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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.
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.
Antipolo 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?
Tricycle fares in Antipolo City
Tricycles in Antipolo City practically have no defined or restricted areas of operations. Unlike other cities, say Quezon City or Manila, tricycle operations in Antipolo is practically free ranging. You can get a tricycle in Mambugan and ride it directly to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Simbahan ng Antipolo); a distance of 8 to 10 kilometers depending on the route taken. As such, there has been a tendency for tricycle drivers to overcharge passengers even though fares were subject to negotiations and there have bee established average or usual fares for certain trips. Nevertheless, there have been and are still lots of complaints about tricycle fares in the city. This is evidenced from the queries posted on the city’s social media accounts.
This situation begs an important question on whether Antipolo City has official tricycle fare rates. The answer is yes, it does have official rates and this is stated under City Ordinance No. 2009-316. I assume that ‘2009’ here refers to the year the ordinance was signed into law by the City Council. Here’s a graphic from Antipolo City’s Facebook page showing official tariffs and warnings against negotiating fares as well as the maximum number of passengers a tricycle can carry.
Tricycle fares based on official tariffs under City Ordinance No. 2009-316
Those two other ordinances seem to be among the most abused by tricycle drivers and likely very difficult to enforce considering the ranges of tricycles. According to netizens, many tricycle drivers still tend to negotiate fares for long trips and tricycles carrying more than 4 passengers is a common sight in the city especially tricycles that are used as school service vehicles. I tend to wince myself whenever I see a tricycle overloaded with school children negotiating Ortigas Ave Extension or Sumulong Highway. These are unsafe and put a lot of young lives at risk.
Below is an example fare matrix for tricycles posted at the New Public Market along Sumulong Highway and across from the new Robinsons mall in the same area:
Illustrative fares to/from the New Antipolo Public Market
I think there should be similar information posted in other areas around Antipolo City. This is so that people will not be confused about the tricycle fares and so as to minimize the instances when tricycle drivers take advantage of passengers not familiar with trip distances and the fare rates.
The Antipolo City Government is working towards improving transport and traffic in this highly urbanized city. I think this should include regulating tricycle services so that the city could reduce their numbers along national roads like Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Ave. Extension. Tricycles have become a nuisance in traffic and not just for motorists but for cyclists and pedestrians as well. They shouldn’t be traveling long distances and along rolling and mountainous terrains. They tend to be noisy and, perhaps most problematic, are smoke belchers. Hopefully, this can be addressed in the next years as the city continuous to grow and become more progressive. This only means that the city should strive towards a modern, efficient and people & environment-friendly transport system.
EDSA: Taft to Tramo
The EDSA-Taft Ave. intersection was in the news a few weeks ago due to the MRT3 train that derailed and overshot the end of the line along EDSA. Being a major intersection for roads as well as for rail (MRT3 and LRT1), it is a very crowded area. Nearby, too, is the Redemptorist church in Baclaran that attracts a lot of people especially during Wednesdays. Following are a few photos of the area showing the conditions on the pedestrian overpasses and at street level.
The pedestrian overpass at EDSA-Taft is also a mall of sorts given the merchandise being sold at informal shops at the overpass.
The overpass connects to the EDSA-MRT 3 Taft Ave. Station. This is the MRT 3’s end station and the overpass system connects the MRT 3 Taft Ave. Station with the LRT Line 1 EDSA Station. The connection was not and is still not a smooth one, which has been the subject of criticism from a lot of people.
The overpass allows people to walk around this large intersection
Pedicabs freely travel along this stretch of EDSA between Taft and Tramo on lanes designated for public utility buses and clearly violating regulations regarding what vehicles are allowed on EDSA. You can also see in the photo a cart full of merchandise being pushed along the curbside lane.
A motor tricycle ferrying passengers along EDSA just before Tramo (that’s the street above which is an overpass from EDSA southbound).
Practicable road sharing in Antipolo
As there are increased calls for more bikeways, we try to look at some good examples of what I’d call “practicable” road sharing. I term it “practicable” because it is something doable or is already being done or practiced. I tried to find a few good examples of practicable road sharing to show that it can be done and usually if all road users respect each others’ right to use the road. This respect can be developed over time and requires some familiarity for each users behaviors. Of course, there will always be abusive or disrespectful people on the road including drivers of different types of vehicles. Reckless or unsafe driving is not limited to public transport or truck drivers. There are also many unruly private vehicle drivers who endanger the lives of others whenever they are on the road. Then there are the motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – all road users and also with bad apples or “pasaway” among them.
Road sharing happens everyday in Antipolo City in the Province of Rizal. Along Ortigas Avenue and Sumulong Highway – the two main routes to and from Antipolo, you will see motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians sharing what are mostly 4 lane, undivided sections of the two major roads. Antipolo is a very popular destination for cyclists so even during weekdays you will find a lot of people cycling up and down the mountain roads even during the night time and very early mornings. While many are recreational riders, many, too, are doing this for health. I would bet that a good percentage might be biking to work or school but there are no hard statistics to show this (topic for research?).
Motorists and cyclists “sharing the road” along Sumulong Highway
Sharing the road shouldn’t be too difficult. However, road users need to have respect for each other’s right to use the road. I have observed many instances where one or more road user types are guilty of “disrespect” and tend to hog the road as if making a statement that “i am king of the road” rather than “i have the right to use the road.” Here are among my pet peeves:
1. Slow moving trucks or jeepneys hogging two lanes and not giving way to other vehicles to pass them.
2. Jeepneys and private vehicles racing up or down the mountain roads and overtaking even in perilous sections (i.e., those already identified as prone to crashes).
3. Tricycles taking up the middle lanes and maneuvering anywhere.
4. Cyclists taking up the middle lanes or sometimes the entire two lanes of any direction preventing other road users to pass them.
5. People crossing anywhere along the road especially at blind sections (curves) where sight distance is limited.
There are practically no pedestrian sidewalks along most of Ortigas Extension and Sumulong Highway so pedestrians would have use the carriageway. As there are a significant number of people walking (e.g., students, workers, and even joggers or walkers), motorists and cyclists need to be careful not to hit these people. The same people, however, need to be aware of these vehicles and should exercise caution, always being alert as they use the road properly. Ultimately though, I would like to see walkways built along Ortigas and Sumulong especially since there is already an increasing demand for walking especially during the summer months when Antipolo holds its fiesta and a lot of people go on pilgrimages on foot to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
There is practicable road sharing in Antipolo because most road users are already familiar with each others’ behavior and accept each others’ presence and rights on the road. These road users are likely residents of Antipolo or nearby towns or regular visitors to the city. They are “nagbibigayan sa daan.” The “pasaway” people are likely the newer ones who seem to think that the way they drive or ride (i.e., unsafe) elsewhere is the norm. Of course, that goes without saying that familiarity with the roads and its users also breed risk takers who think they already know the road and have the skill and experience to drive like crazy. Here is where effective enforcement (e.g., timely apprehensions and reminders) and engineering (e.g., traffic signs and pavement markings) comes in to address the gaps in safety in order to reduce if not totally eliminate crash incidence along these roads.
Bottlenecks and other traffic issues in Antipolo
Commuting between our home in Antipolo and my work place in Quezon City, I have noted a lot of issues on transport and traffic that needs to be attended to by the local government in coordination with other entities like the DPWH and Meralco. Here are some photos with my notes and comments.
Much of Sumulong Highway have been widened to 4 lanes but many electric posts remain in the middle of the additional lanes and pose hazards to motorists and cyclists. These posts seem to have been here for quite some time now and the paint on them gives the message that they will be here for the foreseeable future. Paint or no paint, they are road hazards and have the potential to kill people on vehicles crashing into the poles. I think this is supposed to be the responsibility of the power company (Meralco) but there needs to be a firm request and coordination coming from Antipolo City Government to finally relocate these poles.
Congestion is often caused by counter-flowing vehicles forcing their way back into the right lane (like the car in the middle of the photo) upon encountering opposing traffic. It doesn’t help that there are motorcycles splitting the lanes to make for a very crowded road.
The new but still closed Antipolo Public Market along Sumulong Highway and near the intersection with Daang Bakal (the old railroad line that’s now a road). I wonder about the trip generation potential of this complex as it is not yet operational. Meanwhile, a huge Robinsons mall (looks larger than their Magnolia property) is currently under construction just across from it and will definitely be a major traffic generator in that area. The combined traffic to be attributed to these commercial complexes will surely have a tremendous impact on Sumulong Highway and other roads in the vicinity.
Both Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue Extension carry significant truck traffic. These often cause congestion as they are slow going up to Antipolo and can block the entire road as Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Extension have some narrow sections where the shoulders could not provide enough space for other vehicles to pass the slower moving ones. In certain cases like the one in the photo above, there are electric posts in the middle of the shoulder lane.
Tricycles occupy the outer lane of Ortigas Ave. Ext./Olivares Street. Such informal and on-street terminals are illegal along national roads and yet the city tolerates them. One explanation for this is that there are informal communities along the highway on shanties built along what is supposed to be a ledge along the mountainside (shown at right in the photo). These are where tricycle drivers and their families reside.
Tricycles from different tricycle operators and drivers associations (TODAs) seem to roam the entire city. This is contrary to the common practice in other cities and municipalities where tricycles are limited within a certain area or district that in many cases just overlap with others (e.g., UP Teachers Village-Philcoa-Krus na Ligas).
Many tricycles serve as school service. However, the observation is that most tricycles tend to be overloaded with passengers. These are usually small children so the driver probably figured that they could cram more passengers than what is legally allowed.
Sharing the road? Antipolo is very popular with cyclists and weekends bring a lot of them to the city as they come from all over via the main routes along Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue (there should also be those coming from the east via the Antipolo-Teresa Road and Antipolo-Tanay Road). Most motorists are aware of these cyclists and give way to them. Most experienced cyclists are also aware of the ROW of other vehicles and so keep to the inner lanes. This mutual awareness and respect are vital to make roads safe for all. I think the only thing needed is to provide space for pedestrians as there are significant numbers of people walking, hiking or jogging along these roads.
Traffic mayhem in Antipolo
I had written earlier about traffic management in Antipolo City. My daily commute allows me to observe transport and traffic in this pilgrimage city east of Metro Manila. For a highly urbanised city (HUC), its traffic management is quite rural or provincial at best with enforcers trying to do their thing based more on gut feel rather than sound knowledge of traffic principles. Intersection traffic management, for example, needs a lot of improvement as enforcers are pre-disposed to apply the buhos approach to dissipating queues that actually lead to longer queues, tremendous delays to travellers, and therefore low levels of service (LOS) at the intersections. The signalised Masinag Junction is probably one of the worst intersections outside of Metro Manila with queues along the south approach (Sumulong Highway from Antipolo) stretching to Mambugan (about 2 km) even on a Saturday. Along the east approach (Marcos Highway from Cogeo) the queues can stretch all the way to Cherry Foodarama supermarket (about 1 km).
Masinag, of course, is a big intersection with heavy traffic due its being the junction for 2 major highways (Marcos and Sumulong) that collect much of traffic from Rizal and Marikina bound for the general direction of Quezon City and Manila. Marcos Highway is the main alternative corridor to Ortigas Avenue, which is itself a very congested road, between the eastern towns and Metro Manila. There are many other problematic intersections in the city, which are mostly unsignalized where traffic is managed manually by enforcers. I’m sure there are some minor intersections that are manageable at most times of the day and may not actually require enforcers if motorists give way to each other. However, there are those intersections that require stricter and more systematic (if not scientific) methods to manage traffic. For example, along roads leading to the Antipolo cathedral where there are a lot of people posing as parking attendants going over to aggressively engage motorists at the intersection. Enforcers routinely turn a blind eye to these people who pose as safety risks along the roads.
Tricycles occupying the outermost lane along Ortigas Ave. Ext. and Oliveros Street at the junction with Sumulong Memorial Circle and just across from the Rizal Provincial Capitol – to exacerbate the situation, jeepneys and UV Express vehicles usually stop in the middle of the road to load/unload passengers. Such informal terminals should not be allowed in these areas considering it is a chokepoint for traffic along these busy roads. So far, enforcers around the capitol seem oblivious to the mayhem caused by these terminals and turn a blind eye to the disruptive manoeuvres of tricycles in the area.
Dangerous intersection along Sumulong Highway – there is road at the right (where a tricycle is coming from) that is used by trucks and other vehicles coming from Marcos Highway. Olalia Road connects to Marcos Highway and there are many residential subdivisions along this road that generate the traffic to and from Marcos and Sumulong Highways.
More on Antipolo traffic soon!
Tricycles in the Philippines – Part 2
In a previous post on tricycles, I featured some photos taken from various trips I’ve taken around the country. Closer to home are tricycles that provide some convenience to commuters along a stretch of C-5 that is more commonly known as Katipunan Avenue. The example below is of a typical tricycle traveling along a section that cuts through lands of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Tricycle along Katipunan Avenue
Tricycles do not necessarily just roam around to get passengers like what we usually see. They do have formal terminals though the informal ones outnumber these and typically cause problems due to the spaces they tend to occupy. These spaces include road space, the consequence of which is a reduction in road capacity, and sidewalks, which deny pedestrians space for walking. The first causes or exacerbates congestion while the second mainly puts people at higher risk as pedestrian safety is compromised. Following are photos of tricycle terminals taken from recent trips north of Manila in the provinces of Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union.
Tricycle terminal at the Moncada Public Market
Tricycles still dominate traffic along the Manila North Road in Urdaneta, Pangasinan where they have terminals around the public market and at the intersections of side streets.
Roadside tricycle terminal in La Union where the newly paved shoulders are occupied by tricycles waiting for passengers from a nearby public school.
Tricycle terminal in front of the Civic Center in Agoo, La Union and just across the church.
More on tricycles and their terminals in succeeding posts!
Tricycles in the Philippines – Part 1
We start the “ber” months strong with an initial feature on an ubiquitous mode of transport in the Philippines. While the jeepney seems to have had most of the attention when the subject of public transport in the Philippines is discussed, the truth is that there is arguably another, more dominant mode of public transport in the country. These are the tricycles, a motorized three-wheeler consisting of a motorcycle and a sidecar. You see these everywhere around the country in most cities and municipalities where they thrive particularly in residential areas. They are usually the only mode of public transport for most people in rural areas where local roads are typically narrow. In many cases the only roads connecting communities may be national roads. And so, there is really no other choice for tricycles but to travel along national roads and against existing laws prohibiting tricycles from these roads.
Tricycle along the motorcycle lane of Circumferential Road 5
Tricycles racing along the Olongapo-Castillejos Road in Zambales
Tricycle along Romulo Highway, Tarlac
Tricycles along Catolico Avenue in Gen. Santos City
Unlike buses and jeepneys, tricycles are not regulated under the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). Instead, they are under the local government units that through one office or another issue the equivalent of franchises for tricycles to operate legally. Fares are quite variable but are usually according to distance though there are special rates for when passengers want to have the vehicle for themselves much like a taxi.
Unfortunately, few LGUs have the capacity to determine the optimum number of tricycles for service areas under their jurisdictions. As tricycle operations are often the source of livelihood for many, the granting of franchises is often seen as a way for mayors to have influence over people who would have “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) for being granted franchises. The tendency, therefore, is to have too many tricycles as mayors try to accommodate more applicants who seem to have no other options to earn income or to invest in. This poses a challenge to many who want to reform the system and modernize or upgrade public transport in cities around the country.
What is the context for electric tricycles in the Philippines?
The NEDA Board recently approved six projects that included one that will be promoting electric vehicles throughout the country. Entitled “Market Transformation through Introduction of Energy Efficient Electric Vehicles Project” (formerly Market Transformation through Introduction of Energy Efficient Electric Tricycle (E-Trike) Project), the endeavor seeks to replace thousands of existing conventional motorized 3-wheelers (tricycles) with e-trikes and to develop and deploy charging stations for these vehicles. While I have nothing against electric vehicles and have supported their promotion for use in public transport, I am a bit worried about the context by which electric tricycles are being peddled especially the part about equating “transformation” with “replacement.”
First, it is a technology push for an innovation that has not been fully and satisfactorily tested in Philippine conditions. The deployment of e-trikes in Bonifacio Global City is practically a failure and a mode that was not suitable from the start for the area it was supposed to serve (i.e., while there were already jeepneys serving the area, there were also the Fort Bus services and plans for a BRT linking the Ayala CBD and BGC. There are now few (rare sightings) of these e-trikes remaining at the Fort, as most of these vehicles are no longer functioning due to problems regarding the batteries, motors, and issues regarding maintenance. Meanwhile, the e-trikes in Mandaluyong, a more recent model, have also been difficult to maintain with one case reportedly needing the unit to be sent back to China for repairs.
Second, the e-trikes are a whole new animal (or mode of transport). I have pointed out in the past including in one ADB forum that the 6 to 8 seater e-trike model is basically a new type of paratransit. Their larger capacities mean one unit is not equivalent to one of the current models of conventional tricycles (i.e., the ones you find in most city and municipality around the country). Thus, replacement should not be “1 e-trike : 1 tricycle” but perhaps “1:2” (or even “1:3” in some cases). This issue has not been resolved as the e-trike units continue to be marketed as a one to one replacement for conventional trikes. There should be guidelines on this that local government units can use, particularly for adjusting the number of franchises or authorized tricycles in their respective jurisdictions. Will such come from the Department of Energy (DOE)? Or is this something that should emanate from Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)? Obviously, the last thing we like to see would be cities like Cabanatuan, Tarlac or Dagupan having so many e-trikes running around after they have replaced the conventional ones, and causing congestion in the cities. Emissions from the tricycle may have been reduced but emissions from other vehicles should be significant due to the congestion.
Third, the proliferation of e-trikes will tie our cities and municipalities to tricycles. Many cities already and definitely need to upgrade their public transport systems (e.g., tricycles to jeepneys or jeepneys to buses, and so on). Simply replacing tricycles with electric powered ones does not effect “true” transformation from the transport perspective. Is the objective of transformation mainly from the standpoint of energy? If so, then there is something amiss with the project as it does not and cannot address the transport, traffic and social aspects of the service provided by tricycles (and other modes of transport).
So what is the context for the e-trikes or conventional tricycles? They are not even under the purview of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) as they are regulated by LGUs. Shouldn’t the DOTC or the LTFRB be involved in this endeavor? Shouldn’t these agencies be consulted with the formulation of a framework or guidelines for rationalizing and optimizing transport in our cities? These are questions that should be answered by the proponents of this project and questions that should not be left to chance or uncertainty in so far as the ultimate objective is supposed to be to improve transport in the country. I have no doubt that the e-trikes have the potential to improve air quality and perhaps the also the commuting experience for many people. I have worries, however, that its promise will not be kept especially in light of energy supply issues that our country is still struggling with and deserves the attention of the DOE more than the e-trikes they are peddling.