‘Extend MRT hours, buy more coaches’

Ayee Macaraig

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Senator Ralph Recto urges the DOTC to extend MRT 3 hours until midnight to decongest the rail system

TIL MIDNIGHT? Senator Ralph Recto urges the DOTC to extend MRT 3 hours until midnight to decongest the rail system. File photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – When will the hour-long wait, pushing and shoving, and cramped train rides ever end?

Senator Ralph Recto called on the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to further extend the hours of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 along EDSA to midnight, and to adopt other measures to ease the plight of commuters.

The senator said that while the DOTC awaits the full delivery of new MRT coaches from a Chinese firm in 2016, it should look for other ways to decongest the rail system.

Recto said one option is for the DOTC to extend MRT 3 trips to midnight.

Last February 24, the department began a month-long test extending the MRT hours. From 5:30 am to 10:30 pm, the schedule was extended to 4:30 am to 10:30 pm from the North Avenue station, and 5 am to 10:30 pm from the Taft Avenue station for February 24 to March 7.

From March 10 to 21, the MRT will extend evening hours up to 11:00 pm from the Taft Avenue station.

Courtesy: Official Gazette

“By extending its operating hours by just one hour, the MRT 3 can theoretically field 20 more trips, and thus carry 23,640 more passengers per direction. Even if just 8 trips will be put in service during the extended period, they can still carry what 200 buses can,” Recto said in a statement on Friday, February 28.

At the start of the extended hours on Monday, commuters still had to bear with long lines and delays due to equipment that bogged down. The DOTC said it is testing the extended hours and will assess its impact on consumers, maintenance requirements, and additional cost of operation.

Besides extending hours, Recto said the DOTC should evaluate the viability of ordering more coaches called light rail vehicles (LRVs)

On Monday, the DOTC announced that it gave Dailan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company of China the go-signal to supply 48 LRVs for the MRT 3. A Makati Regional Trial Court junked an injunction case filed by the Manuel V Pangilinan group, which controls MRT 3 operator Metro Rail Transit Corporation.

“When the 48 new LRVs will be put in service, they will increase the number of hourly trips from 20 to 24. Because the system can handle one trip every two minutes, or 30 in an hour, then there is room for more trains,” Recto said.

The former socio-economic planning secretary said that if the DOTC decides to purchase more coaches, it can already include the proposal in preparations for the 2015 national budget.

“My point is they might buy additional coaches in 2017 or 2018 yet. If they can buy earlier, resolve the ownership and buyout issues early, then we can also place orders earlier and not always get delayed,” he added.

Motorists and commuters press the government to find ways to improve public transportation as 15 simultaneous major projects from 2014 to 2016 aggravate Metro Manila’s notorious traffic jams.

DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said new coaches should have been bought for the MRT 3 back in 2007. He said the system is operating at over capacity, with the MRT carrying 600,000 passengers a day, way above its design capacity of 350,000.  

Increase stored value, buy tents

Recto also urged the DOTC to study increasing the stored value in MRT cards now set at P100. “A higher load means fewer trips and shorter lines to the ticket booth.”

To help commuters stuck in lines coiling around sidewalks below MRT stations, Recto said the MRT management must buy tents to “shield passengers from rain in the coming monsoon months.”

Netizens snapped photos of lines at the Quezon Avenue station in Quezon City extending all the way to Mother Ignacia Street.

Other suggestions Recto gave are:

  • Ensuring that the MRT tracks and equipment are properly maintained because “bog downs and technical problems” are passengers’ biggest source of inconvenience
  • Pursuing plans of stepping up rail grinding and replacement projects
  • Maintaining air conditioners of MRT coaches, especially in the summer months so they do not become “a moving steam bath”
  • Beefing up security in MRT stations and ensuring these are well lit
  • Ensuring clean toilets, functioning elevators and escalators, especially for senior citizens and persons with disabilities

Hindi mo naman siguro kailangan pang bumili ng gripo sa China para may tubig ang mga banyo,” Recto retorted. (I don’t think you need to buy faucets from China so our toilets will have water.)

The senator’s suggestions for MRT operations are the latest of his proposals to fix the public transportation system. Earlier, he proposed reviving the Pasig River ferry service, giving incentives to ferry services, and adding Philippine National Railways trains. – Rappler.com 

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