PROPONENTS of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) do not have a concrete feasibility study before implementing the multi-billion projects. They claimed that the BRT will eventually solve the worsening traffic situation in the city as it is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. With the right feature, BRT is able to avoid the causes of delay that typically slow regular bus services like being stuck in traffic and queuing to pay on board.
The BRT has been successful in Bogota, Columbia in the first few years following its implementation in 2000. However, it has been a failure in Hanoi, Vietnam. There are several factors to be considered before this project become successful under Philippine settings. And these include our culture and economic standing.
In Bogota, despite this successful record, social dissatisfaction with TransMilenio is nothing new. Public approval of the system began to drop in 2004, with people complaining about crowding and fares. In March of that year, passengers protested poor service that resulted largely from repairs of three of the busways. In April 2008, passengers again went on strike over the system’s service, this time citing overcrowded buses, low frequencies and lack of alternatives. The crowding encourages some travelers to return to their cars which only increases congestion in the city.
Hanoi launched its maiden BRT line in December 2016, hoping to encourage its citizens to make a switch from personal vehicles to public transport as a measure to curb worsening traffic problem. The route runs 14.7 kilometers. However, bus stops along both directions of the BRT line were almost empty with only 40 passengers in total boarding the bus in one trip. There are more passengers during peak hours but during non-peak hours only retirees and senior citizens take the bus. Students don’t take the bus because there are no bus stop near the schools.
In Bogota, before this was implemented, their roads were widened. It was part of the long-range plan. But here in Cebu, we only begin to acquire road right-of-way, which would eat up the biggest bulk of its P16-billion budget. The “former political has-been” said that in the Talamban-Banilad corridor, it will be a “sharing scheme” with other vehicles. I can foresee its chaotic effect on traffic, which will cause the delay.
The Mambaling underpass was not part of the BRT plan. But the “former political has-been” said it should be for the exclusively use of the BTR. I don’t know if the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which initiated the project, will agree to it. These two aspects in the implementation of the project were never considered. Ura-urada lang.
We have also to consider our culture and financial capability once this will be in operation. Passengers frequently or occasionally carry heavy cargoes after buying groceries or stuff from Carbon market and other satellites markets. And do you think passengers carrying heavy cargoes will ride the BRT? No. They will still take jeepneys or taxi.
How much will the BRT fare be? Do you think students and those earning below minimum wage will ride the BRT? If the BRT fare is higher than the regular jeepney fare, do you think they will ride the BRT?
Only those people who have extra income and are in a hurry will patronize this kind of mass transport. Even in Bogota, the fare at $1 is considered high for a city whose low income users earn daily salaries only three times that on average. I’m afraid that Cebu will suffer the same experience.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 25, 2017.
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