For most yuppies, the daily travel to work feels like going to war. As soon as you get off the FX, bus, or jeep, and prepare to ride the MRT, you square off your shoulders, pop your knuckles, and put your game face on.
You won’t get to push people until you start going up the stairs. Riding the train means lining up under the heat of the sun, or under the crazy, angry torrents of rain for about 30-45 minutes. When you start getting up the stairs, that’s when things get interesting.
Be careful not to drop anything–your phone, your ticket, your bag, because just about every square inch of the stairs and the platform is full of people.
If you’re a probinsiyano or a new yuppie experiencing this for the first few times, this could be so traumatic, you could just cry in frustration as you watch the never-ending queue of people, and the big clock that screams “you should have been in the office 30 minutes ago!”
While this is the daily reality being faced by yuppies in Metro Manila, here are 6 things I wish the MRT-3 management would do for commuters.
1. Make Stored Value tickets available at convenience stores, malls, and in your suking tindahan.
This makes sense. If by some dumb luck, you forgot to buy a Stored Value ticket when you got off the MRT yesterday, you will need to line up twice! Once to buy your tickets, and then to actually get onto the train platform. If the LRTA and the DOTC could implement this, they would eliminate one queue and everybody would just be going up the train platform.
Macau, Hong Kong, and Singapore already have a centralized payment system for their public transportation. Just buy credits for your prepaid transportation card and you can ride just about any mode of transportation to get you to your destination. In a nation full of topnotch IT talent, this difficult to do?
2. Provide covered walkways for passengers in the queue.
Free umbrellas don’t count. In the summertime, the heat at 6:30 in the morning is almost unbearable. In the rainy season, commuters face the wrath of thunderstorms, Habagat, and Amihan. When you left home in the morning, you smell clean and fresh, but because of the MRT queue, you arrive smelling like 10:00 in the evening and you haven’t even sat in your cubicle yet!
Sometimes you’d wonder if the people who designed the stations of the MRT were drunk when they were designing it. Didn’t they foresee the number of people who would be using it? They should have planned for good waiting area for those who are lining up to go to the station. Makes you wonder, too, if a subway would have been a better system.
Well, we can no longer wish for a subway at this time. Since the MRT3 is what we have, the management should be thinking about the well-being of its customers. Covered walkways and waiting areas could help manage the ire of commuters, or at the very least, it could help them extend their patience.
No budget? Fine! The MRT management could probably ask companies to sponsor those covered walkways. Portable tents or canopies could work. Since the MRT trains also serve as advertisement billboards every now and then, this shouldn’t be that difficult to sell to companies.
3. Maintain old trains.
After one of the MRT coaches overshot the barrier at Taft Avenue station, the finger-pointing promptly began. According to the DOTC, the accident was caused by human error. Poor drivers and operators, they just became the escape goat for this issue.
Whatever the DOTC says, it cannot deny that the train system had been operating in overloaded capacity for some time now, and there is a severe lack of maintenance of the trains.
Philippine star columnist Jarius Bondoc pointed out as early as May this year, that the MRT is a disaster waiting to happen. He even accused former General Manager Al Vitangcol of corruption by awarding the maintenance contract to his uncle-in-law. While a new maintenance contractor has taken over, the maintenance is still very poor to this day.
4. Buy new trains & upgrade systems.
MRT3 needs new trains. More than that though, the overall system needed to operate the MRT3 needs to be upgraded. How many accidents and maintenance issues arose over the past year or so? A lot! This means that the system is in sore need of upgrade. (Read Jarius Bondoc’s May 28 column again to check the list of accidents).
The MRT3 accident that happened on August 13 was totally preventable if maintenance were followed and if new trains were bought. While we, Filipinos, can easily find ways to make something meme-worthy, this is a really serious situation that requires immediate and long-term solution.
5. Love its customers.
I know that love can be such a cheesy word. But then, most commuters who ride the MRT3 power up the offices and industries in Ortigas, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Taguig among others. Most of them are also taxpayers. The MRT management and the DOTC could at least make sure they are somewhat protected from the elements, and that when they travel, they are assured that they will arrive at their destinations in one piece.
As yuppies, we know that the MRT is still a better way to commute than buses. For most yuppies, too, buying a personal car is out of reach. So for the love of God and country, MRT management, DOTC officials and employees, show your customers some love and make them more comfortable!
6. MRT3 managers & DOTC officials, should ride the MRT3 regularly.
For these bureaucrats to know what it feels like to be an MRT commuter, they should take the train regularly! The problem is that most of the top brass of these agencies are so used to traveling in their own comfortable SUVs that they don’t know what the “common Juan & Juana” go through everyday.
They should commute! Period. Maybe if they do, they’d promptly make the changes we sorely need. You can sign this online petition to let ask our government officials to ride the MRT: http://www.change.org/magcommute.
Will the MRT3 issue go the way of many other Philippine issues?
My only worry, though, is that when the next sensational issue comes along, the MRT3 problems will be swept under the rug and it will all be forgotten. Meanwhile, the commuting public will have to bear this problem day after day after day.