Mass transport system for SRP

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I GOT a call yesterday from Sherry Tuvilla, SM regional operations manager of SM Malls, and she clarified the firm’s push for a mass transport system at the South Road Properties (SRP). The SRP is the site of SM Seaside City, the structure of which is still being constructed.

I expressed in yesterday’s column my worries about the lobby and the possibility that SM would monopolize activities at the SRP. Tuvilla said that what SM has in mind in proposing an internal transport system for the SRP is public good. Everybody will benefit from it and no sector will be displaced. I would take her word for that.

Tuvilla clarified that what SM is pushing is actually contained already in Phase III of the study on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) presented by the Integrated Transport Planning (ITP) Ltd. of the United Kingdom. ITP prepared the report, “Cebu SRP Transport Strategy Development Phase III” for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA).

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Remember that time when Tomas Osmeña was still Cebu City mayor and Eduardo Gullas was still first district congressman? The debate was whether Cebu would be better served by having a BRT (proposed by Osmeña) or a mass rail transit or MRT (proposed by Gullas).

Osmeña, of course, was the more aggressive of the two officials so his BRT lobby was the one that moved. The BRT plan was even picked up by his successor, Michael Rama.

Then their relationship soured.

Colin Brader of ITP presented his report to a Cebu audience in 2011. But just when Rama was already smiling, President Noynoy Aquino shot down the BRT plan months later, supposedly for further deliberation. Whether politics played a role in it can be a matter of conjecture.

But the BRT study is already there. And it’s a good reference for policy makers, especially now that SM and Filinvest Land Inc., which is developing residential units nearby, are about complete the initial phase of their development work in the SRP. And that’s what SM is pushing for.

This means doing away with the free-for-all that characterizes the traffic setup in other parts of the metropolis. On this, buses and not public utility jeepneys are preferred. The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) is reportedly finalizing the route that bus operators may adhere to in applying for a franchise.

Interestingly, the ITP report, which was finalized in 2012, pegged the opening of SM Seaside City and the completion of 20 percent of Filinvest’s Il Corso development on May 2013. Meaning that, by that time, SRP would have already generated “an average of 80,000 public transport trips a day.” Like the BRT project, that didn’t happen.

But Tuvilla seemed definite that SM Seaside City would finally soft open next year and hopes that DOTC will also fast-track the finalization of the public utility buses route inside the SRP. That goes without saying that the Cebu City Government will also be ready by then.

I don’t have any quarrel with the government implementing a BRT-system-like setup for SRP’s traffic as long as no one entity will solely benefit from it and no sector would be displaced. I even like the idea of introducing hybrid buses that run on diesel fuel and electricity that Tuvilla said have already been introduced in Metro Manila.

In this sense, I would also urge the public to monitor how the plan will be implemented and to make sure that its interest would be protected. We all have a stake on this one.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 04, 2014.

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