Davao to deploy buses to improve public transport service

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 April) – Air-conditioned buses will be deployed initially this year ahead of the full implementation of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) by 2021 to improve the public transport services in Davao City, Davao City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) head Ivan Cortez said.

Cortez said in an interview on Friday that buses would give reinforcement to the public utility jeepneys (PUJs), which are not enough to accommodate the growing number of commuters in the city.

He added that several passengers would find it difficult to get a ride while some of them would have to wait for an hour only to squeeze themselves inside PUJs during peak hours, suggesting that the current public transport service is “lacking and there’s a need to add additional public transport in the area.”

He said that Mayor Sara Duterte wants to hasten the deployment of bus service to give the passengers a comfortable ride, so that they would no longer have to suffer from the long waiting time either during the heat or heavy rain.

Cortez said the number of buses that would be deployed would have to be determined as they have yet to receive a copy of the study conducted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on the city’s public transport system by first week of May 2018.

He said they would utilize the result of JICA’s study on public transport because it is costly to conduct another survey and would delay the deployment of buses to provide comfort to the commuters.

The JICA’s traffic study, Cortez said, would identify how many fleets are needed to cater to the current demand, he said.

He noted that the city government wants the “right amount of bus service,” explaining an excessive number of buses might not be sustainable on the part of the bus operators.

“We want people to get a feel of how it is to really utilize the bus already,” Cortez said.

He added that they would designate pick-up and drop-off points at the suggested bus stations for the HPBS as they want to instill discipline among drivers and passengers where to alight and to get used to the specific bus schedule so that they will not worsen the traffic condition.

There are three local bus companies who expressed interest to provide the buses but Cortez said these would have to be assessed which of them can be allowed to provide the bus service.

“Let’s employ fairness in terms of choosing which one. They will undergo a proper process,” he added.

Cortez said the bus companies should comply with the standards of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

He said LTFRB would decide on the bus fares at slightly higher rates compared to PUJs but “you will not exchange comfort for a few pesos.”

The official said the additional buses may initially cause traffic congestion since these would add to the number of vehicles plying the streets but would also decongest traffic if they could attract the private car owners, who drive 80 percent of the vehicles on the streets, to utilize the buses.

If the buses would be able to stick to its routine and can provide efficient service, Cortez believes these would encourage car owners to take the bus ride to and from work.

“If the public will see that services of buses are reliable, that they will arrive at the station at this time and that they will get to their destination at this time, if that becomes the practice and if the bus company will be able to comply, the people will remember that. Thus, instead of using their cars, they will take the bus instead,” he said.

The ultimate aim in modernizing the city’s transport system, Cortez said, is to get the private car owners to utilize the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded HPBS where modern buses would be deployed to the streets.

The routes of the buses would be aligned to the 29 routes as suggested for the HPBS implementation, Cortez said.

The ADB has set aside a budget of $70 million or P3.644 billion for the HPBS, also called as the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project, to improve public transport infrastructures and services in the city.

During 51st ADB Annual Meeting and Economic Briefing on Friday at the SMX Convention Center on March 9, Kelly Bird, country director of ADB Philippines, said that they are completing the design of this new bus system and that they are eyeing to complete this year for submission to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) board for approval this year.

“There’s a little bit of work to do because when you are modernizing public transport system, it’s a lot of details, a lot of issues to think about. We’ve gone through that now, so we are looking at what those bus terminals can look like,” he said.

Bird added that they are also making a study of the project’s impact on the community.

“We still got this technical work to complete. We are certainly focused on it and we are aware of the government’s timeline, we hope we will get that to the NEDA board this year,” Bird added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)