Metro Cebu’s need for public transportation

STREET LIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete - The Freeman

Everybody is aware of Metro Cebu’s traffic congestion problem. Let’s not kid ourselves --it’s real and it’s not going away unless something is done about it. And it’s not only that road in Banilad going to Talamban, it’s everywhere. That stretch is only a barometer in the last two decades ever since Talamban became a prominent residential area back then. That’s why overpasses were built back then. As it can prevent traffic congestion in the long-term. On and off, we always had issues with that Talamban-Banilad corridor. But again, that’s just a signal. The problem is everywhere.

Geometry, physics, and plain logic are at play here. The number of vehicles will increase while the road space remains the same. We can’t forever build roads nor expand existing ones. Building more and stacking flyovers and exchanges is not only limited and expensive and makes the city ugly and congested. We can’t continue scratching over our heads trying to find out where to build the next flyover. Now, they’re trying scheduling --making traffic flow along these flyovers different, above, and below. As if this can change the vehicle-capacity ratio.

And mind you --everybody agrees-- public transportation is the key and the ultimate solution. But it ends there. Agreeing to a solution to a problem does not solve the problem, doing the solution solves it. Former mayor Tomas Osmeña read about a particular kind of solution in Brazil and went there in 1997 to see it for himself. This was the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT) in Curitiba. Translated it means “Integrated Transportation Network,” but in common terms we know it as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). He saw it work, understood the concept, and knew it’s the best kind of public transportation for Cebu City. And he finally succeeded in getting it approved by the national government in 2012, after Cebu City went through all the necessary project development technical studies, by itself.

Unfortunately, the project was shrunk from one running the whole north-south corridor, Talamban to Bulacao, and vice-versa, to the one presently constructed, from Capitol to South Bus Terminal. My goodness, all the traffic counts in the last two decades indicate that most work-from-home trips originate from the Talamban and Bulacao barangay clusters, and they make IT-Park to SRP as their BRT route. This is a perfect example of government leaders serving big business rather than their poor constituents. Oh, they say this is just the first corridor. Well, where’s the budget for the next corridors? You have already exhausted the World Bank loan and there’s nothing in the country’s budget and investment program for the so-called next phases.

At the very least, even if it's not a BRT, the government should already do something for public transportation. We can’t wait and see if the problem disappears --it won’t! This traffic congestion will get worse, and if nothing is done, whether it's in the form of a BRT or other modes, we're doomed. Forget about becoming Singapore-like --this city focused on its public transportation and limited its car use decades ago. Congestion is not something we can just watch idly and wait for something to happen. It won’t.

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