Wednesday, January 04, 2006

MRT blues

The car was covered by the color-coding thingie (why they insist on calling the scheme "color-coding" when colors do not have anything to do with it is beyond me) and since I was on leave from work, I did not have to wake up early to beat the 7am deadline for using Metro Manila's streets. But I had a 6pm meeting at Pasig City, so naturally, I had to commute. I thought that since classes have not started yet, taking the MRT was a better alternative. I mean, the MRT does not get stuck in traffic, it is generally clean, etc., etc.. So what the heck, I took the train at Vito Cruz, got off at Taft/EDSA and prepared to transfer to the MRT line to get to Shaw Boulevard.

The ride was smooth and fast. The trains were efficient and clean. The passengers were well-behaved. So what went wrong?

If anyone out there needs a clear example of how government agencies do poorly in serving ordinary people, I suggest they go to the EDSA/Taft station of the MRT. This is the start of the MRT line, and as expected, there is a deluge of people at this station all wanting to get into a train.

Yesterday, the lines were long at the entrance to the station. There were only two security guards doing the routine security checks. This is the Philippines, so of course, expect everyone to be carrying a luggage or two in addition to the back pag slung over the shoulder, the plastic bags on each hand, and another bag of peanuts in a third hand (yeah, it looks like it). The conditions were ripe for a civil unrest and I am truly amazed at the fortitude of ordinary Filipinos - they stood in line in the midst of pollution (this is the middle of the country's main thoroughfare!).

After that ordeal with the long lines and a very unfriendly guard who must be into S&M in his private life - he seemed to like touching people roughly I thought the worst was over. No cigar.

The lines to buy tickets were longer - as in looooonnnnngggggeeeerrrrrr. And there were only two counters open. Why couldn't they open more counters to make the lines shorter and the traffic move faster? It took me another 10 minutes before I could stand in front of this guy behind a glass case who looked very bored and constipated. Whew. And the place was actually not built to accomodate long lines - we who were standing in line were blocking the exits and those getting out of the station had to squeeze in between people standing in line to get out.

What is truly annoying and extremely bothersome in the whole scheme is that the problems were actually quite simple - find ways to sell tickets quickly: vendo machines, more counters, etc.

I guess it boils down to attitude. The government agency that runs the MRT simply does not have very high regard for Filipinos.

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