After the BRT, what?

STREETLIFE - Nigel Villarete - The Freeman

A lot of Cebuanos, believers and skeptics alike, are waiting for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit to be finished, some expecting it to serve the purpose it was intended for, and others waiting to prove it to fail. The latter, of course, will immediately pounce on the fact that it will not improve traffic congestion. No use in answering that since from the very start, it was already widely and exhaustively indicated that it is not a traffic solution in the first place. Only the very sector that it was intended to serve, may understand, and appreciate it, but then again, then some of them wouldn’t, what with the car-centric mindset our society has become.

The Cebu BRT’s current predicament is that even its very purpose won’t be achieved by this current construction phase, thanks to incredibly inappropriate decisions made by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in 2018. The BRT is a public transportation project, and as such, should primarily serve the mobility of people from their homes to places of work in a timely and convenient manner, and most especially, unaffected by traffic congestion. It does not take a lot of common sense why the original routes were from Bulacao to Ayala and Talamban to Ayala, as anybody who has lived in Cebu for some time knows these are the main routes of the majority of working Cebuanos. There are other routes, for sure, but these two are the traditional “main” routes. That’s why they were planned first.

It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to see that the DOTr’s decision to build the SRP to IT Park BRT is devoid of logic. Both are commercial areas and are hosts to big commercial malls. There are no residential areas for public transport-riding families in both centers. Will they be expecting hordes of working people-passengers every 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily that you would see lining up the streets in Bulacao and Talamban, each day? No, malls open at 9 to 10 a.m. They decided on this route without understanding what public transportation is, and what the bulk of trips it entails --that is work-to-home trips! Not as a service between two malls!

It only got worse when they decided to build the SRP-IT Park route in stages, and started with what is presently being built now --the Cebu South Bus terminal to Capitol. Did they even study the ridership figures of this route? You can ask anybody who lives in Cebu – “who travels from SBT to Capitol and vice versa?” I’m sure there are but I am also very sure it can’t fill up half a bus. In fact, we’ll be lucky if you have five to 10 persons per trip. It probably will be full the first week --everybody would want to try it for the novelty of it. But regular users? That’s doubtful. All you need to study is the ridership figures for these Origin-Destination points, which Agence Française de Développement of France, one of the Cebu BRT’s funders, already studied in 2018.

But after this, what? Whatever DOTr is planning next, I hope they’ll be transparent enough to inform the people already. Hopefully, it will make more technical and logical sense.

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