other roads as well, as travellers, particularly those taking private transport will be using alternative routes in order to avoid this area. Those coming from the east will likely go through Marikina City via the parallel route comprised of Sumulong Highway and A. Bonifacio Avenue. Others will turn to A. Rodriguez (Ligaya). And perhaps others may go via Ortigas Avenue Extension. These alternative routes correspond to the other bridges crossing the Marikina River connecting the Rizal province and part of Marikina and Pasig to Metro Manila.

A photo of the bridge prior to its partial closure

I will write more on this topic once I get more information on what’s happening to the traffic in the area. Meanwhile, I do know that my usual alternative route via Marikina and Tumana seems to have more than the usual traffic during my commute. While it is easy to attribute this to the partial closure of the Marcos Highway bridge, this could also be just a normal variation in the typical daily traffic for that route.

Visits Iglesia itinerary?

I spotted this ad at a nearby SM mall listing churches that can be part of a Visita Iglesia itinerary in the Province of Rizal. I took the following photos showing the major churches in the province. These include old churches found in the older towns including those in Morong (ca. 1620), Taytay (ca. 1630), Pililla (ca. 1672), Baras (ca. 1686), San Mateo (ca. 1716), Tanay (ca. 1783),  and Binangonan (ca. 1800). Antipolo has one old church – Boso Boso Church (ca. 1669). The Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage while being the more famous of the two was completed in 1954. The first church though was completed in 1632 but was destroyed several times due to unrest, earthquakes and the Second World War. Cainta also had an old church (ca. 1707) that was destroyed several times including during WW2, and the new church was completed in 1968.

We’ve visited many of these churches before but are no longer into the Visita Iglesia considering our experiences of traffic congestion the past years when this tradition became more of a tourist thing or gig. We’d rather go to a nearby church to pray or stay at home to enjoy the peace and quiet; not to mention the comforts of being at home.

C-6 expansion and upgrading on the way…

The opening of the second Barkadahan Bridge prodded me to post something about C-6. It is a work in progress but currently you can see the progress that is quite noticeable unlike before. Here are a couple of photos we took while en route to BGC last weekend.

Ongoing paving along C-6 for the westbound side of the highway. The photo shows recently completed PCCP slabs for 2 lanes. Forms are visible in the photo. 

Other sections have had their base compacted and ready for concrete pouring.

As a regular user of C-6 since 2014, I am one of those who look forward to the completion of its expansion and upgrading. There is also something to look forward to for cyclists and pedestrians/joggers/runners as there is a wide bikeway and segregated walkway being constructed along the side of right side of the future eastbound side of the highway. This should encourage non-motorised traffic along this corridor that directly connects Taguig, Pateros, Pasig and Taytay and extends to serve the southern part of Metro Manila, Makati City and the province of Rizal.

The newly opened 2nd Barkadahan Bridge

A new bridge had been under construction beside the older Barkadahan Bridge. Instead of expanding the existing bridge, the proponents decided to build another bridge likely so as to reduce disturbance of traffic along the already congested first bridge. This is the same strategy for the bridge across the Pasig River in Nagpayong/Napindan that will reduce the potential bottleneck for when C-6’s expansion is completed. Unfortunately, the bridges don’t seem to include provisions for exclusive bicycle lanes that are clearly incorporated along much of C-6.

I took this photo as we were in queue at the approach to the intersection of Highway 2000 and the Manggagan Floodway’s East Bank Road. The new bridge can be seen here bearing eastbound traffic. The alignment at the intersection has not been addressed and so requires through traffic to basically swerve towards the entry to Highway 2000.

Here’s the intersection and the newly opened bridge. Note the vehicles coming towards my position as they follow a trajectory from the bridge to the narrow exit leg of Highway 2000.

Instead of a single lane along each direction, the two bridges now allow for at least 2 lanes of traffic either way. I say at least because a case can be made for 3 lanes to be indicated (there are no lane markings yet). The issue here though is that there is significant truck traffic crossing the bridge and two trucks traveling beside each other easily occupies the entire bridge. Thus, maybe a wide two lanes can be designated for both bridges with an opportunistic third lane forming depending on the traffic.

On the transportation aspects of Antipolo’s pitch for the senate to relocate there

I was browsing Facebook the other day and found an interesting post by the Antipolo City Government’s official account. They posted about the presentation made by the current mayor to the staff of the Philippine Senate, selling the idea for the Senate to relocate from its current location in Pasay City. There are currently two options known to us: Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City and Antipolo City in Rizal Province.

The Antipolo government’s post stated that it only takes 25 minutes between the the Batasan Complex and the proposed site, which is on land owned by the Antipolo City Government. This was probably based on travel time estimate using a tool such as Open Street Map. This though is inaccurate since travel times are affected by various factors and will vary according to time of day, day of the week and even month.

Open Street Map visualization of travel route and time between Batasan Complex and the proposed site for the Senate

 

Google Maps visualization of alternative routes and typical travel times

 

I took the preceding screen captures at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2017 (Friday). Open Street Map’s version can be misleading because it states a travel time assuming practically no traffic (~26 km in 27 minutes or about 58 km/hr in terms of travel speed). Google Maps version is better as it accounts for typical traffic during a certain time of travel (i.e., 10AM). Thus, there’s the more realistic 1 hour travel time for the same distance (about 26 km/hr travel speed). Google’s is based on crowdsourced data and can be customized based on the day and time of travel (e.g., 8:00 AM on a Monday). And I wouldn’t even want to get into the discussion of the accuracy of the claimed 40-45 minutes to/from the airport (i.e., NAIA). Again, anyone with Waze or Google Maps can get more realistic travel time estimates for such trips.

What would be the transport impacts of such a relocation. For one, employees of the Senate (and I am not even considering the Senators and their closest staff here) would have to travel from their residences to the proposed site in Cabading, Antipolo City. Where do these staff live? If they were from Manila and they take public transport, that probably means they would have to take the LRT Line 2 to Masinag and then take a jeepney from Masinag to the site. Line 2 would present the most efficient option in terms of travel time and cost compared to taking a jeepney or van via Cubao. I am not aware of any direct transport services for them although we can speculate that perhaps new routes can be established. The Senate has shuttle buses so these would also be an option for those taking public transport. Car owners will have to travel and converge along Marcos Highway. It is uncertain when the extension to Cogeo will be decided and constructed, if at all.

There is also mention of the plans for Circumferential Road 6 (C-6). However, the reality is that government is taking its time in upgrading the existing sections in Taguig, Pasig and Taytay. The Taguig sections are in a very bad state now after the onset of the wet season. Dealing with the ROW acquisitions necessary for planned C-6 sections is already a big challenge as the areas are already built up or developed (mostly residential subdivisions).

Having the Senate complex in Antipolo will have repercussions on land use/development as well as land prices and rent. It will be located at a relatively undeveloped part of the city and will likely encourage urbanization there. Antipolo should be careful in regulating land development so that the area will not become another Batasan with all the informal settlements and the low density developments around it. There are many opportunities here to develop the area into a showcase government center and that should include planned development for residential, commercial and institutional uses. The housing options should include affordable walk-up apartments as well as medium rise buildings like those by DMCI and Filinvest. It is important to emphasize that options for affordable housing near the workplace cannot be provided in Fort Bonifacio since land and residential unit prices there are already very expensive; forcing most Senate staff to live outside and away from their offices. Such a situation necessitates long commutes and contributes to congestion.

To be fair, there is a good potential for congestion reduction if the Senate relocates to Antipolo. Perhaps the concept of a “New Town” in the proposed site can be developed in more detail. But questions arise: Will this attract major schools, for example, as well as offices such as BPOs? What is definite is that Antipolo will not be the only LGU that will benefit (economically) here but perhaps much of the Province of Rizal, too, as well as the nearby cities of Marikina and Pasig.

Decongestion can happen if:
a) Senate staff decide to move to Antipolo and environs (e.g., Marikina, Cainta, Tanay, etc.).
b) A significant number of staff reside at the proposed dormitories during much of the weekdays, and go home only for the weekends and holidays.
c) Efficient public transport is provided for them and Antipolo constituents along the corridor to be served.
d) Sustainable transport facilities like walkways and bikeways be developed to reduce dependence on motorized transport especially for short distance travel.

In the end, though, I think it will be the Senators who will be making the decision on this matter. Will they be more practical, pragmatic, or insensitive to the consideration of their staffs? Abangan!