BRT or LRT? What Say You?

A few weeks ago, the city government jump-started its campaign to educate people about a new mass transit system, which, although probably relatively unknown to most Cebuanos, had already been proven to be very cost-efficient and effective in other parts of the world. I was one of the lucky few who got invited to this seminar which was personally handled by Cebu City’s City Planning and Development Coordinator Sir Nigel Paul Villarete. The BRT seminar didn’t make me an expert, true, but I must say that 90% of my ‘uneducated’ questions about the system were answered.

Just last week, news of the proposal of the implementation of yet another system shocked Cebu. Congressman Gullas so boldly declared that he will bring LRT to this little island of ours.

To daydreamers (like myself. LOL) the possibility is orgasmic. Cebu, a little unknown island with people living their lives quietly, will have a kick-ass mass transit system? That’s one tempting probability.

But before we all make a decision and place our bets, let’s have a deeper understanding of the similarities, differences, advantages, and disadvantages of the two systems.

So which is which? BRT or LRT?


BRT and LRT both operate on two very similar principles. In fact, the two systems are very similar that almost all components necessary to operate the LRT are also necessary to successfully operate the BRT. It is said that the two systems are so alike that you wouldn’t know the difference when you board either of them with your eyes closed.


Extra: SSC-Cebu during the BRT Orientation Seminar held at the Mayor’s Conference Room last September 26, 2009. City planner Sir Paul Nigel Villarete wasn’t in this photo because he left the room for a short while. Hehehe.

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The major component that makes LRT different from BRT is the ‘carrier’ used to move a huge number of people from one point to another. Clearly, LRT utilizes trains. BRT, on the other hand uses buses.

But the list doesn’t end there. Read on for more information.

– The government will have to spend a lot for the construction, maintenance, and operation of LRT terminals and rails. It is said that the 16.8 kilometer-EDSA MRT is subsidized by the Government at US$7.5 billion annually. In short, the entire nation is paying for this annual expenditure which is only being used in the capital. To operate the LRT, $15million to $40 million is needed for every kilometer. To operate the BRT, $500,000 to $15 million is needed per kilometer.

– The proposed LRT will cost P28.94 Billion. The proposed BRT will cost P3.6 Billion.

– BRT will utilize an exclusive bus lane. The system can run on an already existing road. It can also operate on pocket/special/new roads constructed mainly for the system. LRT will utilize an exlusive ‘passageway’ which can be built above or below ground.

– A major component of the BRT is the construction of public walkways and bikeways. The system therefore, gives back to the pedestrian the space that they need and deserve.

– The city government plans to implement BRT in 2013 or 2014.

– New railways will have to be constructed to accommodate the LRT. The initial plan is to build a railway in the middle of Jones Avenue traversing the Fuente circle.

– The rumored initial pilot route of the BRT is from Talamban to Pardo. According to Mr. Villarete, the system will be implemented first in Cebu City to avoid possible delays in case the mayors of Talisay, Mandaue, or Lapulapu refuse to support the plan.

– To maintain the LRT tracks, Geometry trains, x-ray trains, and vacuum trainsare needed. Geometry train check the contour and vibration of the train caused by the track. X-ray trains check for metal fatigue on the rails, like crack and gaps. vacuum trains pick-up garbage on the tracks.



LRT Line 1 in Metro Manila. This photo was taken inside the Monumento Station in Caloocan City. I didn’t know that taking photos inside the station was prohibited. That explains why people were staring at me. Hehe.

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A covered ‘walkway’ which connects LRT Line 1 and LRT Line 2.

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LRT Line 2. After taking this photo, a kind young man told me that picture-taking was prohibited and that my camera could get confiscated. Hehehe.

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The LRT in Marikina City.

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The LRT in action in Taft Avenue.

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A BRT station can look as simple as a bus stop or as lavish as a monorail station. Here is an example of a simple BRT station.

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Passengers waiting inside a BRT Station.

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Most BRT buses look like ordinary buses (size-wise). Some BRT buses, however, can have ‘multiple cars’ and can look like this one in Germany.

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A nice-looking terminal in Xiamen.

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This system makes use of a ‘specially constructed’ busway. Very nice.

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Xiamen BRT in action.

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Passengers boarding the bus.

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A Xiamen BRT terminal at night. Really gorgeous.

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(Photos by @zidlakan of SSC-Cebu, @slerz of SSC-Cebu, me, dpinpin of Flickr, pereira of SSC-Philippines and other SSC-Philippines forumers.)