Caught (up) in traffic

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Some thoughts on Metro Manila traffic

I was going to defer posting another article this September as I reached my usual quota of at least 10 posts. Particularly, I wanted to have a series about my recent trip to Vietnam. But then the traffic congestion the past week was just so severe that I felt I just had to write another piece.

To be fair, there are so many reasons why transport and traffic are bad in Metro Manila. Among these is the lack of mass transit infrastructure, particularly a more comprehensive rail-based system. Metro Manila, with its population of over 12 million requires something like 8 to 10 mass transit lines that are interconnected and allows for seamless transfers with road transport modes. Singapore, with less people, has more efficient options for public transport. Then, there is the lack of facilities for walking and cycling that could tremendously reduce the number of trips using motor vehicles particularly for short trips (perhaps within 2 to 3 kilometers travel distance?). I won’t even go to the deficiencies of road public transport and the proliferation of private cars operating as full time taxis (ridesharing anyone?). And urban planning? Well, that deserves its own article…

This is EDSA in the mid-afternoon. I took this photo while we were heading back to Quezon City from Makati around 3:30PM. It was not supposed to be this heavy considering people were still at their workplaces, schools or even the shopping center/malls.

There is no quick fix to Metro Manila’s problems. Obviously, the infrastructure that should have been in place decades ago need to be built albeit at a high cost. Our children and grandchildren will likely end up paying for these but there is also the reality that such infrastructure won’t get cheaper in the future. There should also be stricter policies and enforcement to improve the quality of services of public transport. As it is, private transport modes including taxis, the popularity of ridesharing/ridehailing services and the unregulated motorcycle taxis are steadily taking people away from public transport. This is perhaps among the most significant causes of more congestion for the metropolis that needs to be quantified and validated for us to understand and determine what measures need to be taken.

I conclude this post and September with a nice article on walkability:

Steuteville, R. (2017) Why walkability is not a luxury, Public Square, https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2017/09/28/why-walkability-not-luxury, last accessed September 29, 2017.

Wheel “chaining” in Taytay, Rizal

Another municipality that has become somewhat aggressive in its campaign against illegally parked vehicles is Taytay also in Rizal province. In the case of Taytay, instead of wheel clamps, authorities have opted to employ what appears as more cost efficient (read: less expensive) tools in their campaign – chains and locks. Instead of the more sophisticated (and likely more expensive) wheel clamps in neighboring Antipolo, chains are wrapped around one of the front wheels of a vehicle and then secured by a lock. Examples are shown in the following photo:

Car wheels chained and padlocked along Don Hilario Cruz in the Taytay Public Market area. The road connects the Manila East Road with the new Taytay municipal hall complex.

Anti-illegal parking enforcers also post a sheet of paper on the window of the vehicle to notify the driver about the violation. The enforcers are posted nearby; waiting for drivers to approach them. There’s supposed to be a fine similar to when a vehicle is towed and reclaimed by the driver or owner. This, campaign, however, seems to have been relaxed in the same area where I took the photo as there are again a lot of vehicles parked on either side of the street on the Saturdays that I pass by the area. I’m not yet sure if this is a case of ningas cogon on the part of the municipality or perhaps they are just exercising some flexibility considering the parking demand for the market and the numerous clothes shops there where wholesalers flock to for merchandise. I haven’t seen similar “chaining” activities in other parts of Taytay unlike Antipolo, which has been continuously and consistently conducting campaigns throughout the city.

Traffic management in Tagaytay?

My recent trip to Tagaytay made me recall why I no longer like the city as much as before when we were frequent visitors for rest and recreation. Two things come to mind whenever we plan a trip to Tagaytay, one is where to stay and the other is when to go. The latter question is usually a no-brainer as we opted to go to Tagaytay on weekdays rather than the weekends. There are much less people during the weekdays and you can still enjoy the city even with one having to deal with the worsening traffic conditions brought about by the intense development along the national highways. The former question is easily answered, too, since there are many good hotels (including bed & breakfast places) in the city.

Traffic though has worsened in this city that probably has tourism as its top industry. It has attracted a lot of developers who seem to have gobbled up a lot of land for what has become intense development. Surely they were targeting a market comprised of people wanting to own property in Tagaytay. The high rise condominiums address the demand for a view of Taal Lake and Volcano. The commercial developments are supposed to cater to the needs (shopping?) of tourists. The city seems to have neglected the fact that its transportation system’s carrying capacity (never mind for this article the capacities for other critical resources like water) cannot handle the trip generation attributed to these developments. And so its transport problems, again basically rooted on trip generation, are exacerbated by limited capabilities for traffic management. [The capacity seems to be there given all the staff manning the Tagaytay rotunda.]

A colleague opined that perhaps traffic management here is limited, too, by the options Tagaytay has in terms of management measures. You basically have a major intersection, a rotunda, where practically much of traffic converges. These include traffic along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road, which includes a lot of vehicles coming from or going to the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road. And there are vehicles taking the Aguinaldo Highway. Traffic personnel seem helpless as they attempt to manage traffic movements. Their approach though is haphazard and only results in very long queues extending outward along all the intersection legs.

img_4117Traffic jam against the backdrop of a gigantic tarp with greetings from the ruling political dynasty in the city

img_4118The Tagaytay – Nasugbu Highway is terribly congested due primarily to the Ayala mall. Not seen in the photo is the barrier that stretches from the rotonda to beyond Lourdes Church that forces all traffic from the west head to the rotonda to make a turn.

img_4119Vehicles coming in from Aguinaldo Highway are backed up. There is also a new mall under construction and opening soon that is too close to this major junction in Tagaytay.

I wonder if the major trip generators (i.e., malls and high density residential developments) were required to do impact studies before the projects were approved for implementation. There’s really not so much in terms of traffic circulation or transportation improvements that can be undertaken given the linear form of the city and the limited road network available for planners. I am curious too see for myself what recommendations were made by these studies in order to alleviate the detrimental impacts they now have on transportation in Tagaytay.

Motorcycle lanes along Sumulong Highway?

I noticed something along my commute and that is the newly marked pavement along Sumulong Highway at the section in Barangay Mambugan until Barangay Mayamot at Masinag Junction. I guess this is more likely part of Antipolo City’s initiative in managing motorcycle and tricycle traffic. In a meeting with the City Administrator, Robert Nacianceno, last year, he said that the city was moving towards improving road safety. That included addressing concerns about tricycle and motorcycle operations that has led to crashes and congestion. Motorcycle lanes designated by blue pavement markings are not new and likely was inspired by the MMDA’s initiatives along major roads in Metro Manila.

MC lanes sumulong2Motorcycle running along the designated lane

MC lanes sumulong1The blue markings are present along both sides of Sumulong Highway

The real challenge with these motorcycle lanes would be on the enforcement. That is, how would the city be ‘encouraging’ motorcyclists and tricycle drivers to stick to the outer lanes of the highway. Such would require a tremendous effort for the city as they will definitely have to apprehend erring motorists and also clear the designated lanes of obstructions. Should this program be successful along Sumulong Highway, perhaps they should consider the same for Marcos Highway.

Statement on the proposed emergency powers to solve transport and traffic problems

The National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of UP Diliman submitted a statement to the joint Senate committees evaluating the proposal to grant emergency powers to the Philippines President in order to solve the transport and traffic problems in the country and especially in Metro Manila. Following is a copy of the one-page statement:

NCTS Statement on Emergency Powers 25Aug2016

Seemingly minor violations that affect traffic and safety

The following photo shows one of the many minor violations that happen everyday along many roads and particularly at intersections. Motorcyclists and drivers frequently occupy spaces that are supposed to be clear of vehicles. The motorcycles and AUV below occupy the pedestrian crossing that is typically space for pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection. Both vehicles also are encroaching upon the intersection’s yellow box, which can be risky given that the intersection is signalised and other vehicles are given the right of movement according to the cycle settings of the intersection.

Encroach intersection

This and others like it are what seems to be minor incidents but in truth have a combining or cumulative effect on traffic streams that contribute to congestion as well as having implications on road safety. Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to go around the vehicles blocking their paths, likely putting them in harm’s way. Other motorists try to avoid these errant vehicles, which, like in the photo, may be blocking the path of vehicles proceeding towards the intersection leg to the right that is hidden in the picture. Motorists doing this must be apprehended by traffic officers/enforcers as these are clear violations of traffic rules. If one is to promote discipline among road users, then it should start with minor violations that tend to be disregarded by traffic enforcers.

Addressing congestion due to school traffic congestion

There are two important traffic news stories yesterday:

For some reason that’s a bit surprising for many, the MMDA seems to have solved two of the most enduring issues on traffic congestion along two major thoroughfares. LSGH is along Ortigas Avenue while Ateneo is along Katipunan Avenue (C-5). Both have high trip generation rates and a significant percentage of their trip gen is comprised of private vehicles. While, Ateneo’s trip generation has led to traffic congestion due to the sheer number of trips the university attracts, the congestion due to La Salle is due to the poor traffic management and lack of parking spaces for vehicles attracted by the school.

I only wonder why it took so much time to address these problems considering the solutions mentioned in the articles are basically ones that could have been implemented years ago. In the case of La Salle, good old fashioned traffic enforcement apparently did the trick. But then, the MMDA even with the LGU constraint could have been stricter before whether when they were under Bayani Fernando (BF) or any of his successors as MMDA Chair. With Ateneo, the scheme is very similar if not the same as what BF proposed over a decade ago when he was MMDA Chair. At that time though a touchy issue was the U-turn scheme he installed along Katipunan that cost trees and the former service road on the west side of the avenue. We can only hope that these claimed ‘successes’ will be sustained and ensure smoother flow of traffic along the major roads they directly affect.