Showing posts with label sustainable transport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainable transport. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Global Street Design Guide

Here's another quick post and more on the 'work' aspect of my life. I just wanted to share this article with a link to a Global Street Design Guide that was developed by the National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) in the United States (US). It's a nice guide that's based on the experiences of many cities in the US including transformations that have made commuting more efficient, enhanced mobility and, most important of all, improved safety. Following is the link to a more direct link to the guide:

NACTO and the Global Designing Cities Initiative Release Global Street Design Guide

This will be a good reference in the Philippines where many cities are in need of transformation to address current and future challenges in transportation.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Transport in times of rains and insensitive statements

How important is a good public transport system? Part of the definition of a good public transport system is that it should be an all-weather system. This means that even if there is inclement weather, the system would still be functioning and able to ferry people between their homes, workplaces, schools and other destinations. Of course, the exception here would be the times when there are extreme weather conditions like typhoons passing through cities. The rains today and past other days reminds us how difficult it is to commute even when you have your own vehicle. Those who opt to use their own cars now encounter severe traffic congestion with increasing frequencies while those with only public transport as their choice usually have difficulty getting a ride home.

It is not just unfortunate but rather depressing that Metro Manila and other major Philippine cities have no efficient public transport systems. The current modes of transport are road-based and dominated by paratransit including jeepneys, multicabs and tricycles. The state of disrepair of the PNR and MRT3, the much-delayed extensions of LRT1 and LRT2, and the much-delayed construction of MRT7 and BRT lines all contribute to the hellish commutes people experience everyday. Combine these with what experts regard as deficient station plaza designs that have led to inefficient transfers between the trains and road-based transport. It is no wonder that a person on  bicycle can beat a commuter on a trip between Trinoma in Quezon City and a university in Manila considering the state of MRT3 and the poor transfer conditions between MRT3 and LRT1. This won't likely be the case in Singapore or Tokyo where the proper hierarchies of transport are well established and with the necessary facilities to support their people-friendly systems.

What's more depressing, frustrating and disappointing (if its possible to feel all three simultaneously) is how transport officials, including and especially the top official of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), apparently see our transport woes as "not fatal". Is it really "not fatal"? Increases in the incidence of respiratory diseases due to the increased emissions are attributable to mobile sources (vehicles) and the long hours of road traffic congestion. The increase in the number of fatal road crashes as reported by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is also attributable to a significant increase in traffic volumes. One comment on social media was right on the dot on emergency cases ending up dying due to the ambulances being unable to make it to the hospitals in time for their passengers' treatments.

And so, there were renewed calls for transport officials to get out of their chauffeured cars and take regular public transport between their homes and offices. The dares include riding the MRT3 during the peak periods and actually experiencing the queues and the crowded platforms and trains. It is no wonder that the image of the Dutch ambassador riding his bicycle to his office has been a popular share in social media because a lot of people feel that leaders should be examples themselves on how each one of us can pitch in to solve transport and traffic problems. Attempts by some government officials (including the top official of the transport department) to ride the MRT3, for example, are met with much criticism because they are given special treatment - they skip the lines and have bodyguards escorting them and clearing the way and space for them to ride comfortably. Clearly, this is not what the common commuter experiences everyday when he or she would have to use something short of MMA skills to get a ride.

Are we helpless against such insensitivity of our officials, many of whom are politicians and professionals associated with oligarchs? Not totally. And next year's elections offer the commuting public a chance to express what they think about transport in this country and in their cities and municipalities by making transport and traffic urgent issues that need to be addressed and prioritized. Will you vote for candidates who had a hand in the continuing deterioration of transport in the Philippines and who consistently dismiss transport and traffic issues as secondary and just a by-product of non-inclusive economic growth? I surely won't and will be very critical of candidates' platforms and proposed programs should they win and become the leaders of this land. A big part of those programs should be how to address transport and traffic issues especially the deficiencies in infrastructure. Addressing these pressing issues on transport and traffic will go a long way in improving the quality of life of Filipinos and ensure a sustainable and inclusive growth for the country.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taming the beast(s) of traffic

An article came out of Rappler last weekend referring to addressing one of the most persistent problems in Metro Manila - traffic. It is a problem that is the result of years of neglect, poor planning, inconsistencies and a lack of foresight for future transport needs.
"Perhaps there are more than one beast to talk about considering that there is not one cause of the transport and traffic problems we experience everyday in Metro Manila (and elsewhere). We love ranting about how traffic is bad and how other people should leave their cars at home and yet we do little ourselves to pitch in to improve the situation. And so we are beasts ourselves in this manner. The discussions on public transport and road infrastructure have been going on since perhaps the author decided to practice transportation engineering. What has changed? Have things improved or have they worsened? It is really difficult to effect change when decision-makers and policy-makers are short of memory or have no memory or understanding at all of what's going on. It seems that we are always starting on a clean slate every time someone new is at DOTC, DPWH or whichever agencies are supposed to handle transport and traffic in MM (and the country). Perhaps some criteria should be applied to whoever will be in-charge of transport and traffic, and one should be that the person or persons should be someone taking public transport to the workplace. At the least, we can be assured that he/she has first-hand experience of the painful way we travel each day and lead the person to really work towards improving transport in this country."

I don't usually write replies or comments on material posted online. I believe it is a very public platform and nowadays, when there's a lot of talk on items like plagiarism, transparency, freedom of information, etc., it seems so easy to solicit opinions and comments from anyone who would care or dare post one. And transport and traffic seems to be a topic where everyone has his/her own opinion so much so that some people tend to project themselves as experts on the topic. Nevertheless, I thought that an opinion was necessary in order to offer another perspective on the matter of the "beast." I would like to believe that in our case, we probably have had one too many "thought leaders" in transport and traffic. It is time that we also have "action leaders" who would do rather than simply say or write. We need people who will practice what they preach and actively and willingly contribute when called upon for help in solving this traffic mess we are in.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020

Today we are holding a Road Safety Conference with the theme "Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020." The theme is consistent with a worldwide campaign led by the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and its partners that aims to curb the sharp increase in the incidence of road crashes. The program was actually launched last year at the Road Safety Forum held in October in Singapore and formalized with the first Transport Ministers' conference on road safety held in Moscow the following month of November.

The Road Safety Conference in the Philippines is organized by the Automobile Association Philippines and the National Center for Transportation Studies of UP, and is mainly sponsored by Toyota Motor Philippines as a major part of the latter's advocacy for road safety. Partners include SafeKids Philippines, Pilipinas Shell and 3M Philippines. This year, we are happy to have on board the fledgling GRSP Philippines (PGRSP) that is comprised of major companies dedicated in promoting road safety in the country.

The program includes 3 panel discussions with the first one tackling road safety legislation including the status of the Road Safety Bill filed in the last congress. The second panel discussion will feature the International Road Assessment Program (i-RAP) that will be implemented in the Philippines through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The assessment will involve an automated audit of more than 4,000 kilometers of roads throughout the country. These include roads classified under the Asian Highway (AH) network as well as the tollways of Luzon island. The third panel discussion will be on eco-safe driving. which is a practice that aims to promote both safety and energy efficiency by encouraging more relaxed driving while putting emphasis on regulating the driver's use of the gas pedal. The latter, in effect, allows the driver to manage the engine revolution so that upon acceleration and during cruising, the engine will only reach around 2,000 r/min maximum.

These are but among the many topics that are part of the bigger picture that is road safety. They are surely among the most interesting ones that are oriented toward actions necessary if we are to succeed in cutting down the steady rise in road crashes and save lives. The topics are also a welcome departure from past conferences where many presentations showed statistics and sought to establish context for road safety initiatives. That context is already well established and if one is not aware or has a clear understanding of the state of road safety, then perhaps that person is disconnected with what is happening around him.

This year's Road Safety Conference will be held at the GT Toyota Asian Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is a whole day event that starts at 9:00 AM and concludes at 5:00 PM.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Car? No Problem!

It's been months now since I've had a car. Lost old reliable to Ondoy last year and decided to commute part-time (I still drive when I'm with the wife.) to work. Sometimes, I am able to get a ride from officemates to our subdivision's gate but that doesn't happen often considering my work hours.

One night, I decided to walk home from SM Marikina partly out of necessity and partly out of choice. Of course, it can be argued that I made the choice out of necessity or that it was a necessary choice given the circumstances but these are just semantics. The choice to walk and the choice to commute is something that was essential to re-establish a routine I came to know and appreciate when I was still a student both here and in Japan - but mostly in Japan where I lived for some time.

I used to walk a lot during my stays in Japan. It's always a delight to take long walks as long as the environment is conducive. I started walking when I stayed in the University dormitory that was a kilometer away from my laboratory. I also walked when I got off the train station to get to the church. This was no easy task considering that Sacred Heart in Yamate was located atop a hill. I could tell then that I was healthy as I didn't have to make stops as I negotiated the steps to the cathedral.

When I transferred to an apartment (or mansion as the Japanese called it), I walked more from the nearest train station to my laboratory. Again, since the university was essentially on top of a mountain, the walk to school was a workout of sorts. I usually covered the distance without any stops but aided apparently by a piece or two of candy that I consumed while trekking. At times, the candies would be replaced by cold drinks during the summer and hot chocolate during the winter. I remember the hot can turning cold even before I reached the comfortable warmth of my laboratory. Of course, the walks back to my homes away from home was always the easier, mainly downhill and usually with the company of friends who were similarly heading home and using the same train station.

I enjoyed my walks in Japan mainly because the environment was conducive to walking (and commuting). The design of the steps, the pedestrian crossing facilities and the sidewalks, not to mention the driver discipline and courtesy in that country allowed for safe walks. Proof of this, I believe, is seeing a lot of children and elderly people walking (and commuting).

In contrast, it was both smoggy and noisy along Marcos Highway. I always had to watch out for vehicles that might sideswipe me as I walked near the carriageway when I ran out of sidewalk or foot path. I was lucky that it didn't rain that night. I can only imagine walking in the rain and most parts of the foot paths transformed into mud. If so, I could also imagine that people would have to walk on the carriageway, risking life and limb to speeding jeepneys and reckless trucks. And in Philippine streets, I know for a fact that private cars aren't that good either. You just assume that they won't be joyriding and looking for people to splash water from the puddles forming on the road.

People who are supposed to find solutions to our traffic problems should try walking and commuting to see how bad traffic and our transport systems are. People who walk would always be able to notice what facilities are needed to enhance the experience and to ensure that walking would be a safe, enjoyable and healthy activity. Road safety audits, after all, are not performed while riding a vehicle but while traversing the length of the road and making detailed observations of its features. Such details will allow the auditor(s) to recommend specific measures based on well-grounded assessment. It is a lesson I know from first-hand experience both as a pedestrian and a road auditor. Perhaps it is a lesson a lot of people would be better of learning and applying. It is a lesson that will probably make our lives better and our cities a nicer place to live in.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sustainable transport for energy security

I post below an essay written for the UPD Academic Congress under the session on Energy Security:


Dependence on fossil fuels is part of a vicious cycle that stems from rapid urban development. As cities keep growing in size and population, there is also increasing motorization that has led to traffic congestion, worsening air pollution and an alarming increase in the number of road traffic accidents. All these indicate deterioration in the quality of life for Filipinos and are regarded as manifestations of unsustainable transport.

The transport sector represents more than 40% of the total demand for energy. This share is larger than the shares of the industrial and residential sectors and is expected to increase further. From 1980 to 2008, transport energy use increased steadily from 1.9 million tons equivalent of oil (MTOE) to 10.9 MTOE – an average of 6.4% per year. Over 80% of the share of transport is attributed to road transport, which is overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels. Most private transport use gasoline while most public and freight transport utilize diesel.

There is also a strong correlation between inefficient fuel consumption and air pollution. A 2007 national emission inventory conducted by the DENR revealed that mobile sources account for 65.13% of total emissions. Such information dispels perceptions that stationary sources such as factories contribute more to air pollution. Clearly, addressing fuel efficiency concerns will have far-reaching impacts including potential curbing of air pollution in our cities.


The dependence of transport on fossil fuels has led to varied and usually negative reactions to fluctuations, particularly the increase, of crude oil prices. In fact, fuel price increases have always affected our lives as they trigger a chain reaction in the rising prices of commodities; fuel price increases are felt most in urban areas where consumers absorb the high cost of transporting goods. The high prices of food items especially fruits and vegetables are attributed to transport costs that are passed on to the consumers.

The commuting public is affected by fuel price increases as transport groups lobby for fare rate adjustments whenever there are gas price hikes. Such requests are articulated as demands that are accompanied by threats of transport strikes. In cases where transport strikes do push through, cities are often crippled by the limited availability of transport services leaving people to ponder what life would be like if there were other transit options.

In the interest of coming up with a clear picture of transport services in the Philippines, we must examine the characteristics of the three most dominant modes of public transport in relation to fuel efficiency. These modes are the tricycle, bus and jeepney. Tricycles are motorcycles with sidecars. Motorcycles were designed to carry at most 2 persons. Engines are forced to work harder with the additional load of the sidecar, passengers and in many instances even freight. Such have led to more emissions and higher fuel consumption when compared to normal motorcycle operations.

Many buses in the country are poorly maintained. In small cities served by few buses (mostly provincial operations), buses are often overloaded not just with passengers but with freight as well. Overloading leads to higher fuel consumption and is manifested in more emissions as engines are forced to work harder due to the loads they carry.

Jeepneys use surplus or second-hand engines originally designed for trucks. A study conducted by the U.P. National Center for Transportation Studies in 2008 revealed that jeepneys’ average fuel consumption is less than 6 kilometers per liter. Most efficient are short routes (coverage distance of 5 kilometers or less) consuming 6.0 km/L and about 11 L/day. Meanwhile, least efficient are medium routes (coverage distance of 6 to 9 kilometers) with about 5.5 km/L on 20 L/day.

It is easy to see that fuel inefficiency translate to higher costs borne by users even for private transport users. Prospective buyers of cars take note of mileage especially for used cars and are presently more aware of the implications of having gas guzzlers on their budgets. This is perhaps due to their experiencing first-hand the cost of travel based on fuel and maintenance costs.

The inefficiencies of public transport are often passed on to the commuters while service providers do little to ensure that their vehicles are well-maintained and therefore efficient in fuel consumption. Meanwhile, the commuting public is not at all aware of such and their implications on their wallets as they absorb rising fares that are partly due to high fuel consumptions.

Sustainable Transport

Sustainable transport is the response of the transport sector to the challenge of attaining sustainable development. The EST approach adopts the pro-active integration of environmental consideration in the planning process itself. Thus, negative impacts are minimized and environmental sustainability is achieved. On the other hand, the traditional planning framework considers the environmental impacts after planning and thus mitigation measures are formulated after the implementation of the project.

When the concept of EST was first presented to the DOTC and the DENR, it was unclear how the agencies would work towards incorporating sustainable transport in their plans and programs. It was proposed and eventually decided that a national strategy was needed to have a practical framework to guide the development of plans and programs. The overall goals for the formulation of an EST strategy are the reduction of the annual growth rates of energy consumption and green house gas emissions, and mainstreaming EST through the promotion of low carbon transport systems and a shift towards sustainable transport modes.

Sustainable transport incorporates all aspects of transport including social and economic The EST thematic areas as defined by the Aichi Statement of 2005 are as follows:
1. Public Health
2. Strengthening Roadside Air Quality Monitoring and Assessment
3. Traffic Noise Management
4. Vehicle Emission Control, Standards, and Inspection and Maintenance
5. Cleaner Fuels
6. Public Transport Planning and Travel Demand Management (TDM)
7. Non-Motorized Transport (NMT)
8. Environment and People Friendly Infrastructure Development
9. Social Equity and Gender Perspectives
10. Road Safety and Maintenance
11. Knowledge Base, Awareness and Public Participation
12. Land-Use Planning

All thematic areas are related to efforts toward energy efficiency in the transport sector. Some are more strongly connected, like cleaner fuels, public transport planning and travel demand management, non-motorized transport, and land use planning. These thematic areas directly address the question of efficiency in the sense that initiatives under them deal with travel. Promoting public transportation and non-motorized transport over private transport, for example, results in significant fuel savings. Meanwhile, TDM focuses on interventions influencing trip making behavior. Cleaner fuels include CNG, LPG and biofuels and the use of renewable energy to power vehicles.

It is important to note at this point that the objective should be towards the efficient movement of people and goods rather than vehicles. There are principles of equity that allow us to understand that individuals driving cars should have less priority compared to a jeepney load or busload of passengers especially given the limited road space available.

Emissions and noise are by-products of fuel inefficiency. As such air quality monitoring, noise management and vehicle inspection and emission control go together in addressing the symptoms of fuel inefficiency. Meanwhile, proper road design and maintenance ensures safe and smooth flow of traffic that is also fuel efficient as vehicles are able to run on higher gear.

The interaction between land use and transportation has been the subject of much discussion in both academic and planning circles. There is a close relationship between the two since land use patterns have implications on the transport system and vice versa. Unfortunately, land use and transport are often planned separately. Dense areas are associated with shorter trips and require efficient public transport to move people and smaller vehicles for goods movement. Meanwhile, urban sprawl involves longer trips that, with the absence of a good transit system, encourage car ownership not to mention larger and often overloaded trucks to carry freight. While there are proponents for transit-oriented development, the reality in the Philippines is that land development will come before transport enters the picture. The type of transportation that evolves is usually reactionary and most likely informal. Therefore, there is a need to optimize land use planning in relation to sustainable transport.

Barriers to sustainability

Technology and its costs have always been the top concerns when it comes to providing the best solutions to problems. Technical feasibility is usually constrained by the availability of funds. There are also prevailing perceptions that effective solutions need to be “high tech” and that such solutions are expensive when measures such as TDM do not require significant capital outlay or operational costs. In fact, schemes like MMDA’s number coding was successful for some time until rapid motorization eventually caught up and rendered it marginally effective.

Transport groups have been successful in blocking efforts to improve transport, citing social and economic implications including unemployment. As such, the positive traffic impacts introduction of more efficient modes including rail and bus services where these mass transit systems are already required are diminished as conventional transport remain, increase in numbers and compete with them. Social and economic implications of rationalizing transport services have always led to friction with a sector that has been, from one perspective, coddled or pampered. On a number of occasions, government has acquiesced to the demands of the transport sector, which have used the threat of public transport strikes as a powerful instrument to bring government to the negotiating table.

There are also efforts involving the upgrading of conventional transport. Among these are proposals to replace old inefficient engines with new ones using CNG, LPG or diesel. Transport groups have resisted these, citing the costs of acquiring a new engine or conversion, lobbying instead for quick fixes such as devices claiming to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. These quick fixes are not validated and approved by the Department of Science and Technology. Instead, they reflect the mindset of transport service providers while exposing the government’s inability to deal with a problem that has worsened as transport groups have become more aggressive in pushing for their sector’s agenda, including seeking representation by way of the party list system.

Bus companies have threatened to withdraw from the Natural Gas Vehicle Program for Public Transport (NGVPPT) over the government’s alleged failure to address the issues plaguing the program. There is a single daughter station for CNG in Mamplasan but this has been operated on a very limited basis, rendering CNG buses acquired through the program to be unused while continuously depreciating. This example can be seen as proof of government’s failure to provide the necessary infrastructure to support EST.

Initiatives towards energy efficiency

A study conducted by the Korea Transport Institute in 2009 shows the way towards energy efficiency for the transport sector by identifying the most effective initiatives. These initiatives are the following:
 Expansion of energy efficient transportation facilities
 Creation of public transportation-centered cities
 Enhancement of traffic demand management
 Establishment of incentives for energy-saving
 Utilization of new energy technologies
 Establishment of an energy saving cooperation system
 Establishment of an execution system for efficient energy consumption

Example applications of these initiatives are already found in the Philippines and are identified as good practices. Makati City has a system of pedestrian walkways interconnecting office buildings and malls that encourage walking as mode as opposed to using cars or motorized public transport for short trips. This has effectively decongested the city’s streets from cars previously being used for such short trips as office workers taking their lunch in Glorietta or Greenbelt.

Marikina City has a bikeways network that was constructed with assistance from the World Bank. The network serves as a good example for the promotion of non-motorized transport (NMT) in cities or municipalities seeking to provide energy efficient modes that are suitable for short trips. In this case, it is quite obvious that NMT’s do not require fuel and have zero emissions.

Cebu City is currently exploring public transport options via a strategic plan study being conducted in the Metro Cebu area. Such a study is envisioned to provide the city with a blueprint for establishing a suitable mass transit system for a city that is already comparable to Metro Manila in terms of urbanization and experience of traffic congestion. A pre-feasibility study is also underway for a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for the city. BRT systems are currently popular and favored by many cities that have budget constrains that prevent them from investing in expensive rail systems. The cities of Bogota in Colombia and Curitiba in Brazil have demonstrated the effectiveness of bus systems when combined with a strong effort in rationalizing conventional transport to complement mass transit.

San Fernando City in La Union has successfully implemented a program to upgrade tricycles from 2-stroke to 4-stroke while enforcing a limit on the number of tricycles in that city. The program incorporated a health awareness campaign that sought to educate tricycle drivers and the general public about the hazards of emissions through check-ups and sputum tests for drivers. Such programs address concerns (i.e., health) that are easily understood by the public. Limiting the number of tricycles employed a criteria that included residence (previously, many tricycles were operated by residents of neighboring towns) and compliance with the motorcycle conversion program. Moreover, an information campaign was also conducted to show drivers that more tricycles meant less income for them as they compete with others for the same market of passengers.

Puerto Princesa City is well on its way towards completing a green cycle that involves waste management, energy generation and sustainable transport. The concept for this is very simple in that energy is produced from waste and is used to charge the batteries of electric vehicles including e-jeepneys and e-tricycles. Fossil fuels are not utilized and zero emissions are achieved through the use of renewable energy.


Road public transport in the Philippines is comprised mainly of paratransit modes like the jeepney and the tricycle. These modes are perceived to be inefficient in terms of fuel consumption and impose costs on the general public by way of eating into our finances, air pollution and other externalities. In truth, many of our vehicles, whether private or public modes of transport, collectively contribute to the continuing rise in the share of energy attributed to the transport sector and consequently, the deterioration of our environment. We have to realize that the externalities brought about by the transport sector are strongly related to inefficiencies that have plagued the sector due to mismanagement on the side of transport service providers and a lack of planning foresight and political will on the side of national and local governments.

The need for extensive social marketing, employing a participatory approach in awareness building and the need for incentives and creative mechanisms to encourage engine replacement or upgrading of transport services cannot be overstated or underestimated. Indeed, there is a need to have a clear vision of the future and EST presents a framework for the vision to become reality. The traditional approach of forecasting scenarios and the mitigation measures for potential problems is set aside in favor of backcasting approach. That is, a future vision is set and we go back to the present to examine what steps must be done from now on to realize the vision.

In the end, leadership at both national and local levels is required to effect the changes necessary to ensure sustainable transport and sustainable development. The next administration must provide an enabling environment for national agencies like the DOTC and the LTFRB to succeed in rationalizing (read: overhauling) a transportation system that is seen as inefficient, ineffective and unsustainable. The same leadership must also be able to convince local governments to do their part in transforming their transport systems with proper guidance from national agencies. Policy formulation must be followed by a firm and consistent implementation of plans and programs consistent with the principles of sustainability. A strong commitment to sustainable transport will go a long way into ensuring the transport sector’s contribution to energy security. Security in this context, after all, is synonymous to sustainability.