TWO years ago, in this column I wrote about the importance of pursuing public transport reforms in Davao City given its growing population, the high use of public transport, the dismal state of transportation facilities, and the imperative of decentralizing transport planning to local governments.
The findings and conclusions of the Davao Sustainable Urban Transport Project (DSUT) in 2013 that put forward a Comprehensive Public Transport Reform Strategy for Davao City informed the sentiments of that 2013 column.
Since 2013 at least two other transport studies were conducted in Davao, one by the South Korean company Korean Engineering & Construction (KEC), and the other supported by the Cities Development Initiatives in Asia (CDIA) that followed through on the results of the 2013 DSUT Project.
These studies came to mind in light of a recent Business World Online article that reported that the KEC study recommendation of a 28-kilometer slightly elevated rail line linking Davao International Airport (DIA) to the Toril District and estimated to cost PhP40 billion was being recommended as a project by the Davao City Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Board to the appropriate government agencies.
Written by Davao journalists Carmelito Q. Francisco and Carmencita A. Carillo, the same article mentioned two other transportation facilities that had been previously recommended to the City Government: the bus rapid transit (BRT) system endorsed by a study in 2011, and the highly prioritized bus service (HPBS) recommendation of the DSUT study in 2013.
The Asian Development Board (ADB) supported both studies.
The article also mentioned that Mr. Ivan Cortez of the Davao City Investment Promotion Center (DCIPC) regarded the LRT and BRT systems as
“complementary in addressing the city’s transport requirements”.
I found the article an interesting snapshot of the prospective future of public transportation in Davao.
The writers could have easily just focused on the KEC study; I am glad that they also provided relevant context information by looking into other sectoral initiatives and data on public transport vehicles in the city.
Offhand, there seems to be a resonance between the different options being put forward and the results of a 2015 Household Information Survey (HIS) conducted on the day-to-day travel patterns of Davao residents.
The HIS report, initially presented to the City Government and to stakeholders in April 2015, indicated that respondents from 182 barangays view a high capacity railway system as much needed.
As a long-term public transport user, I am keen to know more about the details of the KEC study.
Initial information has it that the envisioned LRT by KEC would likely connect DIA and Toril by traversing the Diversion Road or via JP Laurel, Buhangin and the Diversion Road.
Pending additional information from the report itself, I am concerned about how the public transport requirements of those going into the poblacion/Central Business District (CBD) of Roxas, Claro M. Recto and nearby environs and coming from the southwestern parts of the City (Toril and Ulas), the northwest (Calinan and Mintal), and northeast (Bunawan, Panacan and Sasa for example) are going to be met.
This is a legitimate concern because while the 2015 HIS described the travel of Davao residents to be intra-district in character (or within their district only), there is still considerable traffic to the poblacion areas where key government, business, financial and educational offices are located.
The transport surveys that accompanied the HIS confirmed that traffic and multicab and jeepney occupancy were highest at the two river crossings at Bangkerohan Bridge along McArthur and Bolton Bridge along Quezon Blvd. More fundamentally, if the daily travel of Davao residents is to the work places, schools, markets, and other places in their district, why isn’t public transportation within districts also being improved instead of only high profile targeted projects like railway systems?
Without necessarily endorsing the two systems that Mr. Cortez mentioned, I find that his idea of complementary systems, rather than just one project, makes sense.
(To be continued tomorrow)