Those obtrusive BRT lanes

STREETLIFE - Nigel Villarete - The Freeman

“When will those lanes be finished so that Osmeña Boulevard would go back to being three lanes again?” I’ve heard (or read) this question, or variants thereof, more than twice or thrice, and each time, coming from someone driving a car. Of course, the expectation was for these (the inner/center lanes) to be open to “all” traffic again. And I was always tempted to answer directly – “never.” But I kept my peace knowing it will again start an argument. I have resigned to the fact that there will always remain a part of the society who may not ever fully understand mobility or public transportation, mostly car owners/drivers.

Of course, I can understand the expected frustration of my fellow car owners/drivers when they will later realize the inner lanes of Boulevard Blvd will be forever closed to us. Those are lanes for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and only BRT buses would be allowed to pass through there. The only three possible exceptions would be fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars, but only when they’re doing their functions (when there’s an actual fire, emergency, or crime occurring; NOT when there’s none).

It would always remain a contentious issue to those who don’t use or don’t understand public transportation and/or mobility. To them it’s a waste of space and opportunity when there's congestion everywhere and you see a road lane sparsely used. Imagine being stuck in slow-moving traffic, and you see an open lane without any vehicle running except buses every 10 to 20 minutes apart. How you’d wish you’d be speeding in that lane, right? No, you won’t, just stick to your lane because you choose it --if you want to be in the center lane then ride the BRT! Unfortunately, it won’t be serving all places soon, but time will come it will.

Understanding it would be difficult. There would be people who will see it as a waste of space and time, not to mention money, to see a road lane seemingly sparsely used --one bus passing every 10-15 minutes though it will be more in the future. But that is a mirage in a sense that you don’t see the entire story. The mindset is set on vehicles, not on people --we count the vehicles, not the people that the road serves. You are alone in your car, or maybe there are four, but the bus can carry 60 to 80 passengers. The proper measure is passenger-per-hour-per direction (PPHPD).

Cars may carry 4,000-8,000 PPHPD, but BRTs can carry from 12,000 to 19,000 PPHPD for a simple system. There are BRTs now which can carry 35,000 PPHPD. That’s four to six times what car lanes can carry! If we talk of efficiency of use, or more importantly, value for money used in construction, BRT’s stand at the top, even better than rail, which are terribly expensive and inflexible. We won’t see it immediately, especially that they chose to build only a “segment” first (SBT to Capitol, the choice of which I didn’t agree with). But when it is completed, we’ll have one of the best public transport systems in the world. Maybe not the best but one of…

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