Monday, October 26, 2009

THE "NEW" CEBU SOUTH BUS TERMINAL: A Rough Gem in the Making

IT WAS IN THE night of September 22, 2009 when Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and I, for a change, visited the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Operated by the Cebu Provincial Government, it is located along the Natalio Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City and is in close proximity with the offices of the Land Transportation Office, CITOM and the Bureau of Fire Protection. It is the gateway to the south and west of Cebu Province.

Well, we kind of liked the idea of observing the new system put in place in the said terminal a week after its inaugural. The brainchild of the governor's brother and security consultant, Byron Garcia, it is patterned after the system used in airports and modern seaports. Yet within that span of one week there have been already numerous flak reports and unkind commentaries attributed to the new system in the local newspapers, in radio programs and in

Boy T drove the car through the vehicle entrance and we paid ten pesos after the gate sentries checked the baggage and inside compartments. We taxi on the main thoroughfare after that and parked on a parking bay reserved for buses plying the route for the cities of Dumaguete, San Carlos and Bacolod in Negros and Tacloban City in Leyte. It wasn't busy at that hour the parking bay vacant and a courteous guard allowed us the use the area temporarily.

The bus terminal has two separate entrances for both pedestrians and vehicles and the same number of exits. People on foot seeking access to the terminal as commuters or as send-off and welcoming parties pay five pesos and allowed the free use of the airconditioned departure-lounge areas, clean toilets and lavatories, electric fans and TV sets. There are three of these dedicated for passengers of small buses bound for Carcar and Sibonga; for medium buses bound for Santander and Samboan; for big buses bound for Negros and Leyte; and all are well-lighted.

Each of these departure lounges are built with clear glass panels and doors. There is one glass entrance for each and several numbered exit glass doors which are kept locked until a paging system announces the availability of a bus in the parking bay and a gate is opened. Nobody is allowed to loiter outside of these lounges and it brought the chances of vehicular accidents to a nil. Really, the feeling is it's as if you are into an airport terminal You hear an announcer's voice, then passengers queuing for the door and out into the parking bay where priority numbers are checked and bus closes door prior to departure.

Along the passageways are food shops, bakeries, refreshment and pizza parlours, even an Internet cafe. Gone are the topsy-turvy days and chaotic conditions brought on by ambulant vendors, street barkers and suspicious characters lurking all over the terminal. Embarkation are done only inside in an orderly manner and passengers opting to board the buses elsewhere are discouraged. The closure of bus doors during departure have forbidden the old system to seep in and that caused resentment to those who are being inconvenienced by this innovation.

Buses are timed during boarding and parking time. Bus drivers, conductors, dispatchers and porters are encouraged to wear uniforms and shoes. Sidewalks are cleared of vendors ensuring smooth flow of pedestrians to and fro the terminal. Security guards are all over the place ensuring a safe environment. We saw a platoon of them on formation in the center of the terminal and they wore shiny black shoes and reflectorized traffic vests and they looked snappy. Surely, the Cebu South Bus Terminal today is a different animal from the ones we have known. All are in order. Maybe.

However, as much as we liked the new system employed in our bus terminal, we deem it as a patriotic duty if maybe we could add some suggestions and ideas that would help shave off the coarse edges of this rough gem. Thousands of people come and go by way of the Cebu South Bus Terminal and, most of these, either go to work or study in Metro Cebu. About a fifth belonged to the aged and, mostly, they are half-educated and could not comprehend better the announcements given in English. Most likely, they will be confused and be left behind or going the other way. It is suggested that Cebuano should also be used in informing the commuters.

Everytime a bus is available for departure, we recommend that the bus flash its hazard lights on the loading bay to signify its purpose. A system of flashing lights should also be installed above the exit doors in the departure lounges and these should be switched on to stand for its function – that of guiding the commuters where would they queue or go to. A flashing green or orange light will invite attention to a waiting commuter above the din of noise and crowded rooms.

The present garbage bins are inadequate for the volume of garbage thrown or left behind by passengers inside the bus which, in turn, are collected by bus conductors and left on the parking pavements of the terminal when no one is looking. These plastic bottles and shopping bags are an eyesore to visitors especially if they are left to the mercy of the wind and carried elsewhere.

A covered sidewalk is a good compliment for the terminal during extremely busy days especially on a Lenten season and other important dates and activities wherein not everyone could be accommodated at the same time. Bus line operators should be encouraged to sell their tickets outside or to contract booking offices so as to decongest the terminal. Holders of bus tickets shall then be given priority over “chance” passengers (those that have no tickets yet) in entering the bus terminal.

The lighting system in the center parking areas and in the corners are inadequate. Conditions such as this is conducive to littering and people urinating in partly hidden areas to save the trouble of paying for the use of public toilets. We thought it would also help if a big digital clock is installed somewhere conspicuous where terminal administrators, drivers, dispatchers, commuters and security guards won't get into verbal jousts because of different versions of time.

In the final analysis, the Cebu South Bus Terminal have gone a long way since it was established long ago. The old chaotic system has to go and a better one is put in place. Those unfavorable remarks are maybe fruits borne from a frustrated mind. We just have to change our mindsets and adapt and follow the new system and get rid of a stressful disposition. Love it or leave it – that's what we can advise the critics.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

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