by Alan Robles
For the next part of our series on traffic, we'll now talk about how to beat Manila's notorious jams by using the train system. We'll focus on the MRT, which as everyone knows, stands for "Might Run Today."
Just kidding; of COURSE the MRT will run today. In fact, it runs everyday. True, it might sometimes run only halfway to where you want to go, which you'll discover when the train suddenly stops in the middle of a stretch of tracks between stations. But never fear, the train makes up for these moments by also occasionally running PAST your destination, plowing through barriers with enthusiasm.
The MRT is an inexpensive and quick way to move from one end of EDSA to another. When you ride a train, a trip that might normally take you up to two hours on a bus will take, at the most, 55 minutes. Of course, this doesn't count the three hours you spend waiting in line to get inside the MRT station.
Yes, the MRT does tend to get a bit crowded. Be ready for queues snaking down station stairs and stretching out hundreds of meters into the streets. You might need to bring binoculars so you can make out where the line begins. It's possible that soon, queues will be so long that by the time waiting passengers reach the head of the line, they'll discover they've actually already walked to their destination. Officials are hopeful this will relieve stress on the system.
Recent incidents have raised concerns about whether the MRT is safe. Don't worry: in designing and building the train system, government officials and experts followed the strict engineering specification known as "I'm never going to ride this thing."
At any rate, in the event of a minor glitch such as a train running off the rails, you can be sure officials will rush to the site (in their chauffeured cars) and deploy themselves in thoughtful looking poses for media photographers. They will also be ready to utilize appropriate jargon, for instance, describing what happened as a "technical problem" that will "undergo intervention." They will even wait for screaming injured passengers to be removed before making these statements.
Tips on using the MRT
1. One way to deal with long MRT queues is to use a so-called "stored value ticket." With this card you will no longer have to stand in line for hours just to buy single trip tickets at the station counter. To get a stored value ticket, simply stand in line for hours and ask for it at the station counter.
2. Another way to deal with the long lines is by careful planning. For instance, let's say you plan to take the MRT to Makati early Monday morning. Allow yourself enough time by going to the station early. We recommend Friday evening.