Editorial: Leveling up the bus terminals

WHEN can Cebuano commuters avail themselves of better facilities and services at these two major nodes for land travel within the province: the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT) and the Cebu North Bus Terminal (CNBT)?

Offering the most affordable option for commuting within the province and connecting to nearby islands, buses are necessities for those who study or work in Cebu City or Metro Cebu and have their homes in the north or south of Cebu.

Compounding the commuting traffic are domestic and foreign tourists and other transients who either choose to travel by bus or V-Hire for its affordability or desire a unique “local” experience, such as a picturesque land trip through the cities and towns of Cebu.

So the predictability of peak travel periods at the CSBT and the CNBT makes it unacceptable that travelers have come to expect as normal the disorder, delays, inconvenience, and even risks whenever they inevitably use these bus hubs.

These are portals for development to reach the south and north of Cebu through business, tourism, and other investments.

Gliceria, who has worked in Cebu City for more than three decades and still commutes regularly to and fro the southwestern town of Samboan, complains how frequent changes in the management of the CSBT over the years are absorbed by budget travelers like her.

The requirement to secure an entry pass at the terminal entrance so one can proceed to the waiting lounge where the tickets are issued caught off-guard many of those traveling during the recent Christmas season. The “no ticket, no entry” policy was implemented last November to improve security at the CSBT after a passenger complained of losing a bag, reported Rona Joyce T. Fernandez last Dec. 21 in SunStar Cebu.

Authorities’ advice to travel light during the holidays is not possible for town residents like Gliceria, who makes the most of a trip to bring packages from their hometown to the city and then travel back with supplies that can only be purchased in the city. Lugging her packages from the bus bay to the entrance to secure her entry pass and then walking back to the lounge to secure her ticket before finally boarding the bus was additional burden for Gliceria, a senior citizen.

For Marco, the requirement of the gate pass discriminates against CSBT passengers. He urges that the authorities should not only assume that non-passengers with malicious intent to mingle with passengers are the only ones causing the overcrowding at the terminal.

For instance, ambient vendors who board waiting buses and imposing porters should also be regulated by the authorities. Some porters take advantage of women traveling with children, as well as the elderly and confused foreigners, to grab their bags and packages and demand unreasonable fees, points out Marco, a Badian resident.

At both the CSBT and the CNBT, dirty toilets, absence of a professionally run information desk, lack of adequately lighted waiting sheds and working facilities and an orderly system for ingress and egress of people and vehicles generate as much aggravation and anxiety as thieves, hawking vendors, and pushy porters. Orly, a Manila-based businessman who travels regularly to Carmen in the north, believes the terminals should be privatized and finally be upgraded to serve a public that includes entrepreneurs and investors.

The dispersal of investments and economic growth outside of Cebu City and Metro Cebu rests on improving infrastructure and services, such as the twin gateways of the CSBT and the CNBT. Every administration at the Cebu Provincial Capitol claims the bus terminals operate at the level of “world-class standards.”

However, every change of administration brings a revolving door of stopgap measures that incontrovertibly argue for privatization if Cebu’s bus terminals are ever to become assets, not liabilities, in Cebu’s growth.