SM bus network to operate in Metro Cebu ahead of BRT
At least 77 buses will arrive in June as part of a private bus network operated by SM to ensure customer traffic to its new Seaside City complex in the South Road Properties (SRP), which opens this year.
A test run of the vehicles will be undertaken in September and operations start in October, said Sherry Tuvilla, SM regional operations manager for the Visayas and Mindanao, in a presentation to the Cebu City Council on Wednesday.
This means the private buses will be running even before the government’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is implemented in Cebu City.
With the buses running through Talisay, Cebu and Mandaue cities plus the Mactan International Airport, Tuvilla said SM needs the cooperation of the local governments.
During the executive session, Mactan airport general manager Nigel Paul Villarete said the bus franchise granted to SM is good for five years only since the Dept. of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) is looking at the whole transport system of Metro Cebu on a horizon of 25 to 50 years.
“That’s why we asked SM that their buses should be BRT-ready so it can form part of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system,” Villarete told the council.
SM is waiting for a franchise to be issued after DOTC approved the privately-owned High Quality Public Transport System (HQPTS) and its routes.
Implementation of the BRT project is suffering some delay, said BRT project head Rafael Yap.
Yap told the council the DOTC is still procuring the consultants who will conduct the detailed engineering design study for the project.
“The detailed engineering design will take eight months while it will take two years for the actual construction. So we’re expecting the BRT to be operation in 2018 at the earliest,” Yap told the council.
Meanwhile SM’s private bus system will have four routes: (1) Talisay-SRP-Mambaling and back, (2) North Bus Terminal-SM Cebu-downtown area-SM Seaside-Mambaling and back, (3) Talisay-SRP-downtown area-SM Cebu.
The fourth route will be an express from Talisay to the Mactan Cebu International Airport and passing through SM Seaside, Plaza Independencia and SM Cebu.
Since the HQPTS buses won’t be using dedicated bus lanes, SM is asking the Cebu City government to upgrade traffic lights and set up bus priority signages for some lanes.
It also asked the city to conduct public information campaigns about the new buses that will be passing through the streets.
SM is also asking the city to allow them to encroach on sidewalks along N. Bacalso Ave. and Plaza Independencia to construct bus stations for the first phase of the bus network and in other future locations for the stations.
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