AFFORDABILITY, the passengers’ safety and comfort will be priority concerns when proponents finalize the plans for Cebu City’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, foreign consultants said yesterday.

Foreign consultants from the Integrated Transport Planning (ITP) said they are now halfway through developing the BRT model for Cebu City, which is seen to be operational by the end of 2012.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

ITP Director Colin Brader assured the public yesterday that fares for the BRT will be similar to jeepney fares to make it affordable to commuters, amid concerns that it will be an expensive public transport system.

In a recent survey among public transportation users, the ITP learned that the leading concerns of the public with any form of public transportation are their safety, security and comfort, and the affordability of the system.

“They’re very worried that BRT will be more expensive so we want to say that we’re aiming for the BRT to be comparatively cheap, with the same cost as the jeepney fares. We want to provide a high level of service at a similar cost. We want to assure people of that,” Brader said.

At City Hall yesterday, Brader met with city officials, representatives of government agencies and other stakeholders from the transportation sector to discuss updates on the pre-feasibility study for the BRT.

ITP is a specialist transport planning consultancy that focuses on the delivery of integrated sustainable transport. It was appointed by the World Bank to identify and

prepare a public transport concept plan for the city.

The group just finished the first phase of the study, which includes assessment of the local situation and gathering data on the number of public transport users and what potential users expect from the bus system.

“It’s understanding what the people want from the BRT... We’ve started looking at what is achievable. If you consider the BRT development from one to 10, we’re on stage five at the moment so we’re halfway there,” Brader said.

ITP has already identified the 15-kilometer BRT route but has yet to determine the project cost, which was earlier pegged at P1 billion to P6 billion.

The initial 15-kilometer Talamban-Bulacao line will pass through Osmeña Blvd. It will eventually connect to the South Road Properties (SRP) and major shopping malls in the city.

The consultants hope to complete the pre-feasibility study by the end of June, and the feasibility study by the end of the year.

In the survey among potential users of the BRT, Brader said they found out the concerns of the commuters, which he said would be addressed by the BRT.

“What they’re very concerned about with the operations of the jeepney is their security, where they are vulnerable to theft and other security issues. And that’s the number one thing we have to address. Second is their comfort... We also have to consider the cost and price. In the jeepney, the biggest advantage is that it’s very cheap so people can use them quite easily,” he said.

Brader told reporters after their meeting that potential users are worried that the BRT would not be as affordable as jeepneys.

Even with the large investment needed for the system, Brader said it is possible to keep the fares low, since the infrastructure needed for the BRT will be shouldered by the government.

The day-to-day operations of the BRT will be supported by the income generated from the fares.

“We’re pretty clear the system will support itself with the fares that are similar to the jeepney level,” Brader added.

The BRT that Mayor Tomas Osmeña is pushing works like the train system, but uses buses instead of train coaches and bus lanes instead of train tracks.

The buses are stairless. Passengers pay at the specially designed bus stations in the middle of the road, accessible through pedestrian lanes or overhead walkways.