World Bank approves loan for Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project

THE World Bank gave its nod on Saturday for the $141-million financial package for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (Cebu BRT) Project.

The financial package, consisting of loans from the World Bank ($116 million) and the Clean Technology Fund or CTF ($25 million), will help finance the construction of a 23-kilometer BRT system along a major transport corridor in Cebu City in central Philippines, the Washington-based lending agency said in a statement. The Philippine government will provide counterpart financing for the project amounting to US$87.5 million.

The corridor spans from Bulacao to Talamban in the city and will include transit ways, stations, terminals, a depot and other facilities.

“The World Bank Group is supporting this project because we believe its impact is going to be far-reaching and transformational not only for Cebu but for the country as a whole,” said World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi.

“When successfully implemented, Cebu BRT will provide an on-the-ground demonstration of how this system can address people’s need for a reliable, efficient and comfortable transport – something that other cities in the Philippines and beyond can learn from.”

Expected to carry 330,000 passengers daily, the new BRT system will improve mobility of Cebu residents while reducing pollution and increasing travel safety. Like trains, BRT runs on its own dedicated lanes, carrying large numbers of travelers faster, safer and more reliably. Unlike trains that run on rails, BRT uses buses, making the system simpler and cheaper to construct, operate, and maintain.

The project will also install a state-of-the-art computerized traffic management system in the entire city to ensure smoother overall traffic flow and will provide other improvements to integrate the BRT with other modes of transport.

Pioneered by the Brazilians in Curitiba in 1974, BRT systems are growing in popularity throughout the world for their efficiency and affordability. From Bogotá to Boston, Cleveland to Curitiba, Hartford to Honolulu, Las Vegas to Los Angeles, Oakland to Ottawa, Pittsburgh to Porto Alegre, São Paulo to Sydney, and Ahmedabad to Jakarta, over 150 cities operate or are developing BRT.

“BRT is an integrated system of facilities, equipment, services, and amenities that collectively provides high-quality, high-performance rapid transit. It is capable of producing a high level of performance and quality of service comparable to or even better than a much costlier surface tram or light rail transit system. Part of the reason for BRT’s cost-effectiveness is that it can be built quickly using local labor and materials,” said Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

The project’s affordability, both in terms of initial capital and ongoing operations and maintenance spending, is particularly important in a rapidly growing growth center like Metro Cebu with other pressing needs, he said.

“We Cebuanos are proud to have the first BRT in the country, a system that has proven to be effective in providing safer, faster, and more comfortable mode of transport to millions of commuters in many cities in both developing and developed countries,” said Cebu Mayor Michael Rama.

“Savings in travel time, reduction in pollution, and lesser number of traffic accidents will make Metro Cebu an even more vibrant and pleasant home for residents, tourists, and business people to live, invest and create more jobs.”

Rama said that the project can be easily expanded and upgraded over time as land use in the city evolves, demand grows, and more funding becomes available.

With a population of 2.5 million, Metro Cebu serves as the regional, financial, and administrative center of the Central Visayas Region. The metropolitan area is home to an increasing number of high- technology firms and supports a thriving tourism industry in the region.

With rising incomes, Cebuanos are buying more motor vehicles, resulting in traffic congestion, rising number of traffic accidents, increasing air and noise pollution, and more emissions of harmful gases that contribute to climate change. The new BRT system will help Metro Cebu address these challenges. As an example, the new BRT system is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 115,000 metric tons per year by 2020 and 192,000 tons by 2025.

In addition to transport and global climate change benefits, Cebu BRT will also help improve the health of Cebu residents. International experience in implementing BRT has shown that a well-designed and operated BRT could reduce airborne pollutants, air toxics, and road accidents.

This is made possible by improved vehicle technologies with better emission controls; separate bus-only lanes meaning fewer conflicts with general traffic; and improved sidewalks and protected street crossings providing safer pedestrian access.

The Cebu City government started discussions on the proposed BRT system to address Cebu’s transport challenges during the time of then Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

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