The BRT challenge

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

LATELY, I have been caught up in online debates on social media with respect to the proposed Bus Rapid Transport system (BRT). As I have said previously, this system will not work in the planned route. It will ultimately make Cebu a living hell. The proponents of the BRT have a beautiful presentation that makes it appear as if it is the solution to our mass transit and traffic problems. The problem with the presentation is that it is not up to scale. If you watch it carefully there is no way Osmeña Blvd. can be made that wide wherein it can accept the BRT lane plus an additional lane for cars from each direction with a huge sidewalk.

Some people are saying at least it is a start, better than doing nothing. No! Doing nothing would actually be better that spending P1.3 billion on something that will not work.

An artist’s rendition of the Bus Rapid Transit system planned for Cebu City (SUN.STAR FILE)
An artist’s rendition of the Bus Rapid Transit system planned for Cebu City (SUN.STAR FILE)

Remember some months ago an environmentalist group succeeded in convincing the city to try its road sharing project by closing half of Osmeña Blvd. and dedicating that half exclusively to bicycles and pedestrians. This experiment was done on a Sunday at a time where there were the least number of cars on the road. The result was gridlock. The experiment was a complete failure. Half of Osmeña Blvd. is what will be left if the BRT pushes through. Even if the jeepneys are eliminated, we still have the private vehicles, delivery vans, taxis, tour buses, etc.

I am challenging the City and its officials to conduct a simple inexpensive experiment before they jump into this BRT project. For a few hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on a weekday, remove all the jeepneys that are on the proposed BRT route and block off the lanes that will be used by the BRT, then assess the traffic. This experiment will completely show whether or not the BRT is viable in Cebu. I bet traffic will be at its worse and that traffic is what Cebu will have to deal with if the BRT project will push through.

Cebu contributes a significant amount of money to our national economy, thus, Cebu deserves a better mass transit project than the BRT. For me the BRT is a conseulo de bobo project from the national government, a project we Cebuanos should not accept. We deserve something modern that is either above ground or underground. Cebu needs space. For a mass transit system to work, space has to be created for it. The proposed BRT system does not use new space, our available congested space is just reallocated.

I call on all the Cebuanos to vehemently oppose this BRT project. It is a waste of money and it will ruin Cebu.

MODERN BUSES. There are 77 new modern buses that will serve Cebu — well not really. In reality, it will serve SM malls, shuttling customers to them. The idea is to remove the jeepneys that ply the routes these buses would ply. This has the jeepney drivers up in arms and are protesting against it.

Jeepneys are means of transportation of the 20th century — we are now in the 21st Century. It is about time that these jeepneys go.

There is, however, a big problem by having these buses. I have not yet seen a bus driver who has good road etiquette and discipline. All of them are abusive and certainly do not drive like professionals the way they should. It only takes one abusive bus driver to cause total chaos in our tiny roads. Before we allow these buses to ply our streets, our City government should take the initiative in setting standards for the drivers of these buses. They should be trained and tested. The City should take the initiative as we all know that the LTO and LTFRB are lame ducks.

5 thoughts on “The BRT challenge

  • November 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm
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    Hello Atty.,

    I can’t help but give my 2 cents since I support the BRT because I have always favoured buses more than any land based mass transit (except trains and trams). Since my father taught me how to commute via jeepney during my 4th year HS, (because I was always brought to and picked up from school since grade school), I realised that if everyone can do this, there’ll be less traffic on the road, and more people travelling efficiently from point A to point B. However, it just doesn’t work with jeepneys because they suck. Fast forward to college and a move of residence to the suburbs (in Talisay), I discovered the joy of riding the Ceres bus from school going home with my half German friend, and from SM with the KMK buses. If only every jeepney was removed, and all those who actually can take the bus even if they have a car do the same, I believed then even more that traffic on the road would be reduced. So now here comes news that the BRT project is fully underway and with a sizeable budget, I just can’t help but feel excited because if it works, I would actually ditch my car for these buses when going to the malls, and once the full route is completed, maybe I would even commute all the way to the airport (from Talisay to Mactan mind you). I’m already excited for the 77 SM hybrid buses. Who wouldn’t want to ride a Mercedes/Volvo bus?

    See the thing is, I’ve been feeling lately that a lot of us Cebuanos are hesitant, even attacking the idea of the BRT because, well, we suffer already from horrible traffic most days and we are very reluctant to try something new, especially since our patience is wearing thin. I understand that, but in the case of how you challenged the city and it’s councilors to conduct an inexpensive dry run for the BRT along Osmeña, I think that argument is invalid. Let’s look at the given if we were to actually conduct your “inexpensive” dry run: no. 1: You want to remove all the jeepneys along the route from 4pm to 6pm on a weekday. You’re actually being counter productive on this one because well, you end up stranding behind hundreds and thousands of commuters via jeepney with no alternative! Of course when the BRT is implented, the jeepneys will be removed along its route, but AT LEAST commuters have the alternative already. With your dry run, of course it will fail because there will be no BRT in place, just no jeepneys either. No. 2. Traffic will be at worst because again, there’s no alternative for private car users to use when travelling along this route. Once the BRT is implemented, I’m pretty sure that there will be private car users who will voluntarily take the bus instead, thus reducing private vehicle traffic on the road. Let me guess, you’ll say “Of course during the dry run, we’ll use the existing city buses as the model for the BRT”. No, the existing city buses we have are nothing compared in quality and capacity to the proposed BRT.

    Let’s say we go for your’s, and everyone else’s wish of getting a train or subway for Cebu right away. Guess what, it will still generate heavy traffic! Where do you think cars will go when they’ll build the ramps for the trains? Or digging the subway on the roads? Compared to that, the traffic caused by the BRT’s implementation will be chicken.

    See that’s the thing, many of us Cebuanos and Filipinos are so impatient already that we want to jump to the airplane without taking the taxi first, or going through security because we want to get to where we want to be right away. Mr. Attorney, I’m pretty sure you have had a lot of experiences in life, so please agree with me that MAGIC DOES NOT EXIST. Of course it’s gonna be rough on the first 3 months of the BRT’s implementation. Heck, anything that is new will be rough. A baby born new will be crying a lot for a year. First time sex with a girl will be messy. Nothing in life you want is easy right away so please, I implore you and other anti-BRT Cebuanos out there, give this a chance. Be open minded.

    I maybe 22, young, idealistic and hopefully, but it’s better than being negative and doing nothing.

    Cheers and God bless!

    Reply
  • November 9, 2015 at 10:27 pm
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    Thank God SOMEONE speaks up with common sense around here! Too bad, we need a few more than ONE to speak up!!!

    Reply
  • November 10, 2015 at 6:07 am
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    atty,
    i agree.
    brt is not applicable to our narrow roads…i have my own study regarding mass transport system for metro cebu and i came up with a monorail. but it must go with a mass transit system not a stand alone monorail. there will be city buses to compliment with the monorail, and “upgraded jeepneys” to compliment with buses (upgraded jeepney means it’s airconditioned, electric and operate under an efficient business model). hierarchy of people movers and roads shall be the rule of the game.private cars shall form part of the mass transit network using park and ride system.airport and seaport terminals and provincial bus terminals to link with the monorail. introduce pedestrian alleys which shall be friendly and safe.

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  • November 10, 2015 at 9:30 am
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    The BRT is really a better alternative option to our modern day transport system in our metropolis if only we have wider streets but sad to say with the way how our streets look like I’m pretty sure it will worsen the traffic problem we now have. Our main thorough fares should be modefied to accommodate a new transport system like the BRT.

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  • January 14, 2016 at 10:17 pm
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    I am a retired transportation professional, having worked for New York City Transit for 25 years in the Maintenance & Operations Planning Departments as part of Management. I do have friends in Cebu and I have been there several times.
    I just learned of the Cebu BRTS project and I would love to help in any way I can or in any way I can help the project.

    Reply

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