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Newly opened sections of C-6

I have been wanting to post these photos of the newer sections of Circumferential Road 6. The section was constructed  months ago and is part of a project that seeks to widen the current stretch of C-6 from Taguig (Lower Bicutan) to Pasig (Napindan) from the old 2-lane, 2-way road into a 4-lane, divided road. The new section opened to general traffic along the southbound side (to Taytay) and has improved traffic along the section that’s provided people from Rizal an alternative route to Makati and BGC through Taguig. Only, light vehicles are allowed along the new section and trucks and other heavy vehicles take the old road, which is quite battered by the traffic. Only one lane is currently available as there are barriers along the section as shown in the following photos. Traveling along the section also afford people a nice view of the Laguna de Bay to the right.

Improvements to alternative route between Rizal and Makati

I finally got another look at the conditions along the alternate road to Highway 2000 and C-6 Extension a couple of weeks ago while en route to Bonifacio Global City. Traffic along Ortigas Ave. is usually terrible these days even during the weekends due to the road and drainage works between Cainta Junction and Brookside. I am glad to say that there have been significant improvements to the section of Don Hilario Cruz Ave nearest to the Manggahan Floodway and beside the Megawide plant. There have been significant developments, too, along C-6 Extension in the Lupang Arenda area of Taytay, Rizal. Here are some photos of the area.

2015-11-14 10.18.11Don Hilario Cruz Ave., the road beside the Megawide plant and parallel to Highway 2000, is being improved with half the carriageway already prepared for paving. The other half appears to be graded is being used by vehicles.

2015-11-14 10.19.21A roller runs along the base layer of the road that’s being paved. These sections were usually muddy and full of craters during the wet season and very dusty and still full of potholes during the dry season.

2015-11-14 10.26.24Sections of C-6 Extension at the Lupang Arenda area have been widened and the expropriated lands are now being transformed into paved roads. The original sections have been overlayed with asphalt to improve their ride-ability.

2015-11-14 10.27.33Another section in Lupang Arenda shows finished PCCP for the eastbound side of C-6.

2015-11-14 10.28.26Another photo of C-6 extension. Once the finished lanes are usable, authorities will probably divert traffic there so they could also pave the rest of the road.

Travelers between Rizal and Makati/Taguig will benefit the most from the improvements along these roads. These will increase road capacity as well as travel speeds along this route. Now, if only authorities can also improve C-6 itself in Taguig…

Repair C6 now!

The existing roads that comprise what has been designated  as Circumferential Road 6 is an important link that serves as an alternate route for people and goods traveling between the eastern towns of Rizal province and Metro Manila to urban centres in Makati (Ayala CBD) and Taguig (Bonifacio Global City) as well as the southern areas of Metro Manila all the way to Laguna and Cavite. During the last dry season or summer, the roads conditions have been quite good such that travellers from Rizal could easily reach BGC or Makati in less than an hour give and take typical congestion during the peak periods.

The situation has significantly worsened since the onset of the wet season as the pavement quickly deteriorated with the combination of heavy rains and heavy vehicles utilising the road. Highway 2000 from Taytay, Rizal was already in bad condition during the summer so it became only worse once the rains came. However, it is the C6 segment from Pasig to Taguig that has deteriorated and is now in a state of disrepair. Following are photos that show how bad the conditions are and which have led to travel times worsening to more than double than what it should be if the roads were in good condition.

10171274_10152311461081889_7569716475256902561_nSection in Taguig along the shores of Laguna de Bay where even large trucks avoid the deep holes along the road. These situations along C6 constrict traffic everyday.

10703562_10152311461566889_6414876550669679017_nC6 section in Pasig City where what used to be asphalt is now a muddy mess.

10635802_10152311462251889_8405359378178629931_nAnother section in Pasig City where C6 passes through a relocation area (Lupang Arenda) where local traffic affects through traffic and C6 is probably at its narrowest.

The section from Pateros to Taguig was built as a road dike protecting these areas from floods brought about by the increasing level of Laguna de Bay during the wet season. While it is basically a secondary road compared to the other circumferential roads, traffic has significantly increased along C6 due to many people discovering that you can travel faster between Rizal and Makati or BGC via this road. Sadly, there seems to be little or no attention given to its current state.

I understand that the DPWH has a process for determining whether a road needs to be repaired and given limited resources, the agency also applies a process for prioritisation of road repairs (i.e., there are many other roads that also need repairs). However, there should be a way to allocate resources for the repairs of the road and this includes involving the LGUs whose constituents benefit from the use of the road. Rizal province and towns and Pasig City should take the initiative to find ways to improve the conditions along C6. It is also in the interest of Taguig to improve this road as many of its residents use it, too. Hopefully, the road will be repaired sooner rather than later and travel times will improve again. Of course, this should be the case whether or not the proposed C6 expressway is realised.

120-passenger capacity AGT prototype

The DOST-MIRDC has built another prototype vehicle for its Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) project. The vehicle is larger than the one at the University of the Philippines Diliman as each vehicle would have a capacity of 120 passengers (seated and standing). They are also building another elevated test track at the MIRDC compound across from the main DOST compound in Bicutan, Taguig City, and along Gen. Santos Avenue. This is a significant upgrade from the 30-passenger capacity vehicles at UP Diliman (60 for a 2-car train) as a 2-car train with 240 passengers means much more capacity for a real line using such vehicles. To compare, 5-minute headways along one direction could carry 720 passengers per hour for the UP Diliman prototype while the Bicutan model can carry 2,880 passengers per hour.

2014-03-14 15.57.30Two prototype AGT vehicles with maximum capacity of 120 passengers at the MIRDC compound in Bicutan, Taguig City.

2014-03-14 15.58.07The design is very much the same as the first prototype vehicle, with its distinctive look including the snout, headlights and skirt.

2014-03-14 15.57.05The vehicle looks like it was inspired by the large provincial buses that, if seats are configured as benches and the body is stretched to be longer, can accommodate more passengers.

2014-03-14 15.58.16The MIRDC is also building a test track in Bicutan within their compound and parallel to Gen. Santos Avenue.

I don’t know how long this elevated test track will be but to be able to have substantial tests for the new vehicles this should be longer and would need to be extended beyond the MIRDC compound. That means the tracks would pass through land occupied by the Polytechnical University of the Philippines (PUP), which is a state university, and Camp Bagong Diwa, which is under the Philippine National Police. Can this line serve the areas along Gen. Santos Avenue? I think so but it will be competing with tricycles and jeepneys. Tricycles are the dominant public transport mode here despite Gen. Santos being a national road. Taguig City would have to find a way to address issues pertaining to a reduction or phase-out of tricycles as the communities in the area might be dependent (unfortunately) on these for their livelihood.

Old style intersection traffic management

Heading to the DOST complex for a meeting, I took a few photos of the enforcers managing the traffic at the intersections at the Bicutan interchange from on top a traffic box. The intersections are formed by the on and off ramps of the South Luzon Expressway, the service roads and Gen. Santos Ave./Dona Soledad Ave. It was a welcome scene considering the enforcers seemed to be doing very well (i.e., traffic was flowing quite smoothly at the intersections) while also evoking times when traffic signals weren’t the norm in major intersections. Of course, it helped that pedestrian movements on the ground were eliminated by the pedestrian overpass set-up at the interchange, a legacy of the BF era at the MMDA.

IMG06272-20130618-0935Traffic enforcer on a box directing traffic at the intersection of the SLEX soutbound ramps, the West Service Road and Dona Soledad Ave. That’s SM Bicutan in the background with its two buildings on either side of Dona Soledad and connected by an elevate walkway. Pedestrians have been eliminated from the equation thanks to the elevated walkway at the SLEX Bicutan interchange.

IMG06273-20130618-0935Traffic enforcer at the intersection of the the SLEX northbound ramps, the East Service Road and Gen. Santos Ave. The PNR tracks run along just after the intersection.

Some issues on pedestrian crossings at signalized intersections at BGC

I had heard from friends working at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig that it is difficult for pedestrians to cross at intersections at BGC. For one, the cycle settings (i.e., movements allowed for every green signal) for the intersections, at least those I’ve seen, often had turning traffic in direct conflict with pedestrian crossings. This meant that while given the green light to cross the street, for example, pedestrians had to contend with left turning as well as right turning vehicles who are also allowed movement for particular green phases. The phasing and the cycle settings are definitely more favorable to motor vehicles and assume that motorists will give way to pedestrians already on the carriageway and crossing the street. This is not the case and motorists tend to assert their way against pedestrians. These pedestrians are not jaywalkers but actually have the right of way by virtue of them getting the green light to cross. There is also  that frequently violated rule of vehicles having to give way to legitimate crossings when people are already on the road. This is practiced in many other countries including the US, Japan and Singapore but is lost upon our motorists who seem to believe they own the road.

Another situation I’ve observed and personally experienced is the insufficient amount of time allocated for pedestrians to cross streets. This is particularly true for the wider streets of the Fort where it seems the people who set the signal cycles failed to estimate how much time it requires for people to cover the distance from one side of the roa to the other. What’s more is that the pedestrian settings allow only one or two people to cross at a comfortable pace. That is, other people will have to rush or run to be able to cross. Of course, the pedestrians would have to contend with the

IMG06311-20130628-0853Intersection of 26th Street and 5th Avenue (view along 26th and towards 4th) – notice the green light given to through and left turning traffic as well as the signals for pedestrians, which include countdown timers.

IMG06117-20130531-094426th and 5th (view at the corner facing the Net Lima building)

IMG06118-20130531-094726th and 7th (view from the corner towards The Fort)

The solution to this issue about pedestrian crossings is a little bit more tricky that what seems like something that can be addressed by a simple adjustment of signal settings to provide more time for pedestrians. There is a need to revisit the phasing scheme for vehicle movements allowed at the intersections. Then there is also a need to find the optimum cycle and green time allocations considering the requirements for pedestrians and not just for vehicles. I believe whoever is in charge of the signal settings at BGC should look into this and if they are not capable of adjusting the settings then they should require the provider of the signals to make the necessary adjustments if not show them how to do this considering that traffic is quite dynamic and settings would need to be programmed to be responsive to demand not just for vehicles but pedestrians as well. BGC has great potential to be a pedestrian friendly CBD but whoever is in charge of transport planning and development should step up and level up, so to speak, in providing an environment that will encourage people to walk rather than take their cars. High Street is already there and is an important element in that mix of development but then the cluster of offices and residential condos aren’t exactly designed for efficient walking, and the settings for the intersection signals, as we pointed out, need to be adjusted for pedestrians.

Criminality along congested roads

There’s been a rash of criminality along congested roads in Metro Manila. Recently, there have been reports of hold-ups and snatching along Circumferential Road 5 near its junction with Kalayaan Avenue. The suspects are said to be youngsters, teenage boys or even street-smart children, who roam the area and keeping an eye on opportunities for snatching among the hundreds of vehicles crawling along C5 during the peak periods. They look for unlocked doors of cars or taxis and in many cases team-up to confuse the driver and/or the passenger(s). In some instances where they can’t find unlocked doors they supposedly create opportunities by banging the body of the vehicle and goading the driver to step out of the vehicle.

imageVehicles at a standstill along C5 approaching the intersection with Kalayaan Ave – the center island is visible in the photo.

A few years ago, there was a feature on so-called “batang hamog” (roughly translated as children of the dew) opening doors of vehicles caught in traffic jams along EDSA. They snatch items like bags, cellphones or other items that they see through the vehicle’s windows as they loiter along the carriageway. CCTV footage from the MMDA show them to be quite quick in making their getaways. In some footage they are shown as climbing up the wall of the EDSA MRT, which is in the middle of EDSA, crossing the tracks and then climbing down on the other side, oblivious to the dangers of an oncoming train and the crash it might cause that could injure (even kill) many passengers.

A few weeks ago, a colleague and I saw some youths suspiciously scanning jeepneys caught in traffic near the Manila City Hall. My friend remarked that they might be searching for unwary passengers whom they can rob of their bags or jewelry. This modus operandi or mode of operation seems to be a favorite among snatchers in Metro Manila. I myself was almost a victim one time I was heading home on board a jeepney along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong when a guy tried to make for my watch as the jeepney started to move. Fortunately, he failed as I reacted quickly and I saw a smirk on his face as our jeepney sped away.

Now, this kind of criminality is not something that our authorities cannot address. Surely, the Makati and Taguig police together with the MMDA can make a regular sweep of the length of C5 where these suspects are supposed to loiter given that the latter’s activities are quite predictable in time and modus operandi. It’s both frustrating and disappointing when officials make excuses on TV and radio interviews why they cannot catch or deter these criminals from harassing motorists and pedestrians. Hindi naman siguro talaga pwede magamit ang patrol car kapag ma-traffic at pinaka-epektibo ay magkaroon ng foot patrol sa lugar. They can have police and enforcers roam the same areas at the same times when there’s traffic congestion and therefore, a high likelihood that the suspects will be there.Those people aren’t supposed to be roaming the carriageway or loitering along the center island of C5 in the first place since to do that they would be jaywalking along a very busy road and risk being hit by a motor vehicle.

I believe police visibility is only effective if they are actually visible and when required, give chase of the suspects. The problem seems to be that the police and enforcers are usually just at the C5-Kalayaan intersection, focused on number-coding violators, and those who are supposed to be patrolling don’t want to leave the comfort of their vehicles. Surely again, we expect our law enforcers to be fit and ready to run after suspected criminals. After all, that’s what they are supposed to be doing in the first place. It would be nice to see them patrolling the area on foot and accosting people who are not supposed to be in the area.