That’s one of the changes in the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which the Cebu city government hopes to operate by 2015 after securing a World Bank loan.
“The Fuente Osmena Circle would become shared pedestrian-BRT space,” said Colin Brader, lead consultant of an ongoing feasibility study of the new scheme who replied to queries about the impact on the historic park.
“The proposal is that one fourth of the circle (the part next to Elegant Circle Inn) would become shared pedestrian-BRT space. This would mean that pedestrians will be able to access the park in the centre of the circle more easily. This is what is demonstrated in the plan printed yesterday,” he said in an e-mail to Cebu Daily News.
In a map of the BRT route Brader flashed on screen for a media briefing, he showed that an “interchange” would be established in Fuente Osmeña, Cebu Normal University and Ayala Center.
This is separate from “stations” and “terminals” for buses to pick up and unload passengers along a dedicated bus route from Bulacao in the south to the Capitol and further on north to Ayala mall and barangay Talamban.
He explained that “whole of the fourth quarter of the circle will be joined to the shop/hotel frontages that include Hotel Rajah Park so it would feel like a very open space.”
Core members of the Movement for Liveable Cebu (MLC) who were given a briefing earlier this week raised their concern that the park, an icon of Cebu City with its 100-year-old fountain, would be affected by the design of BRT stations that pass through this central location.
Rudy Alix, an MLC convenor, cited “one glaring potential problem on how the BRT will affect traffic around Fuente” and suggested that the BRT scheme should be flexible enough to change routes if needed.
Brader had assured the MLC that “We’ll make sure not to touch the trees,” and that “no significant structures will be destroyed” along the boulevard where designated areas for buses “will be widened to build stations.”
But the landmark park will definitely see dramatic change as a part of the BRT route.
“Fuente circle will remain the same but the roadway around it will be altered,” said Brader, director of the Integrated Transport Planning in the United Kingdom (UK).
The full cost of the BRT has yet to be determined but Brader said a $185 million World Bank loand and $45 million loan from the French development Agency AFD was available to tap.
“It might also be possible that terminals and stations could be funded, at least in part, by the private sector,” said Brader who is the director of the Integrated Transport Planning in the United Kingdom (UK)
Cebu city and the Philippine government have listed the BRT in the priority list of President Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership program.
In the BRT scheme, air-conditioned buses will ply an express route from north to south Cebu City, stopping in desisignated stations built on elevated platforms.
The BRT is being offered as a less-polluting, lower-cost option for mass transit.
Some jeepney routes will be affected, raising fears among jeepney operators and drivers that they would be dsiplaced or suffer a drop in passenger revenue but Brader said the BRT is supposed to result in a net increase of jobs in the transport sector. /Correspondent Tweeny M. Malinao