MRT-3's Free Ride Program: What you need to know

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
MRT-3's Free Ride Program: What you need to know
MRT-3 commuters at North Ave. station observe the reduced physical distancing protocol by the Department of Transportation on Sept. 14, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Following the completion of its rehabilitation, the Metro Rail Transit-Line 3 is set to implement a month-long free rides program for all passengers upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

"This is to promote the improved services of the MRT-3 to the public and also help ease their financial burden amid inflation, rising fuel prices, and with many Filipino workers now returning to on-site work," MRT-3 general manager Michael Capati said at a press briefing Friday morning. 

Capati said that with the rehabilitation complete, the end-to-end trip from North Avenue to Taft Avenue and back that once took over an hour now takes some 40 minutes. 

The time interval between train arrivals now stands at four minutes from eight to 10 minutes. The number of operating units also increased to 18 to 22 trains from 12 to 15 previously.

How it will work

From March 28 and end on April 30, the free rides will cover all trips from 4:40 a.m. to the last trip at 10:10 p.m., except for the scheduled maintenance shutdown on the week of April 12 to April 17.

  • "The passenger's trip on the MRT-3 is now fully subsidized," Capati said. He added that the recent data shows that the MRT-3 is averaging 248,000 riders daily.
  • The usual stored value cards and single journey tickets will be accepted at the tollbooths free of charge.
  • A penalty of P50 will be imposed for loss or damage of a single journey ticket. 

The MRT-3 is expecting ridership to increase due to the program, Capati said. To augment the line capacity, four-car CKD train sets, which can serve up to 1,500 commuters per set, will be deployed on the line during morning and afternoon peak hours. 

How it will be funded

How will the MRT-3 management offset the loss in revenue?

The MRT-3 collects some P2.7 million a day, Capati said. The MRT-3 has a P23.1 billion under the General Appropriations Act that can be used. 

  • The budget bill does have a special provision that says "any deficiency in collections or income may be augmented by the amounts appropriated herein for mass transport subsidy."
  • Aside from the free rides given by the MRT-3, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board's service contracting program is also set to resume in April. 

Does the management intend to procure more train sets? "Right now, we're fixing the CKD and Dalian trains. That's where we're concentrating, the rehabilitation of our existing trains."

"Once we normalize and the common station and MRT-7 are open, we're designing it so we can carry the projected 600,000 passengers per day," Capati said. "We're undergoing a complete overhaul of our 72 coaches so they're in good condition."

Whatever happened to the Dalian trains?

The China-made Dalian trains purchased during the Aquino administration were undergoing "dynamic testing" pre-pandemic, with three cars already deployed on the MRT-3 line to serve commuters.

According to the MRT-3 general manager on Friday, nine Dalian trains are set to undergo what Capati called full acceptance testing, while the remaining 39 are also set to start their run testing in the coming months. 

Capati said the MRT-3 management was looking at adding the trains to their main revenue line "as soon as possible."

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