Caught (up) in traffic

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Some old drawing tools for clothoids

I took some photos of old (vintage if you prefer) drawing tools that I have at our laboratory at the university. We found this in the storage many years ago and people seem to have forgotten about them. Instead of heading for storage or being forgotten or worse, thrown away, we decided to keep them at our laboratory mainly to show our students how certain highway or street curves were drawn in the ‘old days’. I am currently the custodian of this and another set that I have kept at my other office at the civil engineering building.

The wooden box is at my office at UP Diliman

The sign basically translates to clothoid drawing tools made by a company based in Setagaya in Tokyo. There are 14 instruments in the box for clothoid parameter values of A = 20m to 350m.

Opening the box shows slots holding instruments for drawing clothoids or spiral curves

Some of the instruments from the case – the large one on top is for A = 300m and 350m (scale 1:1000)

Comparison of size of instruments for (top) A = 60m and 65m, and (bottom) A = 30m and 35m (scale 1:1000)

Instrument for A = 30m and 35m (Scale 1:1000)

A protractor came along with the set but I assume other instruments such as a compass were used in drawing/drafting the curves.

I shall take photos of the other set when I get to visit the other office. These will be for records purposes as well as for posterity. These are practically museum pieces that are now perhaps rarely if even used.

Is the concept of induced demand a hard sell?

Here’s a quick share of an article on ‘induced demand’ particularly why it appears to be a hard sell:

Blumgart, J. (February 28, 2022) “Why the concept of induced demand is a hard sell,” Governing, [Last accessed: 3/8/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Transportation experts say that the way to defeat induced demand, and actually ease traffic, would be to price roadways through tolls and congestion fees. But such alternatives are not popular. It’s hard to imagine running a political campaign on such a promise, as opposed to pledging an answer that looks free and easy… “Highway expansion is an attractive project regardless of your political orientation or what the state of the economy is,” says Thigpen. “There’s always a good argument for why we should be expanding highways. We need more jobs, or we need to unlock economic opportunity. There’s always a good political argument in favor of that.”

That last statement there relating highway or road expansion to politics is relevant everywhere. In our case in the Philippines, politicians are perceived to be very conservative and the type to use road projects as accomplishments. They are not as progressive as politicians abroad who may have the backgrounds and/or advocacies relating to sustainable transport to pursue the more difficult programs and projects needed improve the transport system. Instead, most are content with projects that they can put their name on and claim as hard accomplishments. Many of their constituents appear to agree. And agencies like the DPWH are only too happy to support this never-ending road construction and widening projects with the length of roads and the number of lanes added being their metrics for success. Of course, these (e.g., understanding and how to address induced demand, performance metrics, etc.) need to change if we really want to transform our transportation system towards something more efficient for everyone’s benefit.

Traffic along EDSA? Can we still widen this road? No, we can’t so we need something better than being dependent on cars. Incidentally, MMDA is planning to bring back motorcycle lanes along EDSA. Currently there are also bike lanes along either side of this road; a product of the pandemic that is now under threat of being removed.
Morning rush traffic along Commonwealth Avenue prior to the MRT 7 construction. What used to be 10 lanes per direction has been reduced but we still don’t know if Line 7’s eventual operation will make a dent on this congestion.

An opinion on sharrows

We conclude November 2021 with an article about shared lanes or shared right-of-way (thus, the term ‘sharrow’). These are lanes designated for use of both motorized vehicles and bicycles. I share many of the sentiments of the writer and there are many ways to go about to have legitimate, separate and maybe protected bike lanes for multi-lane roads (yes, the kind DPWH has been so keen in having along many national roads) should be the rule. For local roads/streets, however, there might be a need to compromise.

Flax, P. (November 7, 2021) “Why Sharrows are Bullshit,” Medium, [Last accessed: 11/30/2021]

I think the issue at the local level in the Philippines is that many roads are already quite narrow and cannot really accommodate bike lanes unless you ban motorized vehicles from using them (e.g., pedestrianization of certain roads/streets). While you cannot really close off so many roads, careful study by local governments should identify which streets can be pedestrianized over a certain period (i.e., phases) while others have shared lanes to accommodate the needs of residents and commercial establishments.

Image of Ruhale Street in Taguig City, Metro Manila (Base map: Google Street View, 2021)
Rough sketches for the section’s transformation (Base map: Google Street View)

The above is just an example and should be subject to scientific or evidence-based assessments if such is indeed feasible. This can also provide an opportunity for education as people (i.e., road users) generally don’t understand the need for active transport facilities including what we assume to be common knowledge about the need for sidewalks, for example. Of course, other interventions may be implemented in order to “calm” traffic. Streets that are predominantly residential should have 20 kph tops as the speed limit. If such speed limits can be achieved and enforced then perhaps we can have safer streets, too, not just for cyclists but pedestrians as well.

On the STAR Tollway, some recent photos

A trip earlier this year allowed me to take a few photos of the STAR Tollway. STAR stands for Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, which was what the expressway was before it became a tollway. I have memories of this being a regular highway in the early 1990s. Then, it was still a two lane road and there were even animals walking around and at times crossing the highway. Later, even after it became an expressway, the ROW was still not secured (i.e., fenced) so motorists would regularly encounter animals creating unsafe situations to both.

Approaching the entrance to the STAR Tollway
Toll plaza at the entry
Speed limits – the maximum speed limit is 100 kph while the minimum speed limit is 60 kph. There is an interesting sign just before the speed limits. It states “No overtaking on impulse”.
Typical overpass for traffic crossing the tollway
Rest stop – there are only Petron stations along either direction of the tollway. San Miguel owns Petron and operates the tollway
A typical curve section
Sight distance requirements are satisfied for straight, level segments like this.
Typical off-ramp from the tollway

Noticeable in the photos are the wide medians. These are typically used for expansion (i.e., additional lanes) when the time comes that the capacity of the tollway is no longer enough to cater to the demand. Both the NLEX and SLEX used to have these wide medians that are now part of the motorway. Are there alternate uses or purposes for this median? Perhaps, and this has been done abroad, one could fit bicycle paths there? Or maybe install solar panels to generate power? Or maybe do both?

On riders’ perception of safety

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the US Department of Transportation released some infographics recently to highlight road safety. One very timely and relevant graphic image asks about which facilities make bicycle riders feel safer:

There were some initial reactions when I shared this on social media with one immediately criticizing share-use paths and citing the one along Marcos Highway (stretch under Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo) as an example. I quickly explained that the graphic assumes good designs instead of the flawed one along Marcos Highway. In fact, the shared use path is also quite popular in Europe and particularly in the Netherlands where they have many examples of these paths stretching for kilometers that are exclusive to active transport (pedestrians and cyclists). The good designs need to be shared and circulated so people will know about what they look like and learn about their features. These can be adopted and adapted to local situations.

Did you notice the images of cyclists/riders at the top of the graphic? These are important, too, because they provide context in terms of the type of riders who are the targets for infrastructure and campaigns that support and promote cycling across different types of people. Cycling shouldn’t just be for the most fit or the weekend warriors but rather for everyone who could take it up and not just for recreation but for everyday, utilitarian use (e.g., commuting, shopping, etc.).

Are roads really designed just for cars?

The answer is no. Roads were and are built as basic infrastructure for transport no matter what the mode. However, the standards for dimensions (i.e., number of lanes, widths, etc.) are based on the motor vehicle capacity, and structural standards (i.e., thickness, strength, reinforcement, etc.) are based on the weights they are supposed to carry over their economic lives. The pavement load as it is referred to is usually based on the cumulative heavy vehicle traffic converted in terms of the equivalent standard or single axles or ESA. An ESA is 18,000 pounds or 18 kips in the English system of measurements or 8.2 metric tons in the Metric system.

A typical local road – is it really just for cars or is it also for walking and cycling? Or perhaps animal drawn transport? 

A colleague says many of the posts in social media pitting bicycles with cars are already quite OA (overacting). I tend to agree as I read how people generalize roads being car-centric. Roads have been built basically to serve a avenues for transportation. They were improved over time in order to have more efficient ways to travel by land. It didn’t hurt that vehicle technology also developed over time and bicycles somehow became less popular than the cars and motorcycles. The motorcycle itself evolved from bicycles so in a way, it is the evolved and mechanized form of the two-wheeler.

In a perfect world, people would be sharing the road space and it would be equitable among different users. In a perfect world perhaps, it won’t be car-centric as there would probably be better public transport options and transit will be efficient, reliable, comfortable and convenient to use.

The reality, however, is that we do not live in a perfect world and transformations like the ones being pitched on social media are nice but are also not as inclusive and equitable as their advocates claim them to be. I’ve always said and written that you cannot simply change transportation without also implementing changes in land use and housing in particular.

Why do we need wide roads connecting suburbs and urban areas? Why is there sprawl? Why do people live in the periphery of CBDs or the metropolis? It is not just about transport though it seems easier to focus on this. Even transportation in Japan, with Metropolitan Tokyo and its equivalent of NCR plus as a subject, needs to be properly contextualized for land use and transport interaction and development. It seems that even with a comprehensive and efficient railway network, there are still shortcomings here and there. We don’t have such a railway network (yet) so we need to find ways for easing the currently long and painful commutes many people experience on a daily basis. That means continued dependence on road-based transport and trying to implement programs and schemes to improve operations.

Post-typhoon BFCT and SM Marikina area

Still on the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) though this is already a late post about it, here are some photos at the river banks level on the side of SM Marikina and the vicinity of the transport terminal constructed and operated by the former MMDA Chair and Marikina Mayor’s company. The area is basically a flood plain and in other countries would not have been suitable for building. Rather, these are often used as open spaces like parks, football fields or baseball diamonds, among other possible uses.

There were garbage and mud everywhere. By the time I passed by, the mud had dried up and turned into fine dust that blanketed the area.

Trash were everywhere and you can see how deep the water was by the garbage still on the power line towers and the trees.

Underpass leading to SM Marikina – bulldozers and payloaders were busy moving mud and garbage to clear the roads. There were no signs of the work in progress so I ended up making a U-turn seeing the way to SM’s parking was blocked by mud and debris.

On the way back to Marcos Highway, you can see the large trees that were transferred to this area from Katipunan Avenue (when it was widened by way of removing the service road to give way to the MMDA’s U-turn scheme). It is heartening to know these survived the river’s onslaught.

Paved paradise? On pollution due to asphalt roads and parking lots

Here’s another quick share of an article mainly about asphalt as a material used for roads, parking lots and roofs:

Pullano, N. (2020) “Sun-heated streets can lead to air pollution strikes – study”, Inverse, [Last accessed: 9/6/2020]

While we have a significant number of roads with asphalt paving or surfacing, the majority of roads are of Portland cement concrete (PCC). Most lots are also PCC or gravel. And unlike in the US, most roofs here are made of galvanized iron (GI) sheets or even clay tiles.

A little bit of history – on how the US interstate highway system came to be

Here’s one of those quick shares that I usually post here. I am a bit of a history buff and mixing that with transport will likely lead to a post like this. Here is a short article about an event in the history of the US Army that happened 100 years ago: (2019) Celebrating Highway History: The US Army’s 1919 Cross-Country Convoy,, [Last accessed: July 12, 2019]

The article was particularly interesting for me because of two items: the road conditions and the man behind the US inter-state highway system. It took them a little over 2 months to cross the continental US because of poor road conditions. Many people have no sense of history and appreciation of what has been accomplished over the years and how difficult it was to travel at the time. I haven’t done the cross country trip but I have close friends who’ve done it and are thankful for the generally good roads they could use for the experiential road trip. Meanwhile, the person in the article – then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower – is a man who made his mark in history at first as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the European Theater in World War 2, who would later on become President of the US. I read elsewhere that the US interstate highway system was designed so aircraft may use them as runways in cases when the US were at war and the enemy had bombed their airports and airfields (just like what the Japanese did in the Pacific).

Do we have similar accounts for our roads and bridges in the Philippines? Were there key persons who may or may not be larger than life figures instrumental in developing our road infrastructure with their vision and leadership (Marcos doesn’t count because of his bogus military record and corrupt regime)? It would be nice to compile these and perhaps it should be a collaboration between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Historical Commission (NHC). They could even get the history departments of local universities involved for us to understand the evolution of transportation in this country.

Reservoir roads – Part 2

Previously, I posted about the reservoir roads we crossed when we traveled to Baler, Aurora last April 2019. It’s been a while since that post so before I forget, here are more photos of those reservoir roads taken during our return trip from Baler.

The two lane highway becomes a single lane section at the Diayo River Reservoir road

A view of the fish pens at the Diayo River reservoir

Pristine waters with the Sierra Madre mountain range in the background

Approaching the end of the Diayo reservoir road

There is a checkpoint at the 2-lane section bridging the Diayo reservoir road with the Canili River reservoir road

Vehicles entering the Canili reservoir road – this again is a one-lane, one-way section where vehicles from either direction would have to give way to either.

Shoulder and fish pens 

Waters of the Canili River Reservoir with the Sierra Madre mountains in the background

Fishermen on a banca – they looked like they were inspecting their fish pens