Buses star in Cebu City transport planBy Doris C. Bongcac
CEBU CITY—Christopher Flores, 46, drives his jeepney at least thrice a week and earns P300 a day. His take-home pay, however, could hardly feed his wife and five children.
When the city government finally pushes through with the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, Flores says he fears losing the only work he knows. “I do not know how else to support my family.”
Flores, a high school graduate, has been a jeepney driver for 20 years.
Under the $211-million BRT project, buses will occupy the city’s major thoroughfares, including N. Bacalso Avenue, Osmeña Boulevard, N. Escario Street and Governor Cuenco Avenue, where jeepneys also ply their routes.
Colin Brader, lead consultant of the BRT feasibility study, says the project will not replace the jeepneys. In fact, he says, the jeepneys will complement the existing transport system.
Ahmed Cuizon, regional director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, places the number of jeepney drivers in the city at over 2,600. A total of 90 PUJ (public utility jeepney) routes are being plied by 1,310 units.
At least 22 PUJ routes would have to be restructured in line with the proposed BRT system, Cuizon says.
“However, the impact [of BRT operations] on the drivers on these routes is not considered adverse. In my own understanding, there will be no outright deletion of routes so as not to totally displace drivers and operators,” he says.
Cuizon says the routes will only be restructured and shortened to prevent the affected PUJs from entering the BRT route. He, however, could not provide the details such as by how many percent would the routes be cut since he had yet to sit down with the Land Transportation Office regional director, Raul Aguilos, and Cebu City Traffic Operations and Management (Citom) executive director, Rafael Yap, to discuss the matter.
Citom is the BRT project coordination unit.
Brader acknowledges that some drivers will be displaced but may get alternative jobs in the BRT. The drivers will be trained so they can be employed by the BRT, he says.
“Drivers should not be afraid of the impending changes with the implementation of the BRT system because they will be trained to gain skills for the maintenance and operation of the BRT,” says Brader, an urban planning expert from the Integrated Transport Planning Ltd., which was hired by the World Bank (WB) as BRT project consultant.
Aside from the promise of fixed incomes, drivers will get to rest on holidays or avail themselves of holiday pay.
Brader says that the BRT system will bring at least 1,500 jobs, including two drivers per shift for the 250 buses of the system.
Time for change
Yap of Citom says the time has come for a fast-growing city like Cebu City to adopt new modes of transportation to address congestion and environment problems and, at the same time, ensure passenger comfort.
He cites the success of the BRT system in Jakarta, Indonesia; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ahmedabad, India.
The city council approved on Aug. 29 the final draft of the BRT feasibility study, which was started two years ago. Work on the detailed design, which covers road network, bus stops and intervals, and engineering aspects of buses, will start in November or December and is expected to be completed by the second half of 2013.
Construction of the infrastructure component would start in the last quarter of 2013. If targets are met, BRT operation will start in the fourth quarter of 2015, Yap says.
Yap says the final draft of the BRT feasibility study will be presented to the WB officials in October. The WB will assess the city’s technical and political preparedness to adopt the BRT system.
With the approval of the study, a loan agreement between the WB and the national government will be signed.
The mass transit system project was proposed by the Philippine government as part of the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) Country Investment Plan that was submitted to the CTF Committee in December 2009.
The Department of Transportation and Communications, in coordination with the Cebu City government, will prepare and implement the project with the help of ITP, a British transport consultancy firm.
Cuizon, who also sits in the BRT technical working group, says PUJs will not be allowed along the BRT route and will instead be used to bring people to and from the bus terminals.
“We will have to shorten some routes but we will decide which routes when I sit down with Citom,” he says.
According to Brader, the BRT aims to improve the transport system by providing quality service to commuters and cutting travel time by half. It will also use large air-conditioned buses, put up 14 accessible bus stations, and set up designated fast lanes to avoid vehicular traffic.
The bus stations, with elevated platforms at least 400 meters apart, will allow passengers to wait in safety. Each station will have closed-circuit television cameras while the level loading will make it easy for persons with disability to board or get off a bus.
Despite its promise of comfort, Yap says minimum BRT fares will be close to or similar with the regular PUJ fares now set at P7.50 for the first 5 kilometers. The fares will be used for bus maintenance every six months and bus replacement every 12 years.
As low-pollution buses will be used, the BRT system promises improved air quality while decongesting the streets.
“Cebu is a rapidly growing city with large new developments planned, such as the South Road Properties. Congestion is already severe on city center roads at most times of the day. To avoid gridlock and promote sustainable economic growth, the city requires a mass transit system, for which BRT is ideally suited,” according to CebuCityBRT.info, the city government’s official website for its project.
Rep. Eduardo Gullas of the first district would have wanted a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system traversing the cities of Mandaue, Cebu and Talisay, and connecting further south to the cities of Naga and Carcar and the towns of Minglanilla, San Fernando, Sibonga, Argao and Dalaguete.
Mayors Jonas Cortes of Mandaue and Socrates Fernandez of Talisay are supporting the proposed LRT project. But Cebu City officials led by Rep. Tomas Osmeña of the south district prefer to have the BRT.
Yap explains that unlike the LRT operations in Manila, the national or city government need not subsidize BRT fares. With a report from Edison A. delos Angeles
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