Traffic solution: Longer operating hours for MRT-3

From February 24 to March 7, the North Avenue station will open at 4:30 am. From March 10 to 21, the Taft Avenue station will close at 11 pm.

OLD HABITS. The month-long test will determine if longer hours will make passengers change old habits or if it "will encourage motorists to take the train instead of their cars." File photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Starting Monday, February 24, the Metro Rail Transit III (MRT-3) will extend its operating hours as part of the goverment’s “program to mitigate the traffic situation” in Metro Manila.

In a statement, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal said the test will run for a month to see “how much passengers are willing to alter their riding habits.”

The MRT-3 currently opens at 5:30 am and closes at 10:30 pm. During the first two weeks of the test, from February 24 to March 7, MRT-3 operations will begin at 4:30 am from the North Avenue station, and 5:00 am from the Taft Avenue station.

Two weeks later, from March 10-21, the MRT-3 “will also extend the evening runs” to 10:30 pm in the North Avenue station and 11:00 pm from the Taft Avenue station.

Sagcal added: “We will also see whether this will encourage motorists to take the train instead of their cars.”

After the month-long testing period, recommendations will be submitted to the DOTC based on “its impact on commuters, daily train maintenance requirements, and the additional cost of operation.”

Maintenance and costs are two big issues, said Sagcal. “For maintenance, the coaches have to be checked every night to ensure safety. As for costs, the testing period will allow us to project how much more we need to spend to make it sustainable over time,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the DOTC said the Philippine National Railways will launch a Special Coach service to travel from Tutuban in Manila to Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

The department said it is also working with LRT-1 and LRT-2 operator Light Rail Transit Authority to think of ways to accommodate more commuters.

The DOTC’s announcements come as Metro Manila motorists and commuters prepare for heavier than usual traffic because of 15 simultaneous major roadworks from 2014 to 2016. The first of the road projects, the Skyway Stage 3, began construction Monday, February 17.

Extending train line operations isn’t the only option being looked into by government. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is thinking about re-opening the Pasig River Ferry System, a move supported by the Maritime Industry Authority

Senator Ralph Recto, meanwhile, urged government to pour funds into reviving the ferry system. –