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On using advanced tools for infrastructure assessments

I came upon this article on how transportation departments in the US are using tools such as drones to assess critical infrastructure including roads and bridges. This is very relevant to us especially as many similar infra are aging and would need to be assessed to determine how to reinforce, retrofit or even rehabilitate certain infrastructure vs. naturally occurring phenomena like earthquakes and typhoons.

Reed, J. (August 2, 2022) “How Transportation Departments Are Using Advanced Drone Technology for Infrastructure Assessments,” Aviation Today, [Last accessed: 8/4/2022]

To quote from the article:

“The WVDOT may expand its drone programs to perform road safety assessments and to assist in designing new road routes by providing topographical maps.”

I recall that there have been road-based surveys involving Lidar to map the road and adjacent land surfaces about a decade ago (maybe less). This was a nationwide project funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and implemented by the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Department of Geodetic Engineering. I’m not sure where that data is stored or hosted but the DGE should have a back-up somewhere that can be used or further processed for road safety assessment applications. This could be an interesting and fruitful research area that can involve people from various disciplines.

Some old drawing tools for clothoids

I took some photos of old (vintage if you prefer) drawing tools that I have at our laboratory at the university. We found this in the storage many years ago and people seem to have forgotten about them. Instead of heading for storage or being forgotten or worse, thrown away, we decided to keep them at our laboratory mainly to show our students how certain highway or street curves were drawn in the ‘old days’. I am currently the custodian of this and another set that I have kept at my other office at the civil engineering building.

The wooden box is at my office at UP Diliman

The sign basically translates to clothoid drawing tools made by a company based in Setagaya in Tokyo. There are 14 instruments in the box for clothoid parameter values of A = 20m to 350m.

Opening the box shows slots holding instruments for drawing clothoids or spiral curves

Some of the instruments from the case – the large one on top is for A = 300m and 350m (scale 1:1000)

Comparison of size of instruments for (top) A = 60m and 65m, and (bottom) A = 30m and 35m (scale 1:1000)

Instrument for A = 30m and 35m (Scale 1:1000)

A protractor came along with the set but I assume other instruments such as a compass were used in drawing/drafting the curves.

I shall take photos of the other set when I get to visit the other office. These will be for records purposes as well as for posterity. These are practically museum pieces that are now perhaps rarely if even used.

Roadside bike repair stations

Walking along 38th Street at the Uptown side of Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig, I came along this mini bike repair station conveniently located along the bike lane and just across from the schools along the street. It had some tools and a pump. Typical of what a cyclist or biker may need in case some quick repairs, adjustments or tire inflation are required. The first time I saw something like this was along Commonwealth Avenue; provided by a bicycle group that helped promote bike-to-work along that corridor and Quezon City.

The station is sponsored by a private company and seems to be a cooperative effort with BGC.
Tools like an adjustable wrench and screwdrivers are all secure vs. unscrupulous persons.
The pump is also secured and hopefully there will be no one attempting to damage or vandalize these.
There are also quick tips for checking your bicycle printed at the pump side of the station.

We need more of these especially along the major roads used by cyclists; especially those who bike to work. Granted that there are many bike shops and perhaps the vulcanizing shops as well as cyclists bringing their own tools and pumps but you never know when you will need some tools or perhaps a pump to inflate tires. Of course, these will need to be secured as there are people who have the propensity to steal, damage or vandalize tools.

Vaccines for road safety

If there is the current vaccination drive vs. Covid-19, there is also something like this for road safety. The International Road Assessment Program (iRAP) developed many tools and resources to address road safety issues. I am sharing the link to the Vaccines for Roads site of iRAP here:

Because Every Life Counts

It is always good to know about these resources whether you are a practitioner, a researcher. a teacher or perhaps an advocate of road safety. There are many examples here of interventions for various scenarios or conditions that will hopefully lead to safer roads for all.

On an ‘induced demand calculator’

Induced demand or traffic is a popular topic these days thanks to the proposal of a private company to build an elevated tollway along the Pasig River. The topic is also much in circulation the past few years as the DPWH’s part in the government’s Build, Build, Build program has road widening as a major component. There are many completed, ongoing and planned projects across the country that involves road widening, particularly increasing the number of lanes of typical national roads from 2 to 4, not counting the shoulders (paved or unpaved). The results are mixed as there are roads that definitely required capacity increase in the form of additional lanes, and there were roads that did not require them. The latter were still expanded and perhaps the agency did so because their key performance indicators basically obliged them to undertake such projects regardless of the need. Somehow, these were justified and yet there were and are many questionable road widening projects especially those that involved the cutting of decades if not century old trees (e.g., the Kamatchile and Acacia trees that used to line up long sections of national roads in Tarlac are no more) or the demolition of heritage structures such as houses.

A came upon this article about an “Induced Demand Calculator” developed in the US. I have not gone through the calculator itself but such a tool could be quite useful in quantifying the impacts of road widening while pushing for other options to improve transportation and traffic that is not the typical “solving traffic” type of approach. Here is the article in Streets Blog:

I am not aware if there are similar tools being developed here. Such a calculator will require data from various sectors including construction costs, operations and maintenance costs, value of time and current and projected vehicular and person trips that can be translated into traffic volumes.

Another walkability tool: Pedestrians First

The ITDP recently came out with a new walkability tool called Pedestrians First. Here’s the link to their site where you can download the tool. The tool was released in the recently concluded World Urban Forum held in Malaysia.

Of course, there are other tools out there including one developed by Clean Air Asia, material on which may be found through the following links:

Walkability Mobile App

Our technical staff and my students are currently using the methodology developed by Clean Air Asia and have covered several major thoroughfares in Metro Manila and a highly urbanized city in studies that have been undertaken in the last 6 years. I already asked them to take a look at the new tool and see how this compares with the ones we are using.

In-vehicle tools for road safety

I recently came across a provincial bus operator who is promoting a device for limiting the speeds of vehicles. He states that all their buses are fitted with the device and together with an on-board camera and GPS, they are able to monitor their buses and ensure the safety and security of their passengers. It’s always good to know there are responsible and progressive bus operators like him. Unfortunately, his kind is a minority among many who appear to be after the proverbial quick buck rather than ensuring a high quality of service for travelers.

Devices limiting the speeds of vehicles are not new. These have been installed in many public transport and commercial vehicles like buses and trucks in order to regulate their speeds along highways and streets. Trucks from Japan are fitted with these devices and those second hand trucks being sold in the Philippines have these but are allegedly disabled by their new owners. They are not violating any laws here as there are no regulations requiring such devices to be installed in vehicles.

Tracking devices that include GPS are more recent technologies being used mainly by logistics companies to track their vehicles. These are particularly important for trucks laden with high value cargo or for delivery vans who schedules and routes need to be managed to ensure timely delivery of packages consigned to them. Data from these devices would allow for the assessment of driving speeds and behavior such as lane changing that can be used to determine if drivers are, for example, reckless. The same data can also be used to evaluate fuel efficiency.

Such devices also have research applications because data can be used to determine real-time traffic conditions. In fact, there have been probe car studies conducted in other countries such as Japan, Thailand and Indonesia where taxis were employed to gather traffic information along urban road networks (e.g., Tokyo, Bangkok, Jakarta). Similar experiments can be implemented for Philippine cities to derive traffic information that can be used to guide travelers regarding travel times and route planning.

Perhaps the DOTC through the LTO and the LTFRB, should look into the mandatory installation and use of these devices to regulate vehicle speeds for public and freight transport and also monitor driver behavior. Mandatory speed regulation devices as well as tracking systems have a high potential for weeding out reckless, irresponsible drivers that will ultimately lead to a reduction in road crashes that have resulted in serious injuries and loss of lives. Definitely, there will be objections or opposition to such a requirement but these devices can be justified given the clamor for safer transport and safer roads. After all, everyone of us are vulnerable road users where even the safest driver can be involved in crashes. It takes only one reckless driver or rider to cause a crash.