Caught (up) in traffic

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On one way schemes

A proposed one-way scheme for EDSA, C-5 and Roxas Boulevard raised not a few eyebrows among transportation and traffic professionals. While it seems to some that the three major thoroughfares are parallel or can be paired in such a way that EDSA can be one-way southbound, and C-5 and Roxas Blvd. can be one-way northbound, it is not as easy at it seems because these arterial carry a heckuva lot of traffic compared to the roads they are being compared to (New York?). The road network layout is also quite different. We have a circumferential and radial road network as the backbone of road-based transportation. A one-way scheme could be more effective if we had a grid type network where you have several pairs of roads that can be designated as one-way streets.

Take the case of Tacloban City, whose central business district has a grid-type network with intersections relatively closely spaced. The city implemented a one-way scheme as shown below:

Note the pairs of roads designated for one-way flow. These basically make for efficient traffic circulation provided the capacities of streets and intersections are not significantly reduced by factors such as on-street parking and other roadside friction. This can be achieved in various places in Metro Manila where streets are similarly laid out and there are multiple pairs to promote good circulation. Makati, for example, has many one-way streets in its CBD, and these are also in pairs. While having high capacities, EDSA, C-5 and Roxas Boulevard just does not have the closely spaced intersections to effect efficient circulation. In fact EDSA (or C-4) and C-5 are arterials that function to distribute the traffic carried by radial roads such as Roxas Blvd., Shaw Blvd., Commonwealth Ave, Aurora Blvd., etc.

A better option is to focus on improving road -based public transport by setting up high capacity, express bus services with exclusive lanes. These may not necessarily be full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems but requires a drastic reduction and restructuring of current numbers of buses along EDSA and their deployment along corridors like C-5 and Roxas Blvd. Express means longer intervals between stops (hint for EDSA: express bus stops coinciding with MRT-3 stations), and increased travel speeds made possible by exclusive lane(s). This could have been piloted during the APEC meetings in the previous administration where 2 lanes for each direction of EDSA were appropriated for APEC vehicles. These lanes could have been used afterwards for a BRT (-lite?) system and what could have been an pilot could have also provided an appreciation or “proof of concept” for BRT in Metro Manila that we could have learned a lot from.

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.

Traffic congestion along Sen. L. Sumulong Memorial Circle

I was on some errands and had to pass through the Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong Memorial Circle from Taktak to the other side of Antipolo near the Lico Circle. The section from Robinsons Antipolo where the Sumulong Circle intersects with Sumulong Highway until C. Lawis Street is being widened and photo below shows the work in progress. The road is a dangerous one especially at night. There are a lot of electric poles in the middle of the newly constructed lanes and power and phone lines dangling in many places. The unfinished parts have a lot of excavations, construction material and debris from the demolished buildings.

Widened section of Sen. L. Sumulong Memorial Circle

I took the following photos while traffic was at a standstill:

Initially, it was not so obvious what the cause of congestion was except for the dramatic sag along the road. Both sides appeared to be congested.

Closer observation showed my direction to be congested up to a certain point whereas the opposite direction across from me was free flowing and traffic build-up along the other side also appeared to be from a certain location at the bottom part of the sag.

It turned out that out of the 6 lanes of the road, only 3 lanes were available to moving traffic – one lane along my way and two along the opposite. Vehicles were parked along 2 lanes of the road in front of the Antipolo City Police Station and 1 lanes across from it. It seems quite ironic  considering the police is also tasked with traffic enforcement and management and yet the problem emanated from their station. I am not sure whose vehicles are those that are parked along the road. Perhaps many are owned by police officers? By comparison, the national high school beside the station and the nearby hall of justice did not seem to generate as much vehicular parking as the station. The obvious solution though would be to have an off-street parking lot or facility. Looking at Google Maps, there are some locations along M. Santos Street where a multi-level parking facility can be built but land needs to be acquired first and that can be a difficult task. Another option might be to relocate the main station (i.e., headquarters) elsewhere where there is space for proper facilities including off-street parking. Perhaps they should have a place at the new government center being developed by Antipolo?

Some issues at Barkadahan Bridge

Perhaps one of the worst places to be in terms of traffic during the morning peak is Highway 2000, and particularly the approach to the Barkadahan Bridge that crosses the Manggahan Floodway.  Traffic management at the intersection of the East Bank Road and Highway 2000 is so atrocious that everyone passing the junction would likely incur delays of more than 30 minutes.

The congestion in the area is also attributable to the fact that you have major roads carrying traffic from all over the eastern town of Rizal that are bound for Makati and Taguig (Bonifacio Global City), mostly for offices in those CBDs. These commuters likely use the completed C-6 sections including those at Lupang Arena and the expansion along the Laguna de Bay coast.

Barkadahan Bridge is a 2-lane structure with significant local traffic such as the tricycles in the photos

On either side are narrow walkways and it no uncommon for people to walk on the carriageway itself .

The bridge’s expansion is underway but, from my observation, is taking too much time. Perhaps the contractor is having problems with the foundations for the posts? Or maybe the funds aren’t flowing as required for the effective implementation of the project?

This is an ‘old’ sign now as July 20 is already more than a week ago. 

A lot of people look forward to the completion of the bridge but the bigger issue is still the traffic management at the intersection that is also influenced by factors such as the tricycle terminal near the junction and the undisciplined local traffic. The situation is exacerbated by those who counter flow along Highway 2000 and generally get away with it. Perhaps the Municipality of Taytay should get some help in improving their capabilities for traffic management?

More major traffic generators along Ortigas Ave. Extension?

There’s another mall being constructed along the westbound side of Ortigas Avenue Extension just before the Lucky Gold Plaza and across from the One Oasis residential enclave. That area is already very congested as will be attested to by the thousands who pass this way especially during the morning rush. Here’s a photo of the mall that is currently under construction as seen from the bridge crossing the Manggahan Floodway. The steel frame on the left and behind the pedestrian bridge is the mall’s.

That’s another mall being built across the Bali Oasis near the Manggahan Floodway

Among the future major traffic generators that will likely make traffic congestion along Ortigas Avenue worse are the following:

  • Residential development across Countryside subdivision
  • Town center development near Valley Golf

Commuters using this corridor will likely find traffic worsen (could it really get worse than what it is now?) and traffic schemes by the LGUs along the corridor (i.e., Pasig, Cainta and Taytay) will not be enough to alleviate traffic over the medium to long term.  Only a dedicated mass transit line can provide significant improvements for travel along this corridor.

I am still wondering about the mass transit solution for this corridor. There are arguably more people traveling along Ortigas Avenue compared to Marcos Highway that already has Line 2 under construction. I’m sure if you asked people when a mass transit line’s needed along Ortigas, they will reply “years ago”. Being one who has traveled along this corridor since the 1970s (I was a resident of Cainta and then of Antipolo), I can say that traffic indeed has worsened over the last 3 decades. Travel demand management (TDM) measures such as number coding and transport systems management (TSM) schemes such as Pasig’s one-way scheme will not be enough to address the growth along the corridor as they were and are not enough in the first place.

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.

Responding to the transport impacts of road crashes

Last March 9, traffic was terrible along Marcos Highway and roads connecting to it including Imelda Avenue and Sumulong Highway due to a truck that slammed into the scaffolding of the Line 2  Extension across the Sta. Lucia Mall, and barely missing the newly constructed column supporting the girders and elevated tracks of Line 2.

[Photo not mine but sent by an officemate who was glad to have taken his motorcycle that day instead of commuting by car.]

Following are comments I captured from Waze as I tried to get information about the traffic situation:

It is very clear from travelers’ comments that most were frustrated and many were angry about what seemed to be a very slow response from authorities in clearing the crash site and getting traffic to move faster. I myself wondered how a crash like this with its impacts manifesting in severe congestion along major roads was not dealt with as urgently as possible by so many entities that were not without capacity to act decisively. The front liner should have been the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and there were at least four local government units directly affected by the congestion: Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Surely, these LGUs could have done more if the MMDA couldn’t, in order to resolve the problem? If the availability of heavy equipment was an issue, weren’t there available equipment from Line 2 contractor, DMCI, or perhaps from the construction sites nearby (Ayala is constructing a huge mall near the area.)? Surely, they could lend a payloader or mobile crane that can remove the truck or at least help unblock the area?

I finally decided to turn back and work from home instead that day. Later, I learned that authorities had to stop traffic along Marcos Highway around 11:00 AM in order to tow the truck and clear the area for traffic to normalize. I hope this serves as a lesson in coordination among government entities and that future incidents like this will not results in a “carmaggedon” like Friday’s congestion. One thing that also became obvious is that travelers passing the area are all dependent on road-based transport and the primary reason why a lot of people were affected by the crash. The expanded operations of the Line 2, whenever that will be, will surely change transport in these areas and for the better.