Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pasig River Expressway

Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) is a proposed expressway in Metro Manila, Philippines that will skirt the banks of the Pasig River and connect the City of Manila with the province of Rizal. The expressway is being planned to decongest traffic and to cure the pollution of the Pasig River.

The elevated expressway will span a total of 19.365-km and will have a total of six lanes. The proposed expressway project is intended to start from Radial Road 10 in Manila and will end at a connection to the South East Metro Manila Expressway located at Circumferential Road 6 (C-6). In addition, the road project will also utilize a 2.7-km portion of the Skyway Stage 3 from Nagtahan to Plaza Azul.

Once the road project is finished, PAREX will be made up of three segments. Segment 1 will cover R-10 to Plaza Azul which is around 5.74-km. Then from Plaza Azul, the planned expressway will link up with San Juran River via the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 – which will span about 2.7-km. Segment 2, on the other hand, will measure 7.325-km and will see the expressway connect from the San Juan River all the way to C5 Intersection. Finally, Segment 3 will bridge C-5 Intersection with C-6 Intersection and span about 6.3-km.

The expressway will start from Radial Road 10 in Manila and will end at Southeast Metro Manila Expressway in the province of Rizal. There will be three segments, in addition to utilizing the portion of the Skyway Stage 3 from Nagtahan to Plaza Azul in Manila.

The project has an estimated cost of ₱95.413 billion and an estimated implementation period of 36 months. The expressway is believed to provide more benefits, like the cheaper cleanup and pollution prevention to the then polluted Pasig River.

As to who will be on point for the proposed expressway, the Pasig River Expressway will be a joint project agreement between the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) and the San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC).

When will construction begin? Well, the members of the TRB board has already approved of it 'in principle'. However, the building of the project has yet to officially start. Once completed, it will greatly benefit motorists that need to travel between Rizal and Manila, or anywhere else in Luzon for that matter given how PAREX is intended to connect to other expressway projects such as Skyway Stage 3.

Now, the river is considered pretty much dead. If San Miguel Corporation (SMC) gets its way, however, maybe there’s a chance we can see some semblance of life in Pasig River once more.

SMC’s proposed P95-billion Pasig River Expressway, which is currently under government review, includes plans to rehabilitate the body of water as close to its former glory as possible. Besides the project’s 19.4km, six-lane elevated expressway, the development includes the dredging of the river bed to remove “decades of debris and garbage.” This doesn’t just mean a healtheir Pasig River, but a better-flowing one, too.

And remember, a healthier Pasig River is just one of the advantages here. The Pasig River Expressway aims to cut travel time from Manila to Rizal to just 15 minutes and will provide an alternate route to Makati City, Ortigas, and Bonifacio Global City.

The interesting bit is that since they will be building on top of a river, the government shouldn't have problems (theoretically) when securing rights of way. 

So far, we’re like this plan. What do you think of the idea?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

EDSA concrete barrier

The MMDA earlier placed concrete barriers at the left side of the whole stretch of EDSA to separate buses from private vehicles during the general community quarantine period.

For the past two weeks, we've been seeing videos of buses having a bit of a scuffle with EDSA's concrete barriers. At the time of writing, there have been three incidents involving buses and barriers. This has sparked quite a fair bit of debate online and it mainly revolves around two topics. Is the concrete barrier solution too extreme or are the bus drivers are the only ones to blame?

The Department of Transport (DOTr) stands by the concrete barriers. After all, they just ordered 36,000 of these recently. DOTr secretary Arthur Tugade even ordered the speedier installation and implementation of these barriers. The agency says the purpose of these barriers is for the safety and security of the commuters.

Nebrija acknowledged that several motorists are complaining about the newly-installed barriers but noted that using barriers as lane separators is being practiced universally and not just in the country.

He added that hazard markers are also in place so that the barriers can be noticed by motorists.

Among the reasons for the accidents are drunk-driving, motorists using cellphones while driving, overspeeding, and weather conditions, according to Nebrija.

The MMDA official earlier said more hazard markers will be placed on top of the concrete barriers so that such can be more easily noticed by motorists, even at night.

There is a valid argument for the concrete barriers. For one, it keeps all those buses in just one area and it prevents the drivers from darting out of that lane to pick up or drop off passengers outside of the terminals. Besides, it won't be easy pushing those concrete slabs out of the way. This also forces the bus operator not to make unnecessary stops that would impede private vehicle traffic. In theory, having those barriers made out of concrete would keep the speeds down. Besides, who would want to hit one of those at speed?

While the MMDA would not comment on whether the concrete barriers followed international road safety standards, Pialago was firm that plastic barriers could not be used.

"Inalis po natin 'yung mga orange barriers kasi ito po nililipad kapag malakas po 'yung hangin at ulan. Diyan po naiintindihan natin na mabubulaga po 'yung mga motorista," Pialago said.

"Pero 'yung concrete barriers po, ahead of time, nakikita ho natin dahil reflectorized naman po 'yan," she added.

In relation to this, DOTr Senior Consultant Engr. Bert Suansing stated that the bus lane was intended to be narrow so that bus drivers will not go over the speed limit. The DOTr encouraged bus companies to implement and put speed limiters in their units.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Ban on Tricycle

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda would have his way, he would have the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) to withdraw its directive prohibiting tricycles from plying national highways.

“The ban is extremely unjust and it fails every test of reason, data-driven logic, socioeconomic justice, and local autonomy…And like all regulations that do not take into account actual human experience, it will fail massively,” said Salceda, referring to DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-036.

Enforcing the ban on tricycles and pedicabs on highways and other main roads requires a large dose of political will and collective action among local government officials in the Philippines.

The DILG has released Memorandum Circular 2020 – 036 which bans tricycles, pedicabs, and motorized pedicabs from plying national highways. According to DILG Secretary Edgardo Año, the new M.C. is also part of the recent road clearing operations spearheaded by the agency.

RA 4136 was intended primarily as a safety measure to prevent vehicular accidents. As such, the law was tailored without necessarily taking into account the particularities of the transport situation in places like Puerto Princesa City that are completely reliant on tricycles as its main mode of public transport.

A National group of tricycle operators and drivers is calling on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to review its order banning tricycles, pedicabs and motorized pedicabs from national highways and major roads.

Ariel Lim, president of the National Confederation of Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Nactodap), said the DILG has to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) first.

Some tricycles were holders of franchises from the city government and these covered routes that were previously classified as local roads but were, in recent years, converted into national roads.

Those that fail to follow the new M.C. will be warranted with a show-cause order. Failure to provide a sufficient response shall be ground for the filing of appropriate administrative cases pursuant to Section 60 of the Local Government Code and other laws and policies. The MC also orders that the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help local leaders enforce the said ban.

Under the same M.C., the DILG also urged cities and municipalities to create a tricycle task force separate from the tricycle regulatory boards in order to formulate and review the tricycle route. The task force will be composed of the Mayor as chairman, the chief of police as vice chairman, and the Sanggunian committee chair on transportation or public safety, the president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, the head of the tricycle regulatory board, the head of the Department of Public Order and Safety, the planning and development officer, the head of the traffic management office, and the local government operations officer as members.

The installation of appropriate signages, marks for lanes and other safety features to guide all vehicles must also be detailed in the plan as well as create awareness among residents and motorists of new tricycle routes or portions of highways allowed to tricycles because of lack of alternative route; a color scheme or emblem for tricycles that ply a route traversing a national highway; and penalties for violators.

The plan should include a schematic map of the location of tricycle terminals, the national highways of the LGU and the portions thereof to be used by tricycles if there is no alternative route.

The task force is tasked to meet with stakeholders in order to rationalize all tricycle routes as a way to better enforce the ban, identify national roads within the jurisdiction of the LGU, and determine the present and proposed routes in a draft of a tricycle route plan (TRP) within 30 days from the issuance of the memorandum.

Councilors from the Municipality of Sibulan and the City of Dumaguete are hoping to strike a win-win solution to the issue of whether tricycles could ply the National Highway connecting Dumaguete and Sibulan.

In a joint session last Wednesday at the Dumaguete Session Hall, the two legislative bodies created a Technical Working Group to study the matter.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron appealed to the DoTr that the city be exempted from the rule.

City commuters decried the implementation of the trike ban along national roads in Puerto Princesa, pointing out its “inconvenience” to the public.

Netizens expressed their dismay on the escalating issue after the PNP’s Highway Patrol Group (HPG) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) started to impose traffic violations against the tricycle on February 6 in the Barangay San Jose area.

While the law provides that the tricycles may pass by the national highway only when there is no alternate route, the Councilors said the Diversion Road that passes by barangays Magatas in Sibulan, and Camanjac and Pulangtubig in Dumaguete is too circuitous.

Some tricycle operators were slapped with fines for “obstruction along national highways”, which eventually led to fear for some to traverse the national roads.

Getting rid of the tricycles along the main roads is a testy problem, both from an urban planning perspective and from a political standpoint.

On one hand, there is no alternative immediately available for the commuting public if the tricycles are limited only to the secondary roads. The city’s road network system does not offer an easy alternative route that skirts the main roads which tricycles can utilize.

Perhaps more significantly for policymakers who are elected officials, the city’s transport sector is perceived to be politically powerful such that they can make or break political careers because of their block voting capacity during elections.

I read a recent report that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is reiterating its call to all city and municipal mayors to ban pedicabs and tricycles along national highways, whether in Metro Manila or in the provinces. Wow! Are they serious? Sure, ban them in urban centers like Metro Cebu or Metro Manila…but in the provinces too?

What can you say about this? Just feel free to leave your comments and reactions to this article.

Share this to your friends. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Manila remains as the world’s worst city for drivers

Traffic in Metro Manila, based on the 2015 Global Satisfaction conducted by Waze, Metro Manila has the "worst traffic on Southeast Asia". Based on the 2015 Census of population by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the highly urbanized cities of Metro Manila were listed as being some of the densest cities in the world.

One of the primary causes of traffic density within Metro Manila is the current transportation infrastructure. Overall, there is a lack of quality infrastructure thus insufficient modes of mobility. The Duterte administration has promised that the coming years will be the, "golden age of infrastructure", with a record $168 billion to be spent on 5,000 projects across the nation”.

With its congestion level in 2019 totaling to a whopping 71%, Metro Manila ranked second out of 416 cities across 57 countries in urban congestion, according to the TomTom Traffic Index 2019.

TomTom, an independent location technology specialist, released its Traffic Index for 2019 on Wednesday, January 29, and noted a global increase in congestion.

While Metro Manila placed second to Bengaluru or Bangalore, India, the two cities had the same congestion level. Only 15 out of the 416 cities had a congestion level of 50% and above.

The congestion level is equivalent to how much extra time a trip will take compared to the city's baseline uncongested conditions. TomTom calculated the baseline of each city by analyzing free-flow travel times of all vehicles across an entire road network, which is recorded 24/7 daily.

Manila remains as the world’s worst city for drivers, according to traffic navigation software and application Waze.

On average, it would take almost five minutes for a motorist to travel one kilometer by car in the Philippine capital.

At 4.88 minutes per kilometer on the average, Waze said this was the worst globally in terms of traffic.

According to the report, the best day for Metro Manila congestion last year was on April 19, Good Friday. The day had the lowest average daily congestion at 0 percent. Meanwhile, the worst day for Metro Manila traffic in 2019 was on August 16, a Friday.

TomTom also bared that Friday has the worst rush hour from 6 to 7 p.m.

“Travelling after 7 p.m. on Friday could save you up to 5 hours per year (for a 30-minute commute),” the report said.

The Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas (Region III & Region IV-A) study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in response to the National Economic Development (NEDA) request for assistance in creating a guide for transport development in Metro Manila, the two regions of Central Luzon and CALABARZON. The guide was made to help NEDA deliberate on the contents of a short-term (2014 - 2016) and a medium term (2017 - 2022) transport investment program (TRIP).

For the short-term transport investment program (TRIP), it takes the goals of the Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016 and makes it into projects in the transport sector. It has invested as much as 5% of the GDP in infrastructure as one of the five key strategies to achieving the TRIP. A huge difference from the previous investing rate, which was as low as 2% of the GDP.

Another cause of heavy traffic in the cities is the increase of the purchasing power of most people in Metro Manila. According to Euromonitor’s Consumer Lifestyles in the Philippines (2015), young professionals in the Metro tend to buy small cars such as Toyota Wigo, Mitsubishi Mirage, and Honda Jazz that adds to road congestion. This is due to the affordability of the said cars, which gives them reason not to use public transport.

The congestion of vehicles on the road is not entirely unhealthy for the society. In a more specific viewpoint, the congestion between vehicles within a particular region, allows the circulation of other vehicles. Congestion occurs inevitably in highly urbanized sectors where the ratio between the population of people and the given area is not proportional and when the demand is high. In some cases, it is even desirable up to a certain point since getting rid of it imposes higher costs than allowing it to persist. The main social effects that occur due to the congestion of vehicles are namely: wasting of time (non-productivity; opportunity cost), delays, frustrated drivers/motorists/passengers, encouraging road rage.

Celine Pialago, spokesperson for the MMDA, said traffic in the metropolis continues to worsen due to the large volume of cars.

“We cannot deny the report. Paulit-ulit namin sinasabing congested na tayo,” Pialago said.

She cited the perennial traffic jams along EDSA where an average of 410,000 vehicles ply daily, way above its capacity of 245,000 cars.     

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Waze sometimes lengthens the travel time of motorists, but admitted that the traffic situation in Metro Manila causes inconvenience to the public.

“Sometimes, Waze is a waste. When I use the Waze app, my travel time becomes longer,” Panelo said.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

EDSA 2020

There are two topics that I can think of with very strong staying power in the media—the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and the discussions on public transportation coupled with the EDSA traffic.

Another story that has stayed in the news is the traffic mess, particularly in EDSA and in the entire Metro Manila, in general. The traffic situation is tightly related to the various issues of public transportation.

A famous line in movies is the outburst of Albert Finney’s character in “Network”—“I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Being stuck in Edsa’s horrendous traffic jam tempts one to burst into an Albert Finney moment.

Edsa is one reason Metro Manila is the ugly duckling of Asia and a blot in urban management over the decades since its completion in the early 80s.

This 23.8-kilometer long circumferential road, albeit the most important of the capital, is one of its most congested, chaotic, noisy, ugly and polluted in the Philippines that contributes to immense economic and social cost.

Completed 50 years after it was started in the 1930s as a highway, Edsa links the NLEx and SLEx (North and South Luzon expressways) and traverses five cities. Following rapid and uncontrolled urbanization, Edsa has evolved into an avenue with high density establishments along its route.

With the management of Edsa following the car-centric American model instead of mass transit-oriented European model, about 370,000 vehicles, two-thirds of which are private, use it daily. With its design capacity overwhelmed, Edsa has become a very inefficient traffic corridor despite almost the entire right-of-way being allocated for motorized traffic and engineering refinements introduced in late 1980s.

The EDSA Revolution certainly did not set out to be a revolution. As is well known, some military officers tried to pre-empt their arrest by the regime by occupying Camp Aguinaldo and then Camp Crame and appealed for public support. It became revolutionary in its execution through a mustering of the people by the hundreds of thousands in a popular and peaceful protest.

The outcome was less revolutionary. The dictator was overthrown and his regime met its ignominious end. However, the same extractive and suppressive institutions were maintained. The powers-that-be simply ensured that their class interests prevailed. A rare historical opportunity was squandered in transforming the existing social order toward a more equitable society. When the heady afterglow of EDSA faded many of the corrupt officials of the previous regime were rehabilitated and oligopolies restored and the oligarchic structure was maintained. There would also be a new group of favored businessmen and politicians that essentially maintained the system of vested political interests, dynasties, and powerful clans. There had been no structural transformation of the Philippine economy to empower ordinary citizens to participate actively and benefit equitably from the fruits of development.

When it took interminable hours to untangle traffic gridlock on Edsa and elsewhere, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) unveiled a holistic traffic and transportation plan for Metro Manila.

Included in the plan was the “Edsa Dream Plan” to address the dysfunctional mass transportation system, severe traffic congestion, air pollution, lack of pedestrian space and greeneries. This dream plan applied universal practices in urban road space planning and mass transportation system.The plan calls for a paradigm shift in urban street engineering and transportation planning. Decongestion through efficient and space-saving mass transit system coupled with more equitable sharing of the Edsa road space to satisfy community rights are the key strategies of the plan. Edsa is a vital community resource that must be used efficiently and shared in an inclusive manner with road space distributed among stakeholders to achieve urban justice where both mobility and community rights are well served.The main strategy is to optimize use of the Edsa road space to open up space for pedestrians and the greening of Edsa. Optimization is sought to be achieved by employing high capacity transit systems to efficiently move commuters with the least number of vehicles, to minimize the use of road space. Arguably, a rail-based train with multiple coaches is the most efficient people mover used by cities the world over.The MAP plan calls for maintaining the existing overhead MRT 3 light train line and complementing it with a high-capacity subway line with heavy trains. These two train lines are envisioned to form the backbone of the transportation system on Edsa that could accommodate passenger demand well into the future. This system may be complemented with park-and-ride facilities for motorists to leave their vehicle and take public transit to the inner city. With this mass transit system in place, less road space will be needed and the excess space can be made available for nontransport use such as sidewalk widening and bicycle lane at the ground level.

At the policy level, he suggests car-pooling during rush hour, continuing with the jeepney modernization, re-rationalizing franchises of all public utility vehicles, and even the relocation of government agencies to Clark.

But there are other things to consider, such as the financing of these infrastructures. While it is relatively easier to borrow money, we also need to worry about repaying those loans. Certainly, we do not want the economy saddled with debt servicing in the future.

For all its challenges, the Philippines is well past the major governance upheavals of the past decades that hobbled economic growth then. Stability and good governance are vital in fostering conditions conducive to respectable and sustainable economic growth of the country. The nation though needs to be vigilant in voting wisely as retrogression in good governance can easily plunge again the country in a renewed crisis – just look at Thailand. Memories are frail while a new generation has no memory at all of the Martial Law years. It is vital to remind people of the gains that had been made- but also to be critically aware of the arduous tasks that still lay ahead especially in resolving poverty and unequal income distribution.