Dear politicians, we’ve documented our commute so you don’t have to

Dear politicians, we’ve documented our commute so you don’t have to
We need solutions for our transportation woes and we need them fast

Much has been said about commuting in Metro Manila, especially with the ongoing Uber-Grab-LTFRB hullabaloo.

From bad drivers to overcrowded trains, the list of transportation woes doesn’t seem to end.

Many say it’s a problem with policy: the government simply does not manage our transportation system well enough. But how can they, when our policy makers live in a bubble, travel in their posh cars, and are oblivious about the experiences of daily commuters?

There have been calls to require our politicians to take public transportation, and some even did it as publicity stints.

Now we know that would be hard request to make and many of you don’t have the time to take the jeep or ride the MRT. So we’ve decided to document our commute, in 360° photos, hoping that it would give you an idea on what it’s like to commute in Metro Manila.

Manila traffic

We are lucky enough to be able to take the afternoon to evening shift at work. This means that we are spared from the dreaded rush hour traffic. But roads are also congested in other times of the day; it simply is much heavier from 7-9 am and 5-7 pm.

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Traffic in Manila is unpredictable. Commuting is a game of chance. You can try to leave during non-rush hour windows, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get stuck in heavy traffic jams.

Even at noon, we still experience heavy traffic going to the office. The estimated distance from our place in Manila to our office in Kapitolyo, Pasig is just 8 kilometers. During late nights to past midnight, we can go home from work in just around 20 minutes, but earlier in the day, travel time can take up to 2 1/2 hours due to traffic jams and bottlenecks.

There are some days when we have to take the morning shift and travel to work during the busiest times of the day.

The longest time that we’ve been on the road for work was around 3 hours on a UV Express – from 6:30 to 9:30 in the morning. That’s 3 long hours that we could have spent doing something productive. But instead, we were right there sitting inside a cramped FX, praying to any higher being to give us patience.

Now imagine the working majority who have to get through this every single day, reliving this over and over again – as if metro traffic is a part of our own personal hell.

Our daily commute to work

We have 3 options when we take public transportation going to work. We can either 1) ride a jeepney, then a UV Express; 2) ride a tricycle, then a jeepney; or 3) ride a tricycle, take the LRT 2, take the MRT, then a jeepney.

We know that some have to endure a more grueling daily commute than any of these but just to give an example, let us show you a quick comparison of our different commuting scenarios.

OPTION 1: Jeepney + UV Express = P48 pesos

We usually take the first option because it seems more convenient and more affordable compared to our other travel choices. 

The jeepney ride from our home to Quiapo costs only P8 pesos, then the UV Express from Quiapo to Kapitolyo costs P40 pesos. 

When we ride the UV Express from the terminal, we have to pay for a fixed fare – which means we have to pay for the van’s whole trip to Pasig’s center even if we’re already disembarking halfway there. But we still take it nonetheless, instead of hailing a ride mid-route, because it’s the only way we can be guaranteed a seat. 

DAILY COMMUTE. The authors document their commute to work for politicians to see. Photo by Don Kevin Hapal

When you ride from the terminal, you will have to wait for the FX to be filled before it leaves. Take note: Most of the time, it won’t leave until every seat is filled. It doesn’t matter to the drivers if people come in different sizes. When they say the FX can take 10 people, 10 people have to find a way to fit inside, no matter how uncomfortable and cramped it is already. Heck, there have also been reports of drivers being rude against plus-size passengers for taking up more space.

At the terminal, we almost always have to wait up to 40 minutes before we can leave. That’s when we either have to wait for the FX to be filled or endure long lines waiting for a vehicle during rush hour. But then, taking this route is still the more convenient option because after leaving the terminal, the FX can already go straight to our destination without having to take in passengers midway (this is also why hailing FXs outside terminals is hard).

OPTION 2: Tricycle + Jeepney = P68 pesos

On some days, when there are less UV Express vehicles available, we take the second option. A tricycle ride from home costs P50 pesos because for reasons we don’t know, they do not have a fare matrix and every ride is considered a special ride with a special fare. It’s even more expensive than our jeepney ride from Mendiola to Kapitolyo which is just Php18. 

The jeepney’s cheaper fare is a tempting bargain but we still prefer taking the UV Express when possible because of the comfort. Both rides can be crowded and cramped, but at least you get closed windows and air conditioning in the latter (Metro Manila smog isn’t exactly something you’d want to breathe in). 

Personal space? There’s no such thing when you commute, squeezed inside public utility vehicles (PUVs) like sardines in tin cans. (READ: ‘The 15 passengers you’ll meet on a Philippine jeepney‘ )

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When FX drivers say 10 people can fit inside, 10 people will fit inside. But when jeepney drivers say the jeepney can take 14, 16 will ride, with 2 of those (sometimes even 4) standing at the PUJ’s stirrup.

OPTION 3: Tricycle + LRT 2 + MRT + Jeepney = P94 pesos

Our third option when going to work involves more ride transfers as compared with the other two. We seldomly use this option mainly because we dread MRT rides especially during rush hour. 

Gone were the days when train rides mean convenience, efficiency, and better alternative to other existing modes of public transportation. Every day, commuters complain about overcrowded trains and stations. 

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The trains are faster, yes, but the long lines during rush hour will delay your travel also. Every now and then, you’d also see commuters venting their anger against other commuters. When you’re tired from work and forced to squeeze yourself in an overcrowded train, it’s easy to lose your temper. (READ: ‘The MRT Survival Guide‘ )

There are also the occasional delays brought about by the train breaking down. Whenever the trains malfunction, you can already be assured that there’d be traffic everywhere, with commuters having to take alternative modes of transportation.


Safety is an issue when commuting too.

Commuters like us already know better than to bring out our phones and gadgets inside PUVs or put valuables and wallets inside our pockets. Many Manila commuters have experienced crimes, like ‘holdups’ and pickpocketing. In fact, we were careful ourselves about bringing out our camera to take photos for this story.

Bad driving is also a safety problem. Many PUV drivers overspeed and swerve all over the road like daredevils, never mind that it’s making their passengers scared and uncomfortable. 

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Comparing costs

All 3 commuting scenarios are still significantly cheaper than taking a cab or any of the ride-hailing and ride-sharing services available. Taking the public transportation going to work will cost us less than P100 pesos, a faily reasonable price since we are living in one city and working in another.

Without any surge in pricing (which is rare), a GrabCar ride to work costs around P200 pesos. For Uber, it can go as high as P250 pesos. Taking the more affordable alternative, a GrabShare or UberPool ride can cost us around P140 to P150 pesos. During peak hours, travel costs can skyrocket to around P350 to P500 pesos. 

Seeing these huge differences in prices, one would think that taking the public transportation is automatically the better option. But then aside from safety and convenience, time is definitely of huge value. People who are conscious about the value of their time may veer toward spending more on Uber or Grab rides if it means shorter travel time.

But then again, convenient as they are, ride-hailing services are not really an option for many commuters who can only hope and wait for the government to solve their transportation woes.

It’s already 2017 and the Philippines need a better transportation system, and we need it fast. –

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