Buses to bring change

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Planners have to take extra care not to disturb the trees or heritage value of the 100-year-old fountain and park in Fuente Osmeña.

The changes afoot in Osmeña Boulevard for the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) are also a concern for citizens.

“We’ll make sure not to touch the trees,” said Colin Brader, who leads the feasibility study of the proposed BRT.

In a briefing yesterday with key members of the Movement for a Liveable Cebu (MLC) held in City Hall, Brader assured that “no significant structures will be destroyed” along the boulevard where designated areas for buses “will be widened to build stations.”

“Fuente circle will remain the same but the roadway around it will be altered,” said Brader,  director of the Integrated Transport Planning in United Kingdom (UK).

MLM members asked about the impact of the project on traffic, jeepney drivers and improvements in Osmeña Boulevard which has newly paved sidewalks and decorative lampposts donated by private citizens.

The BRT mass transit system is being pitched as an alternative to traffic-clogging jeepneys that can carry more commuters efficiently without building a massive Light Rail Transit like the one in Metro Manila.

In his presentation,  Brader said the BRT would “Stop people from using cars more and more in the future.”

The proposed BRT services will cover the following routes:

Bulacao to Talamban; Bulacao to Asiatown I.T. Park; Bulacao to Ayala; and Talamban to  SRP.

The BRT,  first championed by Tomas Osmena as city mayor in the 1990s, is patterned after the system in Curitiba, Brazil and Bogota, Columbia where buses run on dedicated bus lanes.

To get a ride, passengers will have to use elevated platforms to enter a bus or disembark from one.

Osmeña Boulevard is the main route of the proposed BRT.

One of the proposed bus stops mentioned was a site near Cebu Doctor’s Hospital.

Louella Alix of MLM asked what would be the effect on jeepney drivers.

Brader said PUJ routes would be restructured but that drivers would not lose their livelihood.

“They’ve got to be complemented” he said and mentioned the need for “re-franchising”  where there will be route changes to be done in consultation with the Department of Transportation and Communication.

“The aim is to ensure work for all those displaced,”  he said.

“BRT will result in a net increase in jobs.”

Yumi Espina, dean of the University of San Carlos College of Architecture and Fine Arts,  asked if  there’s a “possibility that the BRT route will be shifted to V. Rama Avenue in the future.”

He wanted to make sure Osmeña Boulevard can still be fully used as a ceremonial road.”

Brader said he favored Osmeña Boulevard as the main route over V. Rama for several reasons.

Osmeña Boulevard is a major destinations of metropolitan significance, while V. Rama is mainly residential – not serving destinations.

The BRT would pass by Citilink, E-mall and reaches downtown;

Less roadwork is required and property value would increase in the area.

There’s also support of barangays like on Sambag 1, Sambag 2, Santa Cruz, and Antonio, Capitol Site and Camputhaw for the route along with a Cebu city government endorsement in June 2010.

Brader said he was confident that “a BRT is  economically sustainable. It does not require public sector subsidy.”

The pre-feasibility study is being conducted by government agencies like the National Economic Development Agency (Neda), DOTC, Departmet of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Cebu City government.

Osmeña requested the World Bank for assistance to conduct the pre-feasibility study on April 20, 2008.

The MLM, which is opposing the rise of new flyovers in Cebu City without a proper traffic master plan, was also concerned about consultation with stakeholders.

Brader said consultations will be made with 14 barangays affected by the proposed BRT route and that public exhibits of the BRT will also be made in City Hall, Ayala Center and SM in July.

The total project cost is not yet final and funds still have to be sourced through a World Bank loan to actually build a BRT.

“The principle of the loan is agreed but it cannot be finalized until the feasibility study is complete,”  said Brader.

The feasibility study will be finished in August  and will be reviewed by a Technical Working Group.  By October, detailed design work will commence and be completed by May 2013.

At the earliest, BRT operations will start in 2015, said Brader, who is the lead consultant in  the feasibility study team in Cebu City for three years. / Correspondent Tweeny Malinao

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