Wait a minute.
Before you call me elitist, anti-poor, or worse, a capitalist pig, let me just say that I am a commuter like everyone else.
Even during the time I had access to a private vehicle, I chose to take public transportation because I preferred to do some thinking — you know, like, thoughts and shit — while stuck in traffic.
In any case, I was unable to do much of that. (Not that that’s such a loss.)
This is because in this country, public transportation is the equivalent of hell on earth.
And there is no better example of that than the much-vaunted Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
Always congested and occasionally delayed, the train system built along the Philippines’ busiest thoroughfare has brought out the very worst behavior among Filipinos.
Passengers have pushed, shoved, jostled, and gotten into fistfights with each other just to get onboard. (Once, I prevented two guys from coming to blows. “Sige,” I said. “Dito pa kayo magsapakan.” But that’s only because they were in my way. Otherwise, I would have gladly done the world a favor by letting one kill the other — my small contribution to the Philippines’ population program.)
Similarly, many have refused to occupy the train’s interior for fear of missing the next stop.
Here is where the MRT fare increase can work.
Higher fares will cut ridership, reducing congestion.
Fewer passengers mean more available seats, leading to more comfortable trips, increased leg, elbow rooms, and all that.
As a result, less stressful rides will discourage passengers from stabbing each other.
Overall, passengers will be more congenial, smiling even when missing stops or while figuring out the gibberish announced over the PA system.
Anyway, here are my two reasons why I favor an MRT fare hike.
1) I don’t like to smell armpits belonging to someone else.
Don’t get me wrong here: All armpits are created equal.
Black, brown, or white; shaved, hairless, or otherwise, armpits around the world enjoy equal protection under local and international laws (including but not limited to the Rome Statute). [See: Rome Statute]
Under fairly reasonable circumstances, armpits may also be allowed to produce sweat and emit odors, regardless of their owners’ deodorant use and chili and curry consumption.
Having said that, I don’t like to sniff any other armpits except my own, (if absolutely unavoidable).
Unfortunately, riding the MRT — especially during rush hour — has increased my nose’s chances of encountering a warm but nevertheless sweaty armpit.
Any government that considers itself decent should keep everyone’s noses out of everyone else’s armpits.
Now, is that too much to ask?
2) Keeping fares at current rates is economically illogical.
Here is where we get serious, however temporarily.
I’m no economist but from what I’ve gathered — through anecdotal evidence, scant research, and crystal ball-gazing — people take the train because it is cheaper than taking the bus.
Yes: You pay fewer pesos for a faster mode of transportation.
Given the MRT’s congestion, a financial disincentive — through a fare hike — should be established to discourage passengers who are not in a hurry.
If you’re in a rush to go to Makati, you should pay extra to get there faster.
Moreover, if they wanted to, railway officials could hike fares during rush hour and/or increase minimum fares, at least for a short-term period of say, five years.
Besides supposedly reducing congestion, additional funds collected from the increase, if any, should go towards improving the train system itself and public transportation in general.
During those five years, the government should undertake a honest-to-goodness assessment of the train system’s faults. It should be able to rectify oversights and perhaps even punish MRT contractors for causing injury and inconvenience by building a train system that fell absolutely short of expectations.
In any case, I am willing to be corrected on the following points above. (Please reply via the comments section so that these can be promptly deleted. Or you can email me at j at jackthescribbler.com.)
Another creative but coño-tic approach: Replicate airlines’ business class strategy.
The agency running the MRT could set aside one or two train cars.
These can then be alloted for passengers willing to pay extra for less-congested coaches, faster access to turnstiles, and best of all, fewer encounters with strange armpits.