Caught (up) in traffic

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Eastern Metro Manila transport depot?

The eastern transport terminal that had been under development along the Marikina riverbanks and across from SM City Marikina does not seem to be progressing in terms of the public utility vehicles it is supposed to be attracting and dispatching. Not even the heavy promotion of a tiangge or goods market in the area could attract people.

Passing the area, one can see trucks and other heavy equipment parked and occupying much of the terminal’s space. It seems to have become more of a depot than a working public transport terminal. I think this is to be expected as the designation and development of this area as a terminal for the east seems to have been undertaken haphazardly. For one, the connection to the Line 2 Station at Santolan is not that good and requires a lot of walking in a not so comfortable or convenient environment. Meanwhile provincial buses terminating at the terminal would have to be routed via C-5 with those from the north passing through the very congested Katipunan and those from the south also deliberately modifying their routes for this terminal. Connections with other modes is also quite problematic. The location just isn’t as strategic as Cubao or Crossing for this terminal to succeed in the natural sense. While I am still hoping I am wrong here, the gut feel and the observations every time I pass by the area says otherwise.

On the East Metro Transport Terminal in Marikina

This site has been visited a lot the past few days by people searching for information on the eastern transport terminal that’s being developed in Marikina City just across from SM City Marikina. I wonder if its for a study (i.e., students doing research) or perhaps some folks curious about the signs they’ve seen while crossing the Marcos Highway bridge across the Marikina River.

Signs informing people about the existence of a transport terminal beneath the bridge

The sign also states BFCT, the first part of which are the initials of the former MMDA Chair/Marikina Mayor. CT probably means ‘city transport’, ‘city terminal’ or ‘central terminal’? I haven’t been to SM Marikina lately so I haven’t had the opportunity to see how complete the facility is and if it is already operational. However, one can see from the bridge, as you travel along the outermost eastbound lane, that work is ongoing and there are vehicles (mostly vans, jeepneys and small trucks) that are parked there.

Is this a good location for a public transport terminal? I believe so; considering that there is a railway station nearby and the area is a convergence point for a lot of people (not only those residing in Marikina and Pasig). Do I think this should be a provincial bus terminal of the same level as the ones proposed for the north and south of Metro Manila? Yes, but only for trips bound for the east (e.g., Rizal and Infanta, Quezon) and south (e.g., Quezon, Laguna, Bicol) via the eastern route (Marcos Highway, Antipolo-Teresa Road or Manila East Road). I don’t think it is appropriate for trips heading to Boracay, Baguio or Ilocos. Buses headed for the latter destinations should terminate at the proposed north and south terminals. Buses to/from those places that would be terminating in Marikina would mean they would have to travel along C-5 in order to get to this eastern terminal. If these are in significant numbers then the traffic generated by such a terminal will contribute to congestion along C-5 and Marcos Highway. Of course, such proposed terminals should be subject to rigorous studies as these facilities can be major traffic generators and some mitigating measures must be in place to address potential issues.

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.