Jun 27, 2009

[Metro] 5 and 5 Things About the MRT

North Avenue MRT StationImage via Wikipedia

My move to Cubao has triggered a change in my daily travel routine - the need to use the MRT. You may or may not have noticed the increase in entries about Manila's main public transportation conveyance (at least symbolically) and after about a month of time using the "train" (quotation marks since it's not an actual train in the original sense of the term based on some critics), I've had my fair share of experiences.

It's not that I'm totally new to the MRT, mind you - it's just that now is the first time that I've come to riding the MRT pretty much daily since it's the fastest way between my condo in Cubao and my office in Makati. It's not that bad as a means of travel when you get down to it, although I have to admit I speak from the perspective of somehow who works at night, and thus I only deal with the train schedules (and accompanying human traffic) in reverse to the rest of the "normal" working world.

Now like many other geeks who manifest certain potentially obsessive compulsive behaviors, I kinda figured it would be nice and neat if I just talked about my MRT experiences in sets of five - five things that I love about the MRT and five things I hate about it. Continue on and see if we share the same opinions or not, hehe.

5 Things I Love About the MRT

The Current Fare Structure - When you compare the current rates to the initial rates when the MRT first started, things have certainly come a long way. Before the MRT was an amazing boon to commuters but certainly expensive when it boiled down to daily costs. Compared to the cost of taking the bus or even round-about jeepney-hopping, it was hard to adopt to the MRT in the beginning. The various tweaks to the rates over the years has made the conveyance a lot more accessible to more commuters.

Creative Wraparound Ads - Most forms of public transportation can't help but supplement their revenue with advertising, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. There have been some pretty creative ads placed in the MRT such as creative hand-strap attachments or things plastered on the floors of the station. My favorite ad variations remain to be the complete wraparounds for the cars themselves since there have been some pretty entertaining ones that have come out that usually simulate the riders. When they're not creative, at least they sort of act as tint to diffuse the heat of the sun, so that's still a good thing.

The Free Ride at the End of a Stored Value Ticket - Getting Stored Value tickets are always a smart idea since it means you line up a lot less at the counter. Even better, regardless of how little is left in the card, you burn off the "excess" as a free ride, so your ticket is always good to the last drop, in a manner of speaking.

Free Newspapers - The MRT has resulted in the creation of several simplified newspapers that are purely maintained by ad revenue, starting with the ever classic Libre. Sure, they're not very substantial and even tabloids probably cover more ground but it's a lot better than nothing plus the horoscopes tend to be pretty funny for the most part.

Speed - Of course the best thing about the MRT remains to be the speed in which one can travel across the city. Despite everything else that comes along with it, you just can't beat the trains when it comes to urgently needing to get from one end of EDSA to the other.

Those are the good things - so here are the not-so-good things.

5 Things I Hate About the MRT

People Who Cut In Line - I know, the queues are never very clear, but frankly there still needs to be some sense of order at the stations. However time and time again, there will be those people who choose not to form lines but instead just sort of stand beside you as you wait for the train, even though you're clearly standing on the appropriate yellow marker on the floor. Or they try their luck getting to the escalator. Or they cut in even at the initial bag check. Really, grow up people.

People Who Hoard the Wrist Straps - True, the number of wrist straps hanging from the bars are severely limited. But it doesn't make things better when you're already holding on to the vertical bar near the door and you pull one of the wrist straps closer to you so can grip both. Worse is when you see people holding on to two of the straps even though the train is clearly crowded and people are struggling to maintain their balance.

People Who Do Not Respect Women and the Elderly - I always feel guilty as heck about sitting down when the MRT is crowded. As much as possible I try to make sure any nearby women or people quickly approaching or are already past the senior citizen mark. And yet there are those who forget about the concepts of chivalry and respect and just sit down as they please. Worse are the cases when I see younger folks rushing to the seat in order to deny a much older woman. And don't even get me started on the folks who pretend to be asleep in order to hold onto their seat.

Surfing the MRT - When I have nothing to hold onto given (1) the sheer number of people in the train and (b) my lack of height, I end up trying to master the art of MRT-surfing, which means maintaining my balance in a moving train without holding onto something. Sure, when this happens the train tends to be really packed and thus it's not that much of an issue to fall - someone is bound to act as padding. Still, the experience is terribly uncomfortable and it usually leaves me with sore legs or something.

The Sheer Volume of People - Even though I work nights, I still get my fair share of crowded trains. You can tell that the MRT operators are always concerned with maximizing the number of passengers per train rather than adhering to a set schedule and prioritizing the regularity of trips at certain time intervals. If we either increased the number of trains or even just add a fourth car to each MRT trip, I'm sure it'll make such a difference to the human traffic situation and avoid the ridiculously large build-up of people we tend to see at stations like North Avenue, Cubao and Taft.

With the good and the bad all put together, taking the MRT everyday is a decent experience but definitely more of a necessary one than one I'd get into voluntarily. Still, it beats getting tuck inn EDSA traffic in some bus or taxi cab.

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