Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cebu bus transit project pegged at $185M

CEBU CITY – An initial budget of $185 million from World Bank, Clean Technology Fund and French Development Agency is allotted for the first phase of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in this city.
Colin Brader, the urban planner from Integrated Transport Planning (ITP), the consultancy firm for the BRT, said on Saturday that the budget will be used to set up the BRT system and area traffic control systems, among others.
Brader said the BRT aims to improve the transport system in Cebu and provide a quality service to the commuting public, with fast lanes segregated from traffic, safe and monitored traffic systems, accessible stations and comfortable air-conditioned buses with fares similar to jeepney fares.
The BRT is planned to start in Bulacao through N. Bacalso then turn to Osmeña Blvd., pass through Escario St. and go straight to Talamban.
A detailed design is expected to begin in October, to be completed in May, as the ongoing feasibility study is expected to be done by August 2012.
The detailed design will provide the specifics of the BRT system like the road network, stops and intervals.
Colin said surveys, consultations and focus group discussions with the different barangays and concerned groups have already been made and more meetings will be conducted the following weeks.
Consultations with different public utility jeepney groups and discussions with operators and drivers on potentially affected routes have also been conducted.
In the first phase of the BRT, line will be inserted into the middle of roads.
Proponents of BRT are aiming for an October 2013 start. If all goes according to plan, the system may be operational by 2015.
The BRT and an additional terminal for Mactan Airport are among the priority projects of the Aquino administration, which is seeking private sector partners for big-ticket infrastructure and other ventures.
The Cebu City BRT was proposed by the Philippine Government to the Clean Technology Fun Committee in 2009. The Department of Transportation and Communication with the City Government will prepare for the implementation of the project.
Room for jeepney drivers
Meanwhile, jeepney drivers who will be displaced by the implementation of the BRT system will be absorbed once the system operates.
This was the assurance that the Cebu City Government’s foreign consultants for the BRT, Integrated Transport Planning (ITP), gave amid worries from the local transport sector that they will lose their livelihood once the BRT will be in place.
Brader said the jeepney drivers who will be affected by the BRT system will be employed for the operation and maintenance of the buses.
“They will really be involved in the future operations of the BRT. We want to make sure that they will still have livelihood in the future,” said Brader, who presented the results of the pre-feasibility study for the BRT.
At least 1,500 jobs will be generated once the BRT will be in place, he said.
This includes the two drivers, for two shifts, needed for each of the 250 buses that will be used in the system.
It will also include the personnel needed to run the 14 BRT stations as well as the people who will maintain them.
Brader asked the jeepney drivers in the city not to be afraid of the impending changes with the implementation of the mass transit system, saying they will be trained to gain the skills for the operation and maintenance of the BRT.
“Change is threatening but they should not be worried about it,” he said.
Also, the arrangement will be to the advantage of the jeepney drivers, considering they will already have a fixed salary and get to enjoy holidays.
Some jeepney routes will disappear once the system will be implemented, particularly those in the planned BRT routes.
The initial route of the BRT in the city will be from Bulacao, passing through N. Bacalso Ave., then to Osmeña Blvd., Escario St. and straight to Talamban.
Aside from addressing the concerns of the jeepney drivers, Brader also answered the issues raised by commuters, like the BRT’s fares, routes, and distances between bus stops.
During his presentation, Brader said that the public will not have to shell out a huge amount to use the BRT, because its fares will be the same as that of the public utility jeepneys.
“So it is not really expensive,” he said.
The fares will be used to sustain and maintain the buses and the BRT operations.
Brader disclosed that the buses that are to be used by the system need a major refurbishment or repairs after every six years and replacement after 12 years.
Asked how many minutes will the public save by using the BRT, the consultant said it will depend on where they want to go, but generally, “they are more than twice as quick” as the jeepneys.
The BRT stations will be just 400 meters apart. But to make walking safe and comfortable, bigger sidewalks will be in place, Brader added.
Proponents of the BRT are aiming for an October 2013 start and for the system to be operational by 2015. (Maria Armie Sheila Garde/PDF of Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)