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On tricycle capacity in the time of COVID-19

With the current rationalization and modernization of public transport vehicles and services being implemented by the national government, many jeepneys, mostly the conventional or traditional ones, have been unable to ply their routes again. Along some routes, buses have taken over but have been limited in the number of passengers they could carry due to physical distancing restrictions. But these are mostly for routes and roads that carry people between their residences and workplaces that typically are longer distance trips (e.g., more than 4 kilometers one way). For shorter distance trips, the more relevant mode of motorized transport is the tricycle. The conventional trike in the Philippines is one involving a motorcycle with a side car. Side car designs vary around the country with some seating 4 people (e.g., back to back with 2 facing backward) but usually with only two seats inside the cab. one or two passengers can be accommodated behind the driver on the motorcycle.

New model trikes include the models endorsed by the Asian Development Bank for the e-trike project that is laid out like a small jitney with benches seating 3 to 4 people on one side (total 6 to 8 passengers) and the popular tuktuk designs that seat 3 people at the back. With the quarantine restrictions in place, conventional trikes can only take one passenger inside the sidecar and none behind the driver. Tuktuks can seat 2 behind the driver but with a barrier (usually a plastic curtain) between the passengers.

 

Conventional or traditional trike with plastic sheet between the driver and the passenger (in the side car).

Tuktuk-type trike with plastic sheet between the driver (in front seat) and passengers in back seat. The back seat allows for 3 people seated together but due to distancing requirement

I have been informed by a former student that certain e-trike models (e.g., BEMAC model e-trikes) are allowed to carry 4 passengers, 2 each on the benches behind the driver who is on the front seat. That still means less passengers than they could usually carry. This would seem to be part of the new normal and will be the set-up for the foreseeable future until perhaps a vaccine for COVID-19 is approved and people get vaccinated. Then, health protocols may be eased to allow for the full seating capacities of public transport vehicles.

On the DOTr Guidelines for Public Transport – Layouts for Distancing

Here again, for reference, are the guidelines issued by the DOTr in relation to the transition from ECQ to GCQ and beyond (immediate rather than far future). The following images show the physical distancing prescribed for road transport.

The last image for the tricycle is something that should have been allowed at least for a limited number of tricycles during the ECQ period. That could have eased transport woes for many people especially those who had to walk long distances in order to get their supplies. Some LGUs like Davao were able to issue Executive Orders to that effect that the IATF did not contend (or is Davao a special case?). Now, we see a lot of LGUs issuing EO’s and ordinances allowing public utility tricycles to operate again but limiting their numbers through odd-even schemes. Perhaps the same should be applied to pedicabs or padyak (non-motorized 3-wheelers), too.

On Davao’s Executive Order No. 23 allowing tricycles as a transport mode during the ECQ

The other day, I posted about the Pasig City Ordinance promoting cycling or the use of bicycles for transport during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or lockdown period. Here is the Executive Order issued by the Davao City mayor where tricycles are allowed by the city (i.e., one driver and one passenger only) as a form of transport. The justification by the City Mayor in subsequent statements and interviews is so simple and common sense that you wonder why such cannot be allowed in other cities like Pasig, which at first allowed tricycles (also with the one driver, one passenger set-up) but was rebuked by national government for their alleged violation of rules set out by the task force in-charge of the nationwide ECQ. While the Davao Executive Order is in itself a formal document and statement, it is interesting to note that after issuing the EO, the Davao City Mayor, who happens to be the daughter of the Philippines’ President, also issued a statement that basically says she will answer all queries and criticisms of this EO; short of threatening those who will oppose it. Surprisingly or not surprisingly, depending on which side of the fence one is, national government was mum about the EO and let Davao be. Thus, it now presents a precedent for other LGUs to follow or invoke. Otherwise, there will be a double standard and it will seem as if Davao will always be a special case.

Modified sidecars for tricycles

I googled the modified tricycles that I remembered was featured on TV before. Here’s what I’ve found from a news program of ABS CBN.

Credits to Bandila for this image of tricycles in La Union province.

Here’s from another internet source showing a rather sporty sidecar and a motorcycle that comfortably seats 2 people.

There are many tricycle sidecar makers around the country. Many of these are home industries or small shops that make and sell few sidecars. At times, the products are on-demand. As the first photo showed, it is possible to come up with sleek designs from our local shops.

During this quarantine period and sfter we get through this COVID-19 challenge, perhaps we should rethink how transportation system should be to ensure not just road safety but also safety from other health hazards as well. Of course, that is something we should take on together with other issues (e.g., employment, city planning, housing, health care systems, etc.) that are now so obvious we have no excuse of not taking notice of them.

Use and modification of the tricycle for the quarantine situation

With the whole country practically in quarantine to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, transportation has become very difficult to many people requiring services as the commute mainly between their homes and places of employment or work. First and priority are the frontline workers – medical personnel like doctors, nurses, technologists and other health and allied workers battling to detect, test and treat people with COVID-19. Our uniformed personnel in the armed forces and police as well as barangay officials and tanods are also doing their part in containing this virus. And then there are many who need to go to their workplaces to earn a living – not all have the luxury of working from home despite its necessity in these times. While there are vehicles to shuttle frontline workers, there are fewer for those who don’t have their own (private) vehicles. Mayors have taken the reins, it seems, for managing the situations in their respective areas and many have stepped up in trying to bridge the gaps including those for transportation.

The subject of this post is the contention by national government officials that tricycles cannot be permitted for public transport because the desired social distance cannot be attained for the trike. Many, including me, have opined that it can, given some modifications (or add-ons), and subject to the driver and passenger (one passenger only!) exercising caution and wearing the required protective gear. I picked up the following drawing showing a modified tricycle:

[Credits to Jini Maraya for her idea and illustration]

The set-up could also be applied to pedicabs or padyak – the non-motorized version of these tricycles. Operationally, too, I would suggest that only a limited number of tricycles be allowed to transport people per day. The purpose of the quarantine will be defeated if we had hundreds or even thousand of tricycles roaming our streets with their drivers looking for fares. Perhaps a system can be devised to determine the optimum number per day. Perhaps LGUs can even take control of the trikes and pay their drivers so as to make their services free to those needing it (e.g., people going to the market or grocery for food, people going to drugstores to purchase medicines, etc.). And so the idea of Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto can work. It is not so difficult after all to refine his idea so it will comply with the requirements of the situation. As they say: “Kung gusto gagawa ng paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan.” [Very roughly – there are so many excuses for stuff certain people don’t want to try out.] This also shows we need to use more brain cells during these challenging times. Promise, it won’t hurt! 🙂

Take care and keep safe everyone!

Snapshots on a Zamboanga trike

I like taking photos from the vehicle when I’m traveling. It doesn’t matter whether I am on a car, on a bus or even a motorcycle as long as it is safe and there’s no danger of dropping my camera or my phone. Here are a few photos taken as we were on a tricycle in Zamboanga.

Old building on a corner of a street in Zamboanga showed how buildings in the downtown area were built. The ground floor is likely a shop, store or office while the upper one is likely to be a home. From the photo, it becomes obvious that pedestrians were protected against the elements (sun or rain) for this arcade type of development.

Inside the tricycle, the fare rates are printed on the side car. That includes the discounts that are supposed to be given for senior citizens and students.

At the transport terminal of a major mall in the city, the lines are long for taxis. However, there are few taxis serving the city and the usual mode of transport that are basically 3-wheeler taxis (the tricycles) wait for passengers.

Sign warning against abusive tricycle drivers who overcharge their passengers. There are penalties including a fine of 4,000 pesos (about 80 USD).

I will post more photos of Zamboanga scenes next month when we head to Zamboanga for some field work. That will give me the opportunity to take a lot of photos as we make an initial assessment of road safety around selected schools in the city.

Cauayan Airport arrival

I have so far never failed to take photos of the airports I have gone through in my travels here or abroad. The following photos are of Cauayan Airport in Cauayan City, Province of Isabela in the Cagayan Valley Region (Region 2) to the north-northeast of Metro Manila.

Taxiing towards the apron and the terminal. One can also see the control tower to the right.

Passengers walk to the terminal with each given an umbrella to shield themselves (partially) from the punishing heat of the sun. Isabela is one of those provinces where the heat indices reach well above 45 degrees C.

A look back to the aircraft and passengers deplaning to head to the terminal.

The baggage claim area had a single conveyor belt

Passengers gathering around the belt to claim their checked-in luggage.

Another view of the conveyor

Luggage start to come out as most passengers are gathered around the conveyor.

A look back at the arrival exit of the Cauayan airport terminal

A quick look and photo of the airport entrance for departing passengers.

There are no taxis in Cauayan so its either you book a van or take the local ‘taxi’ in the form of tricycles. Most of these are motorcycles with sidecars but there are also many new tuktuk types, which are more spacious and comfortable to ride.

Tricycles, motorcycles and private vehicles parked at the airport. That’s the control tower in the background.

More photos of Cauayan Airport as well as aerial shots soon!

Incomplete rationalisation of public transport?

The current initiative to rationalise road public transport services is not as comprehensive as necessary or as some people want us to believe. The drive appears to be mainly on (some say against) jeepneys while little has been done on buses and UV Express vehicles. Most notable among the modes not covered by rationalisation are the tricycles.

A smoke-belching tricycle along Daang Bakal in Antipolo City

What really should be the role and place of tricycles in the scheme of themes in public transportation? Are they supposed to provide “last mile” services along with walking and pedicabs (non-motorised 3-wheelers)? Or are they supposed to be another mode competing with jeepneys, buses and vans over distances longer than what they are supposed to be covering? It seems that the convenient excuse for not dealing with them is that tricycles are supposed to be under local governments. That should not be the case and I believe national agencies such as the DOTr and LTFRB should assert their authority but (of course) in close cooperation with LGUs to include tricycles in the rationalisation activities. Only then can we have a more complete rationalisation of transport services for the benefit of everyone.

On e-tricycles again

This is also another late post. I was driving in Tagaytay when I spotted these electric tricycles near the junction of Aguinaldo Highway and the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road. It was the first time for me to see these e-trike models that obviously got inspiration from the tuktuks of Thailand.

img_4116

Counterflowing, racing, or maneuvering just about anywhere their drivers seem fit mean these e-trikes are operated just like their more conventional relatives. While their deployment are supposed to ease air pollution attributed to the exhausts of conventional tricycles, these likely will not contribute to easing traffic congestion in Tagaytay. I wonder though if these e-trikes are replacing the conventional ones. Many LGUs seem to have embraced e-trikes but as additional units to the current ones comprised of legal and illegal (colorum) trikes. Too often, LGUs are too careful in phasing out the old tricycles fearing a social backlash that can affect votes whenever there are elections. And so they could not properly address public transport issues directly pertaining to tricycle operations leading to worsening transport and traffic conditions especially in the CBDs.

On e-trikes again

I saw this electric tricycle while traveling along Marcos Highway in Antipolo City. There are already a number of e-trikes operating in many cities around the country including several in Metro Manila but this one seems to be the inferior to the designs I have features in previous articles in this site (Note: Refer to the post on Vehicles at the 3rd Electric Vehicle Summit for a sampling of e-trike designs). Those designs were mostly inspired by the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s concept electric tricycle design for their project that sought to replace conventional tricycles with electric ones.

IMG_0824Antipolo e-trike along Marcos Highway

This e-trike appears to be a clumsy design and I have questions regarding its stability and operating characteristics, which have implications on road safety. Note that the e-trike in the photo above is not registered. Otherwise, it should bear an orange plate from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which incidentally classifies e-vehicles as low-speed vehicles. This classification basically restricts most e-vehicles from traveling along national roads such as Marcos Highway. Did Antipolo secure an exception or exemption for these vehicles? Are traffic law enforcement personnel turning blind eye to the operation of these vehicles along busy highways like Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway? How safe are these vehicle designs?