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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!

Submersible bridge in Montalban

Last May, we went to a zoo in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal. Using Waze for directions to the zoo, the app took us to a submersible bridge across the wide Marikina River from the main highway (M.H. Del Pilar) to the mainly residential area where the zoo was located. Following are photos of the submersible bridge and the newer more conventional bridge located a little further down the highway.

Submersible bridge connecting Barangay San Rafael with Barangay San Isidro

The “all-weather” bridge as seen from the submersible

There are many bridges like this submersible one across the country. Many were built as weirs or dams that could be used as bridges when the water level allowed it but could let water pass above it during wetter days. Incidentally, there’s one along a popular alternative route between Quezon City and Marikina in Tumana. That bridge can be impassable during times of heavy rains.

Opposition to C-6

There had been no significant developments for the Circumferential Road 6 (C-6) not counting the road widening and concreting along the sections at Lupang Arenda in Taytay, Rizal. Meanwhile along its lakeside alignment in Taguig, a 2-lane road has been constructed apparently as part of the widening of the section for what maybe a future 4-lane road with a median island dividing opposing flows of traffic.

img_3866Sign apparently put up by this residential subdivision’s homeowners’ association

img_3865Close-up of the sign shows opposition by the residents to the proposed C6 alignment to pass through their homes.

I haven’t heard or read about anything new or updates about C-6. It seems to be tied to other projects including a proposed elevated tollway along the shores of the Laguna de Bay. The alignment though to the north seem to be unresolved and will definitely be a big concern for many developed residential areas including those in the Province of Rizal.

Calamba-Binangonan boat ride

A niece posted on social media about a boat ride she took from Calamba, Laguna to Binangonan, Rizal. I immediately became curious about this as this presented an alternative mode of transport across the Laguna de Bay that could significantly cut travel time between major towns in Laguna and Rizal. Perhaps a boat ride could also cut substantial minutes between these provinces and Manila if only there was a direct connection or service with the Pasig River Ferry. I learned that it cost 50 pesos for a 45-minute trip from Calamba and Binangonan. Both the cost and the travel time are significantly less than what it would take via land and the roads connecting the two towns. I would estimate that the travel time using the South Luzon Expressway, Circumferential Road 6, Eastbank Road and Manila East Road would probably take more than 2 hours and the tolls alone will cost much more than 50 pesos. And this was via private transport. It would be longer and more expensive using public transport considering also that a person would have to make several transfers to travel between Calamba and Binangonan.

img_3465Outrigger ferrying people and goods across the Laguna de Bay (photo courtesy of Zarah Bombio)

The boats are practically the same ones that ferry people to and from Talim Island and my niece mentioned that there is a regular service of at least one boat every hour. Certainly this option should be considered by transport planners as they think of alternative modes for more efficient travel.

Is Antipolo ripe for high capacity and premium transit services?

About 5 years ago, I wrote about transport in Antipolo in another blog. The article was more about this old city being a major destination attracting people for pilgrimage (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) and tourism (e.g.,  Hinulugang Taktak). I am quoting from that article from 5 years ago and adding a few comments here and there. Note that for most of the article, nothing much has changed except perhaps that the Line 2 extension from Santolan to Masinag is now underway.

“There are now many ways from Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces to Antipolo, although several of these eventually merge into three main roads en route to the Shrine. One is via the old route along Ortigas Avenue, a second is the route via Sumulong Highway, and the third is through a “back door” via the Antipolo-Teresa Road. Routes from the general areas of Manila, Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Taguig and the southern cities of Metro Manila and towns from Laguna, Batangas and Cavite will most likely merge to Ortigas Avenue. Meanwhile, people coming from Quezon City, Caloocan, Marikina, Bulacan, Pampanga and the northern Rizal towns of San Mateo and Rodriguez (Montalban) will likely converge along Sumulong Highway. Meanwhile, those coming from the east including the Rizal towns like Tanay, Teresa, Morong, and Jala-jala, the Laguna towns like Paete, Pakil, Pangil, the Quezon towns of Luisiana, Lucban, Infanta and General Nakar, and others will most likely take the Antipolo-Teresa Road that climbs from the east of Antipolo. People from Marikina, Cainta and Pasig generally may take either the Ortigas or the Marcos Highway/Sumulong Highway route.”

I didn’t mention there that another backdoor was via Marcos Highway if one were coming directly from Tanay instead of through Teresa. This route is now popular and traffic has been steadily increasing due in part to some additional attractions in that part of Antipolo and Tanay.

“Public transport to Antipolo these days include mostly jeepneys as the city is the end point of many routes – a testament to its importance even as a reference point for public transportation. One can easily spot the Antipolo-Cubao jeepneys in the Araneta Center in the Cubao business district in Quezon City. There are two lines, one via Cainta Junction (where jeepneys eventually turn to Ortigas Avenue) and another via Marcos Highway, turning at the Masinag Junction towards Sumulong Highway). Another terminal is at the EDSA Central near the Ortigas Center in Mandaluyong where Antipolo-Crossing jeepneys are queued. And still there is another, albeit somewhat informal terminal near Jose Rizal University (JRU, which was formerly a college and hence the old JRC endpoint), which passes through Shaw Boulevard, Meralco Avenue and eventually turns towards Ortigas Avenue. Other jeepneys from the Rizal towns all have routes ending in Antipolo Simbahan, referring to the shrine.”

There are also UV Express and shuttle vans (legitimate vans for hire or colorum operations) offering express trips between Antipolo and the same end points of Cubao or Crossing. Others go all the way to Makati in the Ayala financial district. These evolved out of the Tamaraw FX taxis that started charging fixed fares during the 1990’s and competed directly with the jeepneys. These are popular, however, with office employees and students during weekdays and the nature of their ownership and operations do make them serious competitors to the jeepneys even during the merry month of May (fiesta period) and the Lenten Holy Week.

“There was an Antipolo Bus Line before. These were the red buses that plied routes between Antipolo and Divisoria in Manila. These died out sometime between the late 80’s and the early 90’s probably due to decreasing profitability and likely because of its competition with the jeepneys. That bus company, along with the green-colored G-Liners, the red EMBCs (Eastern Metropolitan Bus Co.) and CERTs, and the blue Metro Manila Transit Corp. buses used to form a formidable mass transport system for Rizal and the eastern towns of Metro Manila. There were even mini-buses (one I recall were the Antipolo “baby” buses and those that plied routes betwen Binangonan and Recto with the cassette tapes stacked along the bus dashboard). Most of these, except the G-Liners eventually succumbed to the jeepneys.”

At present, there is another bus company operating along Ortigas Ave and the Manila East Road – RRCG. There is also a revival of the EMBC with buses providing transport services between Quiapo and Tanay. The only other bus is the inter-provincial Raymond Transit, which operates between Crossing, Mandaluyong and Infanta, Quezon via Antipolo, Teresa, Morong and Tanay.

“In the future, perhaps the jeepneys should give way to buses as the latter will provide a higher level and quality of service along Ortigas Avenue and Marcos and Sumulong Highways. Already in the drawing boards is a plan to ultimately extend LRT Line 2, which currently terminates at Santolan, Pasig, to Masinag Junction and then have a branch climb along Sumulong Highway and terminate near the shrine. This will bring back the trains to Antipolo and would surely make the church and the city very accessible to people. I look forward to these developments both in my capacity as a transportation researcher-engineer and a Catholic who also visits the Shrine to pray for safe travel for loved ones and myself.”

This proposition for rationalizing public transport to/from Antipolo and other towns of Rizal plus Marikina is all the more important as the Line 2 extension from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo is currently underway. There is an opportunity here to upgrade public transport following the hierarchy of transport modes. I have noticed, for example, electric and conventional tricycles providing what are basically feeder services but along Marcos Highway between Cogeo and Masinag. And a lot of people have been stranded or have difficulty getting a jeepney or UV express ride along the Marcos Highway corridor. I am aware that the DOTC in the previous administration was mulling an express bus service through Marcos and Sumulong Highways terminating and turning around at Robinsons Place Antipolo. That, of course, never happened but is something that I think is worthwhile and would be beneficial to a lot of commuters.