Wednesday, June 19, 2013

8 Things to Check Before Heading Out this Rainy Season in Metro Manila

It's this time of the year when students wake up early every morning to check the news and weather forecast to see if there will be suspension of classes. I love a little rain but not when the little gets a little bit too much. As some say, 'Just add a little water" and Metro Manila will be chaotic with traffic and floods here and there! Makes me wonder why our government still doesn't want to move the starting of classes to September.

Regardless, student or not as long as you go out via commute, driving or de-driver, you'll be affected by the rain and traffic so it's always good to be aware of traffic and flood situations just when you are about to head out. Here are 8 things you might want to look at before you go on your way to avoid being stuck in traffic:

   1) MMDA TNAV App ( Apple iOS devicesAndroid devices )
This has been one of the most popular and must-have app when living in Manila. You can use this to check the traffic conditions on major thoroughfares here in Metro Manila. The interface is very easy to use and self-explanatory. You can also click the area you are interested in for more information.

There are several views available and you can select where you are most comfortable with. The screen capture above is the "System View". The "Map View" will be like looking on a Google map but with traffic data also coming from the MMDA database and the "Line View" can quickly give you an over view of the area you are interested in.

As for reliability, I can say that I believe the data reflected here 80% of the time. That's good enough than not having any data at all. 80% because there are times that "I think" it should be a red (Heavy) and not a yellow-orange-red color (Moderate to heavy) on the route I was on. Might be subjective. Another reason is that it was down for a significant amount of time when I needed it the most for the past few days when rain and traffic was at its worst.

Areas covered: EDSA, Commonwealth, Quezon Ave., Espana, C5, Ortigas, Marcos Highway, Roxas Blvd., SLEX. (Click here for NLEX)

    2) Waze ( Apple iOS devicesAndroid devices )
So far, this is my constantly used application whenever I'm out and about next to the MMDA TNAV app. First, this acts as my GPS navigation system as this app is capable of doing a turn-by-turn navigation with voice. Also, it usually reads out the traffic data and sends out pop-up notifications plus other fun stuff integrated within it. For example, If I'm going to NAIA Terminal 2 from where I am, this app will give you several route options to use with a preview of where the traffic is (indicated by red colors on a line) and how many minutes (estimate). You can either choose a longer route with less traffic or a shorter route with more traffic.

Another cool feature is the turn-by-turn navigation system. I have a GPS in my car and I sometimes use this instead rather than that. Why? Because as Waze collates the data reports from other users, Waze will also warn you via pop-up notifications on what's ahead of you. For example, I'm on my way to Sofitel Hotel and the heavy traffic reported along Roxas Blvd is now cleared. Waze will pop-up a notification stating that "You'll arrive 10 minutes earlier as traffic has been cleared". Same way when a a traffic reported is along your route.

The fun cool stuff is, as you report and use Waze, you earn points. There will be occasional candies along you're route and when you pass by them, it will add to your points. No need to swerve to get your candies. Just drive along and you'll be okay. You'll still get the candy anyway. Other reports you can expect in this app: Traffic condition, road construction, police (hidden or not), traffic accident, speed cameras etc.

Waze has been recently bought by Google and I hope Google doesn't remove some of the features and maybe one day, they can integrate Waze in Google Maps.

Areas covered: Most of Metro Manila

   3) DOST Project Noah ( Apple iOS devices / Android devices )
I wasn't aware of the usefulness of this application until my brother told me what it can do the other day. Almost all the weather-related information can be found here and while most think that this is just an app where you can check out if it will rain or not, it can also give you information about the flood in several areas.

Upon opening the app, click on the upper right icon,

Then, click on stream gauges,

There are several areas with stream gauges and one of them is the E.Rodriguez bridge near E.rodriguez corner Araneta Ave in QC. That place is notorious for heavy flooding with just a few drops of rain. The stream gauge will more or less let you know if the area if already flooded. Like right now, it's not flooded and the gauge looks like this,
The other day when the rain was heavy, the gauge spiked up and it was evident in that chart as the flood waters along Araneta Ave corner E.Rodriguez rose,

Araneta Ave QC flood
That area is really flood prone. In case you get stuck, head over to the Puregold Qi Central as it is higher and you can just grab a bite first while waiting for the flood waters to subside.

Areas covered: Multiple functions / Different areas

    4) Archer's Eye ( Apple iOS devices / Android devices )
Whether or not you study in DLSU - Manila or not, you can benefit from this app as it will more or less show you the traffic situation around this area, specifically Taft after Quirino Ave towards Buendia up to the McDonalds area beside DLSU - Manila (South gate).

By looking at the traffic condition here, you can plan out where to pass in (if you need to pass by this area) case another traffic-crazy-weather hits Metro Manila again. You can also use this app to check if your kids are really in school on a specific time as the video has time stamp.

Areas covered: DLSU - Taft area

   5) Google Maps ( or installed by default on your iOS and Android devices)
This won't give you up-to-date real time data of the traffic conditions around Metro Manila but prior to leaving where you are, you can already plan out your route OR if you are stuck in traffic, open Google maps and check out an alternative route where you are towards your destination. This is very useful for detours like floods, heavy traffic, road closures etc. Just make sure you're map is updated as there were some versions of Google maps installed in iOS devices that is not updated.

Another alternative in planning you're route is getting a GPS navigation system. I personally use and trust the one from AVT (Not sponsored). You won't need an internet connection when using this and it will just cost you around 5 to 6 thousand pesos. I got my AVT GPS on a car show event as they usually slash their prices down during those events.

Areas covered: Most of Metro Manila and the Philippines

    6) MRT Live CCTV  ( )
On your way out and planning to ride the MRT3 line? You can check out the live CCTV footage of the MRT3 stations by visiting the site mentioned above. This way, you can easily strategize which station has fewer mobs. And by mobs, I mean MOBS. You can be squished making a sardine can look much more spacious during rush hours.

Areas covered: MRT Stations (North Ave, Quezon Ave, Kamuning, Cubao, Santolan, Ortigas, Shaw Blvd, Boni Ave, Guadalupe, Buendia, Ayala, Magalanes, Taft Ave.)

   7) MMDA Live Camera ( )
Before, all these live feeds was only internal to them. Maybe a lot of people phoned-in their traffic inquiries so they made a twitter account. Then, they are now flooded with Twitter inquiries thus, having another app to show you the traffic situtation (See #1 above, the MMDA TNAV App). But then, as I've said, it's not real time enough.

So now, here you go. Live video feed. Nothing can get more real time than that except for a few seconds delay time for the video feed. Stop questioning the data in the TNAV app and just look at the friggin' live video. :p

Areas covered: EDSA - Taft, Ayala, Orense, SM Megamall, White Plains, P. Tuazon, Nepa Q Mart, Greenmeadows, Marcos Highway.

   8) Twitter ( Apple iOS devices / Android devices )
Usually the first to break the news in a lot of occasions, this is the easiest place to check user generated reports. Of course, you and you're judgement should be the one responsible in sifting the information whether or not what you read was true or a hoax. Also, be responsible in RT (retweeting) unverified information so as not to cause unnecessary panic. Use hashtags "#" when searching for terms (ex. #baha).

Also, you can follow @MMDA and @dost_pagasa on twitter so you'll automatically receive their updates and reports.

Areas covered: Keyword specific. You can search for "Taft" or wherever you plan to go to see if there are mentions or reports around that area.

All these tools help us decide which route to take. Like in life, it also entails sifting through the information fed to us and a little due diligence on our part. Rule of thumb. Keep yourself safe first before helping others. All these are here to help us make a better judgement and while the government figure out what they have to do to improve our current situation, let us not forget to do our part,

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. ~John F. Kennedy

Be safe!

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