Fate of 3 bus rapid transit systems hangs
A cloud of doubt hangs over proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in Metro Manila and Cebu as Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made clear his stand that he was against implementing BRTs on busy roads.
BRT systems—which require a dedicated road as well as specialized buses and stations designed for the quick loading and unloading of passengers—are among the slew of traffic solutions included in the government’s “Build Build Build” initiative.
The three proposed BRT systems, one in Cebu and two in Metro Manila, predate the Duterte administration. These have a combined project value of P53 billion, information posted on the government’s Build Build Build online portal showed.
During the Asia CEO Forum last week, Tugade said BRT systems would worsen already congested roads.
“It is known that I was not inclined to approve a BRT system at Edsa and Cebu,” Tugade said, citing the requirement for a dedicated lane. “Can you dedicate one more lane in a place where there are only three lanes? Can you dedicate a lane in a system like Edsa, where you have six lanes but are already overcrowded?”
He offered some hope for BRT supporters during the same event as he revealed that the aforementioned BRT projects would be reviewed anew. “I have been instructed by a higher authority to get technical consultants and review my position, which they are doing right now,” Tugade said.
Still, prospects that the BRT projects would advance have dimmed given the underlying doubts by the ranking official in the Department of Transportation.
BRT supporters have pointed to comprehensive studies from no less than than the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) on the viability of BRT.
Nigel Villarete, Cebu City administrator, said the Cebu BRT project began prefeasiblity studies in 2009 with the completion of the full study in 2012. The Cebu BRT is a 23-kilometer system running through Bulacao, Ayala and Talamban.
“It has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated by Neda on its technical and economic feasibility and found to be highly viable,” Villarete said in an interview.
BRT supporters also pointed to the National Transport Policy, approved by the Neda Board in September last year. On the issue of road congestion, the policy stated that “high capacity public transport systems shall be the preferred mode in high passenger density corridors.”
Tugade said he would not rule out BRTs entirely, adding that these would be more effective in areas that were “not yet crowded or congested.” He mentioned the New Clark City project as a potential site for a BRT system.
“It is a good system, it can help traffic flow and congestion—just not in a congested area,” Tugade said.
Apart from Cebu are two Metro Manila BRTs. The Metro Manila BRT Line 1 will run 12.3-km from Quezon Memorial Circle to Manila City Hall via Elliptical Road, Quezon Avenue and España Boulevard. The larger Metro Manila BRT Line 2 will span 48.6 km. It will have four main corridors: A main line along Edsa and spur corridors along Ayala Ave. to World Trade Center, Ortigas to Bonifacio Global City, and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
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