1. An alternative to freight trucks: freight trains

    The City of Manila passed an ordinance banning trucks in the streets of the city in certain days of the week. With just a week of implementation, we have seen decongested streets in the city, and lots of cargoes on hold in the Port of Manila. There have been calls to the solving this by having some of the volume of the cargoes go directly to the ports of Batangas and Subic Freeport. Another is to revive the Freight Service of Philippine National Railways. Freight trains look like this.


    But we are still studying if reviving the long distance commuter trains  and freight trains by now. During the Spanish and American times, with primitive building methods, our railways extended to San Fernando in La Union, San Jose in Nueva Ecija, the lakeshore towns of Laguna, Bicol Cavite and Batangas. There were ambitious plans during the 50s and early 60s to extend the routes up to the ends of Luzon in Cagayan province and Sorsogon. These plans were scrapped by Ferdinand Marcos in favor of the Maharlika Highway (AH 26) system of national roads. If Marcos instead continued the construction and eventual expansion of the railway system, we don’t know how far it might have been extended now. These set of maps expose the extent of our railway system during PNR’s glory days.


    The extent of the railroads in the island of Luzon.


    Close-up of the branch lines in the Manila Area and surrounding provinces. There were lines going to Antipolo and San Mateo in Rizal Provinces and to Cavite City. These were abandoned because of low ridership.


    If I’m not mistaken there is a place in Calamba called junction. Here’s the reason, there are three branch of the railroads from Calamba, one going to Batangas, one going to Bicol and another going to the lakeshore towns of Laguna. Actually the terminus of the railroad in Batangas is near the port area.

    There is actually a proposal by DOTC to revive the railroads under the PPP scheme. Once the Feasibility Study is completed and if the revival of the national railway is economical, the DOTC can invite bidders already. But what do we know, it’s DOTC (running jokes here).

    The truck ban, along with the “carmaggedon” from the different construction projects here, should make us realize that buses and cargo trucks will never replace the trains for efficient land transportation. Of course the PNR should enjoin the public to ride the trains while the infra projects at the highways are being built, but then again the most sustainable way to transport people and goods is through trains, so the PNR should improve its services so that even with the skyway and other projects done, people will consider to travel through trains even if there are more expressways in Metro Manila to choose from.

    Railway Branches from here! visit them!

  2. Pedestrian and Bike Lane Separation for major transport route (12 lane road) design concept

    This is another design that stemmed from the previous Pedestrian Bike Lane separation design concept for 6 lane road. That is assuming that the road is not a public transport route so no provisions for terminals for jeeps and buses are present.

    This one utilizes 6 lanes per direction. 4 lanes are reserved for Private Vehicles and U-Turning vehicles. The 2 lanes are reserved for Public Transport Buses (and optionally, jeeps) There are bays on which passengers can load or unload.

    For the U-Turn, there is a bottle neck at the U-turn until the u-turning vehicle joins the mainstream without conflic.

    The difference from the previous design is that the lanes for the pedestrians and bikes are unified and elevated from the road. there is a little island of vegetation that physically separates the pedestrian and bike roads.

    You could drop any question in my Tumblr Ask if the design now baffles you if you need clarification or suggestions :)


  3. With the country’s economic boom comes the inevitable downside of having the increasingly congested capital that is Metro Manila.

    In fact, nary a day passes by without people complaining about the bad vehicular traffic situation in the metropolis that gets worse when the rains fall, causing the inevitable floods that come several times each year—something many attribute to poor urban planning.

    The solution? Businessman Romeo Roxas and architect Jun Palafox Jr. believe that only a clean slate—that is, to start from the ground up—will solve the present woes of the Philippine capital.

    Both men are now reviving the concept of setting up a new mega-city on the eastern seaboard of Luzon called the Pacific Coast City project.

    First proposed in the late 1990s, the Pacific Coast City was endorsed by the government as early as President Ramos’ administration and was declared a “flagship project” by the short-lived Estrada administration in 1999.

    Only this time, they’re no longer speaking of a “Pacific Coast City” but of a “Pacific Coast Cities” project.

    Under the proposal, an area 25-percent bigger than Metro Manila would be allocated for the new urban center in Dingalan, Aurora, on the east side of Luzon, facing the Pacific Ocean. The total land area will also be larger than the entire island of Singapore.

    If this dream comes true, the Philippines may finally have its first master-planned city, which will have enough room to grow for the next century and help decongest Metro Manila.

    The proponents estimate that it will create up to five million new jobs and, over time, develop a tax base that will equal Metro Manila’s revenue-generating capacity of P500 billion a year (something that will, no doubt, find favor with fiscal authorities).

    More importantly, it is only 80 kilometers away from Metro Manila—a short drive if a highway is built.


    I’d still say it though no one will care. The best place to locate a new Megalopolis other than the current Mega Manila is in North Coastlines Mindanao. Locating the new Megalopolis in Luzon will further undermine the economic balance which already unbalanced with Metro Manila contributing 35% of the economy. That is the main reason why Brazil transferred capitals to Brasilia from Rio de Janeiro in the late 50s: to lessen the priority given to the Eastern Parts of Brazil. Rio is still Brazil’s commercial and cultural capital today though.

    I think you should look into the benefits of building a master planned Government Center in Mindanao rather than near Metro Manila.

  4. Bicycle and Vehicle Lane Separation Concept

    Only two lanes per direction are reserved for motorized vehicles and the outermost lanes are reserved for the bicycles and pedestrians. The loss of the third lane is compensated with the decrease of vehicles in the motor lane owing to the shift of travel mode from cars to bikes.

  5. Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City

    The Bawal Tumawid, May Namatay na Dito Road Signs have been taken down with a Use Pedestrian Overpass Road Signs. (Yey for dignified urbanity)

    Commonwealth avenue once earned the monicker “Killer Highway” due to the staggering number of accidents registered in the 6 lane avenue per day, some of them having fatal casualties.

    But two years since a new MMDA chairman took over, many things have been implemented for Road Safety: Motorcycle Lanes, Concrete Bus Separators and Bike Lanes from UP Diliman to Tandang Sora.

    It looks like everything is working (except the Tandang Sora Traffic), rarely an accident happens because of the separation between Public and Private Vehicles, and commuting time in Buses is faster due to the dedicated bus stops in the road.

    EDSA is the problem, and Commonwealth contains all the solutions.

  6. MMDA is now giving Metro Manila some dedicated lanes for bicycles in the Metropolis. As of this writing, I know, Marikina City, UP Diliman, CCP, and Adriatico have dedicated lanes already. Newly opened lanes are from Marcos Highway and soon is the Commonwealth Avenue. I think MMDA plans to make this as extensive as possible.

    I bet it is time for us to invest in bike now. How about this one from Audi?

  8. 500 cyclists open newest bike lane: More! More!

    The newly opened bikeways in Manila seemed to be minuscule but it is a good start in the hope of an integrated bikeway system in Metro Manila.

    As of this time, only Marikina City, among the many units of Metro Manila has a citywide bikeway system. Quezon city will have its own at Elliptical Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Marcos Highway, in addition to the already existing in the UP Diliman Academic Oval. The problem is, these bike lanes in QC are fragmented, no seamless connections.

    This article reminded me of the ongoing undergrad research regarding design of bike friendly road intersections. Bike and Pedestrian Lanes for Sustainable Transport!

  10. Luneta’s LED Street Lamps

    Two years ago, we were assigned to look into the feasibility of a Solar Powered LED Street Lamp when we took our Engineering Economy Class. Here are some of the benefits of the Solar Powered LED Street Lamp against the common Sodium Vapor Street Lamp.

    • LED Lamps cost more upon purchase, but within a 5 year run, there is much less electricity consumed with the same light intensity of the Sodium Vapor Street Lamp.
    • Solar Panel Technology, as time goes by goes more efficient and powerful Solar Panels are being produced so purchase costs might go further down.
    • LED Lamps break down less than the the Sodium Vapor Lamps do, LED Lamps might cost more, but the good thing is that LED lamp is almost that maintenance free for 2-5 years. Sodium vapor lamp’s lifetime is just for 2-3 years.

    In my last park strolling at the Luneta, I saw these brand new LED lamps installed within Rizal’s Reach. Good One for our National Park, and I think it also comes in a unique design.

    Read More

    LED lamps to cut P6m from Luneta power bill

    Rizal Park by night shines with extra glow

    Solar-powered lamps illuminate Rizal Park

  11. BLOGGED: Pedestrian Oriented Development

    A recent CNNgo survey showed that Metro Manila is the third worst place in the world to drive, with Beihjing and New Delhi getting the first and second, respectively. If it is already worst to be in Metro Manila roads in the view of the motorist, how much more in the point of view of the pedestrian?


  12. Livable Cities and Walkability

    "All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
    -Friedrich Nietzsche

    Humanity walked anywhere they went since time immemorial. Probably, it preceded the establishment of civilizations itself. The wheel and the domestication of animals is a great leap in the improvement in the transport of people in settlements, but it did not diminish the worth of walking as a mode of transport. From the Fertile Cresent, the Orient, the city states of Greece and Rome and until the Middle Ages and the age of Revolutions, walking reigned supreme in making contacts in the people in the city.

    Cities then were compact, mixed land use and is not spread out in different directions greater than a mile. This ensures the 30 minute travel time to the city center, whether by walk or by caravan.

    Then came the vehicles. Trains can move many people and goods in greater distances in lesser time. Though the rails cut off some communities (the word “the other side of the tracks”), it did not greatly diminish walking’s role as a mode of transport but it spread out the urban area beyond the traditional 30 minute walking time. And then came the Cars, Henry Ford might be hailed as a genius who worked for everyone to have a car by mass producing it, but might be also villified by indirectly causing the traffic and global warming we have more than a century after he successfully mass produced the cars.

    A community where everyone has a car to drive and drive to work, to shopping and going everywhere is a typical American community. Low density wide urban sprawls in suburbs were made to support these communities. Wide roads, and freeways where designed for these communities. It was when the car reigned supreme that walking as a mode of transport declined.

    The decline of walking started the decline of cities. Cities became less livable since then. Vehicles pollute the environment, contribute to noise pollution and separates communities.

    Vehicles pollute the environment. From the factory to the car-owner, the vehicle is a sure liability to the environment. Imagine how many tons of fuel have been burned to produce a car? Imagine how many more tones of fuel the car uses for a 10 year lifetime? How about the spare parts of a car? More than an asset, owning a car is more of liability, considering all the costs of purchasing, operating and maintaining the unit. Does the salesmen of Car Showrooms tell that to you?

    Vehicles contribute to noise pollution, consider the noise of the machine, their horns and the noise their tires make. Are you more deaf now?

    Have you seen communities cut off by high ways? By impeding human crossings in highway, it separates communities that might have been close knit before that concrete hardened in time might develop separately and will eventually become separate entities. The separation of communities is the most dangerous negative aspect of our addiction to speed.

    Consider Padre Burgos, the Main Avenue of the central Manila, before it was a nice road with shade trees, gentle street crossings connecting Intramuros to the rest of Manila. With traffic thoroughly increasing, flyovers were constructed to directly link the road to Jones and Sta. Cruz Bridge, increased to 4 lanes or more, trees originally serving as the shade of pedestrians and a dramatic entrance to Luneta were cut. Even the underpasses are not attractive since homeless people sleep there at night, the users’ safety is questionable with this setting. With the chaotic traffic serving as the entrance to the supposedly the tourist and historic center for all of Metro Manila, the chaos that is P. Burgos Drive is the new moat the separates Intramuros from the rest of the country.

    Today, walking has been reduced from a mode of transport to a recreational activity, as few amenities are available for ordinary people to walk from one point to another. Only affluent communities have a means to walk. Even at short distances, everybody drives a car. A research puts Filipino tolerance to walking at 300m, horrendously lower than other countries. This means Filipinos walk to where they are going at a maximum distance of 300m, after that they have to ride already.

    Our penchant for a ride and the availability of many modes of short distance transport (pedicabs, tricycle and jeeps) might be a factor. But the inefficiency and the inexistence of pedestrian facilities for walking (sidewalks, shades, trees and public toilets) might be a more probable reason. Local planners leave out pedestrian transportation in favor of vehicle mobility because of the need for speed. Only the affluent have the resources to maintain a car. Walking is accessible from the upper classes down to the lower and poorest classes. A town planning practice that totally favors vehicles than people is if not undemocratic, is only perpetuating social inequality on the road.

    The ultimate goal of urban planning is livable cities, and the ultimate goal of transportation planning is efficient transport of people and goods. Transport at breakneck speed is not necessarily efficient, and a heavily populated city is not necessarily a livable city.

    A livable city is a walkable city, but not all walkable cities are livable cities. To define a walkable city that is also a livable city, certain components must be considered. A walkable city that provides adequate and safe sidewalks but not a clean and sanitary environment is not certainly a livable city. A walkable city that provides a clean and sanitary environment but not adequate sidewalk is not a livable city. Therefore, a livable city must have both adequate and safe sidewalks and a clean and sanitary environment. Do the streets of our cities pass both standards?

    New Urban Planning movements has been answering our automobile dependency problems, including the return to the traditional and 19th century mixed used compact city styles. Recently, researches confirm the relations between the automobile oriented lifestyle to obesity, relations between neighborhood desirability to walkability. From the vehicles, people is now the focus of the neighborhood designs. Some roads had been returned to the people. Researches on the walkability of cities with respect to the facilities provided are now being opened up.

    Walking is also a human experience, just like vehicle travels. Walking must give the traveler, a myriad of revelations. In short, the traveler rediscovers the place and himself while he travels. Thus, building a sidewalk alone is not enough to provide pedestrian comfort.

    Walkability has multi-disciplinary components. For overall walkability of cities to be measured, infrastructure, congestion, connectivity, ease of crossing, aesthetic quality, safety against road accidents and petty crimes, and the environment is needed to be taken account. Bringing more fun in walking is not merely solved by providing a wide sidewalk. That is why nice and strong sidewalks are needed, that is why police visibility is needed, that is why shade trees are needed, that is why pavement markings for pedestrians are badly needed, that is why driver education on pedestrian courtesy is needed, that is why total traffic demand management is needed, that is why a metrowide speed limit 24/7 is needed. We have to ensure that the walking environment comes with harmony with the automobile, built and the natural environment for our cities to live again.

    To bring back walking as a mode of transport from a mere recreation is a hard task, as everyone is ingrained with the mentality that “having a car is cool”. It takes an initiative from the citizens and the government taking action and solving the problems hand in hand to provide walkable, and ultimately, livable cities.

    The problem with the Metro Manila traffic mess is not that traffic moves slow and vehicles are too many at rush hour. It is rooted in our notorious penchant in getting late. Yes, Filipino time is the culprit for our traffic inefficiency. We don’t plan and prepare our trips efficiently, we have the tendency to rush in travelling. We will never solve our traffic problems unless we see time as a resource that is limited, hence we waste time like it is infinite.

    But the problem is, our leaders have SUVs and drivers, the multinational car companies promoting car use here, but promoting efficient transport in their homes countries and the ordinary mass of people taking tricycles, jeeps and pedicabs in trips less than a kilometer. This negative mindset from both the upper and the lower classes keeps us from attaining the sustainability our world needs. Until our habits are changed, I’ll keep my pessimism here and seeing the Metro Manila as a livable city an impossible dream.


  13. Overcoming Automobile Dependence

    I think I already said that I’m reading Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence days earlier. I’ve finished reading it (along with more than 5 books about Old Manila) during my 4.5 hour school break earlier this day. The main point the book asserts a dissension of the conventional wisdom, Traffic Jams = Build Wider Roads.

    Generally since European Cities are old and planned when cars are still not invented, pedestrianizing the traffic and reducing traffic congestion is not a big menace to Europe. Medieval European Cities are actually the Walkable cities so change did not come so hard for Europe to overcome their Auto dependence.

    Automobile or Car dependence is generally observed in some American and Australian Cities, whose land area permits a less dense urban sprawl. This phenomenon is now being observed in developing Asia like the Philippines.

    The book actually traces the history of cities into its transport priorities. There are walking cities, transit cities and the Automobile Cities. Spanish Intramuros was our Walking City, Manila is our Transit City and Metro Manila is our Automobile City. We are vying for the Sustainable City, where walking, transit and automobile are in harmony and does not cause much degradation to the city and to the environment. Actually, we are still in the transition between the Automobile and the Sustainable City: Manila wants to free itself from Automobile Dependence but it is still reluctant to do so.

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