Transport advancements that bring hope to NCR visitors like me

Published November 13, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



As frequent visitors to Metro Manila, we from the south have a window into what seems to work and fail in its public transport systems.

That said, time was when Metro Manila’s public transport system was such a pain for travellers who get off a hot Manila airport in the middle of the day, wait in line for another hour for the lone taxi service and brave a two hour, expensive trip to a city destination. It would take an average of three hours from airport to hotel, double the time it takes to fly from the farthest domestic destination to Manila.

What makes travel a bit easier for us today is the increased availability of night flights, which allow us to arrive in Metro Manila after the traffic rush hour, and get to our destinations more quickly. The recent night rating of many airports, something we hoped happened long ago has made this possible.

To add, with airport buses and several taxi services to choose from, arriving in Metro Manila is less of a hassle. Traffic going into the city is another story, though.

Air travel is no longer the domain of the affluent, as more than 24 million passengers took flight last year in this country, from 16.6 million in 2010.   In addition, the center for Aviation reports that international passenger traffic to and from the Philippines  has grown by 36%, from 17.92 million in 2014 to 24.43 million in 2017 ( ). This reflects growing income and the increase in foreign tourists that hit a record 6 million in 2017.

With these numbers, better airports and connectivity on the ground matters. If Metro Manila believes it should remain the countrys premier gateway, the good news is that new systems are slowly in place that promise a better Metro Manila travel experience for visitors like us:

Better terminals. The launch of the Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX)  and the coming common terminal on north EDSA represent public transport upgrades that for the first time, put the welfare of the ordinary commuter ahead of the transport operators and the transport groups that for so long have blocked vital reforms from taking place.

PITX is just one of those pragmatic solutions that should have been in place long ago. Having travelled to many major cities in the country multimodal transport hubs have been in place over the last two decades in cities like Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Lucena, Naga, Legazpi and Davao.

More reliable MRTs. The 17 Billion pesos Japanese loan inked to maintain the EDSA  MRT and the deployment of the Dalian trains from China after the necessary adjustments promise faster and more reliable service akin to the LRT lines 1 and 2. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a statement  that with the upgrades, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), expects the number of operating trains to increase from 15 to 20 at peak hours, with time intervals of train arrivals reduced by half from  7 minutes to only three-and-a-half minutes. MRT-3 is also expected to increase its train speed from 30 kilometers per hour to 60 kph.

The expansion  of the the Philippine National Railway (PNR) communter line to Malabon will allow commuters to travel from north of Metro Manila to Calamba Laguna, giving a faster alternative to the three hour long bus ride along EDSA.

The coming Metro Manila Subway and the MRT or LRT extensions to Bulacan and Bacoor, the northrail system to Malolos and Clark all conspire to decongest Metro Manila since many from these areas no longer have to rent living spaces in the Metro. They can go to and from work and home every day.

These long awaited reforms promise a better travel and commute experience for majority of Filipinos who do not own a car. In turn, it will allow many of us to live without needing one. With this, we hope to reduce the volume of vehicular traffic.

Key is the political will to overcome the frequent opposition of interest groups like some vocal bus companies and jeepney operators (and their political backers) who often desire the status quo, however inconvenient it may be for the commuter.

Between the thousands of jeepney and bus drivers and their rich “amo” i’d choose the welfare of the millions of commuters.

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