‘Let Cebu City manage CBRT project’

‘Let Cebu City manage CBRT project’
File photo

EXPERTS have recommended the transfer of the management of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project from the Department of Transportation to the Cebu City Government saying the success of the project lies in a “competent” project management.

“Let it be done by the City, by Cebu City. They are the proponents of it. Do it yourself,” said Rene Santiago, an engineer and mass transportation expert and consultant, in an interview after an executive session about the CBRT project on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

Biggest mishap of BRT?

Santiago recalled telling the World Bank in 2014 that the BRT would fail, attributing 50 percent of the issue to implementation and the other 50 percent to technical aspects.

Santiago said CBRT could not be an exclusive route if it passes on Escario St., given the narrowness of the main thoroughfare. He emphasized that the plan was for Osmeña Blvd., where it can become an exclusive route due to the wider lane.

“I don’t see how you can make it exclusive, that section to go to Cebu IT Park. Of course, when I look at Mango Ave. it’s wider, maybe it can be exclusive,” Santiago said.

Meanwhile, Nigel Paul Villarete, an engineer and an urban planner and one of the first supporters of BRT as Cebu City’s base urban transportation system since 2008, said that “everything went wrong.”

However, he said he still supports the CBRT project as a mode of mass transportation.

“So many things have gone wrong, so many things have gone astray and it’s very difficult for me to look back and say what’s that thing that is the (hardest) the most? It is cumulative. It’s so hard to correct now. But it is still a good project. Let’s hope for this first line. I am also hoping for the Bulacao to Ayala,” he added.

CBRT’s first package covers a distance of 2.38 kilometers from the Cebu South Bus Terminal along N. Bacalso Ave. to the front of the Capitol building along Osmeña Blvd. Package 2 of the CBRT involves the south trunk; from the South Road Properties to Barangay Mambaling via N. Bacalso Ave., while Package 3 refers to the CBRT’s north trunk: from Capitol to North Escario to Gorordo Ave. to Archbishop Reyes Ave. to Cebu IT Park.

Meanwhile, Santiago sees the BRT project in conflict with the current implementation of the PUV (public utility vehicle) modernization since the same franchises were given to operators along the same route.

Three options

Santiago said there could be three options for the CBRT project to move forward — to continue (building it) unhampered, change its management or terminate it.

“We have three choices for BRT: continue business as usual, let it continue unhampered. You will probably get a product in 2028, if the DOTr will be as good as it should be. But that would be a poor probability of happening based on the record for the past 10 years, it has not shown a competent project team,” Santiago said.

He said the political grumbling in Cebu led to the City considering Solomonic solutions, with two options.

He said the first option could be the proposal of Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, chairman of the transportation committee, to make the CBRT Package 1 a pilot project before proceeding to the other two packages.

“And if you do that, there is a 90 percent probability that it should be terminated because there will be traffic in that short section,” he said.

The second option, on the other hand, which is a longer section, is to let the whole line be operational, which he said, can be done in six months.

“Package 1 takes almost two years, and then Packages 2 and 3 are longer. They say it will be finished in 2027, but if you consider the experience of Package 1, it will probably take you to 2030,” Santiago said.

But what will happen to the center islands?

Santiago said he advocated for solutions like underpasses to improve pedestrian crossings in the BRT project, emphasizing their cost-effectiveness and convenience.

However, he criticized the 15-minute overhead crosswalks as punitive, especially for senior citizens.

Santiago insisted on accessibility for BRT stations, suggesting escalators or underpasses; however, he condemned the removal of skywalks without replacements, warning of worsened traffic conditions.

He questioned the safety measures for buses and recalled the DPWH’s clearance of skywalks higher than bus heights during construction. / AML

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