Rail Lines as Lifeblood of Filipino Commuters
Rail transportation is by far the most efficient way of sending commuters and workers to their offices and destinations. Here in Metro Manila, the rail lines offer the best mode of transportation for our weary workers and students. Commuter trains are fast while travel time is predictable, unlike jeepneys and buses that must navigate the maze of road networks in the metropolis.
Rails, as in other urban centers in the world, provide the fastest and most cost-effective transportation mode for moving huge numbers of commuters. In other nations, a single rail commuter can transport nine times as many people as one traffic lane of cars in just one hour.
Building more roads to accommodate other land transportation modes and the increasing number of Filipino commuters has become an impossible task in the National Capital Region. For instance, in the densely populated urban area between and around Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan, 19 rail lines transport four million people daily. One has to build the equivalent of eight highway lanes in both sides between Japan’s two major cities to match the passenger capacity of the rail system. Space limitations in Metro Manila will easily render the alternative road system unviable.
The popularity of commuter trains in our urban center, however, has made rail fare adjustments sensitive to the common commuter. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. just last week ordered the Department of Transportation to postpone fare increases for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines 1 and 2 “pending a thorough study on the economic impact” to commuters after the agency announced the planned hikes.
I do not blame Mr. Marcos for his directive to the DOTr. In this regime of high inflation, immediately raising the rail fares will be too much for the train commuters. Rail fare is one of the gut issues that the nation’s chief executive must be mindful of.
And the high inflation rate remains a major concern for the Filipinos. Mr. Marcos’s approval ratings not surprisingly dropped four points due to public dissatisfaction over high prices, but he remains popular, per the latest Pulse Asia survey.
The survey found that 78 percent of 1,200 respondents polled in March approved of Marcos’s performance, down from 82 percent he received in November. President Marcos has had to grapple with high inflation after assuming power in June last year. Controlling the costs of living was the top concern of 63 percent of the Pulse Asia survey respondents.
The DOTr complied with the President’s instruction and committed to carefully study the economic repercussions of the increase to passengers of the three major rail lines in Metro Manila, including the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3). The transportation agency on March 27 approved the boarding fare increase of P2.29 and P0.21 per kilometer distance fare for LRT-1 and LRT-2. The boarding fare for both train lines stands at P11 plus P1 per kilometer.
The last approved fare hike for rail lines LRT-2 and MRT-3 was way back in 2015. The LRT-1, which was privatized in 2015, filed petitions for fare adjustments in 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022—all of which, according to Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, were deferred.
The fare hikes will come in due time. As in any other business operation, the rail network needs funds to finance a periodic upgrade and make it efficient and safe for the commuters.
The rail system will continue to be the popular mode of transportation among commuters in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in the near future, judging from the new unsolicited proposals received by the DOTr. The agency reported offers worth a combined P194.05 billion—an 18-kilometer Metro Railway Transit Line 11 between Quezon City and San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan and a 22.5-kilometer C5 MRT 10 project between Quezon City and Parañaque City.
I personally welcome these proposals. They will further modernize our mass transportation system, open new economic opportunities and shorten the travel time of our commuters.
The proposed P81.79-billion MRT 11, per the report of the DOTr, aims to connect Caloocan City and Quezon City to San Jose de Monte City. It may involve the construction of an elevated structure from EDSA in Balintawak, Quezon City passing through Quirino Highway, Novaliches and Zabarte Road in North Caloocan City up to Barangay Gaya-gaya in San Jose del Monte.
The proposed P112.26-billion C5 MRT 10 project, meanwhile, covers about 22.5 kilometers of mostly elevated light railway transit system consisting of 16 stations along Circumferential Road 5 connecting Ninoy Aquino Airport Terminal 3 in Parañaque City to Quezon City. It would end at Commonwealth Avenue, with a possible interchange with MRT 7 at Tandang Sora Station and LRT Line 2 at Aurora Station.
A series of rail networks bodes well for the Philippine economy. They will serve as the lifeblood of students and the working class.