Manila Metro Rail Transit System

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     Manila Metro Rail Transit System
MRT Line 3
MRT-3 Train North Avenue 3.jpg
North Avenue Station platform area
Overview
Type Rapid transit/Light metro
System Manila Metro Rail Transit System
Locale Manila, Philippines
Stations 13[1]
Services 1[2]
Daily ridership 450,000 (original capacity)
650,000 (2012-2013 record)
Website MRT-3
Operation
Opening December 15, 1999
Owner Metro Rail Transit Corporation
Operator(s) Department of Transportation
and Communications

Metro Rail Transit Corporation
Rolling stock 73 ČKD Tatra RT8D5[3]
Technical
Track length 16.9 km (10.5 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead line
Operating speed 60–65 km/h (37–40 mph)
Route map
future
interchange
North Avenue  LRT-1 
Depot
Quezon Avenue
Kamuning
Araneta Center–Cubao  MRT-2 
Santolan
Ortigas
Shaw Boulevard
Boni
Pasig River
Guadalupe
Buendia
Ayala
Magallanes  PNR 
South Luzon Expressway
Taft Avenue  LRT-1 

The Manila Metro Rail Transit System, also known as MRT Line 3, MRT-3, or Metrostar Express, is a rapid transit system in Metro Manila in the Philippines, composed of a single line generally running in a north-south direction along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). Although it has characteristics of light rail, such as the type of rolling stock used, it is more akin to a rapid transit system owing to its total grade separation and high passenger throughput. Envisioned in the 1970s as part of the Metropolitan Manila Strategic Mass Rail Transit Development Plan, the thirteen-station, 16.9-kilometer (10.5 mi) line was the second rapid transit line to be built in Metro Manila when it started operations in 1999. It is operated by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), a private company operating in partnership with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) under a Build-Operate-Transfer agreement.

Serving close to 600,000 passengers daily, MRT-3 is the busiest among Metro Manila's three rapid transit lines, and was built with standards such as barrier-free access and the use of magnetic card tickets to facilitate passenger access in mind. Total ridership however significantly exceeds the line's built maximum capacity, with various solutions being proposed or implemented to alleviate chronic congestion in addition to the procurement of new rolling stock. However, these solutions have had a mixed effect on ridership, and experts have questioned the line's structural integrity owing to overcrowding on board the line despite pronouncements that the system in general is safe.

MRT-3 is integrated with the public transit system in Metro Manila, and passengers also take various forms of road-based public transport, such as buses, to and from a station to reach their intended destination. Although the line aimed to reduce traffic congestion and travel times along EDSA, the transportation system has only been partially successful due to the rising number of motor vehicles and rapid urbanization. Expanding the network's capacity to accommodate the rising number of passengers is set on tackling this problem.

The MRT-3 network[edit]

An MRT-3 train approaching Ayala Station.

The line serves 13 stations on 16.9 kilometers (10.5 mi) of line,[1][2] spaced on average around 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) apart.[4] The rails are mostly elevated and erected either over or along the roads covered, with sections below ground before and after Buendia and Ayala stations, the only underground stations on the line. The southern terminus of the line is the Taft Avenue station at the intersection between Epifanio de los Santos Avenue and Taft Avenue, while the northern terminus is the North Avenue station along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Barangay Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City. The rail line serves the cities that Circumferential Road 4 (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) passes through: Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasay and Quezon City.

Three stations currently serve as interchanges between the lines operated by the MRTC, LRTA and PNR. Magallanes Station is nearby to EDSA Station on the PNR, Araneta Center-Cubao is connected by a covered walkway to its namesake station of the MRT-2; and Taft Avenue Station is connected via covered walkway to the EDSA Station of the LRT-1.

The MRT-3 is open from 5:30 a.m. PST (UTC+8) until 11:00 p.m on weekdays, and 5:30 a.m. PST (UTC+8) until 10:00 pm during weekends and holidays. It operates almost every day of the year unless otherwise announced. Special schedules are announced via the PA system in every station and also in newspapers and other mass media. During Holy Week, a public holiday in the Philippines, the rail system is closed for annual maintenance, owing to fewer commuters and traffic around the metro. Normal operation resumes on Easter Sunday.[5]

The MRT-3 has experimented with extended opening hours in the last few years. It experimented with 24-hour operations beginning on June 1, 2009, primarily aimed at serving call center agents and other workers in the business process outsourcing sector.[6] Citing low ridership figures and financial losses, this was suspended after two days, and operations were instead extended from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.[7] MRT-3 operations subsequently returned to the former schedule by April 2010, but services were again extended starting March 10, 2014, with trains running on a trial basis from 4:30 am to 11:30 pm in anticipation of major traffic buildup in light of several major road projects beginning in 2014.[8]

History[edit]

A northbound MRT-3 train leaving Shaw Boulevard Station
Taft Avenue Station platform area

During the construction of the first line of the Manila Light Rail Transit System in the early 1980s, Electrowatt Engineering Services of Zürich designed a comprehensive plan for metro service in Metro Manila. The plan—still used as the basis for planning new metro lines—consisted of a 150-kilometer (93 mi) network of rapid transit lines spanning all major corridors within 20 years,[9] including a line on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, the region's busiest road corridor.

The MRT-3 (originally LRT-3) project officially began in 1989, five years after the opening of the LRT Line 1, with the Hong Kong-based EDSA LRT Corporation winning the public bidding for the line's construction.[4] However, construction never commenced, with the project stalled as the Philippine government conducted several investigations into alleged irregularities with the project's contract.[10] A consortium of local real estate companies, led by Fil-Estate Management, later formed the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) in June 1995 and took over the EDSA LRT Corporation.[4]

The MRTC was subsequently awarded a Build-Operate-Transfer contract by the DOTC. The DOTC would have ownership of the system and assume all administrative functions, such as the regulation of fares and operations. The MRTC would have responsibility over construction and maintenance of the system and the procurement of spare parts for trains. In exchange, the DOTC would pay the MRTC monthly fees for a certain number of years to reimburse any incurred costs.[11]

Construction started on October 15, 1996, with a BOT agreement signed between the Philippine government and the MRTC.[4] An amended turnkey agreement was later signed on September 16, 1997 with a consortium of companies, which included Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Sumitomo Corporation, and a local company, EEI Corporation, which was subcontracted for civil works. A separate agreement was signed with ČKD on rolling stock. MRTC also retained the services of ICF Kaiser Engineers and Constructors to provide program management and technical oversight of the services for the design, construction management and commissioning.[12]

During construction, the MRTC oversaw the design, construction, equipping, testing, and commissioning, while the DOTC oversaw technical supervision of the project activities covered by the BOT contract between the DOTC and MRTC. The DOTC also sought the services of Systra, a French consultant firm, with regards to the technical competence, experience and track record in the construction and operations.[12]

On December 15, 1999, the initial section from North Avenue to Buendia was inaugurated by President Joseph Estrada,[13] with all remaining stations opening on July 20, 2000, a little over a month past the original deadline.[14] However, ridership was initially far below expectations, with passengers complaining of the stations' steep stairs and the general lack of connectivity with other modes of public transportation.[15] Passengers also complained of high ticket prices, with the maximum fare of ₱34 at the time being significantly higher than a comparable journey on those lines operated by the LRTA and PNR. Although the MRTC projected 300,000-400,000 passengers riding the system daily, in the first month of operation the system saw a ridership of only 40,000 passengers daily.[16] The system was even criticized as a white elephant alongside the Manila Light Rail Transit System and the Metro Manila Skyway.[17]

To alleviate passenger complaints, the MRTC later retrofitted stations with escalators and elevators for easier access, as well as reducing passenger fares. By 2004, the MRT-3 had the highest ridership of the three lines, with 400,000 passengers daily.

Station facilities, amenities, and services[edit]

Buendia Station, one of the MRT-3 stations with an island platform.
The entrance to Ayala station as seen from the Ayala Center
Bridge linking the MRT-3 Taft Avenue Station to the nearby LRT-1 EDSA Station

With the exception of Buendia Avenue and Ayala Avenue stations, and the platform level of Taft Avenue and Boni Avenue stations, all stations are above ground, taking advantage of the topology of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.[18]

Station layout and accessibility[edit]

MRT-3 stations have a standard layout, with a concourse level and a platform level. The concourse is usually above the platform, with stairs, escalators and elevators leading down to the platform level. Station concourses contain ticket booths, which is separated from the platform level by fare gates.[4] Some stations, such as Araneta Center-Cubao, are connected at concourse level to nearby buildings, such as shopping malls, for easier accessibility. Most stations are also barrier-free inside and outside the station, and trains have spaces for passengers using wheelchairs.[4]

Stations either have island platforms, such as Taft Avenue and Shaw Boulevard, or side platforms, such as Ortigas and North Avenue. Part of the platform corresponding to the front car of the train is cordoned off for the use of women, children, elderly and disabled passengers.

MRT-3 stations are also designed to occupy the entire span of EDSA, allowing passengers to safely cross between one end of the road and the other.[4]

Shops and services[edit]

Inside the concourse of all stations is at least one stall or stand where people can buy food or drinks. Stalls vary by station, and some have fast food stalls. The number of stalls also varies by station, and stations tend to have a wide variety, especially in stations such as Ayala and Shaw Boulevard.

Stations such as Taft Avenue and North Avenue are connected to or are near shopping malls and/or other large shopping areas, where commuters are offered more shopping varieties.

Since November 19, 2001, in cooperation with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, passengers are offered copies of the Inquirer Libre, a free, tabloid-size, Tagalog version of the Inquirer, which is available at all MRT-3 stations.[19]

Safety and security[edit]

The MRT-3 has always presented itself as a safe system to travel in, which was affirmed in a 2004 World Bank paper prepared by Halcrow describing the overall state of metro rail transit operations in Manila as being "good".[20] However, in recent years, the safety and reliability of the system has been put into question, with experts calling it "an accident waiting to happen", and while several incidents and accidents were reported between 2011 and 2014, that has not deterred commuters from continuing to patronize the system.[21] The Philippine government, meanwhile, continues to assert that the system is safe overall despite those incidents and accidents.[22]

With an estimated daily ridership of 560,000 passengers, the MRT-3 operates significantly above its designed capacity of between 360,000 and 380,000 passengers per day.[23] Operating over capacity since 2004,[24] government officials have admitted that capacity and system upgrades are overdue,[25] although in the absence of major investment in improving system safety and reliability, MRT-3 management has resorted to experimenting with and/or implementing other solutions to reduce strain on the system, including deploying more trains,[26] crowd management on station platforms,[27] the proposed implementation of peak-hour express train service,[28] and improving the line's signaling system.[29] However, some of these solutions, such as platform crowd management, are unpopular with passengers.[30]

For safety and security reasons, persons who are visibly intoxicated, insane and/or under the influence of controlled substances, persons carrying flammable materials and/or explosives, persons carrying bulky objects or items over 1.5 metres (5 ft) tall and/or wide, and persons bringing pets and/or other animals are prohibited from entering the MRT-3.[31] Products in tin cans are also prohibited on board the MRT-3, citing the possibility of home-made bombs being concealed inside the cans.[32]

In response to the Rizal Day bombings and the September 11th attacks, security has been stepped up on board the MRT-3. The Philippine National Police has a special police force on the MRT-3,[33] and security police provided by private companies can be found in all MRT-3 stations. All MRT-3 stations have a head guard. Some stations may also have a deployed K9 bomb-sniffing dog. The MRT-3 also employs the use of closed-circuit television inside all stations to monitor suspicious activities and to assure safety and security aboard the line. Passengers are also advised to look out for thieves, who can take advantage of the crowding aboard MRT-3 trains. Wanted posters are posted at all MRT-3 stations to help commuters identify known thieves.

Fares and ticketing[edit]

A sample MRT-3 stored value ticket bearing the face of then-President Joseph Estrada released in 2000.
The design of the single journey ticket with neutral design as of 2012.
The design of the P100 stored value ticket as of 2012. It also indicates the new color designation of the MRT-3.

The MRT-3, like the LRT-1 and MRT-2, uses a distance-based fare structure, with fares ranging from ten to fifteen pesos (23 to 35 U.S. cents), depending on the destination. Commuters who ride the MRT-3 are charged ₱10 for the first three stations, ₱11 for 4–5 stations, ₱12 for 6–8 stations, ₱14 for 9–11 stations and ₱15 for 12 stations or the entire line. Children below 1.02 metres (3 ft 4.4 in) (the height of a fare gate) may ride for free on the MRT-3.

Types of tickets[edit]

Two types of MRT-3 tickets exist: a single-journey (one-way) ticket whose cost is dependent on the destination, and a stored-value (multiple-use) ticket for 100 pesos. The 200-peso & 500-peso stored-value tickets was issued in the past, but has since been phased out. The single-journey ticket is valid only on the date of purchase. Meanwhile, the stored-value ticket is valid for three months from date of first use.[31]

MRT-3 tickets come in several incarnations: these include tickets bearing the portraits of Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,[34] which have since been phased out, and one bearing the logos of the DOTC and the MRTC. Ticket shortages are common: in 2005, the MRTC was forced to recycle tickets bearing Estrada's portrait to address critical ticket shortages, even resorting to borrowing stored-value tickets from the LRTA,[35] and even cutting unusable tickets in half for use as manual passes.[36] Shortages were also reported in 2012,[37] and the DOTC was working on procuring additional tickets in 2014.[38]

Because of the ticket shortages, it is now common practice for regular MRT-3 passengers to purchase several stored-value tickets at a time, since passengers would not know when or what station the tickets would be available at. Although new stored-value tickets have arrived, passengers still complain of a lack of tickets at stations.[39] Passengers also complain of a shortage of single-journey tickets, with long lines at MRT-3 ticket booths already common and with the MRTC having to alleviate the ticket shortages through alternate means.[40]

Although the MRT-3 has partnered with private telecommunications companies in experimenting with RFID technology as an alternative ticketing system in the past,[41][42] these were phased out in 2009.

Fare adjustment[edit]

Adjusting passenger fares has been employed by the MRTC as a means to boost flagging ridership figures,[43] and the issue of MRT-3 fares both historically and in the present day continues to be a contentious political issue involving officials at even the highest levels of government.

Current MRT-3 fare levels were set on July 15, 2000 under the orders of President Estrada, meant to become competitive against other modes of transport.[44] While originally set to last until January 2001,[44] the new fare structure persisted due to strong public opposition against increasing fares,[45] especially as MRT-3 ridership increased significantly after lower fares were implemented.[43] These lower fares—which are only slightly more expensive than jeepney fares—are financed through large government subsidies amounting to around ₱45 per passenger,[45][46] and which for both the MRTC and the LRTA reached ₱75 billion between 2004 and 2014.[47] Without subsidies, the cost of a single MRT-3 trip is estimated at around ₱60.[46]

Rolling stock[edit]

Inside an MRT-3 train

The MRT-3 owns 73 light rail vehicles made in the Czech Republic by ČKD (now part of Siemens AG) in a three-car configuration.[3] The trains are a gift from the Czech government.[48] Trains have a capacity of 1,182 passengers,[3] which is smaller than the normal capacity of LRT Line 1 first generation rolling stock, although MRT-3 trains came with air conditioning. Despite this, the MRT-3 is designed to carry in excess of 23,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD), and is expandable to accommodate 48,000 passengers per hour per direction[2] – however, with the line's current 4–6 minute headways,[49] the system's passenger volume is presently closer to 14,000–18,000 passengers per hour per direction.

MRT-3 trains are particularly known for their use of wrap advertising. A wide variety of advertisements can be seen on MRT-3 trains, of which some include Samsung Electronics, Panasonic and Epson products. Trains bearing wrap advertising are now very common aboard the MRT-3, although trains that use MRT-3's house colors are also in service in the network. The revenues generated from the advertising on MRT-3 trains are used to pay off debts incurred by the MRTC during the system's construction.

Depot[edit]

The MRT-3 maintains an underground depot in Quezon City, near North Avenue station. On top of the depot is TriNoma, a shopping mall owned by the Ayala Corporation. It occupies 84,444 square meters (908,948 sq ft) of space and serves as the headquarters for light and heavy maintenance of the MRT-3, as well as the operations of the system in general. It is connected to the main MRT-3 network by a spur line.

The depot is capable of storing 81 light rail vehicles, with the option to expand to include 40 more vehicles as demand arises. They are parked on nine sets of tracks, which converge onto the spur route and later on to the main network.

Plans[edit]

Capacity Expansion Project[edit]

Due to the high ridership of the line a proposal which is under study by the DOTC and NEDA proposes to double the current capacity by acquiring additional light rail vehicles to accommodate the 520,000 passenger a day requirement.

Automatic Fare Collection System[edit]

Automatic Fare Collection System involves the decommissioning of the old-magnetic-based ticketing system and replacing the same with contactless-based smart card technology on LRT Line 1, MRT Line 2 and MRT Line 3, with the introduction of a centralized back office that will perform apportionment of revenues. The private sector will operate and maintain the fare collection system. On January 31, 2014, DOTC awarded the right to build and operate the smart-card system to AF Consortium.[50] The group comprises Ayala Corporation’s BPI and Globe Telecom, Metro Pacific's Smart Communications and Meralco FinServe, MSI Global, which developed automated fare collection systems’ software in Singapore and Bangkok, and SMRT, which operates Singapore’s mass transit system.[51] It posted a negative bid of ₱1,088,103,900.00, which edged out the SM Group’s bid of ₱1,088,000,000.00. Under the terms of the AF Consortium bid, there will be an upfront payment of PhP 279 million and the balance of ₱800 million will then be paid in transaction fees when ridership volume reaches 750 million transactions per quarter. 72% of the total amount will only be paid to the government in 2024 or 2025, and only if the conditional volume is met.[52]

North Extension[edit]

Although much of the MRT-3 has already been built, the route envisioned by the DOTC and the government in general was for the MRT-3 to traverse the entire length of EDSA (from Monumento to Taft Avenue), eventually connecting to Line 1 at Monumento in Caloocan. The expansion has been shelved in favor of the LRT-1's extension from Monumento to a new common station that it will share with the MRT-3 at North Avenue, thus closing the loop. It is also planned that the southern terminus of the proposed MRT-7, which will link Quezon City, Caloocan (north), and San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan will be sharing the same station.

The National Economic and Development Authority and even President-then Arroyo herself have said that the MRT3-LRT1 link at North Avenue is a national priority, since it would not only provide seamless service between the LRT-1 and the MRT-3, but would also help decongest Metro Manila.[53] It is estimated that by 2010, when the extension is completed, some 684,000 commuters would use the MRT-3 everyday from the present 400,000, and traffic congestion on EDSA would be cut by as much as fifty percent.[54]

On November 21, 2013, the NEDA board, chaired by President Benigno Aquino III approved the construction of a common station within North Avenue between SM North EDSA and TriNoma Mall. It is estimated to cost 1.4 billion pesos. It will feature head-to-head platforms for LRT-1 and MRT-3 trains with a 147.4-meter elevated walkalator to MRT-7.[55] SM Investments Corporation posted 200 million pesos for the naming rights of the common station.[56]

Transfer of operations from MRTC to LRTA[edit]

Recently a new study for the Metro Manila Rail Network has been unveiled by the DOTC undersecretary for Public Information Dante Velasco that LRT 1, MRT 2, and MRT 3 will be under one management, The Light Rail Transit Authority. This is due to maintenance cost issues for Line 1's maintenance cost is approximately ₱35 Million only, Line 2 is ₱25 Million only, while Line 3 has a staggering ₱100 million maintenance cost. Another reason for this study is for the unification of the LRT 1 and the MRT 3 lines. According to DOTC Undersecretary For Rails Glicerio Sicat, the transfer is set by the government in June 2011.[57]

On January 13, 2011, Light Rail Transit Authority Chief Rafael S. Rodriguez took over as officer-in-charge of MRT-3 in preparation for the integration of operations of the Yellow, Purple, and Blue Lines.[58] But with the entry of a new leadership into the MRTC that year and in 2012, the transfer is not likely to happen, however on April 2012 a LRT-1 trainset made the first trial journey to the MRT-3 depot.

On May 26, 2014, Vitangcol was sacked by Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, replaced by LRTA Administrator Honorito Chaneco as officer-in-charge. The move came after Vitangcol was accused by the ambassador of the Czech Republic of extortion and for awarding an anomalous deal to an uncle-in-law.[59]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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