Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Briones: Expensive gamble

THEY were going to hold a protest yesterday. Not wage a strike. Public transport drivers made that clear.

According to an official of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston), they were joining the simultaneous nationwide protest against several components of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, which include the implementation of alternative transport systems.

Maybe Greg Perez, Piston Cebu coordinator, has learned from experience that a strike would not help their cause. That it could only backfire.

Obviously, thousands of people, who rely on public transportation, would not look kindly at a group responsible for making their daily commute miserable. Previous strikes resulted in many having to endure long waits, sometimes way into the night, just to get to their destinations.

And for what? Because a few refuse to consider the plight of the whole? Because they are only looking after their own interest?

In the past, Piston protested against the phaseout of jeepneys 15 years old and older. Now, it is against the implementation of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

For once, I agree with Piston. But for a different reason.

They’re worried about how the project will affect its 500 drivers here in Cebu.

There’s no doubt their livelihood will be affected. Perez told SunStar Cebu’s Rona T. Fernandez that at least 20 jeepney routes will be made exclusive to the BRT.

Not only that, when given a choice between comfort and reliability, which the buses will provide (hopefully, or am I being too optimistic), and cost (which is the jeepney’s only advantage), today’s commuters will most likely choose the former.

Anyway, I would.

Not that I’m saying the jeepney has anything to do with the traffic nightmare the metro has been experiencing, which it does, but it’s not entirely to blame.

The situation has gotten so dire people are willing to try anything that offers an alternative, which I don’t think the BRT can effectively provide.

Had the project been implemented 20 years ago, when the roads were not as clogged up by the 2,000 vehicles that are reportedly added to the metro’s streets every month, the buses might have addressed the public’s needs without exacerbating the traffic situation. Because that’s what I foresee.

Then again, I may be jumping the gun, and the project might yet prove to be a success. But if not, it will be a very expensive failure. The budget alone for the acquisition of properties that will be affected by the BRT is P16.9 billion.

So yes, it’s a gamble I don’t think the City can well afford.
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