Home-to-work trips part 4 - Trip transfers
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - August 28, 2018 - 12:00am

The recent case of an MRT commuter who was fined for “overstaying” at a station offers some interesting insights on what public transport stations really are for. It may not be significant to our existing system in Cebu City, which is jeepney-based since the last century, but it needs to be understood in the light of the planned BRT system from Bulacao to Talamban. We need to look at it also in the light of the two proposed and studied LRT and one monorail projects.

We have discussed in the previous three writeups that the total travel time of a home-to-work trip is affected considerably by transfers and the first/last mile connectivity. It doesn’t matter if your vehicle can travel at 35-60 kilometers per hour, unimpeded as BRTs and MRTs go, the total travel time (from the moment you step out of your house to the time you enter your office) is stretched because of the time spent not on the vehicle itself. And this is where the inconvenience comes in, mostly.

In most rapid transit system, we board, alight, or transfer at stations or terminals. We commonly use the two terms interchangeably, but terminals are stations “at the end” of the line, or where two modes connect. Sometimes, we call some as “stops” or “waiting sheds” simply because that’s what they look like in certain remote areas. You get down from one transit line and board the next line. Or you get there to board or disembark at the start or end of your trip.

Picture the current scenario in Metro Manila – most station platforms are 3-4 levels above the ground and you need to climb those flights of stairs, probably in blistering heat at noontime. In the morning and in the evening, maybe it’s not so hot but the line extends down the stairs and into the sidewalk. Good if you’re in one of the stations connected to a mall – you can use the escalators in air-conditioned climate. There are elevators in most stations but provided only for the disadvantaged sectors.

Time spent in stations is usually considerable and may even exceed the time traveled in the vehicle itself. The 90-minute reported “overstaying” by the MRT passenger is still being investigated and debated (she said the overcrowding caused it) but this should cause them to re-evaluate (or for us to evaluate) transfer experience in currently proposed or designed systems. It’s much easier to design new ones than to alter or retrofit built ones. We have a great opportunity. Why can’t we have ground-level stations instead of high-up-there? Why can’t we have “headways” and “dwell times” (we will discuss specifics in a separate writeup) that will ensure fast and efficient transfers? Why can’t we design “service plans” which will result in the least number of transfers or eliminate them altogether when possible? And bring people as near as possible to their homes or workplaces?

My birthday greetings to Dr. Kerwin Villarete today. May the Lord bless and keep you.

MRT COMMUTER
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