Anatomy of a work-trip (Part 3)
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - March 26, 2019 - 12:00am

How do we make a conventional or traditional public mass transport better? In Parts 1 and 2 of this topic, we looked at the reality of an ordinary Cebuano’s daily trip(s) from home to work. By ordinary we mean the four out of five Cebuanos who don’t own a car (car owners/users simply drive from the carport straight to the office parking space). In Cebu, it’s mostly by jeepney, coupled with walking, tricycle, or trisikad. Then, there’s the waiting and queueing at stops, or terminals, or outright jostling or scampering along the side of the road (or the middle of it, in the case of Mabolo).

Actually, there are two parts of the trip at its simplest --the ride on the vehicle (jeepney itself), and the walking and waiting part. These are two distinct experiences and we believe that people in general prefer less waiting, even for longer rides, mostly because of the uncertainty of the waiting part, especially if there is no queue, not to mention the standing, in line or not. At least when you’re in a jeepney, you’re sitting down and you’re sure you are on your way.

So, when there is any improvement to be done, it will have to be on these two aspects --two issues, different solutions or improvements-- the waiting part (terminals, stations, or stops), and the riding part (on the vehicle). We’ll start on the riding part first.

We start with speed. We all want to go to work, or return home, as fast as we can. It gives us more time to be with family, enjoy pastimes, watch TV, or do enjoyable things. So a faster vehicle should be better. There are two obstacles, though. First, the average speed, or total time from origin to destination is diluted by the number of stops for boarding and alighting of passengers. Try observing how a jeepney moves --sometimes the time spent loading and unloading passengers at stops is longer than the time it takes to travel to the next stop. Worse, if the jeepney sometimes stays in a stop to wait for passengers, oftentimes with barkers (dispatchers).

The other obvious obstacle is the traffic congestion itself. Since the jeepney runs on a lane mixed with other vehicles, its speed is only as fast as the rest of the traffic on the road. That’s why traffic congestion always causes resentment among commuters. What took 15 minutes before now takes 30. And half an hour becomes one full hour. Speed turns into a crawl. Imagine if jeepneys ran on lanes dedicated only for them at their normal cruising speed! Imagine if they can do this all the time unhampered by any traffic congestion in the other lanes. And imagine if we use buses instead of jeepneys, with three to four times the seating capacity! We will be home in no time!

That’s just half of it. Imagine if we have bus stops or stations where you don’t wait for long, and you get a ride at regular frequencies. No more waiting or jostling. That’s the BRT! (To be continued)

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