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Of accomplishments and legacies in transport

My colleagues and I have been talking about accomplishments and legacies. In particular, we had a spirited discussion about what we have been doing in terms of transportation projects that we have been involved in. I think everyone wants to have something physical to remember them by. And these should be positive and constructive and not memories of controversies or anomalies like those in major projects that will be associated with corruption or abnormalities in the processes by which the projects were implemented.

The ‘problem’ with being involved in policy making and planning is that these often lead to outputs such as reports and maybe even laws. If one is lucky enough then perhaps its in the form of a legislation rather than a Department Order. But those legislations and memos often do not acknowledge the people who contributed to its drafting. They will be associated with the politicians (e.g., senators and congressmen) and officials (e.g., secretaries, undersecretaries) who sponsored, co-sponsored or issued them. It will be good to have some sort of evidence to show and prove that you were instrumental in planning, designing and/or implementing a project.

The appointment of a new Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary in Art Tugade had me recalling our meeting with him to present the outcomes of our study on a major commercial development at Clark Freeport. He was appreciative of our work and mentioned that Clark had implemented many of the recommendations of the Master Plan we had developed for the Freeport back in 2010. All the major recommendations were implemented during Tugade’s watch at Clark. Following are the most notable ones:

Mabalacat gate B and AThe Mabalacat Gate and Public Transport Terminal of the Clark Free Port Zone

McArthur B and AMcArthur Highway – M.A. Roxas Highway – First Street rotunda

Main gate B and AClark Freeport main gate

The lead for these projects was Dr. Ricardo Sigua who is the one of the leading transportation engineers in the Philippines and currently the Director of the Institute of Civil Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is also the head of the Road Safety Research Laboratory of the National Center for Transportation Studies where he is also a Research and Extension Fellow. Others involved in these projects were Dr. Karl Vergel, Dr. Noriel Christopher Tiglao and Dr. Jose Regin Regidor, all from UP Diliman and affiliated with the NCTS.

Another look at the Tacloban Airport

The Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City is the busiest in Region 8 (Eastern Visayas). Tacloban being the regional center in terms of commerce/business, attracts significant air traffic and should continue to do so as it steadily recovers from the devastation brought about by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Following are photos of the airport from our recent trip to Leyte, where we had meetings in Tacloban and Ormoc.

IMG_2485Passengers arrive at the Tacloban Airport

IMG_2486Philippine Airlines turboprop aircraft arriving at the airport

IMG_2487Cebu Pacific passengers disembarking from the plane

IMG_2489Passengers waiting for the checked-in luggage at the carousel 

IMG_2490Passengers file out of the arrival area unto the terminal’s driveway and parking lot

IMG_2491Visitors may inquire about the Tacloban at the city’s information desk located at the arrival area.

IMG_2492 Sign of a rent-a-car service at the airport showing rental options and available vehicle models.

IMG_2653Crowded check-in area at the Tacloban airport passenger terminal

IMG_2654There were long queues at the check-in counters as well as the payment booths for the terminal fee.

IMG_2655We entered a very crowded departure area as flights were delayed and people accumulated at the terminal. These are Air Asia passengers.

IMG_2656These are Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific passengers. Notice the temporary wall behind which is a section of the departure area that’s being renovated.

IMG_2657Shops at the departure area sell souvenirs and food items including local delicacies like moron and binagol.

The airport terminal is already very congested and it doesn’t help that flights are frequently delayed for various reasons. In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), there have been proposals to move the airport to another location. However, it now seems that there is no better location for this within the city and elsewhere in the province. There are opportunities and potential though to improve the current airport and perhaps make it more resilient against typhoons of the scale of Yolanda.

The proposed new passenger terminal building is already much delayed and the runway can be extended. The latter is now possible with the areas for the extension already cleared of informal settlers mainly due to these areas being ravaged by Yolanda and authorities not permitting people to rebuild their houses there.

Eastern transport terminal in Marikina City

I noticed the roadworks near SM Marikina beneath the Marcos Highway Bridge. These are part of what is being developed as an Eastern Transport Terminal. Although there is a sign there announcing the location as a terminal it is more a garage for UV Express vehicles and jeepneys that eventually proceed to the LRT Line 2 Santolan Station to get passengers.

The terminal is a pet project of former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Bayani Fernando or BF. His company’s and his name is on a couple of signs proclaiming he gets it done. BF is now a newly minted congressman, having won the seat for the First District of Marikina City. In an upset of sorts, the former congressman who vacated this seat (after the maximum 3 terms), Marcelino ‘Marcy’ Teodoro, defeated incumbent mayor Del De Guzman who was running for a 3rd and final term. The development of the terminal actual started during BF’s stint as MMDA Chair where he conceptualized a terminal near SM Marikina and Santolan Station. Unfortunately, it did not materialize as he had planned with Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) flooding the area (and devastating much of Metro Manila and neighboring areas) and BF eventually exiting the MMDA to run for Vice President the following year.

The terminal will probably be completed but there are currently few public transport including provincial routes terminating at Santolan. Most jeepneys, for example, are bound for Cubao with the opposite trip ends in various towns of Rizal. Eastbound buses do not pass through Marcos Highway but instead take the older route through Ortigas Avenue and Antipolo and Teresa. It would take some effort to re-route these or perhaps there can be new routes via Marcos Highway? Provincial routes to the north and south are currently concentrated in Pasay, Cubao and Manila. It makes sense to decongest Cubao and have some buses have their terminal instead at Marikina. However, that means loading Aurora Boulevard, C5 and perhaps the FVR Road (Riverbanks) with additional bus traffic. Those impacts need to be evaluated and I am sure countermeasures can be developed for this transport terminal to work.

Dau, Mabalacat Bus Terminal – Part 2

The first part of this feature on the Dau Bus Terminal in Mabalacat, Pampanga showed the city’s PUV Common Terminal, the bus berths from the entrance of the terminal and the many stalls lined along the terminal. This second part features more photos including some showing a tricycle terminal and an airport shuttle lounge inside the huge bus terminal.


IMG11544-20150525-0909The interior shows an even more expansive bus terminal with more berths, a tricycle terminal and the Clark Airport shuttle station.
IMG11545-20150525-0909Victory Liner buses berthed just after the tricycle terminal within the bus terminal

IMG11546-20150525-0909Clark Airport Lounge in the middle of the bus terminal

IMG11547-20150525-0910An add for a popular cracker brand states “the journey is long”

IMG11549-20150525-0911Sign on the Clark shuttle jitney

IMG11550-20150525-0912The Clark Airport shuttle jitney is an extended or stretched Asian Utility Vehicle (AUV) that typically seats 27 people including the driver.

IMG11552-20150525-0912The tricycle terminal at the bus terminal allows for a more direct transfer between modes (i.e., long distance, inter-provincial or inter-city transport to local transport).

IMG11559-20150525-0922Passengers from the lounge board the airport shuttle. Luggage are also taken inside the vehicle so it can only accommodate a limited number of people rather than the 27 I mentioned earlier.

IMG11564-20150525-0928Another look at passengers waiting for their buses at the available (and limited) benches at the terminal. The benches shown seem to be ‘sponsored’ by a leading Telecom company.

IMG11541-20150525-0907Beverage dispenser at the terminal

IMG11565-20150525-0928Low batt? Cellular phone chargers are quite popular with passengers needing a quick battery charge while  waiting for their buses to arrive at the terminal.

IMG11543-20150525-0908Public comfort rooms or toilets at the terminal charge 5 pesos (about 12 US cents) for each use. There’s a sign that says payments are made after use. The fees are supposed to cover maintenance of the toilets but don’t expect much in terms of cleanliness or smell.

IMG11566-20150525-0930Passengers board a van at the Mabalacat City PUV Common Terminal. PUV stands for Public Utility Vehicle and basically stands for the vans running long distance express routes that are supposed to be non-stop or limited stop.

IMG11568-20150525-0931Huge signboard at the entrance to the terminal

The huge bus terminal is a good example of a regional bus terminal in the Philippines and one that is also a multi-modal facility at least for road transport. It is relatively well-run and is a major transfer point for people traveling between much of Luzon Island including Metro Manila. There is definitely room for improvement including amenities for passengers and perhaps a more modern airport shuttle lounge. Perhaps there should be more investments to further improve this terminal used by so many passengers traveling mainly on the provincial buses calling on the terminal.

Dau, Mabalacat Bus Terminal – Part 1

We recently went to Mabalacat, Pampanga, which is north of Metro Manila and at the end of the North Luzon Expressway. The objectives of my colleagues were to inspect the Dau Bus Terminal and to look at the airport shuttle whose terminal is co-located and within the large bus terminal. Following is a first batch of photos I took at what is the largest bus (and intermodal) terminal in Central Luzon. There are others like it around the country like the one in Lucena City in Quezon Province (Southern Luzon) but few are as large and serve as many buses.

IMG11523-20150525-0900The city’s PUV terminal is adjacent to the bus terminal

IMG11524-20150525-0901Vans bound for various provincial destinations await their passengers at the PUV terminal. These usually seat 10 passengers and directly compete with buses for the destinations indicated in the signs.

IMG11525-20150525-0901Passengers walk towards the terminal and the berth assigned to their buses.

IMG11527-20150525-0901People line up to congregate at the berth assigned to specific bus companies and according to their destinations

IMG11529-20150525-0902Passengers, well-wishers, hawkers and shopkeepers mingle in what is probably the busiest terminal in Central Luzon. I am not aware of any similar terminals in other provinces in Region 3 including Bulacan, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija.

IMG11530-20150525-0902Stalls at the terminal sell mostly food and drinks including large containers of biscuits that are still popular pasalubong.

IMG11532-20150525-0903Some areas of the terminal can be quite crowded as some bus companies are more popular than others.

IMG11534-20150525-0903Not all bus companies provide benches for their passengers. Some seats are actually provided by stores and eateries but only for their customers.

IMG11535-20150525-0904Empty berths at the bus terminal

IMG11536-20150525-0904Passengers wait for their buses on the benches or while standing and having a quick snack or smoke at one of the stores at the terminal. The guy in the photo is actually violating a national law and local ordinance banning smoking in public areas.

IMG11537-20150525-0905A Five Star bus arrives at the terminal. Bus companies have their assigned berths at the terminal and drivers and conductors presumably have their suki eateries or stores.

More on the Dau bus terminal in a future post.

Puerto Princesa Airport

I haven’t been to Puerto Princesa, Palawan since 2010 so I had wanted to see for myself what improvements they have done to their airport. This was considering the city and the province in general have become a very popular and accessible tourist destination featuring pristine beaches, hidden natural attractions as well as vibrant communities around the island. While the airport has been under renovation for a while, the terminal is already nearing if not already at capacity. Surely, as the country continues to promote tourism, Palawan will have a steady increase in the number of visitors and Puerto Princesa Airport will be the main airport access to the main island. The islands of Coron to the north of Palawan is served by a small airport in Busuanga, and El Nido at the northern part of Palawan Island will soon likely be served by another airport. But the jump off point for most of the island including the relatively “unexplored” south will be Puerto Princesa, which is also the centre of business/commerce. While its runway can handle large planes (I once rode on a B747 from Palawan), its terminal cannot handle the number of passengers such airliners are able to carry. The prospect of direct and regular international flights also would require a larger terminal to efficiently handle both domestic and international arrivals and departures.

IMG09345-20140925-1309View of the airport upon stepping out from the aft door

IMG09349-20140925-1310Passengers walk towards the terminal. Many passengers linger or loiter on the tarmac to take photos of themselves with the airport or aircraft in the background. While not unique to the Philippines, lingering on the tarmac is a no-no in many other airports due to security concerns.

IMG09350-20140925-1311Air Asia recently acquired local budget airlines Zest Air and now services Zest’s domestic destinations like Puerto Princesa.

IMG09351-20140925-1311We flew Cebu Pacific, which has the most flights servicing Puerto Princesa and had the better schedule for us. Unfortunately, CEB passengers seem to be experiencing a lot of delays. Our flight was delayed by 2 hours, which was definitely a waste of time as we had to go directly to our meeting upon our arrival in the city. Apparently, CEB has already earned the monicker its main competitor had for “planes always late.”

IMG09352-20140925-1312Bags being transported from the aircraft to the baggage claim area. Bags are loaded and unloaded manually so handling can be an issue and a concern especially for those using designer or expensive luggage. On days with inclement weather, luggage can get wet and there is the occasional bags being dropped (and damaged).

IMG09353-20140925-1313The baggage claim area at Puerto Princesa airport is obviously not so spacious with just a single belt shared by arriving passengers from different flights.

IMG09354-20140925-1314Crowded but not chaotic. That’s how I would describe the baggage claim area when two flights arrived one almost immediately after the other.

IMG09355-20140925-1316Baggage carousel.

IMG09356-20140925-1322Sign informing visitors about the policy for going to the Underground River, one of the most popular if not the top attraction in Puerto Princesa.

IMG09357-20140925-1323Covered area for loading/unloading passengers and visitors at the airport.

IMG09358-20140925-1323Waiting area for people fetching passengers just outside the arrival area.

IMG09508-20140927-1333Notices for passengers and others entering the airport driveway.

IMG09509-20140927-1334Entrance to the airport.

IMG09510-20140927-1334Another look at the loading/unloading/waiting area just outside the terminal building.

IMG09511-20140927-1335Airport terminal driveway and departure unloading area.

IMG09512-20140927-1336Departure area under construction/renovation with seats, counters and other materials everywhere.

IMG09513-20140927-1340Cebu Pacific check-in counters. Tiger Air flights are operated by Cebu Pacific.

IMG09514-20140927-1340Air Asia Zest check-in counters.

IMG09515-20140927-1340Entrance to the pre-departure lounge/area.

IMG09516-20140927-1341Philippine Airlines check-in counters

IMG09517-20140927-1349Self service check-in machine by Cebu Pacific. This is very useful for passengers arriving early at the airport for their flights. It allows you to check-in, select seats and get your boarding passes prior to the counters opening for passengers checking-in at the terminal. It’s basically an internet or online check-in so you can go to the internet check-in counter, which usually has a shorter queue.

IMG09518-20140927-1532Passengers accumulating in near the Cebu Pacific check-in counters. I think airlines shouldn’t have policies preventing passengers arriving early from checking-in. This might be okay for large terminals servicing so many flights but for smaller airports like PPS, Cebu Pacific would probably do better by attending to passengers. Everyone could see that their staff were not at all doing anything behind the counters so they might as well check in passengers so as to reduce and better manage the queuing later on.

IMG09520-20140927-1549The airport now services international flights but mostly chartered ones. There is an international departure area and a simple immigration counter. These don’t look like they are in regular use.

IMG09523-20140927-1607Pre-departure area at the terminal – there seems to be a lot of seats but these are all practically occupied for a single flight. Most aircraft servicing the MNL-PPS route are not wide bodied but the area cannot accommodate 2 plane loads (assuming A319 or A320) of passengers. This is a non-smoking area by law and there is a room for smokers. People though seem to be in-and-out of the room so people seated near the door leading to the smoking room (there are 2 doors) still get a sniff of cigarette smoke.

IMG09524-20140927-1607Overall, the terminal is clean and orderly. There are 3 gates reserved for each of the airlines (Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Air Asia Zest) that have the most flights to and from Puerto Princesa.

IMG09528-20140927-1757Our Cebu Pacific plane was again late by an hour and so that meant we were getting home later in the night. The good thing about it was that it also meant less traffic (both the airport and roads) in Manila compared to a late afternoon arrival.

Bottlenecks and other traffic issues in Antipolo

Commuting between our home in Antipolo and my work place in Quezon City, I have noted a lot of issues on transport and traffic that needs to be attended to by the local government in coordination with other entities like the DPWH and Meralco. Here are some photos with my notes and comments.

IMG07835-20140310-1207Much of Sumulong Highway have been widened to 4 lanes but many electric posts remain in the middle of the additional lanes and pose hazards to motorists and cyclists. These posts seem to have been here for quite some time now and the paint on them gives the message that they will be here for the foreseeable future. Paint or no paint, they are road hazards and have the potential to kill people on vehicles crashing into the poles. I think this is supposed to be the responsibility of the power company (Meralco) but there needs to be a firm request and coordination coming from Antipolo City Government to finally relocate these poles.

IMG07836-20140310-1210Congestion is often caused by counter-flowing vehicles forcing their way back into the right lane (like the car in the middle of the photo) upon encountering opposing traffic. It doesn’t help that there are motorcycles splitting the lanes to make for a very crowded road.

IMG07837-20140310-1212The new but still closed Antipolo Public Market along Sumulong Highway and near the intersection with Daang Bakal (the old railroad line that’s now a road). I wonder about the trip generation potential of this complex as it is not yet operational. Meanwhile, a huge Robinsons mall (looks larger than their Magnolia property) is currently under construction just across from it and will definitely be a major traffic generator in that area. The combined traffic to be attributed to these commercial complexes will surely have a tremendous impact on Sumulong Highway and other roads in the vicinity.

IMG07838-20140310-1213Both Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue Extension carry significant truck traffic. These often cause congestion as they are slow going up to Antipolo and can block the entire road as Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Extension have some narrow sections where the shoulders could not provide enough space for other vehicles to pass the slower moving ones. In certain cases like the one in the photo above, there are electric posts in the middle of the shoulder lane.

IMG07839-20140310-1215Tricycles occupy the outer lane of Ortigas Ave. Ext./Olivares Street. Such informal and on-street terminals are illegal along national roads and yet the city tolerates them. One explanation for this is that there are informal communities along the highway on shanties built along what is supposed to be a ledge along the mountainside (shown at right in the photo). These are where tricycle drivers and their families reside. 

IMG07840-20140310-1216Tricycles from different tricycle operators and drivers associations (TODAs) seem to roam the entire city. This is contrary to the common practice in other cities and municipalities where tricycles are limited within a certain area or district that in many cases just overlap with others (e.g., UP Teachers Village-Philcoa-Krus na Ligas).

IMG07841-20140310-1218Many tricycles serve as school service. However, the observation is that most tricycles tend to be overloaded with passengers. These are usually small children so the driver probably figured that they could cram more passengers than what is legally allowed.

IMG08713-20140528-0722Sharing the road? Antipolo is very popular with cyclists and weekends bring a lot of them to the city as they come from all over via the main routes along Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue (there should also be those coming from the east via the Antipolo-Teresa Road and Antipolo-Tanay Road). Most motorists are aware of these cyclists and give way to them. Most experienced cyclists are also aware of the ROW of other vehicles and so keep to the inner lanes. This mutual awareness and respect are vital to make roads safe for all. I think the only thing needed is to provide space for pedestrians as there are significant numbers of people walking, hiking or jogging along these roads.