By Erick A. Fabian
The installment of a fast, cost-effective, and convenient bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Metro Manila can be a significant solution to the traffic congestion in the metropolis. That is, if the government can implement it in a transparent manner, with full disclosure to the public sector.
Otherwise, even a well-intended plan will gather dust in the storerooms of the Department of Transportation and Communications if tainted by corruption, which the government agency has yet to cleanse itself of.
In a press release last July 2, the DOTC announced that one of its many modernization projects will be the creation of BRT systems.
One such project is now being implemented in Cebu, expected to be operational by 2017. The DOTC is confident that eventually, Metro Manila will also have its own BRT system in the future.
DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya admitted that the current bus system is inefficient due to the fact that there are no exclusive and integrated bus lanes. The current BRT system will have those lanes in place.
“Road space is a scarce resource. It is the responsibility of the state to manage this. It’s better to move Filipinos through intelligent buses than cars. The use of BRT requires a paradigm shift. We will bring the BRT to Metro Manila. It will soon be a reality in our neighborhood,” he says.
The BRT system is considered an innovative, high capacity, low-cost public form of transport that can efficiently improve urban mobility.
This permanent, integrated system uses buses or specialized vehicles on roadways or dedicated lanes to quickly and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations, while offering the flexibility to meet transit demand.
BRT systems can easily be customized to community needs and incorporate state-of-the-art, low-cost technologies that result in more passengers and less congestion.
“BRT systems around the world have been successful in mobilizing masses of people in dense urban settings, getting them to their destinations reliably through fixed schedules, efficiently through segregated lanes and priority passage, comfortably and safely through modern, well-equipped buses, and affordably through relatively lower capital costs and maintenance expenditures,” said Abaya.
“BRTs are game-changers. They are as effective as rail systems in terms of moving people around quickly and efficiently, but are much cheaper to build and are faster to develop. Since they will be granted as concessions, their riders will not be at the mercy of ‘colorum’ vehicles or transport strikes. They will be spared from unnecessary disruptions and unsafe traveling conditions,” Abaya noted.
The BRT concept started in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, but the “BRT” name and the system’s popularity did not come until it was introduced in Bogota, Colombia in the year 2000. Currently, there are over two hundred BRT systems either operating or being built worldwide.
There are at least five generally-accepted components for a BRT system:
Modern buses with technical specifications designed precisely for the system, such as bus floors with the same height as station platforms as these would save time for boarding and alighting;
A segregated lane or “busway,” which only BRT buses my ply;
BRT stations at locations identified to be most suited for riders;
Continuously-operating services programmed to meet passenger demands; and Intelligent transport systems or information technologies which ensure the efficient operations of the system, such as automatic signaling which control traffic lights to ensure that the BRT buses are not impeded during trips.
The Country’s First
After obtaining the National Economic Development Authority’s approval last May to construct the country’s first BRT system in Cebu, the DOTC is now proposing a Manila BRT to serve the Quezon Circle-Manila City Hall route.
Both these projects are made possible due to a grant and technical expertise provided by the World Bank.
The DOTC is also considering other possible BRT locations in Metro Manila, with the supposed intention of providing commuters with a modern, safe, convenient, and efficient mass transit bus system which current transport schemes are unable to offer.
If implemented nationwide, and synchronized with the current RORO (roll on, roll off) system, we can expect improvements in public safety, faster travel time for commuters, less road accidents, and more possibilities for the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.
A Safer System
Since BRTs are designed to have their own separate lanes, just like light rail transit trains, road accidents can be expected to decline upon operation.
Most road accidents happen as a result of congested roads and highways, coupled with bad traffic management and undisciplined drivers.
BRTs will have stricter standards in selecting its drivers, and there will be stricter rules to follow so that the system can stay in operation.
Less congestion in our roads will result to better transport of people and goods, and less deterrents to communication systems and industries that rely on roads.
Foreign investors often balk at the idea of investing here because of the terrible state of our road infrastructure.
A simple but functional BRT system is a promising solution to the country’s problems in road maintenance, as only BRT buses will be allowed to use specific lanes, thus lessening the wearing down of public roads.
An efficient transport system is an assurance for investors that the moving of goods and services will be smooth and efficient.
Less Cars, More BRTs
Research after research has proven that too many cars in a crowded metropolis contribute immensely to pollution and global warming.
Global warming experts are advocating for cars that use alternative fuels, but the transition will take some time and development is still considered expensive.
An efficient BRT system will provide an alternative to using cars to get around the city. Since speed limits will be strictly imposed in this system, a reduction of greenhouse gas emission can be expected due to low fuel consumption.
This has been proven to be effective in currently-running BRT systems around the world. As BRT buses are made of newer technology, fuel efficiency can be achieved.
As soon as BRT systems become operational in Metro Manila, we can expect consequential improvements in our infrastructure, and in our economy as a whole.