To say that the Skyway Stage 3 is a God-send for motorists is an understatement. Not only is it a faster way to move in and out of the city, but it also frees up traffic around the Metro. As someone who lives in the South, I wasn't just happy about its opening; I was ecstatic.
Right now, I live in Bacoor, just a few kilometers away from the Las Pinas border. Before Skyway Stage 3 opened, it usually took me about an hour and a half to get to the AutoIndustriya office in Tomas Morato. Now, that's not bad considering it's quite a distance to get there, but I'm all for a faster way to the office.
I've been driving on the newly-opened expressway for a few days now. It's no surprise that my travels are a lot faster. But I was genuinely curious; just how much quicker is my daily commute thanks to the new road? I was also wondering if my travel times were halved thanks to this new road. Time for an experiment then.
On the day I timed my trip, it was a Friday morning, so it means one of two things; the traffic was either going to be very light or very heavy. I was bracing for the latter. After all, it was the first (working) Friday of 2021. Still, the test must go on regardless of the congestion. In this case, I started the clock right before the moment I shifted the car in drive. To make things a little quicker, I decided to leave my car outside the house the night before to save a few minutes.
7:07 AM – Leaving Bacoor
After doing my pre-drive rituals (prayer, set radio station, plug in my phone), I set off from the house. To get to the first of three expressways I had to drive through, I need to get to Molino Road first. Thankfully, it just takes about a minute to get there. While there are no traffic lights along that road, I had to contend with jeepneys and tricycles that stop to pick up passengers. It might have been a lucky day for me since not a lot of them hindered my progress.
It was a smooth drive to Aguinaldo Boulevard, and traffic was surprisingly light that day. Maybe I lucked out on the traffic sequence at the time. Still, it took me a little less than 15 minutes for my wheels to touch CAVITEX.
7:21 AM – First of three highways
I brought the car up to 80 km/h as I entered CAVITEX to match everyone's pace. With more motorists with RFID stickers, the drive along the expressway was smooth, with most people on the highway doing about 70 to 90 km/h. It was only a matter of minutes before I reached the toll plaza, which seemed to have a bit of a queue by the time I got there. Still, the wait wasn't that long and took about a minute or two by the time I got to the gate.
With the gate lifted, I accelerated to 80 km/h and made quick work of the final stretch just before NAIAX. Again, traffic conditions were favorable, which made reaching the next highway faster.
7:29 AM – Entering NAIAX
It took me less than 10 minutes to cover the stretch of CAVITEX and for me to get on the ramp entering NAIAX. It's been a little over 20 minutes since I left the house, and I was making good progress. Here, almost no one dared to creep past 60 km/h with the expressway's strict speed limit enforcement. To be sure I wasn't going over the limit, I pegged the cruise control a hair under 60 km/h.
I have to say I'm glad my car has cruise control. Because of it, I didn't have to look at the speedometer every so often. If you travel along NAIAX often in a car that comes with that feature, make good use of it. You don't have to worry about speeding and you can keep your eyes on the road longer.
Props to San Miguel Corporation for installing fast-reading RFID sensors at the toll gate too.
7:35 AM – Going up to Skyway
By the time my wheels touched the Skyway, I had been on the road for less than 30 minutes. At this point, I'd usually take the Magallanes exit and head to EDSA from there. Not this time, though.
Now, you have to be careful entering the Skyway because hoards of cars are trying to get through the Magallanes exit. Judge it wrong, and you might get into a collision at about 80 km/h. Thankfully, none of that happened as I made my way into the middle lane.
7:38 AM – Hello Stage 3
It was a short drive to reach Stage 3 and a nice relaxing cruise to Quezon City. Again, I pegged the cruise control at 60 km/h to keep things nice and steady. However, I did notice that I was being overtaken as if I was standing still. I bumped the cruise control up to 70 km/h so that I won't be a rolling roadblock.
That said, it's impossible to stay that speed the whole way. You have to watch out for people exiting Quirino Avenue as well as keep an eye out for hazards on the road. You also have to look out for people straddling two lanes while running 20 km/h below the suggested speed. Still, I maintained a decent pace and arrived in Quezon City in no time.
7:46 AM – Makati to QC in less than 10 minutes
Eight minutes since I got on Skyway Stage 3, I was already in Quezon City. How did I know that? As I made my way through one of the many bends of the newly-built expressway, I could see SM City Santa Mesa. That also meant I was about a kilometer away from my exit, Quezon Avenue.
From SM City Santa Mesa, it only took a few minutes to reach the exit, ending the highway stretch of my morning commute that day. By the way, take caution driving through the Quezon Avenue Exit. There's a big dip just before the "Uneven Surface Ahead" sign that could take you by surprise.
7:49 AM – Touchdown Araneta Ave.
Going down the Quezon Avenue exit, I saw something that I haven't seen throughout this drive: traffic. It gets a little congested around the Araneta Avenue-Quezon Avenue intersection. The reason for this is a combination of factors. You have those coming from Skyway trying to turn right, and not everyone on the rightmost lane follows the concept of alternating. There's also the stoplight that backs up the line a little bit further.
Still, that didn't matter; I touched down in Quezon City. I had a surplus amount of time before the start of office hours.
7:56 AM – Parked at the office
By the time I arrived at the office and put the car in park, it wasn't even 8:00 AM. That means I spent less than an hour on the road getting from the house to the office. Sure, I got lucky with some traffic lights, and traffic could best be described as light to moderate when I timed my run. Still, that doesn't take away credit from Skyway Stage 3. Had it not been there, it might have taken me about an hour and a half to get to the office.
Bacoor to QC in less than 40 minutes
On that Friday morning, it took me just 39 minutes from Bacoor to Quezon City. It's not like I was going way beyond the speed limit either. Covering 35.5 kilometers in less than 40 minutes meant I averaged about 54 km/h. Try doing that along EDSA.
All in all, I spent 28 minutes on the expressways and took only 11 minutes from Skyway Stage 3 entry to exit. If there's anything that has to be said about the new highway, it just made Metro Manila feel a lot closer for people from the South and vice versa. My car was happy about the trip, too, with the fuel gauge barely moving even after all those kilometers.
There were several things I observed the day I timed my trip. At the toll booths, I noticed several motorists darting left and right in a bid to look for the shortest line. It's not only dangerous; it's downright reckless. It's an accident waiting to happen. While you must slow down before the toll gate, you wouldn't want a car jumping out of a lane all of a sudden.
Then there's the persistent problem of left lane hoggers. The highways are still littered with drivers staying on the passing lane at 20 km/h below the speed limit. No one should ever do 40 km/h on the left lane. Leave the speed enforcement to the authorities. To anyone who does that, you're also disrupting the flow of traffic.
The speed limit along Skyway Stage 3 is 60 km/h. But as I mentioned earlier, it seemed that no one was sticking to that at all. It felt like you were standing still, with most doing about 70 to 80 km/h. Some might have been doing 90 to 100 km/h, which is rather sketchy given that there are still a lot of roadside hazards and corners. Also, there were some drivers right in the middle of the road, seemingly confused at where to place themselves as there are no lane markings in some areas.
So, how can we make the Skyway Stage 3 and highway driving a better experience? Let's start with driver education. We have to bring home the point of lane discipline. You can't just stay on any lane and claim it, and we need to remind others that the shoulder is not an extra lane when things get a little congested. As for Stage 3, we're curious about its final speed limit and how many lanes will it have once all things are in place.
But despite all that, driving along the new highway was time-saving. I'll keep on driving there even if they start collecting toll for it. If it saves me a lot of time, and fuel, I reckon it's worth the money.