While there are some rumblings over Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s plan to ban private vehicles in the downtown area, which I think comprises Colon Street and its neighboring environs, the rationale behind it sounds feasible enough.
For one thing, I read reports that the mayor came up with the idea after meeting with passenger jeepney operators and drivers who held a rally declaring their opposition to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.
While the mayor said the project had already been underway, he also reiterated the Cebu City government’s commitment to help those operators and drivers who will be displaced by the mass transport system which counts to 2,614 drivers and 912 operators.
The downtown area will perhaps be one of several in Cebu City where the jeepney drivers can ply their routes and service a lot of commuters without having to directly compete with the BRT.
The way I understood it — and I could be wrong — the BRT will service some designated routes that would pass along the national highway which would be restricted or prohibited to jeepneys since they will be limited to servicing feeder routes leading to the BRT terminals.
The downtown area, Colon Street in particular being the oldest street in the country, has seen better days and congesting it further with private cars when more jeepneys will be allowed to operate there will only make life miserable for the commuters and pedestrians who pass through there on a weekly and even daily basis.
But it’s not as if jeepneys will have exclusive domain over there. The mayor’s plan doesn’t exactly ban transport network services like Uber and Grab which commuters can tap to fetch them to and from the downtown area, if that’s where they are headed to.
I say if that’s where they’re headed since admittedly a lot more Cebu City residents tend to flock to the uptown Cebu commercial district, aka Cebu Business Park (I hope my urban geography is correct) and to areas where the large malls are than dropping by the downtown area which had lost its luster over the years and offers fewer attractions other than a large department store.
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If I remember correctly, former city mayor Michael Rama had grand plans to revitalize the downtown area and based on how he described it, the initiative would cost at least hundreds of millions of pesos.
Alas, he wasn’t able to secure a third term and the current top occupant of Cebu City Hall has set his sights elsewhere. If he heard about his predecessor’s plan he would likely sneer at it.
Anyway, the passenger jeepney as a public transport vehicle at least in Cebu City is up against serious competition from taxis that subscribed to existing mobile hailing app services, Uber and Grab drivers as well as buses operated by malls that are determined to bring customers to within their premises.
Granted, they still service the majority number of commuters since they still charge the lowest fares at P6.50 onwards compared to the minimum flagdown rate of P40 per taxi, the P25 charged by MyBus units for the trip back to SM City Cebu (while the Robinsons Galleria buses fetch those heading to and from their mall free of charge) and God knows how much Uber and Grab charge their passengers since I have yet to ride in one of them.
But the fact is, Cebu City commuters have more choices now than before and jeepney drivers and operators have resented this since it cuts into their business.
As a commuter it’s nice to have these options and the BRT’s impending entry is something to look forward to. Jeepney drivers and operators aren’t so cheery, and I can’t blame them since it’s their livelihood on the line.
But faced with this challenge, I hope for the sake of these jeepney operators and drivers that they upgrade their units rather than expect the riding public to adjust to them.
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Speaking of private motorists, I learned about another road rage incident in Cebu City, this time along Archbishop Reyes Avenue where two drivers nearly came to blows.
Thankfully, it didn’t end too badly but the verbal exchange was recorded and posted on Facebook. Motorists may want to remember keeping their tempers in check as they head out into the streets since the likelihood of altercations being recorded on video and posted in social media are quite high.
Defensive driving as well as roadside courtesy remains the mantra for every motorist out in the streets and roads of Metro Cebu. Unfortunately, courtesy, generosity and a good grasp of and respect for traffic laws don’t register with a lot of motorists nowadays.
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