An August 2016 file photo of traffic on Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City.
‘LRT for metro; BRT for Cebu City’
Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - April 22, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — While the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) for Metro Cebu can coexist, not both can cater to the daily transport needs of Cebu City.

This is the contention of Cebu City administrator Nigel Paul Villarete, himself an urban planner, amid the debate on which mass transport system would be best for Cebu.

“The BRT runs from Bulacao to Ayala to Talamban, and vice versa.  It’s entirely within Cebu City connecting the south and the north (districts) to the center,” Villarete told The FREEMAN.  “The LRT intends to connect Talisay, Cebu City, Mandaue, and Consolacion; its main riders are people from outside of Cebu going to Cebu City in the morning and returning home in the evening.”

Villarete said it is “incomprehensible” why the proponents of the LRT project reportedly want to destroy the BRT.

“If you cancel the BRT, unsa na man lang ang sakyan sa taga-Talamban padung sa sentro? Or how about from Bulacao to IT Park?  Just stop for a moment and imagine it. The LRT is good but its purpose is to link the neighboring cities to Cebu,” he said.

“LRT is not intended to address the daily transport needs of Cebu City’s residents. Not to mention Cebu City’s business needs. And worse, it will take 10-15 years to finish, as is the experience of all the past mass transport projects in the country,” he added.

According to Villarete, if LRT advocates will succeed in their supposed plot to block the BRT, it will be the city’s residents who will suffer, as they will be left with no dependable means of transport within the city.

But Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino, one of the vocal critics of the BRT, said the project will not be the best answer to Cebu City’s transport needs because of the city’s narrow roads.

“Cebu City has narrow roads. Most have two lanes with a few exceptions in core areas with 4 or 6 lanes. Dedicated bus lanes will restrict cars to 1 or 2 lanes. The loss of a 3-and-a-half meter-lane of road to BRT only increases the odds of worsening traffic congestion,” the Facebook page of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas posted on April 14.

Another major reason why the BRT would fail, according to OPAV, is its “unrealistic” headway, the time one would have to wait at the station for a bus to arrive after one has left.

“According to their official feasibility study, the Cebu BRT is capable of operating on a 30-second headway to service 12,000 passengers per hour per direction. That's 120 buses with a capacity of 100 per hour,” OPAV wrote in another post on April 18.

OPAV said such a figure is unrealistic because 30 seconds is too short a duration for a bus to load and unload its passengers, especially if there are senior citizens and people needing special assistance.

“If you consider the time passengers need to hop on and off these buses and the time buses wait in traffic lights at intersections, the realistic headway time would be at least 2 minutes,” the post read further.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña has already expressed not being against the LRT but has also vowed to fight for the BRT.

Osmeña prefers the BRT because it is reportedly faster to implement, modular, and far easier and cheaper to maintain.

Whether the BRT will be stopped or continued will be determined once the National Economic and Development Authority’s Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee, a seven-member panel, convenes on Wednesday.

At the launch of the Biyaya ng Pagbabago yesterday in Cebu City, Osmeña said he is hoping that NEDA officials would consider the “bilateral loan” of the Philippine government with the World Bank and other creditors in deciding on the BRT’s fate.

“Supposed to be. They have no choice (but to keep it),” Osmeña said when asked how optimistic he was about the BRT’s retention.

“If they will not decide in favor of BRT, then there must be something wrong. Are they going to favor LRT than BRT?” he said. — Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon  (FREEMAN)

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