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Top urban problems in Metro Manila
I was looking for material to include in my introductory lecture for a graduate class. I came upon this slide from the study “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas (Region III and Region IV-A)” that was conducted by JICA through a consulting firm and completed in 2014. The slide shows the top three urban problems identified in Metro Manila (or perhaps what we now refer to as Mega Manila or, as what was tagged as NCR plus during this pandemic).
Traffic congestion was identified as one of the top problems if not the top problem itself. This is not independent of the other two (or other problems identified in the survey). All of them are intertwined somehow as illustrated in the simple Venn diagram in the slide. Affordable housing, for example, affects our transportation system and puts much pressure to transportation infrastructure development as well as to the provision of transport services. People continue to choose living in the periphery of Metro Manila or outside NCR because of the expensive residential choices particularly in the CBDs where most people have their workplaces and where many of the elite schools are also located. These people would have to commute long distances and experience longer travel times than what seems to be the reasonable. The result is loss in productivity and transport related costs that include fuel and maintenance costs.
What do you think about these urban problems? How can be address them in a comprehensive manner?
Undergraduate and graduate research topics, 2021
I noticed again that there seem to be a lot of ‘hits’ for articles I wrote years ago about research topics. Many appear to be looking for topics for their university/college/school research projects including those who might be looking for thesis or dissertation topics. Here are some of my past postings on research topics:
October 23, 2020: https://d0ctrine.com/2020/10/23/research-topics-in-the-time-of-covid-19-part-1/
August 11, 2017: https://d0ctrine.com/2017/08/11/topics-for-transportation-research/
September 28, 2016: https://d0ctrine.com/2016/09/28/research-topics-for-transportation-engineering-and-planning-for-2016-2017/
December 11, 2015: https://d0ctrine.com/2015/12/11/undergraduate-research-topics-for-academic-year-2015-2016/
July 4, 2015: https://d0ctrine.com/2015/07/04/research-topics-on-transport-and-traffic-in-the-philippines/
October 22, 2014: https://d0ctrine.com/2014/10/22/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-for-ay2014-2015/
August 27, 2013: https://d0ctrine.com/2013/08/27/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-at-up-diliman-2013/
October 17, 2012: https://d0ctrine.com/2012/10/17/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation/
October 12, 2011: https://d0ctrine.com/2011/10/12/undergraduate-research-topics-on-transportation-2011-2012/
It is from the July 4, 2015 article where I wrote something that is still very much applicable today or perhaps anytime someone asks about what topics should be pursued by undergraduate, graduate and even faculty research:
“Schools need to develop their own research agendas. That is so that students would be able to choose topics that their faculty can realistically and effectively guide their students instead of sending them out to become the burdens of others. These would include topics concerning local issues. Are there road safety issues at locations such as intersections near the school? Are the streets in the nearby CBD experiencing congestion? Is there an oversupply or lack of public transport services in the city or a nearby town? It seems awkward for a university in Pampanga, for example, to have students taking on a topic concerning EDSA-MRT or students of a university in Metro Manila taking on a topic on Mindanao railways, if their faculty have no relevant experiences or capabilities to properly guide the students.
I would encourage schools to identify topics concerning local issues first. As they say, charity begins at home, and working on solutions for local problems should be top of the agenda of any school. That includes us at UP and there are many topics that focus on issues in and around UP Diliman. If we can’t solve our own problems then how can we be believable in addressing those outside our direct influence area?”
I do encourage prospective student researchers to take on topics addressing local transportation issues. Some recommendations are as follows:
- Active transport – topics on bike use, bike lanes planning and design, pedestrian or cycling facilities, safety, funding and investments, integration with public transport, end of trip facilities, IEC or C4D materials development and deployment, etc.;
- Road/highways – topics on road safety, road capacity (e.g., assessing the necessity and/or effectiveness of road widening projects);
- Public transportation – topics on rationalization, modernization, services in the time of Covid-19, business models including service contracting, motorcycles as public transport (i.e., motorcycle taxis);
- Anything relating transport and the pandemic – topics about transport in the so-called new normal, impacts of Covid-19 on transport, traffic, commuting, etc. These topics can be framed a number of ways and can be very local (i.e., based on local experiences) and/or comparative.
There are obviously more including the “classic” ones on traffic engineering and management (e.g., traffic congestion, intersection analysis, development of micro-simulation models, etc.), transport planning (e.g., travel demand forecasting, transport model development, etc.), as well as those on the various modes of transport (air, maritime and rail come to mind). The objective is to be able to contextualize and address issues closer to your home rather than far from it. I think that’s how best you can contribute to addressing transport problems rather than be over-ambitious or messianic in your research topic(s).
A compilation of studies on walkability in the Philippines
My students have been engaged in studies on walkability (and related topics) the past few years. These have been a mix of published and unpublished work that I have compiled at list below:
- Capalar, M.A.M. and Garma, F.A.A. (2018) Assessment of Walkability Along Taft Avenue, Unpublished Research Report, Institute of Civil Engineering, University of the Philippines, Diliman
- Pajarin, J.B., Soriano, C.M. and Regidor, J.R.F. (2017) Assessment of Mobility of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Cainta, Rizal, Unpublished Research Report, Institute of Civil Engineering, University of the Philippines, Diliman.
- Cortez, E.H.D. and Razon, J.V.DV. (2017) Assessment of Walkability Along Katipunan Avenue, Unpublished Research Report, Institute of Civil Engineering, University of the Philippines, Diliman.
- Marcelo, K.R.S. and Salvador, J.P.B. (2015) Assessment of Pedestrian Facilities Along Marcos Highway, Unpublished Research Report, Institute of Civil Engineering, University of the Philippines, Diliman.
• Pajarin, J.B., Soriano, C.M. and Regidor, J.R.F. (2018) “Assessment of Mobility of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Cainta, Rizal,” Philippines Transportation Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 60-80.
• Pajarin, J.B., Soriano, C.M. and Regidor, J.R.F. (2017) “Assessment of Mobility of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Cainta, Rizal,” Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference of the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines, Quezon City, July 21, 2017.
• Regidor, J.R.F., Marcelo, K.R.S. and Salvador, J.P.B. (2016) “Assessment of Pedestrian Facilities Along Marcos Highway,” Proceedings of the DPWH Research Symposium 2016, Quezon City, September 2016.
Here’s a paper based on a comprehensive study our centre conducted for the City of Olongapo in the Province of Zambales:
• Palmiano, H.S.O., Javier, S.F.D. and Regidor, J.R.F. (2015) “An Assessment of Walkability in a Medium-Sized Philippine City,” Proceedings of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol. 10, December 2015.
We hope to continue such studies with future advisees who perhaps can tackle other corridors or even areas. Among those on my Wishlist would be Espana Avenue, Ortigas Avenue, Intramuros, Recto Avenue, and even EDSA or Circumferential Road 5.
8th Regional Symposium on Infrastructure Development (RSID)
I would like to promote a symposium that our Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) at the University of the Philippines Diliman will be hosting this year.
The Institute of Civil Engineering, University of the Philippines Diliman together with Kasetsart University (Thailand) and Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan) is pleased to invite you to participate in the:
8th Regional Symposium on Infrastructure Development
in Civil Engineering (RSID8)
Theme: Resilient Infrastructure Through Engineering Innovation
Date & Venue: October 25-26, 2018 Institute of Civil Engineering,
University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City Philippines
Those who wish to present in this symposium are invited to submit and abstract of about 500 words under the following themes:
Sustainable Design, Materials and Construction
Water Security and Disaster Mitigation
Geomechanics and Geoenvironment
Resource Efficiency and Waste Management
Deadline for Abstract Submission: April 16, 2018
Please see attached poster of call for papers for more details.
Kindly disseminate to your colleagues who may be interested.
For more information of the conference please contact:
Christian R. Orozco
Institute of Civil Engineering
University of the Philippines Diliman
EASTS 2017 Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The 12th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) will be held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from September 18-21, 2017. The conference promises to be an improvement from the 11th conference held in Cebu City, Philippines two years ago. That conference was not as well attended as past conferences and the arrangements were quite shaky considering a lot of supposed commitments for sponsorships backed out during the critical stages of the organization. That included the host city and the transport department (the then Department of Transportation and Communications or DOTC), both of which promised so much when the conference was proposed but somewhat disappeared when the going got tough. EASTS 2017 should exorcise that memory and perhaps the Philippines can host another conference in the future to make amends for Cebu.
Here’s a link to the local organizing committee’s conference site for the details on the EASTS 2017 conference:
12th International Conference of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS 2017)
Some thoughts on the Metro Manila subway project
The proposed Metro Manila subway seems to be well underway after months of studies particularly to determine the best alignment given so many constraints and preferences such as it being directly connected to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). A prominent opinion writer is obviously quite excited about the prospect of I also assume that most transportation planners and engineers in Metro Manila if not the whole country are also excited about this project. Commuters are definitely hopeful and many who have experienced riding metros abroad (e.g., Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc.) should be among those who look forward to using Metro Manila’s first in perhaps 5 years time.
The idea is not a new one as it is something that was actually thought of way back in the 1970s (perhaps further back?) when the precursor of JICA came up with the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area (UTSMMA) in 1973. The study was closely followed by a feasibility study for what was proposed as the Rapid Transit Railway (RTR) Line 1.
Cover page for the MRTR Line No. 1 Feasibility Study (NCTS Library)
It was unfortunate, however, that the project was derailed (pun intended) after the World Bank came up with their evaluation of transport situation and transportation planning in the Philippines in 1976, which led to a counter-recommendation to have light rail transit instead of the heavy rail system proposed by UTSMMA. The latter report was followed closely by the WB-funded Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project (MMETROPLAN) completed in 1977. What really happened such that the “best and the brightest” in those days (Martial Law Philippines under Marcos) abandoned the subway for light rail?
While MMETROPLAN is often lauded as a comprehensive study of metropolitan Manila, many of its assumptions and recommendations should now be subject to scrutiny. These include the assumptions on land use (e.g., for the Marikina Valley and environs not to be developed, etc.) and recommendations for a light rail transit (LRT) network. Time and history provides us with new lenses and filters by which we could try to understand what was going on in the minds of those who did MMETROPLAN. Many of those involved including one prominent (some will say self-promoting) architect and a rather controversial transport planner who were young at the time still refer to MMETROPLAN as The Masterplan that should have been implemented. It obviously wasn’t and we now bear the brunt of opportunities lost because of the decisions made in the 1970s.
I don’t buy the argument of one prominent local transport planner who downplayed the UTSMMA plan as a juxtaposition of the Tokyo metro system to Metro Manila. A more reliable and grounded assessment was recently put forward by another transport planner who is also a geographer and an economist. He was recently in London where they have a comprehensive underground railway network (the London Underground as many fondly call it) and came to the conclusion that the Japanese were inspired by this network and went on to replicate this in Tokyo. This is not without historical basis since the Japanese sent a lot of their future engineers and planners to Europe especially England and Germany during the Meiji Restoration. And so it is not a stretch to think that the principles employed by the Japanese in recommending a heavy rail system back in 1973 is not necessarily just a copy of Tokyo’s but draws inspiration from European models as well. That could have been a game-changer 40 years ago when RTR Line 1 could have started operations and commuting in Metro Manila may not have become as hellish as it is today.
Topics for transportation research
I notice that I have been getting a lot of traffic on my site lately from people searching about research topics. I guess its that time of year when students (undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate) are looking for topics. I have written before that it seems to me that many schools don’t really provide much guidance to students in their topic selection for their undergraduate research, masters thesis and even doctoral dissertations. I have received and seen emails from students from other schools asking if I or one of my colleagues at the university can be their research advisers. We usually politely decline so as we also have our own students to advise and researches to undertake. While I believe we should encourage research on transportation topics, I would dare say that schools should be responsible enough to build capacity for their faculty to be able to effectively guide their students and not unfairly pass them on to others.
Here are some topics that I think are quite relevant at present:
- Anything that’s about ride sharing (i.e., Uber, Grab, etc.) and particularly on passengers’ and drivers’ characteristics.
- Carpooling as applied in offices, schools, communities. There’s an app that promotes this – Wunder.
- Motorcycle taxis – this includes habal-habal, Skylab and other variations both in the urban and rural setting. What are their characteristics? Passengers? Drivers?
- Complete streets – how can we apply its principles to our cities, towns, communities, even specific roads?
- Road safety – this genre covers a lot of topics including pedestrian safety, motorcycle safety, public transport safety, child safety, driver behavior, safe road designs, etc.
- Transportation costs/expenditures – characteristics of commuting and commuters in relation to the modes they take as well as the distances between their homes and workplaces or schools.
I believe there are a lot of topics that can be developed from the above. But perhaps schools can first formulate research agendas first and not attempt to snipe at every and all topics that come to mind.
Good luck on topic selection and here’s hoping your outcomes are useful to improve transport and traffic in the Philippines.
Standards for integrated railways in the Philippines
With the recent pronouncements about railway projects in Metro Manila including the ongoing Line 2 Extension to Masinag, the impending construction of Line 7 (i.e., along Commonwealth and Regalado Avenues and Quirino Highway) and the proposal for a Line 4 (Diliman, Quezon City to Lerma, Manila), it becomes more imperative to have integrated railway infrastructure including and especially common stations where lines intersect and common specifications guided by standards or guidelines. Do we have such or has there been work towards their formulation in the past? The simple answer to that question is yes. But then we have to qualify that affirmative response because while there was a study a decade and a half ago, the outcomes of that study, which is a comprehensive take on all aspects of railway systems was never formally adopted (again?) by the Philippines.
The following link is for the Executive Summary of the “Study on Integrated Railway Network for Metro Manila (SIRNMM) completed in 2001.
Perhaps there is a need to revisit the outcomes of this study? This can serve as a good platform from which updated guidelines and standards can be developed for a more harmonious development of railways systems not just for Metro Manila but for other cities as well.
On doing research for your undergraduate course requirements
It’s that time of year again when we are swamped with requests for interviews from students taking undergraduate courses. These undergraduate courses include those on Science, Technology and Society, English, Communications, Architecture, Geography, Business, and Economics. These requests are not limited to students from our university but also come from students in other schools as well. While we are happy to oblige, granting interviews face-to-face or through correspondence (through email, of course), we are becoming wary about students not doing their part first before requesting an interview. In many cases, they just fire off a list of questions in the first email, probably hoping the addressee would be kind enough to answer all these questions in a comprehensive manner. That way, perhaps the student will be able to save on time and effort in doing his/her report. That’s right, let the expert answer all the questions and tell me what references I should list down in my report. If the student can’t understand what the expert wrote in reply or if the student thinks its not enough, then the latter could just send a follow-up with additional questions or request another interview.
Is this the right way to do research? I do not agree with this and perhaps the faculty handling their respective courses these students are enrolled under should take care in how they frame their requirements. It is as if they are passing on their responsibilities to other faculty members, experts in their particular fields, who would have to contend with requests for interviews or outright questions in their emails. That’s probably understandable for general education courses like English and STS, but not acceptable for undergraduate research projects that are supposed to be “capping” courses in their programs.
How do I address such inquiries in my mailbox? I do respond immediately and in fairness to the students whom I assume are somewhat misguided in his/her research work; particularly on how to conduct research. My usual reply is that I cannot accommodate the request due to my schedule followed by a counter-request for the student to send me his/her questions first (if he/she hasn’t done so in the first email). If I already have an idea of the students’ topics, then I would suggest some reading material or references first, and hopefully that can help the students frame their questions. That way, I can gauge if the students are really serious about their research or are just going through the motions. It’s difficult for me to be serious or passionate with my replies if the person on the other side of the proverbial table is not at all interested in the topic and treats the exercise as just another requirement for him/her to get a good grade.
Doing his/her part before even contacting experts mean the student needs to do some literature review. That can be in the form of research online and not the kind where the student will just mention a few articles (often opinion pieces) that they read on Rappler, Yahoo or other online sources. There’s a wealth of more scholarly and objective information now available on the net and UP students have access to journals, books and other references through the university’s libraries. These are privileges that they have already paid for as part of their tuition so why let these resources go to waste? I believe students can do a good job in their research projects if they are given proper guidance by their advisers or instructors, who should be the “first line of defense” against mediocrity in their studies at this level. Getting rarer these days are students who come in prepared and are really passionate about the topics they are studying.
The Metro Manila Urban Transportation Strategy and Planning Project (MMUTSTRAP, 1983)
I continue on my feature on past studies on transport in Metro Manila. The Metro Manila Urban Transportation Strategy and Planning Project (MMUTSTRAP) was conducted from November 1982 to April 1983, with support from the Australian Development Assistance Bureau – the precursor of AusAID. The study was conceptualized by a Metro Manila Transportation Policy Committee that consisted of the Ministers of the then Ministry of Transportation and Communications (now DOTC) and Ministry of Public Works and Highways (now DPWH), the Vice Governor of what was the Metro Manila Commission (now MMDA), and the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police (now PNP). The Philippine Government-funded study examined alternative futures on Metro Manila’s development and used these as the basis for formulating alternative futures for public transport modes. These futures did not mention UTSMMA and its the recommendations for an RTR but presented pessimistic, most likely and optimistic scenarios for PNR, LRT bus and jeepneys.
The study examined recommendations of past studies, most specifically the more recent MMETROPLAN and MMUTIP. MMUTSTRAP seem to contradict MMETROPLAN’s recommendations to encourage the entry of new bus and jeepney operators rather than restricting or controlling these as it (MMUTSTRAP) concluded that “deregulation is not a viable alternative for urban public transportation in Metro Manila.” It further explained that deregulation is justified on the assumption that the main objective in urban public transport is simply to make it a profitable business. To the contrary, the study pointed out that there are other objectives such as adequate service to the public and safety, which should be placed above profitability. This last statement reverberates over the decades to the present when it seems to many that the objective of urban public transport is more on the “profit side” rather than the “adequate and safe aspect” of something that it supposed to be a public service.
The study explored strategies for traffic management and various travel demand management (TDM) measures including area traffic restraint similar to what Singapore had already implemented at the time. A significant output of MMUTSTRAP was a prioritization plan for transport projects and policies for Metro Manila. This included the ranking of projects for implementation in Metro Manila such as:
- Pending road projects
- Potential road projects
- Urgent traffic signals
- Potential pedestrian projects
- Potential transit projects
- Terminal projects
Examples of the transport projects ranked by MMUTSTRAP are shown in Tables A and B for pending road projects, and potential transit projects. An index was developed based on perceived importance of the project and the associated costs.
Table A – Ranking of pending road projects identified in MMUTSTRAP (1983)
|Visayas Avenue extension: Elliptical Road to C-6||1||66.4|
|Mindanao Avenue Extension: North Avenue to C-6||2||66.1|
|C-5 construction: MacArthur Highway to North Expressway||3||64.0|
|Makati-Mandaluyong Link Road||4||61.4|
|Loop Road: from Bicutan to Alabang||5||61.2|
|C-6 construction: North Expressway to M. Marcos Avenue||6||61.1|
|Widen R-10: C-1 to Dagat-dagatan Spine||7||60.7|
|C-3 construction: Rizal Avenue to G. Araneta Extension||8||60.5|
|C-3 improvement: G. Araneta to Aurora Boulevard||9||59.5|
|Widen South Superhighway||10||58.7|
|C-4 interchange with Boni Avenue||11||58.6|
|C-5 construction: R-4 to Pasig Boulevard to Aurora Boulevard||12||58.5|
|R-4 construction: EDSA to Pasig/Pateros||13||57.9|
|R-5 construction: Kapasigan to Taytay Diversion||14||57.7|
|C-5 construction: North Expressway to Aurora Boulevard||15||56.2|
|C-3 works: Ayala Avenue to Tripa de Gallina||16||55.9|
|C-3 construction: N. Domingo to Ayala Avenue||17||55.7|
|Widen Domestic Road: MIA Road to Airport Road||18||55.5|
|C-4 extension: Taft Avenue to Roxas Boulevard||19||55.3|
|C-4 interchange with Roosevelt Avenue||20||55.2|
|C-4 interchange with Ortigas Avenue||21||54.7|
|C-4 interchanges with Ayala Avenue and Pasay Road||22||54.1|
|C-4 interchange with Santolan Road||23||53.7|
|C-4 interchange with Kamias/East Avenue||24||53.2|
|C-4 interchange with Buendia Avenue||25||52.2|
|C-5 construction: R-4 to South Superhighway||26||52.1|
|Widen Parañaque to Sucat Road||27||51.8|
|Re-align western 1.6 km of Zapote-Alabang Road||28||49.3|
Notes: The codes C and R stand for Circumferential and Radial, respectively, and refer to the main road network of Metro Manila. These roads are more commonly known by other names such as, for example, EDSA (C-4), Aurora Boulevard (R-6) and España Boulevard (R-7).
Table B – Ranking of potential transit projects identified in MMUTSTRAP (1983)
|Brief description||Ranking based on assessment by project team||Ranking based on evaluation from selected MOTC panel||Index|
|PNR Commuter additional coaches and upgrade||2||2||50.8|
|LRT Line #2 – EDSA||3||3||44.4|
|Surface tramway – Radial road along Españab||–||4||43.9|
|LRT Line #3 – Radial along España||4||5||43.0|
aAssumed that additional bus units will not be needed in the next 5 years with replacements likely after 1987.
bProject proposed by one of the members of the MOTC panel. This was treated as an alternative (on a mutually exclusive basis) to LRT Line #3, rather than an independent project for ranking.
[Reference: MMUTSTRAP, 1983 – NCTS Library]
Earlier studies recommended projects but did not show lists ranking projects in terms of an objective index or criteria. MMUTSTRAP did a good job in coming up with this idea or basis that was transparent and objective in evaluating projects. The criteria, however, is based mainly on perception of those involved in the study and, arguably, such perceptions may vary according to the knowledge and experiences of those involved in the evaluation. This is where the biases lie in as far as project prioritisation was concerned for this project. Perhaps a more participatory approach could have been conducted? Of course, it can be argued that at this time, both capacity and capability of local governments and national agencies were quite limited and so these have to be dependent on consultants (i.e., the study team) for their assessment and recommendations.