The long lines of passengers in Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) stations during rush hours show how the Aquino administration may have overlooked the urgency of a problem that was so obvious two to three years ago.
During the morning rush hours, queues stretch for almost one kilometer at the Quezon Avenue-EDSA station, a common sight. Rail passengers also waste nearly two hours lining up to get aboard the trains at the Buendia Avenue-EDSA station after work hours. Almost all MRT commuters have their “horror” stories, which have become common tales lately.
A few years ago, queues outside major MRT stations were less than 500 meters. And such lines were not necessarily a frequent sight. But that should have been enough to alert the government, particularly the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), that something had to be done immediately before things worsen.
Although the DOTC is pushing for the acquisition of new light rail vehicles (LRVs) from China, which momentarily was delayed by a court case filed by the Metro Rail Transit Corp., why the agency wasn’t able to plan improvements to the MRT-3 system since the beginning of the Aquino administration on June 30, 2010 somehow escapes the imagination.
While it is understandable that it will take 18 months or so before the new LRVs from China could be delivered and used by the MRT-3, any DOTC secretary, undersecretary, assistant secretary, director, assistant director or even supervisor would have easily realized that riding the MRT-3 during the rush hours as early as 2010 and 2011 can prove to be a hellish experience. Or should we wonder how insensitive DOTC officials are toward the riders of the MRT-3 because they all ride in their chauffeured cars?
Anyway, it is the DOTC’s own statistics that will bear out that the MRT-3 system is being utilized beyond its rated capacity. The MRT-3’s original capacity is 350,000 passengers per day, but more than 500,000 people ride the train system daily.
Adding insult to the already tormented commuters of the MRT-3 is the seemingly insensitive response of Francis Tolentino, the chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), who last week made a hullabaloo over the opening of more bicycle lanes along EDSA. That was like giving aspirin to a cancer patient.
On the other hand, the local government of Makati City made a sympathetic response by deploying buses that will provide free rides between Quezon City and Makati City. Two buses and four coasters were deployed by Makati City, which is substantial for starters.
How the Aquino administration will address the current woes of tormented MRT-3 passengers remains to be seen. But looking at how the administration allowed the power crisis to worsen, and how the number of jobless people continue to grow, it is best not to expect something substantial from the DOTC and related agencies, including the MMDA.
Last week, the DOTC or the MMDA could have shown some degree of competence in alleviating the woes of MRT-3 passengers, like doing what the Makati City government did. And it was very shameful to both the DOTC and MMDA that Mayor Junjun Binay thought of the solution of deploying buses between Quezon City and his city as a short-term solution.
The DOTC and the MMDA can still do something if only to save the face of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.