## Thursday, August 27, 2015

### Population densities and traffic jams: a tale of three cities

After reading so many complaints about the awful traffic Metro Manila has, I decided to look at some statistics. Since we love using Singapore as an example, I looked for Singapore data and used it as a baseline for estimating how many cars there are per square km. One of my expectations is the larger the number of cars per square km, the larger the probability of traffic jams.

Let's look at population densities, with units of people per square km: Metro Manila 19000; Singapore's 8000; New York City 11000.

These numbers should help us get an estimate of the number of cars per square km. If we assume that we have the same rates of cars per person  as Singapore(9 per 100), this would still mean about 2000 vehicles per square km. If we assume New York City rates (20 cars per hundred people), this would give us about 4000 cars per square km.

Another estimate would be the following: as of 2012, the total number of registered motor vehicles is around 8 Million. The population of Metro Manila is around 12 percent of the Philippine population. This leads to 900,000 vehicles. Divide this by the area of Metro Manila (640 sq km), to get 1500 vehicles per square km. To one significant figure, this gives about 2000 vehicles per square km.

My own guess is around 3000 motor vehicles per square km, or somewhere in between Singapore and New York levels.

How does this compare with other cities? If we know the population density, and the number of cars per hundred people for each city, then we can estimate the number of cars per square km. For Singapore, this leads to a measly 700 vehicles per square km. New York has about 2000 cars per square km. Among US cities, New York belongs to the list of top ten cities with the worst traffic jams. So even if we reduce car ownership levels to the same rates as Singapore, we'll still have it, since we're trying to fit too many people-- and by extension, too many cars-- into the same itty-bitty space.

[Note: This analysis, of course, ignores a lot of things: Road discipline (some of my pet peeves: (1) outermost lanes, contrary to what most people believe, are not parking spaces! (2) misuse of U-turn slots :three lanes of vehicles using the same u-turn slot!) and a  lack of coaches and railways.]

## Wednesday, June 17, 2015

### Annual Cost of Owning a Motorcycle

While looking through my facebook feed, I saw an article on the annual cost of owning a car. The assumptions are: the cash price of the car is PhP 700K, driven at 10,000 km every year. The cost is at around PhP 192 K a year. The annual cost can be broken down as (1) depreciation cost of PhP 84K, (2) Fuel at PhP 39K, (3) maintenance at PhP 5K, (4) Registration at PhP 3K, (5) Tires PhP 2.5 K, (6) Insurance at PhP 16.2 K, and (7) Finance charges at PhP 42 K.

In the same spirit, I'd like to show my own calculation of how much a motorcycle costs every year. I will assume a linear depreciation model to make it comparable to the calculation done for the car (although I would think that an accelerated depreciation cost is more natural, since the sudden drop in market value of the car happens immediately after it's bought).

(1) Depreciation cost. From the example given, the number of years it takes for the car to reach zero cash value is given by the cash price divided by the annual depreciation. This leads to a figure of 8.3 years. To make things simple, let me round it off to eight years. For my motorcycle with its cash price of PhP 53K, this leads to an annual depreciation cost of PhP 6.7K every year.

(2) Annual cost of fuel. I've measured the fuel consumption rate in km per litre of my motorcycle, and it ranges from 30km per litre for stop and go traffic, to 50km per litre at cruising speeds. I'll just choose the average of 40 km per litre. Assuming it's ridden for 10,000 km, and if gas prices are at PhP 40 per litre, then the petrol consumed every year costs me around PhP 10 K.

(3) Maintenance occurs every 2000 km, according to my manual. On average, it costs me about PhP 500 for every service visit with the dealer, and this leads to an annual maintenance cost of PhP 2.5K

(4) Registration costs me around PhP 1.2 K. This includes fees and pollution testing.

(5) Tires. The stock tires of my Honda Scoopy are still good at 16,000 km. I estimate that I'll probably change tires every 20,000 km, and it will cost me around PhP 3K. This means, if I follow the assumptions used, then tire replacement costs around PhP 1.5 K.

(6) The only insurance I have is third party liability insurance.This is at PhP 300.

(7) Finance charges. Given that my motorcycle costs as much as the lowest down-payment for cars, it doesn't make sense to buy a motorcycle on credit. If you get it for cash, the finance charges would be zero.

If we add up all the numbers, we get an annual cost of PhP 22.2 K. If I keep using my motorcycle after 8 years-- Honda does make reliable motorcycles-- I get a figure of PhP 15.5 K a year, since the depreciation cost has gone to zero.

Given these numbers, I'd be nuts if I decide to switch to a car! As I tell my friends, the only reason I'll get a car is a pregnant wife.

## Saturday, May 2, 2015

### 16000 and counting

I recently checked the odometer of my scooter and it's already past the 16,000 km mark. It's been almost a year since I bought it, and it has taken me around the southern Tagalog region, as well as to Sagada during the long weekend of the Philippine Papal visit.

 My scooter, at the Jariel's Peak parking area.

As motorcycles go, my scooter --- a 108 cc Honda Scoopy ---  won't be considered a powerful one. Although it's mainly intended for riding around the city, any motorcycle, provided with enough fuel should be able to get you almost anywhere there is a paved road. And if I had a dual sport one, I'd probably take it to areas with dirt roads.

On the other hand, the lack of a powerful engine is offset by its fuel economy. I've checked my fuel consumption and I usually get around 35 km per litre in traffic jam laden Metro Manila. During long rides, where road traffic is negligible, my Scoopy can reach as high as 50 km per litre.

I've also crashed it twice. It has tipped over on its side while parked on an incline, and slipped while I was parking along a muddy highway. And yet, with a few minor repairs (some of which I did with an adjustable spanner while on the road) it was as good as new. (Both of these crashes were my fault, because I was purposely exceeding my own limits both times.)

In terms of maintenance, I do need to change engine oil every 2000 km, and have a tune-up every 6000 km. The tires have to be changed at more frequent intervals compared to a car, although I haven't done any tire changes, since based on the condition of my tires, even at 16000 km, they're still in good working condition. But as long as I don't do something idiotic, the lower fuel consumption should offset the maintenance costs, in Southeast Asia, at least, due to lower labor costs.

## Tuesday, April 21, 2015

### Beginning in media res

My love affair with single track vehicles -- whether it's a bicycle, a scooter, or a motorcycle -- started when I began working for my university.

What pushed me to start using a bicycle to commute was Metro Manila traffic jams. When I timed my daily commute to school, it took me about three hours everyday, sometimes more. On my bike, it took less than two hours. When I changed jobs, I took the habit of riding a bike to work with me.

I was reluctant, at first, to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Going to a 10 am birthday party, and then riding home at midday had me swearing I'd get a motorcycle.

My younger brother started riding a motorcycle years ago, and I've thought on and off about getting one as well. Last year, I finally did it, and got a 108cc Honda Scoopy. Scooters are really bicycles with internal combustion engines, and it was very easy to learn how to ride it after commuting on my bicycle. You just twist the throttle, and you're off.  (A technical note: electric bicycles and scooters have a battery that runs a motor, are therefore motorized, while conventional scooters and motorcycles have engines.)

My friends have teased me about starting my motorcycle diaries, and I suppose this journal should be a suitable response. I hope that you too will enjoy the ride, and maybe get a bicycle or a motorbike and pursue your own adventures.