WONDERING where the Ceres buses are?
Since Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, large crowds of commuters have had to wait for two to three hours for a bus at the public transport terminals in malls as well as at Cebu IT Park, raising the risk of transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Eduardo Montealto Jr., Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB 7) regional director, said bus operator Vallacar Transit Inc. (VTI) has mandated around 300 drivers to undergo a refresher training program and drug test following the series of accidents involving its units.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, Montealto said 50 drivers underwent the refresher training program at the same time.
Some 160 drivers have completed the training, he added.
In Mandaue City, Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (Team) executive director Jamaal Calipayan said quality assurance officers from VTI’s head office in Bacolod City came to Cebu to give the drivers a seminar.
All Ceres bus drivers were required to undergo a drug test between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. this week, which explains the few buses after 5 p.m., Calipayan said.
He said VTI executives have assured that their buses will resume operations next week.
No more disruption
Montealto, for his part, said he met with VTI executives to ensure that bus services in Metro Cebu are not disrupted again.
He said he suggested that the drivers be allowed to comply with the new requirements over 30 days and a schedule be arranged so that some drivers are still available to serve the riding public.
The Bacolod-based bus company imposed the requirements on its drivers in a bid to minimize traffic accidents involving its buses.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella met with VTI executives on Tuesday, Nov. 3, to discuss the series of accidents that claimed the lives of three people.
“It’s important to raise awareness on road safety among their drivers. They are now undergoing a seminar because many of their drivers are not from Cebu City so they are not quite familiar with our streets,” Labella said.
Labella noted that there has been no traffic incident involving Ceres buses since their meeting.
“Hopefully, this will continue. During our meeting, they gave us the assurance, commitment like the speed limit,” he added.
More public transport units
In a press conference Friday, Nov. 6, Labella also said he was thinking of allowing more buses to ply the city streets.
He said he was already in contact with some provincial bus operators, but was going to observe the performance of Ceres buses first.
There are a total of 237 Ceres buses that were permitted to ply the city streets in the absence of traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJ) during the community quarantine against Covid-19.
The mayor said he and the VTI executives have agreed to suspend Ceres bus services in case of another traffic incident.
To address concerns of lack of physical distancing among commuters waiting for a ride in the terminals, Labella said he will deploy policemen in these areas.
The mayor was hopeful that allowing over 1,000 TPUJs to resume operations would address the need for additional public transport units.
Earlier, Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco said the TPUJs are expected to resume on Nov. 12.
Meanwhile, Labella said he sees no problem in allowing TPUJs from Mandaue City in the north and Talisay City in the south to enter Cebu City.
But he said he will wait for the recommendation of the task force and the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO).
Calipayan said VTI executives promised to instruct their drivers to stick to the rightmost lane and limit their speed to 30 kilometers per hour (kph).
Calipayan said VTI executives made this commitment in a meeting with representatives of Team and the City Planning and Development Office, and John Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Mayor Jonas Cortes.
Calipayan said these self-imposed guidelines by VTI are expected to prevent deadly traffic incidents.
Calipayan said Team personnel noticed that allowing vehicles to shift from one lane to another causes traffic accidents. The rightmost lane, to which Ceres buses will be restricted, is the slower lane, he added.
The speed limit promised by VTI executives is less than those imposed under the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which are 80 kph on expressways, 40 kph highways, 30 kph on city or municipal roads, and 20 kph on crowded streets.
Calipayan said each Ceres bus has a global positioning system (GPS) that will allow internal monitoring to ensure compliance of the drivers.
He said VTI executives encouraged the Team to apprehend drivers who violate their guidelines. Mandaue City traffic enforcers may also inform the VTI management immediately.
Drivers found violating VTI’s commitments will be removed, Calipayan said.
He said VTI implements a quality assurance and training program for all drivers and conductors.
During the coronavirus pandemic, however, newly hired drivers underwent only the basic seminars. / HBL / KFD / PAC / JJL