Caught (up) in traffic

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Night time congestion along C-5

Traffic congestion along Circumferential Road 5 is experienced practically throughout the day with the worst congestion along the southbound direction during the mornings between the Riverbanks Road in Quezon City and Kalayaan Avenue in Makati City, and the northbound direction between Bonifacio Global City and Eastwood from noon to nighttime. The following photos taken by my wife as I fetched her one night from her office shows the traffic jam along C-5 as we turned from the flyover past Market! Market! towards the highway.

imageCongestion along the C-5 northbound is a regular thing during the weekdays from the afternoon to late at night. While apps like the MMDA’s Traffic Navigator and Waze allow us to have an idea of how congested C-5 is during such periods, the actual experience is much worse than what many of us can just imagine from the apps.

image_2As far as the eye could see – congestion in the form of the taillights of vehicles along the northbound side of C-5 indicate just how many people are caught in traffic from Taguig all the way to Pasig and beyond. The giant billboards from Kalayaan Avenue to Pasig Boulevard including those seen along the bridge crossing the Pasig River. Most of these people are office workers coming from Makati and Global City and heading home to Quezon City, Pasig, and the towns of Rizal. After 7 PM, trucks add to the traffic

Many people are asking if there is a solution in sight for congestion along C-5. To be frank, there is none in the immediate future. There are proposals to introduce a public transport system along the corridor with one option being a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and another an elevated rail transit line. The BRT line is a recommendation of a Pre-FS for Metro Manila BRT conducted around 6 years ago though there was a proposal for a bus system (Philtrak) along the same corridor back in the late 80’s and pursued for some time during the 90’s. Not much have been done towards realizing any of these proposals. An efficient mass transit system along the corridor could encourage people to shift from private to public transport and help reduce vehicular traffic along C-5 considering that even as I write this post, vehicle ownership is increasing in Metro Manila and its environs and this could only mean more congestion along C-5 and other roads.

Daily penance: traffic congestion along C-5

People have been telling me about the traffic congestion along Circumferential Road 5 (C-5) and I am quick to reply that I know the feeling as I’m one of those who have driven or traveled along C-5 and experienced first hand the traffic congestion, which is worst during the mornings (southbound) and late afternoons and evenings (northbound). Midday traffic jams are not uncommon as C-5 is a truck route and large vehicles contribute to clogging especially at bottlenecks like the U-turns slots along the highway and bridge crossing the Pasig River. C-5 has been this way since its opening (or more appropriately the completion of missing links along the main alignment).

It will not get better. It will only get worse. I say so because of the annual increase in vehicle ownership, including motorcycles, in what is now termed as Mega Manila. I dare say so because of the backlog of public transport infrastructure in the metropolis (or megalopolis?). It is well established that efficient public transport infra and services are good incentives for people to commute rather than drive. This means there will be less vehicles on the road and therefore there will be less congestion as basically only those who really need to drive would be using their cars on a regular basis. Of course, it is not as easy at it seems considering trip making and mode choices are in reality complicated matters. But then the availability of viable, acceptable choices for travel, especially in the urban setting allows for people to have better mobility and more equitable use of the transport system than a car-oriented city. Until then, when we do have the public transport system that our cities require, it will be a daily penitensya for many of us traveling and not just along C-5.

IMG04707-20121109-1049Congestion along the southbound side of C-5 approaching the flyover crossing Ortigas Ave. The flyover can be seen in the horizon.

IMG04710-20121109-1109Congestion along C-5 southbound in the Bo. Ugong area approaching the junction with Lanuza Avenue. An overpass was proposed for construction along this section but now it doesn’t look like it will do any good considering the bottleneck is the Pasig Flyover and the bridge across Pasig River.

IMG04714-20121109-1118Congestion along C-5 southbound at the Pasig flyover. The flyover has 2 lanes per direction and vehicle breakdowns or road crashes have resulted in terrible traffic jams.

IMG05740-20130314-1014Congestion along C-5 northbound at the C-5/Kalayaan junction. The north U-turn flyover, one of two in the area, is shown in the photo. An underpass was initially proposed, designed and approved (with budget from a JBIC loan) at the junction. A previous MMDA Chair, however, didn’t agree and successfully maneuvered for the twin U-turn flyovers to be constructed instead.

Informal transport at PNR Bicutan Station

On our way to a meeting at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Bicutan, Taguig City, we crossed the PNR line running parallel to the SLEX. I quickly took a photo of the scene to the right of our vehicle that showed an informal market and terminal. The informal market or talipapa is one you would usually finally elsewhere in many other places in the city and likely caters to mostly informal settlers residing along the PNR ROW. On our return trip from the DOST, we took the same route and again I quickly took a photo of what was on the other side of the road along the same PNR line. On the other side was the PNR Bicutan Station and what appears to be a clear ROW northbound towards Manila. Much has been accomplished in the clearing of the PNR’s ROW over the past years and the efforts included the relocation of many informal settlers in coordination with the local governments along the PNR line.

IMG05425-20130212-1343The PNR Bicutan Station on the north side of Gen. Santos Ave. near the SLEX Bicutan interchange

IMG05422-20130212-1003Non-motorized trolleys on the south side of Gen. Santos Ave. near the SLEX Bicutan Exit

The trolleys are informal transport vehicles serve people living along the PNR ROW including many informal settlements within and without the PNR property. Some of the buildings or structures of these informal settlers are visible in the photo downstream of the railroad crossing. There are similar cases in Manila and elsewhere along the PNR ROW including motorized trolley services in the provinces of Quezon and Camarines Sur, where trolleys are also utilized for public transport and are the means for livelihood by some of the same informal settlers.

There are increasing safety concerns for these vehicles, their operators and their passengers. The trolleys are lifted from the tracks an people clear the way once a train approaches. They return after the train has passed. With the PNR currently experiencing a revival of sorts, and if resources continue along with an increase in ridership, train frequencies should also be expected to increase. As such, there should come a time when trolleys would have to be banned along the entire line in order to minimize the chances for crashes involving trains and trolleys that will surely lead to fatal consequences. Perhaps the local governments along the PNR line should already look into this eventuality and initiate programs to address this issue, which can be associated with livelihood and residential concerns.

C6: Bicutan to Napindan

I wrote about Circumferential Road 6 (C-6) in a previous post where I featured some photos taken while we were en route to the DOST compound in Bicutan, Taguig City. It was originally constructed as a dike road, an access road along the barrier constructed along the coast of Laguna de Bay to provide additional protection to Taguig City against the lake waters breaching the banks during incidence of heavy rains. Once the link between Taytay, Pasig, Pateros and Taguig was completed, however, traffic significantly increased as C-6 provided a very convenient alternate route for people residing in the east who had to go to Makati, Taguig or southern Metro Manila mostly for work trips. Following are photos showing C-6 from Bicutan to Napindan, before crossing to Pasig City.

IMG04765-20121109-1545Tree-lined – one can imagine how the highway will look like once the trees planted along either side are full-grown

IMG04766-20121109-1545C-6 is a two-lane, undivided highway with a sidewalk along the Taguig side and a shoulder along the dike along the coast of Laguna de Bay

IMG04767-20121109-1549Approach to the intersection with Seagull Ave., which connects M.L. Quezon Ave. and Taguig proper in the west and Bay Breeze Subdivision in what appears to be a small peninsula on the bay.

IMG04768-20121109-1549Most sections of the existing C-6 have no pavement markings.

IMG04769-20121109-1550The entire road is of asphalt concrete pavement.

IMG04770-20121109-1550There are several pumping stations along C-6, which reminds people of the flood control aspect of the dike and the road. The photo shows the Taguig Pumping Station operated by the MMDA.

IMG04772-20121109-1550While C-6 provides an alternative route for travelers from the eastern towns of Rizal wanting no part of the traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue and C-5 en route to Makati or Taguig (or back from these areas), peak traffic is usually predictable and at other times of the day, volumes are quite low as shown in the photos.

IMG04774-20121109-1552There aren’t any  significant developments or establishments for most part of C-6.

IMG04775-20121109-1552The undeveloped lands are mainly due to these areas being flood prone, and requiring extensive improvements to raise elevations and provide for adequate drainage.

IMG04777-20121109-1552 Labasan pumping station – is practically the only building for a long stretch of the highway.

IMG04778-20121109-1553Past the Labasan Pumping Station, are more undeveloped areas along the highway. At right in the photos is the dike that serves as  IMG04779-20121109-1553The bridge across the Napindan channel of the Pasig River is further ahead (downstream), which travelers can use to cross to Pasig City.

The stretch of C-6 from M.L. Quezon to Napindan is currently subject to studies for widening as traffic steadily increases due to the very strategic position of the road. However, there should be a more direct link between C-6 and C-5 so as to maximize the benefits of the road, particularly as an alternative route between Rizal province, and Bonifacio Global City and Makati CBD. I estimate that travels times can be reduced significantly for people traveling between their homes in Antipolo and Taytay to the offices in Makati and Taguig (Fort Bonifacio). On a normal day, this trip can take easily more than 60 minutes due to congestion along Ortigas and C-5, the usual route for most people. With the alternate route, it might just be possible to reduce it to say 45 minutes, give and take some congestion. Of course, once this alternate route is discovered by more people (and UV Express vehicles are already using this route), then it would attract more traffic and necessitate an increase in capacity for it to handle such traffic. But then the result may well be an easing in traffic along Ortigas and C-5 so that should be good until perhaps we finally have a good public transport system in place along Ortigas and C-5. BRT? That deserves another post…

Gen. Santos Avenue

Connecting Circumferential Road 6 (C-6), M.L. Quezon Street and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is the stretch of road known as Gen. Santos Avenue. The following photos taken during one trip to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Bicutan, Taguig City describes the road and adjacent areas.

IMG04749-20121109-1144Junction with M.L. Quezon St. where C-6 becomes Gen. Santos Ave.

IMG04750-20121109-1144Counterflow – tricycles traveling against the flow of traffic

IMG04751-20121109-1144The avenue is a four-lane, two-way road with opposing traffic separated by a narrow median island with a steel fence. Most of the road had faded or no pavement markings.

IMG04752-20121109-1145Along the road are several government facilities including Camp Bagong Diwa, the NCRPO’s
headquarters and host to suspects to some of the most celebrated cases such as those involved in a massacre in Mindanao. The camp is located along the south side of the avenue.

IMG04754-20121109-1149There are also public schools along the avenue including the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Taguig (Taguig City University). The University shares a compound along the north side of the avenue with other city institutions like the city’s Hall of Justice (pictured above) and, surprisingly, the City Jail.

IMG04755-20121109-1149Students crossing the street in front of one of the gates leading to the Pamantasan. Further on, after Camp Bagong Diwa is a branch of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), which is a state university.

IMG04756-20121109-1149There are wider median islands with plant boxes along the stretch of the avenue fronting the DOST compound.

IMG04757-20121109-1150Sag vertical curve section leading to the DOST compound’s main gate

IMG04758-20121109-1150Jeepneys plying routes in Bicutan are lined up at an informal terminal occupying the pedestrian sidewalk in front of the DOST compound. Such practice denies pedestrians of safe walking space.

IMG04759-20121109-1150Main gate of the DOST compound – further on to the west at the end of Gen. Santos Ave. is the Bicutan interchange with the SLEX.

Circumferential Road 6: a first look

I got my first look at a road section that’s part of what is supposed to be Circumferential Road 6. C-6 would probably be the last of the circumferential roads to be conceptualized and, sometime in the far future, to be completed. It is not mentioned in the original plan for Manila that had major roads arranged in what is called a “wheel and spoke” layout that the architect Daniel Burnham was supposed to have applied in planning Manila. Many years later and the transformation of the area into a metropolis comprised of many cities that is now called Metro Manila (some already consider the area a megalopolis and use the term Mega Manila to include cities and municipalities in adjacent provinces), there are 10 radial roads (R-1 to R-10) and 6 circumferential roads (C-1 to C-6).

C6 map
An old map showing one of the possible alignments of C-6 – the current alignment being considered will be closer to the the coast of Laguna de Bay and will be to the east and north of the La Mesa reservoir rather than to the south and west of the latter.

While most of these have practically been completed with only a few segments here and there that need to be constructed or connected like C-5’s, C-6 is somewhat a latecomer whose alignment, while laid out on paper and mentioned in several plans and reports, is still being discussed considering its location in the fringes of Metro Manila. In fact, much of it will probably be constructed outside Metro Manila and not on the most favorable of terrains. There are even proposals for sections of C-6 to be elevated and tolled. Toll fees would probably make sense if the intention is to have a circumferential expressway with limited access (ramps and interchanges). Following are photos taken from Seagull Avenue to Gen. Santos Avenue in Taguig City.

IMG04738-20121109-1138Approach to the intersection with Seagull Avenue, which is connected to M.L. Quezon Avenue, which is in turn connected to Gen. Luna Street.

IMG04739-20121109-1139Turning right towards Bicutan, we found that C-6 is a two-lane, undivided road. At this section, there are no road markings although pavement is of good condition.

IMG04740-20121109-1139Noticeable along the roadside are concrete barriers similar to those found along highways in Central Luzon that are in areas prone to flooding. Flood waters are allowed to go through or across the section and the barriers keep large debris away from the roads while also keeping vehicles from “drifting” out of the highway.

IMG04741-20121109-1139Pavement markings finally appear along C-6. While many motorists don’t seem to mind their absence, they are actually important from the perspective of road safety as they serve to guide motorists along the road, particularly to stay within their lanes.

IMG04742-20121109-1140Tricycles, like the one in the photo don’t seem to be in significant numbers along C-6. This is probably because there are few developments along the road. Most developments are along M.L. Quezon Ave., which is an old road that stretches along parallel to the Laguna de Bay coast.

IMG04743-20121109-1140There are several pumping stations located along C-6 and these are used mainly for flood control (i.e., pumping water from the waterways in Taguig to the Laguna de Bay, which is just across the road). Laguna de Bay is on the other side of the dike along the left of the highway in the photo.

IMG04744-20121109-1140Power lines and street lamps along C-6. The lamps remind of similar designs in Cebu City and Pasay City. I’m not so sure about the aesthetics but they do seem a little flimsy for lamps located along the lakeshore. I do hope they illuminate well at night time and during inclement weather.

IMG04745-20121109-1141There is a dike along this entire length of the section of C-6. Once in a while, one will see fishermen walking atop the dike towards their bancas that are moored or grounded along the shore.

IMG04746-20121109-1142We noticed light traffic as we traveled along the entire length of road from Seagull Ave. to Gen. Santos Ave. Not so many people seem to be using the road despite it being a direct route from Rizal Province to Taguig. I have to try driving from Antipolo or Taytay and crossing the bridges at the mouth of the Pasig River and the Manggahan Floodway to Fort Bonifacio one of these days.

IMG04747-20121109-1143I mentioned that most lands along C-6 are undeveloped. This probably explains why traffic is quite light. At present there seems to be no direct/straightforward route connecting C-6 with C-5. In our case, we had to go through a maze of sorts between the two roads via Levi Mariano Ave., Gen. Luna Street, M.L. Quezon Avenue, and Seagull Avenue. The shortest path seems to be one through the DMCI developments in Taguig but roads there are private and presently for the exclusive use of their residents.

IMG04749-20121109-1144At present, C-6’s southern end is at its junction with M.L. Quezon Avenue in Bicutan, where C-6 turns and becomes Gen. Santos Avenue. Traveling through the road shown above will lead people to the Bicutan interchange of SLEX.