Davao City backs Light Rail Transit even as ADB study touts bus scheme

Posted on November 04, 2014

DAVAO CITY -- The local government continues to support the establishment of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system for this city, even though a study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has identified a bus transport scheme as ideal for immediate adoption.

LRT system is seen as a viable solution to Davao’s increasing traffic congestion. -- BW File Photo
Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte went to South Korea last week on a non-official visit during which he met with potential investors who are currently conducting a feasibility study for an LRT system in Davao City.

Mr. Duterte earlier signed a memorandum of agreement with Korea Engineering and Construction Co. (KEC) for the study and possible construction of the transport system under a build-operate-transfer scheme.

KEC officials headed by Professor Chae ll Kwon, chief researcher of the Transportation Study Group of Seoul National University, met with the mayor last June to discuss the proposal.

“Our only option right now is a railway since we have narrow roads, we cannot buy expensive lands for (the) expansion of our roads,” Mr. Duterte said.

Dae Kwon Jung, KEC overseas manager, said Davao could be “one of the terribly trafficked cities” in the future considering its population growth and rapid urbanization.

The city breached the 1.5 million population mark as of the last official census in 2010.

But while Mr. Duterte considers the LRT system as a viable solution to the city’s increasing traffic congestion, he acknowledges that it is a long-term project that can only be completed after his term.

Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Public Transport Reform Strategy for Davao City conducted by consultancy firm Halcrow for ADB provided four options for the city, including conventional bus service, highly prioritized bus system (HPBS), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and LRT.

However, the study concluded that the city is not yet ready for an LRT system.

Halcrow’s Geoff K. Key said the best short-term option for Davao is HPBS given the existing infrastructure and public transport system.

HPBS refers to a scheme in which buses are given priority in the traffic signal system, with the aim of minimizing delay for mass transit vehicles.

“You can forget the BRT or LRT system in the short to medium term considering that it needs at least 25 meters road width, including the system road, compared with the 15 meters available,” Mr. Key said.

The city’s land use plan is also not consistent with high-capacity mass transit systems, he added.

Mr. Key pointed out that the city has had very low investment in public transport infrastructure, with only 1% out of the P5.003 million allotted for the City Investment Programs in 2013.

Halcrow studied the traffic flow along Bankerohan Bridge, a central point in the city, and found that at the busiest time of the day, almost 8,000 public utility jeepneys pass the area with each one carrying 16 to 18 passengers, which is considered inefficient and worsens congestion.

The city currently has a total of 15,115 public transport vehicles, of which 13,985 ply city routes while only 1,130 cover regional routes. Of the total number of public utility vehicles in the city, 7,278 are jeepneys, 3,602 are taxi cabs and 2,105 are motorized tricycles.

Mr. Key said that a conventional bus service can carry a maximum of 60 passengers and can accommodate up to 7,200 passengers per hour per direction. On the other hand, the HPBS has a maximum passenger load of 90 and can accommodate up to 10,800 passengers per hour per direction. -- Carmencita A. Carillo