Most jeepney drivers in Cebu City aren’t even aware of plans to shift to using buses by 2015.
Those who heard about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal said they were never consulted.
“Way ayo na. Kami ang maapektahan (That’s no good. We will be the ones affected.),” said Alberto Flores, who drives a PUJ route 14D between Ayala and Colon.
A feasibility study of the BRT is almost done, and will eventually be proposed for a World Bank loan to build an alternative mass transit system from barangay Bulacao to Talamban starting 2013.
Flores said jeepney drivers know they will be be dislocated in the new scheme even though they weren’t consulted.
“Supak gyud ko niana pero wa man koy mahimo, (I’m against it but I I can’t do anything about it),” he said.
“Private nga mga sakyanan man kasagaran ang maka-traffic pero kami ang maapektahan. (Private cars are the ones mostly to blame for causing heavy traffic but we PUJ drivers are the ones affected),” Flores added.
Paz Osabel, wife of a jeepney driver, said she was alarmed about reports of a BRT and worried about how to support their family of six.
“Lisod kaayo kung naa nay mga bus kay wa nay panginabuhian ang mga jeep driver. (It will be difficult if there will be buses instead because PUJ drivers will lose their livelihood),” she said.
Colin Brader, lead consultant of the BRT feasibility study, told members of the Movement for a Liveable Cebu in a briefing the other day that with the new scheme, travel will be more efficient for more people who won’t have to use cars all the time.
Osmeña Boulevard is one major path of dedicated bus routes that will have elevated station platforms where commuters get on and off a bus.
Brader said proponents in the Cebu city government will ensure work for those who are displaced by the project.
Instead of driving, he said they can work as mechanics for the BRT system thers which requires a different set of skills for the displaced drivers.
When asked about the impact on jeepney drivers, Brader said PUJ routes would be “complemented” by the BRT and some “rerouting” and “refranchising” would happen.
He said “the aim is to ensure work for all those displaced” and that “the BRT will result in a net increase in jobs” but not many details were given about how this would be achieved.
For a daily commuter like Jorie Arcenal, who takes a jeepney from her home in Mandaue to downtown Colon Street in Cebu City, an express bus would be more convenient.
“It’s difficult with PUJs because we have to take multiple rides. With buses, it better because it’s direct,” she told Cebu Daily News.
A BRT would mean getting on and off only at designated stops for a more orderly system.
Concerns like possible higher fare and bus stops discourages Mabel Alusin, a University of the Philippines college student from the BRT system.
She said she would miss the convenience of a PUJ stopping at her exact destination.
“A jeepney is more convenient and cheaper,” she said.
College student Mykah Montilla said she prefers riding a PUJ because “pinoy kaayo” (It’s really Filipno).
Construction of BRT lanes and stations are targeted to start in October 2013 at the earliest with operations to start in 2015.
Jeepney driver Christopher Sayinnga of route 04C said he understands how this would ease traffic congestion.
“Okay raman siya kay makatabang siya para dili na kayo traffic. Pero ang problema kay mawad-an jud mi ug pasahero,” Sayingga said.
The 27-year-old PUJ driver said he would have to look for another job if he can’t support his family under the new bus scheme.
UP Cebu Student Council chairman Carlo Cabatingan said he supports the project.
“There will be less traffic for Metro Cebu, fewer accidents because there are fewer cars. It is also environment-friendly because the buses will not be using 100% diesel. It is also a parallel answer to the growing population of Cebu,” he said.
Jeepney drivers should be considered before anything else, said Jaime Pagilnawawan, chairman for Central Visayas of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan partylist.
“Our sympathy goes to the PUJ drivers because they may lose their jobs,” he said.
“We also understand that they are afraid of the competition with buses or worse, they will be banned from passing their old ctive routes,” he said.
“We can understand that the BRT will give commuters the freedom to choose to ride in jeepneys or the BRT. Whatever their decision is, it’s beyond our control” Paglinawan said.
Though BRT can decrease traffic congestion, the government should do something to cushion the impact on jeepney drivers who would lose their jobs, he said./Correspondents Jose Santino S. Bunachita and Careen L. Malahay