If the problems of malfunctioning trains and the alleged corrupt practices of the sacked/resigned general manager of a metropolitan rail transit administering body were not enough woes to the metropolis’ mass transport system, well here comes another one that is surely to make mass transportation “more fun in Metro Manila.”
The issue at stake now is the building of a common station, which is intended to the common terminal for mass rail transit Lines 1 and 3, as well as that of the planned Line 7 which would run all the way to San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan. This would be the vital missing ingredient that was missing that would make at least the current mass transit loop of Lines 1 and 3 complete as at the moment, passengers are deprived of what would have been a convenient transfer between lines.
At the crux of this issue is a dispute as to where it would be located, something that may or may not involve some external forces at play. At stake is the welfare of millions of commuters who will benefit from the convenience or inconvenience of this common station, depending on where it will eventually be built.
The idea of a common station was first proposed back in 2006 by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) around the same time as the construction of the North extension of Line 1 that would link it from its original northern point in Monumento, Caloocan to Line 3 in North Avenue was in full swing.
The original proposal was to have it built right across SM City North EDSA, laid out like this, interconnected as it should be:
The fact that the original plan for the common station was to have it located right across SM City North EDSA made the mall’s developer SM Prime join in the picture as it granted the government PhP 200 million in exchange for the naming rights of the proposed station, similar to what GMA Network did so they can have a Line 3 station named after them instead of having a more sensible station name like “Kamuning-Timog Station.”
Then the project went into what movie studios would call “development hell” as nothing was heard from this project since it was approved by the government’s development body in 2009. One factor at hand was the change in the administration in 2010, not to mention the changes in the DOTC helm for the next 3 years or so as one secretary came and went.
The project came into the light again in 2013, but this time changes have been announced. Remember the SM North EDSA location? Forget it. The DOTC now wants to have that station located where current Line 3 North Avenue Station is located. True interconnectivity and commuter convenience? Might as well forget it too with this new layout the DOTC is proposing:
From the looks of the layout, it seems they will expand the current North Avenue Station to accommodate Line 1 and its passengers but it may no longer have the advantage of convenience the original plan had for both lines. Passengers of the planned Line 7 are more disadvantaged here though as they would have to go through some walkway to ride a Line 1 or Line 3 train instead of having just to take a few steps as it was originally envisioned. As worse as this one is the fact that idea of a common station is now lost in this new proposal as the Line 7 station is not linked to the rest of the system in the truest sense in contrast to the original plan’s setup.
The DOTC defends this new proposal as it would save the government PhP 800 million. But hidden somewhere in the message is the idea as to who will benefit with this new plan: the Ayala group who currently has a mall built conveniently across the North Avenue Station and is currently developing the North Triangle area as a new commercial and business district in Quezon City.
As it would be awkward now that the new common station located right across SM’s competitor would still be named after SM, the DOTC offered to return the PhP 200 million SM paid for the naming rights. But SM is unhappy with this development and insists the DOTC honor its original commitment when the memorandum of agreement was signed for this project in 2009. DOTC later then said the original agreement already lapsed in 2011. SM answered back that they (SM) were not made aware of this provision and it was not stated in the agreement.
To make the long story short, SM decided to go to the court for the government to honor the original plan to build the common station in the area across SM North EDSA. At the time of this writing, the court has yet to decide whether to grant SM the plea for an injunction for the current common station plan.
Some may call it a proxy war of sorts between SM and Ayala but at stake here is the welfare of the millions of commuters taking the mass transit in the country, not to mention the future of Metro Manila’s mass transit system itself.
Some may say SM is acting like a bully as it is trying to stall development. While SM is itself not a saint for many transgressions it has done, in this particular case, the Urban Roamer is going to pull the punches on this one. Sure, SM has its own welfare to uphold in this situation but let us look at the bigger picture at hand and see what is best for the commuting public.
Literally speaking, let us look at this picture and decide for yourself whether SM or DOTC is right in this dispute.
We can only hope that all this will be resolved in the manner that will benefit us all, and not just the parties at play here.
acknowledgements to Skyscrapercity for the information and the graphics used here