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HQPTS: Will complement the BRT

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - October 11, 2015 - 10:00am

Recently, some transport operators have expressed their sentiments against the planned operation of a new modern bus line, the high quality public transport system (HQPTS), for the soon-to-open Seaside City mall in the South Road Properties. To be operated by a consortium of SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Jam Liner Inc., it is reported to bring in 77 new hybrid Wi-Fi ready buses to ply in four routes.  These buses are expected to ferry passengers from the North Bus Terminal to Mambaling, to Talisay City, and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport through the SRP and Natalio Bacalso Avenue.

As usual, just like any attempt at doing something new, we will never be lacking in complaints and apprehensions.  This time, several transport groups are opposed to such plan.  Among others, they singled out the fact that apart from “the competition the new player poses for other public utility vehicles, the additional buses will increase traffic congestion.”  Since “the roads are very narrow and these buses are expected to be big, this may worsen traffic,” they alleged.

Indeed, it has been awhile now that the traffic situation has been so revolting for motorists and commuters alike as both good and bad roads were cracked, detached and hauled by the contractors to turn them into what are supposed to be just the same narrow good roads.  Done altogether, almost all corners in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue had become choke points.  As a result, traffic flowed at turtle pace.  Worse, more often, it goes to a screeching halt for hours.  Stupidly, they impress upon us that these are just temporary inconveniences.  As put forward, once the repairs are finished, traffic snags will be things of the past.  So far, our temporary solutions are rerouting and truck ban, a very unproductive one.

Having these imminent scenarios, we heard several proposals from stakeholders.  Some sectors even suggested to instead ban private cars, not cargo trucks, on the streets at peak hours.  Others are begging for a mass transport system.   Despite such clamor though, we heard this vehement opposition to such a scheme from transport groups.  However, for better understanding, let us again look into this plan (as a complement to BRT) as laymen.  Devoid of biases, we may be able to see it along line convenience, safety, efficiency and environmental aspects.

On convenience, the present transport system is certainly not acceptable. Despite being holders of certificates of public convenience, some jeepney drivers and operators have less regard on such responsibility.  In several instances, we were on the receiving end of these utility operators’ and drivers’ shenanigans.  The countless transport strikes, for one, in the past showed us how insensible these drivers and operators are.  There is one ticklish question though that should be resolved too.  In order not to suffer the same misfortune, can this consortium assure us of “no-strike policy” among their employees once their buses run?  Moreover, with the comfort fully air-conditioned buses the consortium supposedly provides, car owners may just leave their units in their garages than use them.  Thus, decongesting our streets no matter how narrow these may be.

On safety, the current system is certainly undesirable.  In the drivers’ race for more passengers, safety concerns have been left in the back seat.  They don’t recognize designated jeepney stops. Some will even use sidewalks when they overtake.  They load and unload passengers anywhere on the streets.  More often, passengers had to squeeze themselves through a phalanx of vehicles to get to the sidewalk where they could be safer.  They run and elude racing vehicles just to get a ride on jeepneys that are halting at the middle of the road.  With the well maintained and well managed buses, safety concerns are well addressed since all transport personnel are paid in salaries and are not racing like hell to earn a living.  There are fewer drivers too to discipline and can be better trained and strictly supervised.

On efficiency, the present situation isn’t at par.   With the sheer number of jeepneys alone, the streets are already clogged.  Factor in the hardheadedness of some drivers, traffic is moving at snail-pace.  In fact, more often, this resulted to huge traffic jams.  Consequently, commuters are more often missing their appointments or are reporting to their work or classes very late.

On environmental aspects and use of energy, the present condition is certainly not sound.  With this huge number of smoke-belchers, a cleaner air isn’t possible.  This is simple arithmetic.  The fewer the engines emitting smoke the cleaner the atmosphere will be.  In fact, during transport strikes, the sky is clearer and the smell is a lot better.  Needless to say, with fewer fuel tanks to fill, oil consumptions are thousands of liters fewer.

On the other hand, they raised the issue of competition or that they may run out of business.  Isn’t it that competition is inherent in a democracy?  That it brings about quality service? Why should we hinder improvements?  They (transport group) can also compete.  They are businessmen.  They just have to upgrade their fleet too.

foabalos@yahoo.com

ACIRC BUSES CEBU AND MANDAUE JAM LINER INC MACTAN-CEBU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT NATALIO BACALSO AVENUE NBSP NORTH BUS TERMINAL PRIME HOLDINGS INC SEASIDE CITY TRANSPORT
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