MRT-3 says free rides program extended until end-May

MRT-3 says free rides program extended until end-May
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 — Management of the Metro Rail Transit-Line 3 said it would extend the rail line's free ride program until the end of May, it said in an advisory sent to reporters.

"Passengers will be able to continue enjoying free rides at the rehabilitated MRT-3 line until 30 May 2022, anytime between the rail line’s operating hours from 4:40 a.m. and 10:10 p.m.," the advisory reads. 

The program, which was supposed to end on April 30, was meant to showcase the rehabilitation of the rail line in the past months and restore the public's confidence in the train. 

"The ridership of the MRT-3 has improved...Before the pandemic, [it was just] 260,000. And although there was a pandemic, the ridership reached 280,000. And now, the MRT-3 can board 300,000 safely," Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade was quoted as saying. 

In the first few weeks of the program, commuters on social media bemoaned long queues at MRT-3 stations, prompting the management to deploy four-car trains during peak hours to go with the usual three-car trains. 

During the line's scheduled maintenance for Holy Week — which included Holy Wednesday, a working day before a look weekend — commuters flocked to the EDSA Bus Carousel which did not have the capacity to support the added demand. 

The MRT-3's maintenance suspension also coincided with the suspension of operations of the Light Rail Transit-Line 2, which only exacerbated the commuter situation. The Light Rail Transit Authority said the two rail lines did not bother coordinating before suspending operations at the same time on a working day. 

As a result, public transportation fell apart, and some commuters were forced to walk home. 

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

MRT-3 General Manager Michael Capati said the increased ridership of MRT-3 and the return to on-site work has allowed the rail line "to further test its capacity and performance."

“We saw a definite increase in our ridership when we implemented the free ride in MRT-3. So it was also productive on our part because we were able to test the capacity and performance of our fully rehabilitated railway system,” he said.

MRT-3 recorded an average weekday ridership of 306,986 from 28 March to 26 April 2022, a 26.9% increase from the average weekday ridership of 241,800 prior to the implementation of the free program in March.

The highest single-day ridership was recorded on April 8 when 335,993 passengers took the MRT-3, a 19.4% increase from the record-high 258,989 ridership logged on 25 March before the program.

The MRT-3 recorded an average weekday ridership of 250,000 to 300,000 prior to the pandemic. 

To augment the line’s capacity, MRT-3 Management will continue deploying four-car CKD train sets — which can accommodate up to 1,576 passengers — during peak hours.

It's unclear how the line's management plans to offset the loss in revenue for another month. 

At the start of the program in March 28, Capati said that the MRT-3 collects some P2.7 million a day while it also has a P23.1 billion under the General Appropriations Act that can be used. — Franco Luna 





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