Why Filipinos Should Stop Settling For the Sad State of Public Transportation
It’s past 12 a.m. on a Sunday, and I’m driving home after a long overdue cup of coffee with some friends I last saw pre-pandemic. Another dull stint behind the wheel—at least until something catches my passengers’ attention as I reach the Guadalupe portion of EDSA.
Here, we come across a line of commuters still waiting for a ride at the EDSA Carousel. There are no buses. Just tired faces brought into focus by the faint glow of the bus stop’s lights.
Someone inside the car is actually surprised by the scene—which I find amusing because it’s an all too common sight along the thoroughfare these days.
Even the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has acknowledged that the busway is being underutilized, with the program running at less than 50 percent capacity during rush hours. And with sky-high fuel prices continuing to push drivers between a rock and a hard place, there’s the ever-present threat that the situation could get even worse.
Just another symptom of a sickness that’s been ravaging the Filipino since even before COVID-19 hit: Inefficient public transportation. But you know what? We’re all good. Because we can rely on something inside the heart of every commuter sweating their ass off in line: Resilience. Suffer long enough and you’re bound to find it. Hey, you know how they say pain builds character, right?
Yeah, we’re going to be blunt here and say we deserve better. And in case you’ve forgotten why? Well, let us remind you.
1| Because taxes.
Libreng Sakay? Yeah, it’s not really free. You’re paying for that through your taxes—which means you’re technically also paying for the laughably long lines on the EDSA Busway and MRT-3.
Just recently, the DOTr was flagged by the Commission on Audit for P1.61 trillion worth of delayed projects that resulted in more than P128 million in additional fees. Something tells us there might be room for improvement here.
But hey, what do we know? As long as there’s no shortage of resilience, right?
2| Your 9-to-5 is hard enough as it is.
You wake up in a rush, wait in line at the MRT-3 for God knows how long, arrive late anyway and get a pay deduction, and tire yourself at work only to be met by the same hellish commuting experience at the end of the day. Rinse, repeat.
Relate much? Then you know how much a rough commute takes out of you in addition to the everyday workplace grind. This is no way to make a living—unless, of course, you’re resilient. In that case, it’s totally fine.
3| Because traffic.
Yes, you can argue that the nation’s obsession with automobiles is to blame for the current state of traffic—but unrestrained vehicle purchases and 0 percent downpayment are only partly to blame.
Give motorists a faster, more efficient, and more affordable means of getting around and we reckon car owners will flock to that option in droves.
Hell, we’re all just stuck in traffic most of the time we’re behind the wheel anyway. Between this and a reliable rail system with a decent capacity and last-mile transport solutions waiting at each station? Frankly, we think the choice is obvious again: Resilience.
4| Mobility should be a basic human right.
Granted, nothing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tackles public transportation directly per se, but there are a number of articles contained within that are directly impacted by being limited in how you get around.
Article 13. “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.”
Article 21. “Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.”
Article 24. “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”
You can check out the declaration in its entirety here. Oh, and before we forget: Resilience.
5| Because the DOTr “delivered.”
We’ll just leave this here we guess.
6| Time isn’t just money.
“Time is money.” We get it—time spent stuck in the mess we call public transportation could be spent building skills, advancing your career, hustling at a side gig, or working on that report. Frankly, though? At best it’s cliché, and at worst? A disservice to the concept.
Time is that extra bucket or two you could have had with friends if you weren’t desperately trying to book a Grab for ages after clocking out. It’s the perfect photo you might have been able to capture at a loved one’s graduation had the bus left on time. And it’s the breakfast you could have grabbed with Mom or Dad had you not been in a rush to catch the first train at the station.
Money? Time is so much more than that, and the clock is always ticking. But, thankfully, time stops if you’re resilient enough. You just need to dig really, really deep.