Note: Anyone still here? The operative word, as far as work is concerned, is "tuliro" -- and I've been running around like a headless chicken working to close several projects.

I wrote this sitting in a DC airport, waiting for a flight that was delayed for three hours. rather than working on my projects, I squeaked in some-not-so-quality blog time.

I wound up in wifi hell on the shores of Lake Huron in Ontario, so I missed both the news and the blog posts.

I hope you're all ok.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the bombing in G2: A good friend of mine was a mere hundred feet away from the explosion. I'm glad he's ok. Another friend is on the front lines for ALI helping the victims and their families. Strength and endurance for her.

Further on rethinking public transport, here's a quick work-up on why our roads are so congested.

An average bus, carrying full capacity, can seat about 70 passengers. An average car, about 4. (Five, if you want to squeeze people in.)

Let's do a side by side comparison. Assume the bus is not full to capacity and carries only 60 people. (Of course, rush hour buses in Metro Manila probably carry close to 100). Then, assume 4 passengers per car. What effect does that have on our roads?

Here are the numbers:

You'll need 15 cars to transport as many people as one bus. You'll need 30 full cars to be on par withtwo buses (120 passengers).

How much road space do these vehicles take up? The two buses will take up 38 meters (124.6 feet) of road space. Bumper to bumper, the 30 cars will take up 152 meters (498.6 feet). Even if you double up on two lanes, the cars will still stretch to 76 meters -twice the road space of the two buses.

What does this mean as far as road capacity? Take two lanes on EDSA's 23 kilometers, fill it up with buses -and you can theoretically move 145,440 people. Fill those same two lanes with cars instead and you will only carry 36,360 people. Barely a fourth of the bus capacity.

You will need at least 8 lanes of road, with bumper to bumper cars, to even come close to what the buses can carry!

If two lanes of cars can only carry a fourth of one lane of buses, the cars will have to move at 4 times the speed of the buses to transport as many people. And that's under perfect (read: unreal) conditions -where the cars drive almost bumper to bumper and traffic flows smoothly.

Which is why the logic of counting the number of vehicles that move on a road (traffic flow), instead of counting the number of people you can transport (people flow) to measure performance only leads to more congestion.

To increase carrying capacity, you will try to try to speed up traffic. You will be forced to widen the road (and eat up sidewalks) to add more lanes and increase throughput. You will think of building flyovers and underpasses and overhead highways to keep traffic flowing.

Then there's the emissions equation. Eight lanes of EDSA will carry 36,360 cars. Two lanes of EDSA will carry 2,424 buses. Even if you assume that each bus generates 10 times more GHGs than each car, two lanes of buses will still generate 30% less GHGs than 8 lanes of cars. (And it's way easier to equip buses with CNG engines, which can theoretically produce just 7% of the emissions that the 8 lanes of cars will produce.)

The logic is clear. You want to move people more efficiently? Move more buses.*

You want to clean up the air and take care of our environment? (Not to mention, contribute to GHG reduction)? Reduce car use, increase bus use.

What about bad driving?

This all looks good on paper, you say. But with the way metro manila's bus drivers drive, we can throw all those efficiency gains out the window.

If you've kept up with this blog long enough, you'll know that I'm convinced we won't solve bad (PUV) driver behavior with increased traffic enforcement, we have to change the economic model of our public transportation system.

p.s. -taking the train to Ottawa later today - will use the time (and the onboard wifi) to answer all the great comments I've been neglecting.

* Don't we have the OBR, you ask. Isn't that a bus priority lane? I though it would be a precursor to a BRT system, but it sadly, the OBR seems to be more about driver discipline rather than transit efficiency. It's a traffic management solution, not a public transportation solution.

(So what if you used FXs instead of cars? You can assume 10 passengers, including the driver, and assume the chassis length. Two lanes of FXs will only carry 60% vs. two lanes of buses. And, of course, you'll still be generating more GHGs with the FXs than the buses.)


koikaze said...

Nice to see you, UDC. I've missed you.

As usual you've done an excellent job of describing the problem and your solution is not unreasonable. Even so, it seems to me the core of the problem is our own self-indulgence. We don't want to get to the bus, we don't want to wait for the bus, we don't want to get from the bus to our destination.

Over the past several generations we've become so accustomed to "convenience" that we can't cook our own meals. We can't walk to the corner grocery store because it isn't there. It has moved to the shopping center where there's adequate ... parking.

My guess is, until someone finally figures out that "growth" is the antithesis of humanity, our circumstances will continue to deteriorate.

But ...

You're still correct. We need to keep thinking about better ways to live our lives, and encouraging others to think that way, too. I'm one of the self-indulgent types mentioned above. I've finally taken to walking a little bit every day, as much as my legs and hips protest. I'd be healthier if I'd walked to the corner grocery more frequently ... and the grocer might still be in business.


Anonymous said...

I hope mayors of the cities in Metro Manila will see this point of view.


Urbano dela Cruz said...

Hi Fred,

thanks for continuing to subscribe to my intermittent posts.

I'm not sure if the problem is "self-indulgence" -i think this may be a chicken and egg question.

Do we not take buses because we find it incovenient or have we made it inconvenient to take the bus so we don't.

Did the corner grocery store disappear because we began to go to the big box retail on the highways or did we make it easier to go to the big box retail on the highways so the corner store lost all the business?

am not sure what you mean about "growth" being the "antithesis" of humanity. do you mean too much growth makes us less human? isn't the growth of our cities part and parcel of the growth of our civilizations? (from the Pyramids to the Pantheon, from the Hagia Sophia to the Forbidden City - from the Lourve to the Sydney Opera House -our cities have defined us and have grown our culture and arts)

granted, we've grown far too fast for our own good - but I'm not sure a total retreat will make us any more "human."

Are you turning into a curmudgeon, my dear friend?

(btw -I'm sure you will enjoy readinig Alan Weisman's The World Without Us.


Urbano dela Cruz said...


i hope the mayors see it to.

more importantly, I hope the voters and opinion leaders see it - so we can get the politicians to listen.


Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

Urbano, where there heck have you been?!@#$%^&*() We were just having a conversation on public transport,then you suddenly teleported to nowhere. :<

Urbano dela Cruz said...


sorry. been traversing the great province of ontario in search of a decent wi-fi signal.

(seriously, too much work. too much work!)

dish on design said...

hi kb/UDC! re: my corner of the sky--hey, you left too. i love our growing skyline driving into makati via c5-kalayaan flyover around sunset (especially during the christmas season when all the lights are on!) but there aren't that many skyscrapers to get me starstruck...plus things like G2 (whether it's the rumored carelessness or really a bombing) and the lack of green, open spaces as part of the urban fabric don't help at all...

peterangliongto said...

Anyone who's been stuck on EDSA with 10 buses covering all lanes causing traffic would disagree with this point of view!

Nevertheless From an urban transports point of view I do believe having a greater emphasis on mass transportatoin is very important. It's one reason I would like to rezone all private villages along EDSA to higher density so that more people will be closer to the main cbd's which string along EDSA.

But I do know that our take up of new vehicles including commercial ones is not that high. 100k units a year...has been for several years. Even adding the subic vehicles, considering the size of the city and population it's actually quite small. Which brings me to my point that the type of public tranport produces just as much traffic, add in the taxis, jeeps, fx, tricycles, etc and the type of traffic patterns they make and this has just as big an effect as having too much individual private vehicles.

One other point with regards to pollution. We have to distinguish with the different types of pollution. There's the Al Gore type of CO2 Global Warming which (with regards to vehicles) is a matter of total fossil fuel used, and the kind that most residents see , feel and inhale which is particulate pollution , the kind that blackens lungs and lowers the average metromanila residents health index, this type is primarily produced by inadequately maintained buses and jeepneys.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

dish on design/c,

I know what you mean about the lack of green spaces. In a strange way, it reflects our wild, unchecked politics - no planning, just choking growth.

I left -out of expediency, not of choice. I'd be back in a heartbeat if...

And don't you worry about those skyscrapers. We're a city of 13million, we'll be throwing more of those up pretty soon. (yeah, yeah - sing is nice. for a city of 3 million...)



koikaze said...

Maw'nin, UDC

I have a rather wild idea about the self-indulgence/traffic situation I'd like to describe, if only for laughs. For now, though, I'll just bludgeon you with my curmudgeonliness.

My depiction of "growth" as the antithesis of humanity points out the difficulty of expressing ideas without being verbose. It was an overstatement. Actually (as you point out), growth is the essence of life. My concern is with the "Growth is good" notion that rules our corporations and dominates our existence.

There is a natural conflict between growth and diversity. Growth is good but, unfettered, its beneficial effects become cancerous. As entities grow into rogues they maintain their growth at the expense of their host rather than in harmony with it.

We would do well to recognize that the progression is geometric. A company achieving a modest 6% growth will have grown over 1,600% in fifty years ... and we are controlled by companies that have done so.

Growth must have nutrients. Not only does it consume, it emits waste ... not least of which are the squatter communities you mentioned recently.

Our attempts to control cancerous growth fail because we try to outlaw identifiable evils. Such laws are easily subverted. The larger the enterprise, the greater the pool of talent available to devise the methods of subversion. The result is behemoths which have a vacuum cleaner effect, sucking up resources to the detriment of our communities and our citizens.

We have the means to restrain excessive growth [http://whither-democracy.blogspot.com/2010/03/citizenship-tax-1.html] but we can not avail ourselves of them until we change the way we select the people who represent us in our governments. Right now, the rogues control the selection process.

Not a good thing.


dave said...

agree with you on this. it sounds basic, really, but politics just complicates things a thousandfold.

funny there's a comment about the makati skyline. well i have an opposite feeling every morning when i see the smog and know that i'll be going to that general area.

koikaze said...

You're absolutely correct, Dave. Politics does, indeed, "complicate things a thousandfold."

It reminds me of my maxim about computers: There's absolutely nothing about a computer that isn't totally, dead simple. The problem is, there's just so damned much of it. It's the same with politics. If we want to understand, we have to take one tiny byte at a time.

But UDC is talking about congestion and I've strayed too far from that topic.


koikaze said...

Good Morning, Urbano

The thought that has been running through my mind about the traffic situation may be more appropriate for trains than busses, but I'll describe it anyway. If the economics work for busses, that's even better.

The cost of adding a rail car to a train is infinitesimal compared to the cost of running the train. Stated another way, if a train is going to run, adding another car does not add a great deal of cost to the operation.

Under those circumstances, it might make sense for the railroad to pay car service companies (say) 20% of a ticket price to defray part of the cost of a taxi ride from one's home to the station and from the station to one's workplace. If passengers availed themselves of the service at both ends, the railroad would net 60% of the ticket price, and that's (probably) more than the cost of adding the necessary cars.

From the car service's point of view: it should allow them to provide a scheduled, multi-passenger service (as opposed to a single-passenger "on-call" service), twice a day, at a somewhat lower cost than standard taxi fares.

From the railroad's point of view: In the short term, they would have to weigh the risk of their current, full-fare passengers switching to the more convenient combined service (this may be sufficient reason for local governments ... at both ends ... to participate.) In the long term, the railroads would reverse the trend toward personal transportation and ensure their own future.

From the passenger's point of view: it would eliminate the fuel and parking costs, the emotional stress and the risk of accident that are inherent in driving to and from work. It would provide portal-to-portal service for a (relatively) modest fee.

Imagine that! Stepping out of your house or office into a pre-cooled (or warmed) vehicle, nodding to acquaintances and riding to the station.

Ahhhh, the bliss.

Footnote: Doesn't the idea kind of remind you of the NEXUS book you recommended to me? Strong links on both ends with the railroad providing the weak link between them. Oh, my! Is there nothing new under the sun?


Urbano dela Cruz said...

Hi Peter,

I agree with you on rezoning around light rail stations. Having failed to site those stations correctly -the next thing to do is to re-shape the city to better leverage those investments.

I share your impatience with buses -as a private car owner who's been stuck behind those buses, and as a passenger who's been trapped inside one of those buses.

I hope you read my latest/reprint post on the boundary system and how that shapes PUV driver behavior. -Compounded, as you rightly point out, by our dependence on smaller PUVs for conveyance.

Our vehicle take-up may be small (small for the car dealers, I'm sure) but private vehicles outnumber PUVs nearly 9 to 1.

"There is an estimated 67,000 units of jeepneys, 10,754 buses, 61,173 tricycles, and 1.47 million private vehicles in the National Capital Region."

Or take this tidy statistic: "In real numbers, 67,186 PUVs were added to the road between 2003 and 2005, while the total number of private vehicles rose by 10 times that number to 690,153."

Yes, diesel engines do produce NOx and heavier particulates -which produce smog, especially if the engines are badly maintained. (See my recent post again on why the boundary system discourages engine maintenance.)

Shifting buses to CNG powerplants, or even plug in hybrids could do wonders. But first we've got to move away from boundary system.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

dave and fred/koikaze,

Have you heard of the work of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and the Game Theorists in Political Science?

I'm still exploring their work but basically they apply game theory to all political scenarios and throw all other assumptions out the window (culture, etc.)

"When analyzing a problem in international relations, Bueno de Mesquita doesn’t give a whit about the local culture, history, economy, or any of the other considerations that more traditional political scientists weigh. In fact, rational choicers like Bueno de Mesquita tend to view such traditional approaches with a condescension bordering on disdain. “One is the study of politics as an expression of personal opinion as opposed to political science,” he says dryly. His only concern is with what the political actors want, what they say they want (often two very different things), and how each of their various options will affect their career advancement. He feeds this data into his computer model and out pop the answers." (-from the article in GOOD Magazine)

Applying game theory and analysis to politics somehow appeals to me as a designer.

Bueno de Mesquita's track record seems (of predictions) seems to be unassailable but, I'm still reading up on all they have say.

koikaze said...

Yeah, but ...

Was revenue sharing really that bad an idea.

(three posts back)


peterangliongto said...

I understand of course there are more cars than Utility vehicles but my point is that even a few utility create more traffic than several multiples of cars. It can be seen during sundays when the ratio is about even but the traffic remains in many places (e.g. boni) where there is a hold up because of Utility vehicles. It's one reason why I say the how is just as important as the numbers because I'm very sure if I rode a bus on sunday because there were no cars along the road, I would still be stuck in traffic because it's the buses that create it. This does not mean that a lot of cars on limited roads do not create traffic just that limiting cars is only a limited solution at best if at all.

Perhaps changing the boundary system will do wonders. Assuming that this does not or can not be implemented, I'd think of some way to control the access to puv's would make it such that they need to line up in a certain way and not crowd about. I think this is one key lesson from the curitiba BRT model. Intentional or not, the idea that you can only pick up fares from specific spots allows traffic control authorities the ability to manage and regulate to a degree the traffic flow of PUv's. It's one reason I generally am not a fan of tricycles and pujs.

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