On Train Fare Hikes: A Commentary

Just as commuters in the metropolis are still feeling the good tidings of Christmas with the recent decision to lower jeepney fares, not to mention a possible lowered fares for taxis and AUVs, there is an impending yang to this present yin as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) announced an increase in the fares for the metropolitan mass transit lines operated by the LRTA (Lines 1 and 2) and MRTC (Line 3 or the EDSA line) effective January 4, 2015.

image of a Line 1 gen 3 train from Skyscrapercity

image of a Line 2 train courtesy of LRTA

image of a Line 3 courtesy of Rappler

The new rates would peg a trip from Roosevelt to Baclaran to P30 from the original P20 via Line 1, Santolan in Pasig to Recto in Manila at P28 from P15 via Line 2, and North Avenue to Taft Avenue at P28 from P15 via Line 3. If you use a stored value card though, you get a P1 discount on the fares.

the new Line 1 fare rates matrix (courtesy of Skyscrapercity)

the new Line 2 fare rates matrix (courtesy of Skyscrapercity)

the new Line 3 fare rates matrix (courtesy of Skyscrapercity)

What a way to start the year, right?

The decision comes at an “interesting” time for the metropolis’ mass transit system as issues like trains reaching its capacities, maintenance issues, not to mention those trains at Line 3 often breaking down, are hounding the system. It also does not help that government seems to be at a loss on what to do even if there are solutions that can be implememented to address them.

But seeing these problems being addressed, even at this late in the game when the problems are becoming too big to handle, is at least better than them not being addressed at all. It is good that government is finally taking one of those necessary steps in addressing the issues.

Yes, increasing the train fare happens to be one of those necessary steps that the Urban Roamer agrees with…to some extent.

Now before you all gang up on the Urban Roamer for siding with the government in what some would say an “unpopulist” stance, allow me to explain and share with you how things work in a mass transit system.

First of all, the mass transit operators (LRTA and MRTC) are not running a charity organization but a business. As a business, they need to make some profit in order to improve on their services like upgrading facilities, add more train units, etc. But for a long time, even as far back to the time they first operated in the case of Line 2 which was 2004, these firms have been charging fares so low that they could not make much profit, even if we count advertising and other sources of revenue. Why is this so? That is because for that long, government has been subsidizing the operators to keep them from charging high fares, all out of pockets of taxpayers not only in Metro Manila but across the country as well.

The government had noble intentions there, no doubt about it. However, these “noble intentions” had serious drawbacks as there were not much improvements made because revenue was short of what is needed to be spent for these improvements. This also puts additional strain on the government which already has stretched itself on other issues it is trying to address. Since the country is a centralized government thanks to the crap constitution of ours, we have people from other parts of the country subsidizing for Metro Manila’s mass transit system while they get little in return. The current rates are also becoming more unrealistic thanks to inflation as rising costs make maintenance of the transit system no longer on sustainable levels. All of this while more and more people are using mass transit as an alternative.

Do we want to solve this issue of queues and shortage of trains? We commuters should make sacrifices in return (image courtesy of Skyscrapercity)

While I have no love for some people in government, especially the current transportation secretary, this does not prevent me from taking a position that a fare increase is a necessary move to help somehow address the problems of our mass transit for so long. If we want it to improve, we have to make the necessary sacrifices. And looking at the proposed fare increases, it is not that bad as some make it to be, though I think the DOTC should have made the increase a bit more gradual to somehow ease the commuters.

But as stressed here earlier, the fare is increase is just ONE of the steps needed to be taken to improve mass transit. We as commuters must be vigilant in making sure the concerned agencies do not stop there. We deserve better, working facilities in our transit system, more trains to serve the public, and most especially, more mass transit lines to cover many parts of the city as possible for better transportation and to ease the worsening traffic on our roads right now.

The future of our city is at stake and we cannot afford anyone to mess this up and plunge the metropolis into further chaos than what it is going through right now. That message goes not only to the government but also those “militant” and “populist” interest groups who have been hampering our development for so long.

4 thoughts on “On Train Fare Hikes: A Commentary

  1. “Crap constitution of ours” – I have to disagree with this one. There was a reason the original authors who drafted the current 1987 Const. (although still flawed with some loopholes) decided to have the country’s form of government a Central one. The main issue is with money. In a central gov., all the taxes that is collected by the LGUs all over the country are given to the central gov. (Malacanang). In turn, Malacanang should supposedly distribute all those trillions of Pesos back to the LGUs equally, meaning the poorer regions gets a bigger share of the pie, since they would need it. This is assuming.

    In a federal government, LGUs (or States) have to acquire their budgets by themselves, so all the taxes they collect, that’s the money they have. Downside to this is that poor regions, such as ARMM or others, will have difficulty collecting taxes, since there’s few businesses and residences to collect taxes from.

    • On the other hand, this would also force the “poorer” regions to step up in their efforts to attract more investors and generate more revenue as such system will make them self-sufficient in the long run. For the meantime, these regions can be administered by the federal government directly to assist them until they become developed enough to be capable to manage on their own. If we want to see economic development in these poorer regions, they at least have a better chance in a evolving federal set-up where they can learn how to manage on their own, not to mention they have a better advantage in knowing the needs of their area as opposed to the central government.

      • I really still think that a central government is much more effective. Of course, it all depends on the people who are being elected. I’ve heard that Iloilo City is greatly benefited with restorations and urban renewal projects because the mayor there is an Aquino ally (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). It’s just speculation though.

        I think there are other ways for regions to become economically developed. Some people say the 60-40% Filipino and Foreign ownership of factories or companies which is stated and required by the consitution has to be amended. The original authors of the 1987 made that revision with intent since the old 1935 const. placed an emphasis on foreign ownership (specifically American).

        However, today, in countries such as China and Thailand, ownership of factories and others can be held 100% by any foreign firm. Some say This is the reason why those countries have been booming economically while ours is lagging. Foreign companies are perhaps much more willing to come to the Phils. if they could own all they invested, 100%. Although I don’t agree with foreign ownership however it seems practical that the filiipino ownership requirement in the consti. could be amended..

        • I am for getting rid of the 60/40 provision in business ownership as well. But to me, it must go hand in hand with giving regions more say in an evolving federalized setup. Besides, evolving federalism will help decongest Metro Manila. (and I’m not talking about the boom in nearby provinces like Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan which basically is just extending Metro Manila outside its borders that would cause problems for these provinces in the future, if not currently)

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