Call it the pains of “success.” Or at least, the people’s pains for MRT’s success. It seems that these days, Metro Rail Transit is always congested. If one doesn’t start riding at either end of the line (either in Baclaran in the South or North Edsa in the opposite end), one would always have to suffer being packed and squeezed like sardines inside the coaches.
It’s not for love of the trains; it’s because a commuter could save lots of time. What takes one hour or two in the bus just takes about 25 minutes in MRT.
But there’s another reason. It’s so cheap: the 25 kilometer stretch just costs P14 pesos (0.32 US cents), probably about a hundred percent cheaper than the bus. And it’s cheap because its subsidized, meaning that people who live in the rural areas are also paying the maintenance and bank amortization of an infra that is being used solely by the dwellers of Metro Manila, a case of the rural folks subsidizing the “richer” urban dwellers.
Also, part of the value added tax that each one pays to the government whenever one eats in restaurants or pays for the grocery goes to the upkeep of the MRT. Isn’t that unfair? Of course, it is! And it’s not really improving the quality of life of the urban commuters because artificial cheapness suggests that it would be congested most of the time, thus lowering each weary commuter’s “ridership quality.”
Solution? Why not charge the true cost of the facility? That way, we free the rural dwellers, especially residents of Mindanao and Visayas, the burden of paying for such a facility that they don’t use. Those who use it should be the ones to pay for it. And of course, when ticket prices are a little bit expensive, more people would think about riding the buses again thus lessening the congestion inside the trains.
Or maybe, government should think about charging variable prices: charges are higher during the peak hours and lower during the non-peak hours so that people would have the incentive to schedule their travel time accordingly.
People do respond to economic incentives.