THE City Government of Davao’s intent to improve the public transportation system of the city has been quite visible in the past couple of years. Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, in her State of the City Address in the last two years, has expressed commitment to make sure to put everything in place to launch the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) and pave way for the improvement of public transport in the city.

In 2019, the city introduced the Peak Hours Augmentation Bus System (Phabs) to address the public transportation woes of those living in Toril and Catalunan Grande. Routes were later added for Calinan, Cabantian, and Lasang.

While city government officials made it clear that this is not a precursor to the HPBS project, the Phabs has made Dabawenyos see how improved public transportation can improve movability around the city. Buses are able to cater to more passengers and are much safer.

This year, we saw the launch of Best Bus, a public transportation project of the city government in partnership with Aboitiz Power. Electric buses are being used to cater to passengers traveling to Lanang and Matina. While it is free for now, passengers will pay using the Get Pass app soon.

Last week, the city government launched the Interim Bus System (IBS) Project with its Carlos P. Garcia (C.P.) Highway (Diversion) bus route. The IBS is the first phase of the HPBS. There will be 24 bus stops between its jump-off point and its turn around point near Philippine Ports Authority.

The expansion of bus systems in Davao City is a welcome development as it allows better travel for Dabawenyos.

"Transportation and mobility play an important role in communication, trade, tourism, and other forms of exchange between people. As such, there is a need for the public to access safe and efficient modes of transportation and travel," Duterte-Carpio.

However, challenges remain in the implementation of the bus system in the city. One, you have the need to change the mindset of the commuters. Under a bus system, there are designated bus stops where you get on and get off. Commuters are not able to go down anywhere. This will be an adjustment for some.

Another adjustment is the difference in fare. One has to pay higher to ride on a bus. However, based on the survey conducted by the Davao City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO) in 2019, Dabawenyos were willing to pay a higher fare for a comfortable and safer public transport. The city now needs to communicate properly and make some commuters understand the higher fare.

Lastly, there is the issue of some public utility jeepney drivers who may lose their livelihood. But the city government has already put in place some sort of livelihood assistance and skills training to help the affected drivers.

The bus system in Davao City is somewhat late for how large it is as a city and how urbanized it is. But these baby steps taken by the city government are a welcome development. We are hopeful that the improvements made in the public transport of the city will allow it to become a more liveable city.