5 Solutions to MRT-3 Rush Hour Sardines-Packed Trains


Update 23 July 2012: The color-scheme and official name were changed for all three lines. What was formerly known as Blue Line, which was formerly known as MRT-3 or Metrostar Express, is now known officially as Yellow Line.

What was formerly known as Yellow Line, which was formerly known as LRT-1 or Metrorail, is now known officially as Green Line.

See this post for more information.

Dear President Noynoy Aquino and Vice-President Jojo Binay, as the new President and Vice-President of the Republic of the Philippines respectively, I, JC John Sese Cuneta, on behalf of the other patrons of the Blue Line railway system (formerly MRT-3) am submitting to you ideas on how to ease the worst-than-sardines-packed rush hour problem plaguing the Blue Line.

Here is the current situation:

Rush hour. You ride the Blue Line railway system (formerly known as MRT-3). You are at the North bound platform, second station. The platform is jam-packed already. It is 5:00 in the afternoon, the sky is still bright.

The train arrives, as we Filipinos call it, it is sardines-packed. You failed to board the first train. The second train arrives, sardines-packed again. Fail. The third, the fourth, and by this time everyone on the platform are pushing everybody out of the way just to board an already sardines-packed train.

They pushed you and you realized you only have two options – [1] ask for a refund and go cool yourself somewhere near and try again a few hours later; or [2] start pushing people as well. You chose the second option, you waited for four trains you told yourself that it will be such a waste of time and effort not to join the pushing frenzy.

Fifth train, sixth train, and finally success shined on you on the seventh train but not without getting yourself closer to death because of the pushing frenzy. You are now inside a North bound train. A worst-than-sardines-packed North bound train.

Familiar? Should be for those who rides the Blue Line (f. MRT-3) during rush hour. But the Blue Line administration seems to be blind and deaf of the situation even though they have plenty of eyes – human and technological – at every station. I can’t help but say here that they care only about earning more or getting back their investments faster. Why? There are ideas that they can implement and they still have not done so!

Idea #1: Add a new car to every train

Add new cars! All the Blue Line stations were built with an allowance for one (or two?) new car. Check it yourself, there is enough space at the end of a train when it stops at any Blue Line station. During rush hour that additional car will help in moving people faster and getting people out of the stations.

Of course, this will mean:

  • Additional electricity consumption
  • Additional maintenance
  • Lesser car reserves, which could mean
  • The need to buy more new cars (or parts), which could end up
  • As a price hike for everyone

But with the number of people commuting via the Blue Line railway system during rush hour, from my perspective it is already justified. Do we have to wait when the number of people goes up to something the stations can not handle anymore?

Yes, this will not solve the sardines-packed issue but it will lessen or shorten the time period when the trains are worst-than-sardines-packed. Our main objective here is to ease out the sardines-packed situation. Spread the passengers, get them off the stations and get them to their dropping-off stations quickly. The less people waiting, the shorter the worst-than-sardines-packed trains rush hour will be.

Ayala Station

Idea #2: Create Cubao-to-North only trains

I am sure the Blue Line management have enough data of the passengers they have on every station. They can easily identify which stations attract the most number of Cubao bound passengers. Using that information, they can assign certain trains to be exclusive to passengers headed to Cubao. These trains will only stop at stations receiving plenty of Cubao-bound passengers.

Example, a Cubao train will only open its doors at Taft Avenue, Magallanes, and Ayala stations. The next stop of the train will be from Cubao to North Avenue stations. Again, this will help move the passengers faster and keep those stations from getting over-crowded for longer periods of time.

Idea #3: Implement an Odd-Even scheme

Why not? Trains will be restricted to certain stations only during rush hour. Here’s an example list of stations:

Odd stations:

  • Taft Avenue
  • Ayala
  • Buendia
  • Guadalupe
  • Boni
  • Shaw Boulevard
  • Santolan
  • Cubao
  • Kamuning
  • North Avenue
  • SM City North (opens on November 2010, as was last reported)

Even stations:

  • Taft Avenue
  • Magallanes
  • Ayala
  • Buendia
  • Boni
  • Shaw Boulevard
  • Ortigas
  • Cubao
  • Quezon Avenue
  • SM City North (temporarily North Avenue)

Stations in italics are special stations, here are the details:

  • Taft Avenue station is the Southern terminus of the Blue Line system and should be accessible to both Odd and Even trains
  • Ayala, Buendia, Boni, Shaw Boulevard, and Cubao stations were built in a way that allows the passengers to transfer to the other platform freely (meaning without the guards getting angry at you), and as such should be accessible to both Odd and Even trains
  • North Avenue stations is the current Northern terminus of the Blue Line system, but once the SM City North station opens, North Avenue should not be accessible for the Even trains

In total, the Odd trains will have open doors in 11 stations while the Even trains will only open doors in 10 stations. Passengers boarding at an Even station can transfer to an Odd train via Taft Avenue, Ayala, Buendia, Boni, Shaw Boulevard, Cubao, and SM City North stations so he can reach his Odd station destination and vice versa.

Idea #4: Keep the Trains Rolling

This is the most obvious one of all and I do not understand why the Blue Line management have not done anything to minimize this issue – the gap between trains are too far and wide. Spreading out the arrival time of trains during normal hours is fine and in fact advisable to minimize operational expenses. But during rush hour?

It is almost too often that I noticed we have to wait at least 5 (worse 10) minutes for the next train to arrive. Because of this long waiting at the stations, the number of people at the platform gets bigger only. Imagine the horror when we the passengers at the second station sees that the newly arrived train is already worst-than-sardines-packed.

Why is that? Because when the South bound train arrived at the Southern terminus (Taft Avenue station) it was already jam-packed. The train driver or pilot have to go through shutting down procedures, walk to the other end of his train, and go through start up procedures. By the time he is ready to close the doors of his trains, it is already, again, worst-than-sardines-packed.

The idea here is, before rush hour begins the arrival time of each train should be lower or earlier than normal already. This will help in slowing down the number of people waiting at each station. Extend the waiting time a little bit longer and you get a domino effect at every major station.

{image no longer available}
Buendia Station

Idea #5: Control the Number of people entering the platform

The Yellow Line (formerly LRT/LRT-1) did this before (and I think they’re still doing this today). The Yellow Line people are quick, as-in Q-U-I-C-K to control the number of people on the platforms. Just before rush hour begins, they have people already stationed at the station entry points controlling the people. Then they also have people stations at the platform entry points, again to control the number of people, which acts like a buffer.

Now in the Blue Line, they do not have such practices. They will only closed down entry if and only the guard calls the station supervisor or the station supervisor noticed it on his/her monitor screen (which probably most of the time s/he isn’t watching). I’m not only talking about the Magalles station, it happens in Ayala and Shaw Boulevard stations too.

I salute the Yellow Line employees for being quick. Maybe the Blue Line management and their employees should train first under the Yellow Line team. They know how to minimize the worst-than-sardines-packed situations. They have the initiative to make sure that every one already in the platform area can board the train before allowing a new batch of passengers.

Closing words…

All these solutions should only be implemented during rush hour. It was meant to alleviate the worst-than-sardines-packed situation that many of us are experiencing. One or two can be combined for a more effective dispersal and faster movement of the passengers. (Or maybe even 3!)

The number of passengers will only grow, that we can all agree. But there is no need to wait for it to become so large it won’t be easy to manage before we take action. There is no need to wait for someone to get killed because of the pushing frenzy before we take action. Just like me, I am sure the other passengers have witnessed numerous times how individuals and even groups of people almost ended up crushing each other’s skulls.

Not to mention, the guards at the platform area can not do anything about people standing on the “yellow line” or the edge of the platform – there is just too much people! Don’t expect the guard to walk at the edge of the platform just so he can push them back lest he himself falls on the rails or something.

The time to implement these ideas, these solutions, is N-O-W. I’m sure you already have these ideas on your plate for a long time, time to dust it off and bring it back on the table.

Thank you very much for reading Mr. President Noynoy Aquino, Mr. Vice-President Jojo Binay, and the Blue Line team.

Image Sources:

  • 1st photo: Filipina At Home
  • 2nd photo: BlogSpot/Blogger blog
  • 3rd photo: Habagat Central

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