Wednesday July 18, 2018

Briones: To BRT or not to BRT

IT was really hot yesterday. So hot that my brain refused to work.

I sat in front of the computer trying to come up with something intelligent. After 30 minutes, I would have settled for something comprehensible. After an hour, anything.

Okay, so I was browsing over Facebook the whole time which would explain why I hadn’t written a word. But the fact was, I was staring at a blank page.

Then I thought about the recent development regarding the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, although “development” may have been a poor choice of word considering that the whole thing might never see the light of day.

It was in 1996 yet that Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña first proposed a BRT for the city, citing a similar successful project that was implemented in Curitiba, Brazil.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), though, recently recommended canceling the project, saying the city’s roads are too narrow for the system to work efficiently.

Curitiba’s BRT looks impressive. No wonder the mayor wants one for Cebu City.

In some parts, futuristic glass bubbles that serve as “terminals” for the system’s red modern buses are located in the middle of a wide network of highways, some of which are three lanes on either side.

Local “wide expanses” can only be found at the reclamation center in Mandaue or at the South Road Properties in Cebu City, or along the national highway inside the metropolitan area.

And even with these “wide expanses,” the Cebu BRT will have to compete with jeepneys and motorcycles and private vehicles and other whatnots that inhabit our road ecosystem.

The DOTr task force that reviewed the Cebu BRT has observed “that since the feasibility study was done in 2014, the number of vehicles in the city has also increased dramatically, by at least 21 percent from 2013 to 2017.”

Metro Cebu’s population of 2.8 million, based on 2015 figures, also dwarfs Curitiba’s 1.8 million people.

And yet, mobility remains an issue in the Brazilian city, which is mulling the creation of a subway system. Costly it is, that’s why Curitiba has also considered other potential cheaper solutions.

In 2012, the city came up with a bicycle masterplan, which called for the creation of 400 kilometers of new bike lanes. And while the masterplan has been criticized for not integrating programs, such as bike racks, bike parking and fare incentives, the Cebu BRT is still on the drawing board.

But no need to worry, assured DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade and Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Dino.

The government will come up with “a replacement project superior to the BRT.”