Caught (up) in traffic

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On preserving old transit systems

Many old cities have either retained or phased out their old road-level transit systems. I am referring mainly to rail-based streetcars rather than road-based ones such as buses. Even the indigenous types of road-based public transport may be phased out and usually in the name of modernization. Some though, like Singapore’s rickshaws and Manila’s calesas are still existent but you will find them either during odd hours or in tourist areas.

A good example of a city that has retained and preserved its transit system that is San Francisco in the US. The city still has a running cable car system, and its street cars maintained and operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). These are practically operational, traveling museums. The streetcars, for example, are of different models – a collection of streetcars from various cities around the world that have phased out this transit systems a long time ago. So it should not be surprising to see a different street car every time. And one could try to ride each one in operation while staying in city.

San Francisco’s cable cars are still operational and are used by people on their commutes

Here is an article about Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) trams:

Schmall, E. (September 2, 2021) “Kolkata’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Trams, Once Essential, Are Now a Neglected Relic,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/world/asia/kolkata-india-trams-calcutta.html?smid=url-share [Last accessed: ]

What are your thoughts about preserving or phasing out these transit systems?

On the safety of transit use during the pandemic

Here is another quick share of an article that reports on a study showing that there is no direct correlation between COVID-19 and public transportation use:

editor@aashto.org (October 2, 2020) Study: No Direct Correlation Between COVID-19, Transit System Use. AASHTO Journal. https://aashtojournal.org/2020/10/02/study-no-direct-correlation-between-covid-19-transit-system-use/

Such articles and the study (there is a link in the article for the report) support the notion that public transportation can be made safe for use by commuters during the pandemic. The report is a compilation of best practices around the world that can be replicated here, for example, in order to assure the riding public that public transport (can be) is safe. Needless to say, car use is still less preferred and other findings have also supported active transport whenever applicable. This reference is both relevant and timely given the new pronouncement (or was it a proposal?) from the Philippines’ Department of Transportation (DOTr) to implement what they termed as “one seat apart” seating in public utility vehicles in order to increase the capacity of public transport in the country. The department has limited the number of road public transport vehicles and the current physical distancing requirements have reduced vehicle capacities to 20-30% of their seating capacities. It is worse for rail transit as designated spaces/seats in trains translated to capacities less than 10% of pre-lockdown numbers.

On bicycles and transit

Here is another quick share of an article on bicycles and transit (i.e., public transport):

Cox, W. (2020) “Bicycles: A Refuge for Transit Commuters?”, New Geography, https://www.newgeography.com/content/006753-bicycles-a-refuge-transit-commuters [Last accessed: 9/4/2020]

What do you think? Are we getting there in terms of the bicycle-transit relationship? MRT and LRT lines have allowed foldable bikes to be carried in their trains but buses and other road-based public transport may not allow you to bring your bike inside the vehicle. For the latter vehicles, there are usually racks installed in front of the vehicles that can accommodate 2-3 bikes. Train stations now should have bicycle parking facilities for the last mile trips of their passengers.

Transit station connections in Singapore

The connections between transit stations in Singapore show us examples of how to encourage people to walk long distances. The links, mostly underground, are interconnected with branches to common exits to hotels, office and residential buildings. These are basically transit malls lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. There are even gyms (e.g., UFC) and play venues along some connections.

Underground transit mall between a City Hall Station (red line) and Esplanade Station (orange line)

The connection is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops

Singapore’s underground connections reminded me of similar structures in Tokyo and Yokohama. You can just walk underground and come up near your destination. This is especially advantageous and comfortable during the summers when the hot weather becomes a detriment to walking outdoors. Underground transit malls or connections are usually air-conditioned or air is pumped into them for ventilation. As such, temperatures are significantly lower compared to the surface/ground. Will we have similar facilities/developments here in the Philippines and particularly in Metro Manila once the MM Subway is developed?

Commuting in Singapore

Another thing we miss about Singapore is the public transportation. It was easy to go around Singapore especially with its comprehensive, extensive rail transport network. This is complemented by even more extensive bus transit services. All these are offer convenient, comfortable and reliable public transportation. As such, there is practically no need to use your own private vehicle for transportation unless there really is a need arising for their use (e.g., emergencies).

Passengers wait for the train to arrive at an SMRT platform

Passengers line up before the platform gates at an underground station

The transport system in Singapore actually reminded me of how efficient and reliable it was to commute in Japan where I’ve lived in three area – Tokyo, Yokohama and Saitama – for various lengths of time. These transport systems are what Metro Manila and other rapidly urbanizing cities in the Philippines need in order to sustain growth while providing for the transport needs of its citizens.

Changi Jewel and transit

The trip to Sri Lanka afforded me some hours at Singapore’s Changi Airport. En route to Colombo, we made sure to go around the complex and check out one of the attractions of the top airport in the world. Changi’s Jewel is very impressive and can make you forgot you were actually inside an airport terminal. Here are some photos taken as we trekked to the Jewel via Terminal 2 and 3.

Visitors have the option of walking by themselves or using the moving walkway whenever these were available.

The automated guideway transit (AGT) system of Changi allow you to transfer from one terminal to another with the exception of Terminal 4.

I took this photo of the guideway and the AGT as reference for my lectures

Another view of the corridor connecting Terminal 3 to the Jewel

Directional sign to the Jewel

Changi’s air traffic control tower

The main attraction is this gigantic waterfall located at a man-made complex that’s designed to imitate conditions at a rainforest.

Changi AGT slow down for passengers to have a good close view of the Jewel

All the water used is recycled and one can get mesmerised by the vortex where all the water falls and seem to be sucked into.

Here’s another look at the Jewel and the airport AGT

There is a mall with shops, restaurants and cafes around the Jewel.

Another photo of the AGT guideway above the road system at Changi

Taxis queued along airport roads

More guideways

A look back at the way from the Jewel

More photos of Changi soon!

Airport terminal transfer in Sydney

My flight to Melbourne was via Sydney. I chose Qantas because of the more favorable schedule as well as the cheaper fares the schedule provided compared with Philippine Airlines and Singapore Airlines (via Singapore). And so knowing I would have to transfer at Sydney airport, I decided to have more than an hour’s layover there. It turned out to be a good decision as we had to pick-up our luggage, clear customs and then walk over to the transfer area at the international terminal to have our check-in luggage tagged and dropped off before proceeding to ride a transporter (bus) to the domestic terminal. It was also a good thing that Qantas already thought about such transfers and had good facilities and service for such. Needless to say, the transfer was smooth/efficient.

We had to get our baggage after clearing immigration

We had to walk towards the Qantas transfer facility to have our baggage tagged and dropped off for our connecting flights. In my case, that was for my journey to Melbourne.

After dropping off our luggage, we waited to board the bus that would take us to the domestic terminal. The service frequencies are shown in the sign above.

I was near the front of the line is I was able to board early and take a photo as people were just filling the bus.

Scenes of aircraft ground operations while we were in transit from the international terminal to the domestic terminal includes this American Airlines jet replenishing on inflight meals.

Here’s another view of the same jet getting serviced at the airport.

This is how the bus looks once it fills with people

This is the scene when we arrived at the domestic terminal. Passengers at the terminal were also waiting to board the bus bound for the international terminal.

En route to my boarding gate, I took a few photos of the corridor lined with various shops.

There were also cafes and restaurants for those wanting to have or grab a quick meal or drink.

I arrived at the boarding gate with much time ahead of my flight. There were, however, many passengers already waiting, too.

It seems crowded but there were enough seats for those wanting to relax while waiting for the boarding call. Others seem to prefer just standing (healthier?) there. It was still early in the morning so most people were just quiet or conversing softly with fellow travelers. I myself was a bit sleepy and looking forward to taking a nap on the 1.5-hour flight to Melbourne.

 

Melbourne’s transit system

One thing I always look forward to whenever I am traveling is to try out the public transport system of the cities I am visiting. My first day in Melbourne gave me an opportunity to familiarize with the city’s transportation including the trams and bikeways. Following are some photos I took as I went around the city center on-board their trams. I actually purchased a myki card but discovered a bit later that tram rides were free when you’re within the zone defining the city center. You only need to swipe or tap when you leave the zone where transit will charge the corresponding fares to your destination.

Tram passing by the stop where I decided to stand by to take a few photos while familiarizing with the network map.

Melbourne transit network map and information on priority seats

Inside the circle tram that goes around the city center

Typical transit stop

Vintage tram

Tram crossing an intersection

Modern transit vehicle

I found Melbourne’s transit to be quite efficient and the coverage was comprehensive enough considering the city was walkable and bicycle-friendly. This meant people had many options to move about and this mobility definitely contributes to productivity. More on transportation in Melbourne and Sydney in future posts.

Some articles on walking, biking and transit for wellness

Here are a couple of recent articles on walking, biking and transit:

Walk, bike, and transit benefits boost people of all incomes [McAnaney, P. in Greater Greater Washington, June 13, 2017]

“Bikes are happiness machines.” Behind the Handlebars with cyclist extraordinaire Joe Flood [Maisler, R. in Greater Greater Washington, June 7, 2017]

I posted these partly for future reference but also to promote walking, biking and public transport. These are essential elements for mobility anywhere and governments should ensure that people have these as options for traveling about and not be dependent on automobiles for transport.

San Diego Buses

I took a lot of photos of transport in San Diego and among these are of buses. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System operates a variety of buses that included articulated ones. These have fixed routes and designated stops. At each stop, there is information on what buses (i.e., routes/route numbers) stop there. Here are a few photos of buses in San Diego.

IMG10945-20150504-0858Articulated bus in downtown San Diego

IMG10946-20150504-1037The contraption in front of buses are racks for bicycles

IMG10984-20150504-1251Bus stop in downtown San Diego

IMG10986-20150504-1252Information on bus routes, destinations and fares at bus stops – you can pay as you board the bus or purchase a ticket, pass or compass card in advance.

IMG11097-20150507-0937A bus serving the La Mesa-Downtown route via University Ave. – this is the bus you take from downtown San Diego to San Diego Zoo

IMG11098-20150507-0940Bus interior shows few seats and much spaces for standees – enabling the vehicle to maximize its passengers

IMG11100-20150507-0940The interior on the rear half of the articulated bus

San Diego is a city of just under 1.4 million people with a transport system that’s able to serve the demand for transport over the distances covered by its buses and trolleys. Compared to Philippine cities, San Diego’s transit system is one well oiled machine. Of course, it is more expensive if you convert dollars to pesos but then if you account for the standard of living (including living costs and salaries) and the quality of service provided by the trolleys and buses, then you have something Manila and other major cities in the Philippines would be envious of. Can we have something like San Diego’s transit system in the Philippines? We can but (and that’s a big ‘but’) it needs a lot of work and commitment to set-up and make something like this work.