5 Simple Ideas That Could Make Travel (And Life) Way Easier
By Adam Wears, John Champion
January 16, 2012 1,045,495 views
We always hear about how fast technology is moving. Your parents needed 18-wheel trucks and seven to 10 business days to move around the amount of media you can have on your phone in 15 minutes. But when it comes to moving people around, we're pretty much stuck exactly where we were back when we first figured out commercial air travel -- waiting in the same lines at the airport, honking at the same jerkoff in front of us in rush hour traffic. It's just one of those facts of life, right?
Actually, it doesn't have to be. We're sitting on some pretty revolutionary ways to greatly increase the speed at which we physically move from A to B. What's infuriating is that those breakthroughs are ridiculously simple stuff like ...
#5. A Better Way to Board a Plane
It's easy to dislike air travel. Crappy food, nonexistent leg space, hurtling thousands of feet above earth without a firm understanding of how physics is keeping you from plummeting to a nightmarish death -- all unpleasant. But whether you're scared of flying or sitting comfortably in first class, the boarding process has an uncanny way of merging the collective internal monologue of everyone onboard into one harmonious "Fuck thiiiiiiiiiis." The stampede, the pileup. The motionless frustration as everyone tries to scramble for their seats with all the speed and grace of a tectonic plate. It's a miserable experience for anyone who doesn't love having their nose in a random sampling of khaki-clad butts and crotches.
If a better way to board a plane existed, the airlines would surely have jumped at the opportunity. Surely, they don't enjoy starting every takeoff with a cabin full of flustered, stressed-out passengers. Or maybe they do.
Computer simulations and real-world tests have shown that the current system of boarding -- back rows first -- is one of the worst possible ways to board a plane. It makes sense. Everyone is trying to use the same tiny bit of space to put their bags in the overhead compartment or get to their window seats. And since two people generally can't pass through each other, this causes areas of intense congestion where total strangers are forced to use eye contact and polite small talk to try to untangle complex knots of human movement.
Even the "just get in and sit wherever" school of boarding practiced by some budget airlines is quicker and easier. It seems like that would be less efficient if you view humans as a bunch of automated windup toys. In practice, humans use their twin faculties of intelligence and aversion to dry humping strangers to make efficient seating decisions.
The best solution has been developed by one Dr. Jason Steffen, an Illinois astrophysicist. His method proposes that airlines should board the window seats first, then the middle seats, then the aisle seats, starting first with the even rows and then the odds. With people at the front and back of the plane boarding at the same time, everyone's able to spread out and focus on getting to their goddamn seat already. This YouTube video shows the method in action. The most noticeable thing is how easy it is for people to move around each other in the center aisle when everyone's not stuffing their luggage into the same overhead luggage compartment at the same moment. Instead, people who are far enough from each other to do jumping jacks are putting their luggage up at the same time.
So how bad does science beat the airlines at human Tetris? Tests show the scientific method actually halves the boarding time. Imagine how much time that could have saved, how many crotches and butts that could have saved your face from, and then try not to punch something.
So why won't the airlines adopt Steffen's method, if it's so much better? This could be due to any number of things, such as people not being so keen on buying first class tickets if flying coach was so fluent. But the most reasonable explanation is they think the system is too complicated for people to understand.
Remember that the next time you're doing the sardine with a few hundred fellow passengers -- the people running the airline are choosing to sit on the system that would avoid all the hassle, because they think you're too dumb to deserve it.
#4. Make Yellow Lights One Second Longer
What can be done in a second?
Generally, not much. It takes the fastest man in the world almost 10 of them just to run the 100-meter dash. Nothing meaningful can be achieved in one second. You'll survive longer with your head severed.
Against this background, a plan to make yellow lights one second longer doesn't sound exactly revolutionary. But what if we told you it might go a long way toward keeping your head from getting severed -- by an incoming semi, no less?
You see, the problem is that intersections are very confusing. With all that turning, it can get really difficult to know where you are going, let alone to avoid collisions with other equally confused people. This is where the yellow lights come in. They're often so short that you don't even get a fraction of a second between red light and being aggressively honked at by everyone behind you. So you rush into the traffic without having assessed the situation properly -- and BAM! Semi.
According to a 2004 Texas Transportation Institute study, a mere extra second in a situation like this would reduce collisions by a very respectable average of 40 percent. It works both ways, too. Going from red to green, the extra yellow second gives us more time to figure out the intersection and observe roadside hazards. Going from green to red, it gives us more reaction time and thus reduces the running of red lights.
Hey, wait a second. If a measly second can really make that much difference, why do most traffic lights still feature yellow lights quicker than a roadrunner on speed? If a fix is this easy, wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to implement it ASAP?
Well, no. Turns out, keeping yellow lights short and sweet equals big time dough. For cities using red light cameras, drivers running the lights represent a fairly substantial chunk of revenue. In Dallas, for instance, the cameras have been known to raise $700,000 in fines ... within a few months. For this reason, yellow traffic lights in such cities actually tend to be quietly calibrated even quicker than usual.
#3. Get Rid of Left Turns
It turns out Derek Zoolander isn't the only one who can only turn right. Left turns account for most of the 2.4 million accidents that happen each year at intersections. That's not entirely surprising for anyone who's ever sat through an entire cycle of green lights waiting for the best time to lunge left. But unless you're a traffic engineer, you probably don't realize just how much left turns screw with our daily commute and general safety.
They're such a statistical problem that UPS programmed their trucks' routes and navigation software to never make them. Not only did it make the routes safer, it actually saved the company enough time to deliver an additional 325,000 packages the first year they put the policy in place. Yes, going out of their way to avoid left turns actually saved them time.
OK, but what about those of us who aren't couriered about by a fleet of delivery trucks? Sometimes the place we're going is on the other side of the stream of cars speeding past our left shoulder, and there's no way around it.
That's why traffic engineers have been taking the unorthodox step of trying to eliminate the left turn by redesigning the way roads intersect with one another. They've tried loop-based designs like the Michigan Left and New Jersey Jughandle, which failed to catch on as anything other than names for regional sexual maneuvers. They even tried something that looks like it would require a team of air traffic controllers. But when it comes to all-right-turn intersections, nobody's been able to beat the European free-for-all known as the roundabout.
Of course, such laissez-faire intersections might work in Europe, where conflict avoidance is the only thing they take more seriously than soccer. Here in America, we have things called rules, and something called technology, and the Ghostbusters, who taught us that if something is deadly, you throw electricity at it until it begs for mercy.
Actually, American intersections that got rid of left turns by converting traffic lights and four-way stops into roundabouts became almost twice as safe and efficient. A 2005 study found that roundabouts reduced rush hour delays over left-turn-reliant intersections by up to 93 percent, and congestion by up to 83 percent. A 2000 study that focused on safety saw a 38 percent reduction in total crash rates and a massive 90 percent reduction in crashes that resulted in either life-threatening or fatal injuries. The reason for this drop is quite simple: By using a roundabout, there are fewer directions from which you can get hit by a fellow driver, because all the cars are going the same way. It may feel more stressful, but your stress is focused on the one thing that matters (hint, it's not the text you're writing to a friend while waiting for the light to turn). There's also the fact that roundabouts require you to slow down, as opposed to yellow lights, which require you to speed up to get through them before your license plate gets photographed.
Unfortunately, roundabouts are more stressful than being told what to do by blinking lights. This makes them extremely unpopular with Americans who aren't politicians looking for something to scream about. Drivers usually come around once they're in place, and saving everyone time and money (by reducing your reliance on the brakes, they can also reduce annual fuel consumption at the intersection by more than 20,000 gallons).
American drivers can expect to see more of them just as soon as traffic engineers are able to wrestle budget control from the cold dead hands of the people who need to get reelected.
#2. Obliterate Road Signs
It was a typical Dutch small town in the North Friesland region, so dull it barely had a name. That is, until one day someone removed all the road signs.
We're not just talking about a few spare stop signs, either. They utterly destroyed every single aspect of traffic control on every single road. No lane markings, no lines and no signs. Only directional signs, 15 traffic lights (as opposed to the previous 5,000) and complete anarchy.
Except that, surprisingly, things didn't go Mad Max in a heartbeat. Instead of holding impromptu street racing competitions in spiky dune buggies, people actually slowed down and paid extra attention to their surroundings. As a result, serious accidents took a dramatic nosedive. Pedestrian fatalities at some particularly risky junctions dropped to zero.
Yes, things got better.
The mysterious someone who had removed the signs had, of course, been the government. The whole thing was an experiment by town planners of the Friesland area who felt like seeing how pedestrians, drivers and cyclists would fare if left to their own devices. While the plan had all the makings of the biggest, most dickish practical joke in recorded history, the results were extremely positive. All stripped roads quickly became so safe that pedestrians could cross with their eyes closed.
The idea behind the experiment was the theory that relying on signs means you aren't paying as much attention to other people on the road. Remove the signs, and road users actually have to rely on their eyes and acknowledge each other. Also contributing to the safety is the fact that without signs to tell how fast to drive, town area traffic has instinctively slowed to an average 18 mph. The near-absence of traffic lights has helped traffic flow more smoothly, so the overall journey time doesn't slow down too much, either.
The idea of sign-free traffic is spreading through Europe like wildfire. Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Belgium have all taken their first baby steps in removing theirs. Others still are considering giving it a go.
Mind you, the whole no-signs schtick only works on urban areas. We're no experts, but we're guessing the removal of, say, speed limits on a motorway would quickly result in Blues Brothers levels of wrecked vehicles.
Oh, wait, the autobahn replaced the speed limit with a request that drivers use common sense, and it has a better safety record than U.S. highways. And lest you think that wouldn't work in America, Montana has tried highways both with and without speed limits. The very presence of speed limits doubled the number of fatal car accidents. Again, traffic engineers have been fighting for higher or nonexistent speed limits on highways for years based on evidence that driving without speed limits makes us more cautious when it comes to lane changes and buckling up.
#1. A Really Obvious Change in New York City Airspace
Ah, New York City! The biggest metropolis on the coast that gets America's day started. A giant knot of humanity, defined by its constant flux of people coming and going. Oh, and the source of 75 percent of all nationwide delays in air travel. It doesn't matter if you live in St. Louis or Seattle, 3 out of every 4 flight delays you've experienced in your life started from New York.
As counterintuitive as that might seem, it makes sense. Apart from being one of the globe's angriest hornet's nests for business, the Big Apple is also one of the most popular holiday destinations, playing host to an insane 48.7 million tourists in 2010 alone.
Yet the insane amount of travelers is only a small part of the problem. The real issue is the routes that airliners use to enter and leave the city airspace. They weren't originally designed to handle the two million flights that pass over the city every year. They were designed for the mail planes that connected New York and San Francisco.
In the 1920s.
When the only two directions were "up" and "face down in a ditch."
Back then, New York was lucky if a thousand flights passed through a year. The fact that these routes haven't been updated in 90 years means that a handful of poor, stressed-out air traffic controllers have to maneuver the aeronautical equivalent of an elephant stampede through a drinking straw. Obviously, they're not always perfect, which is what it would take. Flights that leave one of New York's airports a minute late can cause hourlong delays in Los Angeles, giving the phrase "New York minute" a completely new meaning.
The solution, not surprisingly, is to use more sky than they'd originally been using for the handful of mail planes in the '20s. It's not like the sky is getting smaller or anything. The reason we'd been running out all these years is because we just weren't using it. In 2007, after decades of dicking around, the FAA finally started dealing with the issue. Their catchily named "New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Project" has the noble goal of knocking three all-important minutes off each plane's takeoff time by 2012.
The plan involves three key elements. First, they expanded the designated New York airspace area from its former limits to a much wider area that extends over four states. Next, they added six new westbound flight paths to the current two. Finally -- and this is the kicker -- they reorganized the flights so that multiple planes can use the same flight path. For years, the fact that they were tracking planes on a 2-D map meant they treated planes like they were driving around on a flat surface. It took them until 2007 to figure out planes are able to fly at different heights. The people responsible for the whole nation's air travel have wasted decades of people's lives by failing to take into account the third dimension of air travel.
Every time you've sat in an airplane terminal cursing whatever unavoidable circumstance intervened in your life, it's much more likely that it was caused by a handful of guys in New York operating under the assumption that planes magically become as tall as skyscrapers as soon as they take off.
The fact that they're finally correcting this assumption could be taken as a sign that we're headed in the right direction. Just try not to think about the fact that it took one city almost a century to figure that out.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 30, 2013 - 12:00am
Are Metro Manila Development Authority officials playing deaf and dumb on the traffic situation at EDSA and other major routes in the metropolis? This question keeps popping up as thousands of motorists and commuters suffer daily loss of productive time crawling their way to work and back home.
With schools opening in a week or two, I’m already dreading the additional volume of vehicles that will ferry our children to school and back home, not that the traffic during the summer break had become light along EDSA or the suburbs’ major thoroughfares.
We still have quite a number of letters from readers on how we can improve the traffic flow in Metro Manila. We continue to give way to the citizens’ view with the hope that our bureaucrats can pick up a few good suggestions and put them to work.
Here’s one from Bien Lazaro: “I read your article re: the choke points as the cause of the stop-and-go flow of vehicles along EDSA. I agree on this solid observation, having used EDSA for the last 20 years even before the flyovers were constructed, the choke points were the ones causing the traffic.
Segregate by barriers
“If I may suggest we copy the system that is implemented along Ayala Ave. where buses are segregated by barriers to keep them from swerving, and to keep the private cars in place too. Same thing they did when they placed the fences along the Cubao area and for a while northbound of Guadalupe area.
“If we do this to all identified choke points, and strictly apply the yellow lane rule, then we can expect great improvement in traffic flow. We have seen the effect when they prohibited the buses from using the flyovers except north bound along Ortigas Galleria. Traffic improved significantly because the vehicles were in their right places.
“I know in Latin America they apply this because they have the BRT (bus rapid transit) system that we can easily implement at a fraction, as you said, of the cost. I do hope that this simple plan is taken seriously as there are good signs that it can improve traffic.”
Another letter comes from Eric Tse. He says: “I commute daily from Vito Cruz to work in Binondo, and it’s so difficult to find a ride. It has become quite irritating to see how many near-empty Quiapo and Monumento route jeepneys passing by.
“Just for the length of Taft Avenue, there are already three jeepney routes, a variety of bus routes, and the UV Express that do not operate terminal-to-terminal as they’re meant to. Multiple PUVs of different routes commonly traverse the length of Taft Avenue.
“The practical thing to do is just have one bus route from Baclaran-Taft Avenue to Lawton where the route of most of these PUVs split. From Lawton, commuters can then just transfer to other PUVs going to their respective destinations.
“Similarly, there is no need to have jeepneys along Rizal Avenue that go to Malanday, Malinta, Valenzuela, BBB, etc. One bus route from Lawton to Monumento/EDSA will do.”
From Nicolas Mapa, we have another RBT (rapid bus transit) endorser. He says: “The Philippines should take a page out of the Latin American book by instituting a rapid bus transit system along EDSA, a local bus running the center lanes of EDSA which can only stop at designated stations.
“The problem with the yellow lane for buses is that it’s not respected, and anyone with the balls can drive on it (taxis, jeepneys, or even private cars). RBTs have a walled-off lane dedicated to buses. Even if a bus eats up one lane, at least it is restricted and won’t be causing traffic by taking up more than its dedicated lane.
“Provincial buses should ply EDSA on a second lane but won’t be allowed to stop anywhere except at their terminals like Trinoma and MOA (Mall of Asia).”
A long list of suggestions was sent in by Gil Zarcilla on Metro Manila’s traffic problems. Here is what he sent: “I read your article regarding our traffic conditions with great interest and I have a few suggestions to make:
1. Setting an example among police, security services, bank armored vehicles, barangay officials, teachers and politicians – these people are some of the worst violators of traffic rules.
2. Stiffer penalties and points system in the driver’s license that affects their insurance premiums.
3. Emission testing centers – to include not only emissions but overall vehicle conditions like lights, headlights and brakes. In other countries, driving your car without up-to-date MOT (vehicle road worthiness certificate) on a public road invalidates your insurance cover.
4. Implement a loading and unloading area, proper bus stops. Most of corner junctions become a chokepoint for unloading and loading passengers. Perhaps we can locate these 20 to 30 meters away from the junction of many side streets.
5. SLEX, NLEX and all expressways should be permanent areas of vehicle safety worthiness by not allowing vehicles to enter without proper stop light, headlight focus, etc., and by deploying permanent LTO enforcers at all entry points with CCTV cameras.
7. Install security cameras at all choke points for monitoring and enforcing traffic rules. Citation can be sent by post.
8. More education for young children and drivers of public and private vehicles on road safety.
9. Privatize some aspects of administering penalties.
10. More taxes to implement these rules.
11. The moment a traffic enforcer stops anybody for an alleged offence, he must report before and after by radio to the control room operated by a monitoring private firm to prevent corruption. The control room will call and speak to the violators to confirm the offense. The cost of this operation will be covered by the penalties. I realized this system is good when I was towed away by a private company. They called me to ask and confirm if I was happy with the service. This is a good system.
12. Incentives to the enforcers similar to what the BIR has adopted.
13. Professionalize LTO, especially in the issuance of driving licenses. In some countries, driving tests are divided into two (theory and actual) making it more difficult for non-professional drivers to be on the road.”
Keep those observations and suggestions coming. Let’s prod those bureaucrats at MMDA to wake up from their slumber, get out of the comfort of their air-conditioned offices and have a taste of what commuters suffer on these streets that have become “gateways to hell” (with apologies to Dan Brown).
WHAT A relief to read that the Department of Transportation and Communications will not hike LRT/MRT fares until their service improves. Commuters are up in arms over the proposed fare hikes not just because they are almost double the current rates, but because the fares just aren’t worth the terrible service.
The question now is: When will those services improve, and how? The Inquirer has published a growing number of complaints from readers about the long waits for trains and the crowding. Left unsaid are the small disasters that occur each day: fainting spells, pickpocketing, sexual harassment. I’m concerned, too, that we are waiting for major disasters to happen. I’m almost afraid to mention what could happen, but here they are: stampedes, fires, passengers running amuck. I might as well mention that with the number of people commuting, in the chaotic conditions of our LRT and MRT, you cannot expect the guards to conduct thorough security checks—and that invites the most unthinkable of disasters.
I’ve been taking the LRT and MRT occasionally for years and have seen how all three lines have deteriorated. But it wasn’t until a trip last month, on a Friday night at around 8 p.m., that I realized how totally degrading and debasing a ride could be. I challenge our government officials to see for themselves, during the rush hour.
I wanted to go from the Philippine General Hospital to San Juan. I could have gone from the Pedro Gil station to the north end of the MRT line but, thanks to the government’s poor planning, the LRT line ends on Roosevelt, which means one more jeep ride to connect to the MRT. So I decided to go in the other direction, from Pedro Gil to Edsa on the LRT line, then switch to the MRT to take me to the Annapolis station. An hour max, I thought.
Two hours later, I stumbled out of the train back at Pedro Gil and returned to PGH.
I should have known from the very beginning that it wasn’t going to work out. First, maybe because I’m so tired from my classes, plus the fact that there are no signs at the station’s entrances, I ended up boarding the station on the wrong side of the street and finding out only after a slow climb to the top with the long line. Back down then, crossing chaotic Taft and another long queue up to the right side of the station.
It wasn’t too long a wait for the train, but it was packed, smelling less of sweat than of a stale weariness. I got off at the Edsa station, walked down to the street and looked for nonexistent signs to take me to the MRT. A vendor told me to just cross the street but I noticed traffic aides at the other side looking like big bad wolves waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.
I walked back up to the Edsa station, crossed a bridge to more passageways with vendors selling cheap made-in-China toys, and was finally swallowed into a mass of people that was moving ever so slowly, as in a funeral procession. I looked at people trudging along in the other direction, also looking very tired, and sad.
No signs or directions again. I would ask people if we were moving toward the MRT. Some said yes, others shrugged, and I realized they didn’t know either. We were packed like sardines, and I wondered if the guy behind me was picking my pocket, doing a security frisk, or… Half an hour later, we had moved maybe 50 meters and I suddenly felt like we were being herded into gas chambers…or that we were already in the chambers.
Trip to hell
As we got to the end of the line, the crowd forked out in different directions. One moved to the right into another bridge leading back to the streets. I took a U-turn with another crowd then spotted, hallelujah ringing through my head, an ever so tiny sign in one corner: “MRT.” I joined the line moving into that corner but as we got closer to the gateway to heaven, we heard a guard calling out that it was only for those holding tickets.
Of course, I didn’t have a ticket and I realized now that the melancholy horde that I had seen moving in the other direction was the line to buy a ticket, and they were going back in the same direction I had come from. A sign should be put up here, I thought, and it should read: “Welcome to Hell.”
I will spare you the details of how I got back to PGH, except to say that at one point, thanks to meditation classes, I switched myself off and floated into the “Twilight Zone.” Older readers will remember that TV show’s theme music: ting ting ting ting, ting ting ting ting. On the way back, I almost bought something from the sidewalk, realizing now that the vendors were catering to parents feeling guilty about getting home so very late.
The problems with LRT and MRT aren’t just a matter of trains. All over the world, mass transit systems involve crowds, huge ones. But at least people move, with the help of signs, maps, and grumpy but helpful staff.
The problem we have here boils down to this: We are really a terribly unkind people, especially to people of lower status. Our transport systems favor those with cars and no one really cares about what happens to people on foot or on bikes, or the LRT and MRT commuters.
Being kind has to be part of the solution, starting with signs and maps that tell people where to go. People need relief, too, from the tedium, the pain. I’ve seen how Inquirer Libre lightens the start of the day for early commuters, and wish there were more copies. So people won’t feel like they’re on a Death March, it might help to put up television sets. I don’t think anyone will want to watch educational films, or government propaganda, so perhaps music videos, maybe even Willie Revillame, can serve as anesthesia. (Am I asking for trouble? I can imagine giant loudspeakers now blaring out sticky tunes.)
Maybe a more genteel alternative is to offer reading stuff. No religious propaganda, please. I know people do read, and appreciate those poems put up by Instituto Cervantes inside the coaches, so why can’t we have them as well as large billboards on the way to the stations?
Some of the LRT and MRT trains have coaches reserved for women, senior citizens, the disabled and people traveling with children, but the problem is getting into the station. So, foremost, we need courtesy lanes and special assistance for these groups just to get in and out of the stations. And for all the other commuters, it will help to put queuing barrier posts—you know, the ones with retractable straps that they use in banks and airports. People shove and push when there’s no sense of a queue.
The LRT and MRT are, for thousands of Filipinos, the face of the government, and right now it is an uncaring, unkind face. If the government can’t do a facelift, then the private sector should, what with all the talk of public service and corporate responsibility. Throw in your ads with the public services, if you will, but do something, soon.
When foreign visitors ask me about travel time within the Philippines, I sometimes crack a joke like, “Oh, the flight from Cebu to Manila is an hour, but to get from the airport to Quezon City it can take two.”
Monday night, I broke my own record of airport commuting ordeals, clocking 13 hours to get from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to my home in San Juan.
I’m sure many of my readers had similar experiences but I’m still going to recount what happened, and add an analysis of what the government needs to do, as well as some tips and reminders for surviving commutes during the typhoon season.
Let’s start with a quick recap of what happened:
I left Naia at about 5:30 p.m. in a taxi, calling the kids and telling them I was back, but because it was rush hour, I warned them it would probably take me about an hour to get home.
At 6:30 p.m., I called home again and said the traffic was really bad because of the rains, and I was still on Ayala and Edsa.
Half an hour later, the taxi had crawled to Buendia and Edsa. After some 15 minutes of not moving, I knew something was terribly wrong, but the radio stations weren’t very helpful except for sporadic reports of flooding in different parts of Metro Manila.
I turned to my phone. The Metro Manila Development Authority app (available for iPhones and android phones) has a “Line View” section giving updates on traffic on main thoroughfares. It said that traffic was L (light) on Edsa’s intersections: Ayala, Buendia, Guadalupe. I told the taxi driver, who was not amused. I later clicked on its “Map View,” which was working. The map view uses GPS, so I could see a blue dot representing our vehicle, hardly moving on Edsa, along a rather long segment in red, which means very bad traffic. (Other areas are either in green for light traffic or yellow for medium traffic.)
I went into the Internet, googled MMDA’s traffic updates, and was referred to a Facebook site. There were all kinds of postings from stranded motorists in varying moods: irate, hungry and pleading (“gutom na gutom ako”), and informative but panicky (the area in front of Megamall, one posting said, was “tire-deep” in floods and impassable by light vehicles).
Worried that I’d have to swim home and that the taxi driver would also have difficulties getting back, I had to think of alternatives. My son, disappointed about the delay, begged me to take a tricycle home. I thought of the MRT but the coaches were all packed, and besides I had heavy luggage.
I thought of a hotel. Makati’s hotels were already behind me, and besides they were all too expensive. Sogo Hotel on Guadalupe? No… I could imagine gossip spreading around me in a motel. Then I remembered that Gokongwei had some hotel along Edsa but couldn’t remember the name. Stupid me: Sogo, Gokongwei, what else but Go Hotel?
At 8 p.m., two and a half hours after leaving Naia, I got to Go, and to go (you know, as in senior citizens’ got to go, quickly now).
I went to a Tokyo Café next to the hotel for dinner and ran into a friend and her three children. Her son had walked all the way from Mapua (I presume from the campus in Makati), unable to get public transport.
I was still entertaining thoughts of returning home maybe around 11 p.m. but the MRT was still packed and the vehicles on Edsa were moving only a bit faster. I was exhausted, and knew the kids would be asleep anyway, so I went back to my spartan, windowless Go room.
The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn and dragged my luggage into the lobby. There were some Fil-Ams preparing to leave for the airport, for a provincial medical mission. They asked where I was headed for and I sheepishly answered, “San Juan,” about five kilometers away.
I finally got home at 6:30 a.m., 13 hours after leaving Naia.
Strokes, big and small
What dismayed me most about Monday night’s experience was that the traffic gridlock was triggered by “Emong,” a fairly small storm. To use a medical metaphor, what happened was a small or transient stroke, the flash floods stalling vehicles, which, like plaques and clots in our blood vessels, prevent blood from reaching the brain.
Like a stroke’s effects on the body, parts of Metro Manila ended up paralyzed. And if strokes impair speech in humans, the Metro Manila stroke aggravated our communications problems. Like a stroke patient, the radio stations were “saying” a lot of things but weren’t making much sense.
The taxi driver kept muttering about the MMDA having to do something, and I agreed. Why can’t we have a government radio station devoted to weather and traffic updates, rather than having people depend on private radio stations that tend to create panic with exaggerated reports but not much practical advice on what to do? The MMDA also needs to fix its phone app’s Line View. The Map View needs improvement as well, maybe a flashing red for areas where vehicles are no longer moving, and a blue one for flooded areas.
At one point near Guadalupe bridge, where we stalled for some 10 minutes, I had to endure a large billboard with a video of a woman model seductively showing off Jag jeans. Now, I thought, why can’t MMDA have a billboard advising people on traffic flow along Edsa and alternative routes?
Until the government acts, we just have to be prepared for long commutes, or worse, gridlock induced by rains. Remember it doesn’t have to be a typhoon, as we saw in the habagat (western monsoon) rains in August 2012.
By public or private transport, the stuff we bring may as well be for camping: some food and water, a smartphone that allows you to keep in touch with family and to check the Internet. The Internet got me Go Hotel’s phone, which allowed me to call in to check if there were rooms available.
I did have an iPad, which allowed me to continue reading a book I had started on the plane, but I’m not sure you want to drag around a tablet or iPad in the rain.
On the smartphone, you can download I-typhoon and MMDA apps that give you general updates, but, as I mentioned earlier, the Line View doesn’t seem to be working. Use the Map View. Power banks for the phone are worthwhile; you charge them at home, and then plug in your low-bat phone while on the road. A small flashlight will be useful (some phones have the flashlight built in), as well as a foldable umbrella and rainwear.
At the rate Metro Manila is deteriorating, we just might get to the point where swimwear, together with floating gear, will become essential for travel. What happened on Monday night was just a mini-stroke, a warning that a larger, more serious and debilitating stroke might be around the corner.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated October 16, 2013 - 12:00am
A colossal nuisance, Catholics cursed the Iglesia ni Cristo’s traffic-jamming medical missions in 15 Metro Manila districts last Monday. A dose of your own medicine, sectarians harrumphed back, pointing up the numerous Catholic events that snarl traffic just as bad. So surfaced anew a religious intolerance that ails many Filipinos.
There were even snorts in the predominantly Catholic Aquino admin that the INC affair was a veiled “show of force.” Supposedly the partisan sect was practicing its capability to mobilize hundred thousands of followers in a snap. As well, make known its displeasure with Malacañang’s recent removal of three of its political nominees.
That’s all conspiracy theory. No agenda can be kept hidden from or by such multitude. Doubtless, the 5,000 busloads of INC members from surrounding provinces only wanted to help — possibly convert — calamity stricken fellowmen in the big city.
If anyone needs scolding for the traffic, it’s the metropolitan authorities, for not alerting the public earlier than just half a day. For that matter, all government officials must wake up, lest things get out of hand in religionist clash. The country can ill-afford violence as in India among Hindus, Christians and Muslims, or in Sudan and Syria between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Not now, when the centuries-old division between Christians and Moros in Mindanao is about to be resolved.
Sensitivity and law can curb sectarianism. The night before the INC extravaganza in Metro Manila, Catholics marched around the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of La Naval. The procession clogged up major roads, but the mainstream media aired no complaints of inconvenience. Still, traffic enforcers could have done better.
Again the day after the INC event, the archipelago was made to stay home from work and school, in observance of the Muslim Eidul Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice. In the news this time were employers grumbling about having to pay overtime workers double wages, and educators about holding Saturday makeup classes. Commentaries brimmed that such holidays should be limited to the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. After all, it rightly was noted, only eight percent of Filipinos are Muslim.
Wrong, on the other hand, is tyranny by the majority. The 80-percent Catholic Filipinos cannot impose holy feasts and customs on the 20-percent others. For one, INC brethren do not deck the halls with boughs of holly at Christmastime, so should not be compelled to join exchange-gifts in offices and schools. More so, the Muslims who do not celebrate Christmas, as they consider Jesus not God but Prophet.
Christians in general must learn to be politely ecumenical on public occasions. If asked to lead prayers in secular gatherings, Catholics need not open with the exclusively Trinitarian Sign of the Cross. In multi-faith events, they can in closing dispense with, “In Jesus’ name,” in favor of the all-encompassing “In the name of God Almighty.” Marian devotion may be spreading among non-Catholics, but that does not license agency chiefs to impose Rosary prayers on lunch breaks. Nothing lost, everything gained in being considerate.
Back to traffic-causing sectarian activities, Filipinos have a social obligation. They must stop using national highways for processions on feast days of their municipios’ patron saints. With some 2,200 cities, towns, and oversized districts all celebrating such feast days, traffic will be tied up in six areas a day on average throughout the land. Others have a right to those public roads as well. Most tiresome for them perhaps is summertime, when Catholics hold Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan processions everywhere.
This is not to say that all Filipinos are closed-minded. Christian and Muslim Filipinos alike were appalled when Malaysia recently decreed that Allah, the Arabic term for God, refers exclusively to the Muslim One and so may not be used in Christian Masses. Parish leaders in Quiapo, Manila, dutifully coordinate with civil authorities for order, safety, and cleanliness during the Procession of the Black Nazarene, attended by two million devotees every January. There was a time when, by Marcos martial-law diktat, all Filipinos were compelled to vote under pain of prison. Heeding better advice, the dictator modified the edict to exempt members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and similar Judaic denominations that preach political neutrality. Of late Filipino hosts have learned to prepare halal and kosher meals to suit Muslim and Jewish guests — and, for restaurateurs, to increase revenues. Filipinos can be proud that their countrymen led worldwide movements for Interfaith Dialogue starting in the ‘90s.
There’s virtue in secularism. Too many religious feasts celebrated as no-work national holidays are economically unproductive. It might be time for the government to scrap purely Christian holidays, like Holy Thursday and Good Friday. If it can be shown that only Catholics but not other Christians and major religions observe All Saints and All Souls Days, then those too must be left for purely religious and not official observance. The Congress calendar must revolve solely around the approval of the national budget, uninterrupted by long session breaks on such feasts. The Constitution mandates separation of Church and State.
Meanwhile, New Year’s on the 1st of January is acknowledged as the only true international holiday. It’s pointless for the Senate to enact a Chinese New Year holiday. For if that happens, then what would stop the passage as well of observing March 21 as Zoroastrian, April 1 as Siamese, or August 29 as Alexandrine New Year’s Days.
6 Little-Known Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life
By Ajay Kumar November 20, 2012 1,250,884 views
Driving a car, or getting run over by one, is still one of the most popular ways to get killed in the modern world. Despite the fact that cars are safer than ever, they are still driven by human beings who, let's face it, often have trouble retaining even the minimal techniques and rules required to operate a vehicle.
But if you're reading this, hopefully it means that you are intent on doing what it takes to survive in a world full of such drivers by being just a little more careful. So for you, here are some advanced tips that everyone should know, even if most people don't ...
#6. Don't Have Your Car Visible Anywhere in Your Mirrors
This is one of those things that takes next to zero effort to do right, but that almost everyone does wrong.
You hopefully already know that the "blind spot" is the name for the area on either side of a car that is invisible to wing mirrors. It's such a frequent cause of accidents that higher-end car models have adopted fancy radar or camera systems capable of detecting other vehicles in your blind spots and delivering the information to you in furiously urgent beep-screams as you swerve in terror and/or crash anyway.
However, the technology isn't the problem -- the necessary equipment to eliminate blind spots was around back when Henry Ford was still producing cars and anti-Semitic newsletters. All you need are your car's wing mirrors -- which most people have adjusted incorrectly.
You see, blind spots can be put into full view of your side mirrors, provided that these mirrors are adjusted to contain no part of your own car. Just angle them away from you until the point where your car is no longer visible in either one, and leave them there. That way, there's no overlap between them and the rearview mirror, and any car that's passing you on either side will remain in at least one of your mirrors until it enters your field of vision.
Admittedly, this seems less like a "tip" and more like "the most obvious piece of instruction of all time," but nobody freaking does it. Manufacturers have to let you adjust the mirrors (due to things like differences in driver height), and most people simply don't know how to do it. That's why those same engineers are spending millions on technology meant to eliminate blind spots -- they have simply failed to teach people not to point their goddamned mirrors at the sides of the vehicle they're attached to.
#5. Pay More Attention to Traffic Than Road Signs
If you saw someone blow past a yield sign into traffic and vanish in an explosion of steel and glass not unlike one of the Iron Giant's volcanic diarrheas, you'd be tempted to blame the crash on the driver who ignored the road sign.
But what if the yield sign wasn't there, like those intersections where there's nothing but an esoteric flashing yellow light and everyone stops and stares at each other? There would probably still be the odd person who flies through, but average drivers would become extremely cautious as a result of having no clear instruction of what to do. They would instead just intuit their next move based on the traffic around them, which is kind of the point of stoplights and road signs to begin with -- to force you to stop and look.
In other words, you may be better off without the signs.
There are experts who believe that the overabundance of signs and signals just make you complacent, because you're fixated on blindly following instructions printed on reflective metal rather than not killing your fellow drivers. And we've all seen it happen -- drivers with a green light will plow through an intersection and T-bone another car that was clearly in their path, simply because the pretty colored light told them they had the right of way. And think about how people will lose their freaking minds if traffic and/or weather conditions have them driving slower than the posted speed limit, routinely causing accidents by trying to weave their way back up to maximum warp, even though the speed limit is literally just a number on a sign that takes absolutely nothing into consideration beyond what a few civil engineers came up with on a calculator 30 years ago.
The Dutch city of Drachten decided to test out the theory by replacing 20 four-way intersections with 20 roundabouts free of any road signage, and the results were surprisingly nothing like The Cannonball Run. One intersection that typically killed two to four people every year saw no injuries for the next six years, and another intersection went from 36 accidents in the previous four years to just two in two years. All this just from putting more responsibility into the hands of drivers and forcing them to interact with each other in the absence of indifferent commands from stoplights and signs (although it could also be related to the fact that nobody in the Netherlands has a The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift poster on their bedroom wall).
Since the success in Drachten, a number of other cities have tried out similar concepts, most notably London, whose recently debuted Exhibition Road looks like the guy in charge of painting lines on the streets was tripping balls that day.
We're not saying that you should ignore stoplights and road signs, but that you shouldn't rely on them to make every decision for you. Just because you had the right of way at an intersection won't make you any less dead if you pull in front of an 18 wheeler, and refusing to slow down for pedestrians because they aren't crossing in a designated crosswalk won't put you any less in jail if you chop them in half with your Daewoo.
Or maybe we should just put it this way: Obey the signs, but assume that nobody else is doing so.
#4. Listening to Techno Makes Your Driving Worse
Every car comes with a stereo and speakers, but you don't find much in driving manuals about what you should or shouldn't do with them. So it's easy to assume that it's safe to bump some jams while driving, as long as you're focused on the road and not constantly messing with the knobs or looking at yourself in the rearview mirror while you're singing. But research shows that your tunes are probably making you a worse driver, even if you just like a little ambient music in your Prelude.
An Israeli study connected test subjects to heart monitors and put them through a driving simulator while they listened to music of varying tempos. A no-music control group experienced significant heart rate fluctuation while driving -- that is, their heart sped up when things got exciting, like if a moose turned up in the street or something. But those who were listening to any type of music saw their heart rate stay level (except during the Les Miserables soundtrack, when their heart rates soared with bittersweet triumph).
At first glance, this suggests that the drivers who were listening to music were more calm, and thus more careful drivers than the control group. But it was the opposite -- the music group Dukes of Hazzarded their way through the virtual driving course like they were running moonshine for a one-legged banjo player. They were calm (maybe), but only because they were less focused on driving than the control group -- they were placated by the music.
The study also showed that drivers who were listening to higher-tempo music (between 120 and 140 beats per minute, the speed of most dance and techno music) were twice as likely to blast through red lights and had twice as many accidents as those who were listening to slower music or the deafening echo of their own thoughts. Drivers who were listening to dubstep were 84 percent more likely to believe that there was a Transformer behind them trying to mate with their car.
According to a recent study, you can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by up to 32 percent simply by driving with your headlights on at all times. This seems like common sense -- obviously something that is lit up is going to be more visible, regardless of the time of day. And as long as other cars are driven by tired, distracted human beings, greater visibility equals less chance of having a hood ornament embedded in your skull. Yet almost nobody drives with their lights on during the day (and cars with automatic lights won't flick on until the sun goes down).
Other drivers are simply less likely to pull out in front of you if they can instantly see the glare of your headlights in a quick glance (unless they were planning to cut you off, in which case they are shitheads and the accident was unavoidable). This also counts for pedestrians and cyclists, who statistically will sometimes miss their own oncoming death unless there are bright lights attached to it.
In countries like Canada, Sweden and Finland, all new cars are required to have automatic running lights that stay on at all times, and you can get them on some new car models in the U.S. But the majority of drivers still have dusty old manual headlights, so if you're one of those people, you'll just have to dig deep and flick your lights on and off every time you drive (we know, we know -- it hardly seems worth all the effort, but trust us, you'll be much safer).
#2. Your Parking Break Stops Working if You Don't Use It Regularly
Of all the aspects of driving, parking should be the most straightforward. Basically, you take the keys out of the ignition and get out of the car (hopefully after putting the car in park, hopefully not in the middle of an elementary school).
Oh, and if you're on an incline, maybe pull the parking brake. If you don't, you might end up like this guy, which is simultaneously a worst- and best-case scenario.
But here's something most people don't know: You should probably put on the parking brake, regardless of whether you've stopped on the taxiway of a Delta terminal or at the summit of the Grinch's mountain, just to keep it in good working order.
You see, the parking brake is also commonly called the emergency brake, and as the name suggests, it can be used in a situation when your brakes fail or have been otherwise disabled by enemy agents. It overrides the hydraulic mechanism normally used to control the brakes and stops you with cables, which are demonstrably better than hydraulics because hydraulics never cut anyone in half in a Die Hard movie.
But the problem with steel cables is that they often rust and corrode, particularly after long periods of disuse. The way parking brake cables are designed, if you don't engage the brake every so often, the corrosion builds up and will cause it to fall apart like the bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
So if you bought your car back when the cast members of Harry Potter were still children and have never used the parking brake, and then suddenly throw it on to bail yourself out of an honest-to-God emergency, such as barreling down the switchback of Lombard Street toward a rampaging atomic monster bursting out of San Francisco Bay, the cables will probably just snap under the strain and result in a headstone that will seriously confuse future archaeologists. Unless the monster wasn't just a one-time thing.
#1. Don't Brake During a Blowout
The knee-jerk reaction to pretty much all panicky driving moments is to stand on the brakes like goblins are trying to crawl out of them, and in most cases this is absolutely correct.
That being said, imagine you're cruising down the highway at about 65 mph when all of a sudden you hear your rear tire explode like you just ran over a tiny landmine. As you fire shit out of your pant leg like a muddy trumpet, you can feel that the car is about to go out of control. If you follow your instincts, you'll probably hit the brakes, but in this case your instincts have tragically failed you.
See, if you brake during a blowout, you're almost certain to fishtail (and maybe flip), possibly into another fast-moving car or the median (or both). This is especially true if your rear tire has blown out, which is more likely than a front tire blowout (front tires wear out more quickly, but people see that and replace them, while leaving the rear tires in place for years and years as part of their plan to just drive the car until it slowly disintegrates).
So in the event of a blowout, you must do the very thing that makes the least sense: hit the gas. But don't drop an elbow on it like Macho Man Randy Savage; just squeeze it firmly for a couple of seconds to regain control, keeping the car as straight as possible. A completely blown or otherwise flat tire drags on the ground like an anchor -- if you slam on the brakes, the anchor catches at 65 mph or however fast you're going, and you're screwed. Ditto if you smash the gas pedal -- picture a cigarette boat tossing its anchor down at top speed. Give the car just enough speed to stay in control and then gently let your foot off the gas, turning into the blown tire (if you steer the opposite direction, the anchor catches). The tire that betrayed you will eventually bring the car to a stop on its own, and then you can get out and throw your pants into the woods.
As if the traffic situation in the metropolis were not bad enough, the Metro Manila Development Authority has warned residents to brace for worse conditions in the next few years, when a number of construction projects will be undertaken by the government. Coming on the heels of the public outcry against the shocking power rate increase, the announcement has worried many residents who have to waste many hours sitting in traffic while heading to and coming from work.
The MMDA last week advised motorists and commuters to brace for heavy traffic until 2016: Thirteen road and mass transport projects of the Departments of Transportation and Communications and of Public Works and Highways are to start, and “there will be a point when they will happen simultaneously.” Among the projects are the common station that will connect LRT 1 and MRT 3 in Quezon City in July 2014-September 2015; the LRT 2 extension on Marcos Highway from Santolan station to Sumulong Highway, November 2014-June 2016; the road project connecting Bonifacio Global City to Ortigas Center, starting in July; a 4-lane underpass project on Gil Puyat Avenue that will pass through the intersections of Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas starting in April; and the proposed Edsa North-Mindanao Avenue interchange and the Circumferential Road 3 (C3) project.
In the long run, Metro Manila residents can look forward to a better transport infrastructure—and possibly better traffic flow—after all these projects shall have been finished. However, even before these projects begin, it behooves the MMDA and other government agencies to put in place measures to mitigate the impact on traffic. Among the most urgent is to discipline bus drivers who weave in and out of Edsa and Commonwealth Avenue in shameless disregard of other motorists, then stop nearly perpendicular to the road on bus stops, in the process blocking the flow of traffic. We disagree with the observation that Filipino drivers are simply bad, reckless and rude drivers. The Subic free port, where almost everyone who has been there is all praise for the road discipline, proves this.
The MMDA must also ban parking on the streets. A drive around the metropolis will show that many vehicle owners have made roadsides their permanent parking slots, believing—wrongly—that the street in front of their house is part of their property. Fixing stoplights and ensuring that traffic enforcers are at work at key intersections especially during rush hours in the morning and early evening will also help ease the traffic congestion. Educating drivers about the yellow boxes at intersections is another measure that the MMDA can undertake. The government can also move to phase out old cars and trucks that ply major thoroughfares ever so slowly. As it is, one vehicle that breaks down on Edsa can cause traffic to pile up for kilometers.
The government must also remove jeepney and tricycle terminals on the roadsides. Add to these the sidewalk vendors who encroach on as much as two lanes of the road. The MMDA will need the full support of local government units because the mayors and their barangay captains have the influence over those jeepney and tricycle terminals and illegal vendors. The private sector can also do its part by allowing some of its personnel to work at home. It has been estimated that nearly a million people are added to the population of the Makati central business district on regular working days. If only 5-10 percent of these are allowed to work at home, that would mean 50,000 to 100,000 less people driving or commuting to their work places every day. Another possible alleviating measure is to provide incentives to private firms that will revive the Pasig River ferry service.
The remaining years of the Aquino administration will truly be bad news for Metro Manila residents insofar as the traffic situation is concerned. We can only hope that the various road and mass transport projects to be undertaken in the next three years will indeed ease traffic flow. The public transport system must improve to a level that will make many car owners leave their vehicles at home and start riding the MRT or public buses to work. When the number of vehicles plying Metro Manila’s road network is reduced, traffic will hopefully flow more easily.