The MRT is crappy and expensive but I still choose to ride it


Okay, here it goes: I actually thought that the fare increase in Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit lines 1 and 2 was long overdue and should have been done a long time ago.

As a bright-eyed, optimistic fresh grad from the State University, my opinion is largely unpopular; cynicism should take over, and the working class must come first in matters like these. But according to data, Metro Manila train lines actually got the highest budget subsidy out of all the transport industries in 2012—and they only benefit those that live in Manila. People outside Luzon complain: Why on earth should we subsidize their transportation fares? We don’t even have train systems in our areas.

I thought that increased fares would entail the government to give less subsidies to trains, and more to other basic social services, such as health and education, therefore benefiting more Filipinos, instead of just those in Metro Manila.

Now this is my oversimplistic way of thinking: I’m assuming that everything the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) earns from the fare increase goes to improvement of facilities and additional train cars.

But apparently not. In a news article, DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya revealed that they will actually go to private concessionaires that own the train lines.

My optimistic self ballooned up to a Hulk, and all hopes I pinned on the MRT and LRT crumbled like cookies.

As a child, riding the trains was a spectacle of sorts. Since a majority of my years were spent in the constraints of the north, overflowing buses that ply the 16-lane Commonwealth Avenue were my nightmares. Pickpockets and hold-uppers were my Freddy Kruegers.

I listened to my college friends’ MRT horror stories in awe, as they arrived, exhausted from their commute, in our org tambayan. With every story they told, I let out a big thank-God-I-don’t-ride-the-MRT sigh of relief.

But in an interesting plot twist, I now find myself riding the overcrowded train everyday, dodging those that cut in line just to get inside a train car.

Queueing at the platform, I usually ask myself why the Filipino worker, in spite of the back-breaking labor he must endure just to earn a decent living, has to go through the misery that is the MRT during rush hour.

I honestly thought that the fare increase is the answer to our nightmare rides. Sure, it came out of nowhere, and a lot of people who ride it won’t be able to afford the new fares since, for ordinary workers, spending PHP 10 more per train ride amounts to a hefty sum. But if the fares will be used to fund better facilities, then it will benefit us in the long run, right?

Despite its second day of operation with the new fares, the MRT was still crowded with people who make-do with the poor trains. After all, despite the constant break-downs and kilometric lines that form outside the stations, the MRT is still the fastest and cheapest way to go around Metro Manila. An MRT ticket from North Avenue to Ayala now costs PHP 24. The train ride lasts 30-40 minutes, not counting the time spent outside the station and on the platform. A bus ride with a similar route costs PHP 30 and a lifetime on EDSA.

If the trains were well-maintained in the first place, with constant rehabilitation and check-ups, then the public need not endure being squeezed inside a packed train at a steep price. If the riding public were offered more options, then commuting would be a breeze.

But this isn’t the current case. You can only choose between being squished against a dirty train window, or being stuck in EDSA traffic, gathering dust. MRT it is, fare hike and all.

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