Roll in the BRT
It’s summer and going around town is supposed to be a breeze with traffic expected to be lighter. But, as most of us have noticed, it seems there’s no difference at all, summer or no summer. Getting a ride is still a daily struggle, whether you take a jeepney, a Grab, or an ordinary taxi. When frustrated we resort to hailing a habal-habal, which is not a safe ride and is even technically illegal (at least, for now).
Jeepneys’ drivers pack their passengers like sardines in a can to squeeze a few more coins from them, never mind if the poor commuters risk a stroke given the scorching heat that we are all going through these days. Taxi fares are also skyrocketing with oil prices steadily rising and the cost of gadgets they now have to install as part of modernization, which are all passed to commuters anyway.
Buses are the best bet, particularly those brand new air-conditioned ones deployed by some of the malls to serve mainly their customers. But there are few of them, partly because City Hall has not been supportive of these initiatives, to put it more mildly, for reasons that the public already knows.
Yes, politics is the real reason why public transportation still sucks despite our claims of being “highly urbanized.” We still lack a modern mass transit system so more and more people are forced to buy a car to avoid the inconvenience of public commuting. So each year, thousands of private vehicles add to the already congested traffic, increasing not only stress among commuters but also exposing them to toxic fumes. We are not only killing ourselves with this air pollution, we are killing the planet as well.
As the commuting public suffers, our politicians debate on which system is best for Cebu: the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system similar to that in Manila or the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Those advocating for the LRT say it is a more strategic solution to the problem of traffic congestion as it involves train lines that could go much longer, connecting cities in the metropolis or even nearby municipalities.
Imagine such an intercity train loop going from say Danao City in the north all the way to Naga City in the south. So I could just bike from our house in Consolacion to the train station somewhere near the highway and leave my bike there as I take the LRT to downtown Cebu. No need to use a car. You can even use a folding bike so you can take it with you inside the train for use later for going from the station where you drop off to your school or workplace.
But while the LRT might be the long-term solution, it is also very expensive and is most disruptive as it is expected to affect more roads and structures along the way. Unless we adopt the subway or underground system, railways built above roads are an eyesore and make cities look ugly and depressing. We have Manila for future reference.
For these reasons, the BRT is proposed as the less expensive and less disruptive alternative particularly for cities with small or narrow streets. The BRT system involves the use of buses with fixed routes and designated stations. To maximize passenger capacity, buses may be expanded with loading compartments that are joined so that they would look like small trains that roll without tracks.
About two years ago, the Department of Science and Technology has manufactured such a “road train,” a local invention, and donated one for Cebu for use by public commuters. But after a dry run, it was parked somewhere and just left to rot.
City Hall’s BRT project, on the other hand, has gone through all the procedures and is in fact ready to roll. Budget has been approved and the city government is committed to it. I have seen the drawings and they all look good. Well, it’s not perfect. It’s going to cause some trees to be uprooted and hopefully replanted somewhere. It will be just limited to mostly Cebu City streets only. But it will greatly reduce congestion, pollution, and make public commuting much more convenient for the Cebuano public.
So, let’s stop the debate and bring it on as the need for mass transportation in Cebu is urgent. We can have one system at a time. Let’s have the BRT for now and start asking the national government to give us the LRT that Cebu has been clamoring for years. I mean if the President’s men here in Cebu are really serious about it, if they really have the commuting public in mind, they would not let local politics get in the way.
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