The Heartaches (and Headaches) of Being an MRT Passenger

     Let me quote my former dorm mate’s Facebook status – “In the Philippines, you travel half a day just to get to work”.  Sounds overrated but true.

Photo from newsinfo.inquirer.net.

     The MRT (Manila’s Metro Rail Transit) is the fastest way for a commuter like me to get to and from work.  Being accessible to almost all of the business districts in the National Capital Region, it is also one of the most availed by passengers.  Every weekday, one can see hundreds of people lining up in each station.  Depending on the weather and the volume of passengers, one has to wait for fifteen minutes to one and a half hours just to board a train.  And once you get the chance to squeeze yourself in an already fully crowded car, you have to maintain your position (meaning – you have to control your breathing and if you are in an awkward position like being hugged by the person behind or in front of you, you have to stay that way until you get off the train).  I’m serious.  If you think it’s funny, I dare you to try riding the MRT on weekdays.


     It’s Monday today.  As always, I woke up at 5:00am, did my morning rituals (coffee, bathing, dressing up), walked for ten minutes and arrived at Cubao MRT station at 6:45am.  And guess what, it’s already 7:40am and I still can’t board a train!


     For two and a half years, I have been availing of MRT’ services.  Well, travelling with MRT everyday from Mondays through Fridays in more than two years, I can say that I already got used to this system.  I know I sound stupid but I don’t have other choices.  I can take the bus but aside from not being able to sit just like when I ride the MRT, I’m afraid I might puke in the bus.  Yes, I still can’t overcome dizziness when travelling via bus.  I can take some antiemetics.  But to take them every day? Seriously?  I don’t think I can let myself be that dependent to drugs.


     I don’t want to blame anything or anyone with the crowd control issues that the MRT has now.  I just can’t understand why no one seems to take steps to solve the problem.  So I am presenting the following suggestions, hoping that someone charged with governance will come across this post and take an action.


     Suggestion #1.  (I will not take credit for this one. I just overheard this from an already irritated elderly man who was in line for a train.)  Assign doors for the entrance separately from doors for the exit of passengers. Each train has three cars. Each car has five doors – technically, there are ten doors on each car, I counted the doors facing the passengers on each station only.  It has always been a problem when people already inside the train won’t give way to those who are to enter.  We cannot blame them as they are only thinking that they might not be able to get off the train if they compress themselves in.  I myself am doing the same.  It would really be better if designated doors for entrance are different from doors for passenger exit.  MRT’s personnel may assign three doors in each train for the exit and two for the entrance.  In this way, people inside the train will pack themselves together to the exit doors, leaving the entrance doors free for those who are to board the train.


     Suggestion # 2. Have at least twenty-six trains in circulation at any given time.  There are thirteen stations, each with a northbound and a southbound track.  The 26 trains can guarantee that after a train leaves a station, another one will arrive shortly.

     Suggestion # 3.  Have consistent train arrival schedules.  Currently, we have very irregular train arrival schedules.  A train sometimes arrive 5 minutes after the last train left, sometimes it takes ten to fifteen minutes for a train to arrive.  Please do us a favor of making it consistent at three minutes.

     Suggestion # 4.  There should be extra trains available for dispatch should there be malfunctioning trains.   Defective trains really ruin my day! And a train gets out of order about once or twice every week.  Do we really want this to be the norm?  We presently do not have enough trains to service the great volume of people in Metro Manila.  A defective train is the last thing we need.

     So, today, I just have to accept the fact that I am going to be late for the 8:00am cut-off. Too much for an early riser.  You wake up early, get to the MRT station early, and arrive to the office late.  Stressed even before you start working for the day.

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