It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that Manila traffic is terrible. Rush hour happens almost 18 hours a day and the only time we can actually get to see a traffic-free EDSA is when former boxing champion Senator Manny Pacquiao has a match (which is, strangely, happening again). Filipinos are hard workers and it’s disheartening to see that most of us are already losing our productivity mojo on our way to work and school because of road rage.
When you’re stuck in EDSA for two hours, it’s only normal to wonder if the people riding the MRT have it better than you. There can’t be any traffic up there, right?
This week, we put the popular modes of transportation in Metro Manila to the test. For maximum immersion, we started the race at 8 a.m. at TriNoma and set SM Makati as our ending point. From comfort to affordability to entertainment, we went in-depth to duplicate the passenger experience and look for alternatives for every commuter.
MRT by Maine Manalansan
I came over-prepared and downloaded podcasts and YouTube videos on my phone. It’s just hard to reach inside your bag when the train is basically a cosplay of a can of sardines.
It’s hot and everyone’s sweaty. There is literally no air-conditioning in the train station or on the train itself. Comfort is a concept that is non-existent in the MRT.
Unlike Uberpool and bringing your own car, you encounter many interesting personalities on the MRT. There was a family of six — carrying eight bags in total — that was discussing how to get on the train with their luggage. I’m also pretty sure I saw someone wearing Kylie Cosmetics’ Dolce K. Company should be okay as long as you’re not fussy with people bumping and rubbing against you.
There is no question that taking the train is faster than taking the road. The ride from Cubao to Ayala Ave. only took about 20 minutes. However, I had to wait 30 minutes just to get to the platform, and another 15 minutes to wait for a train that I could actually fit inside.
Point-to-Point (P2P) Bus by Tin Sartorio
A ticket for a P2P bus costs about P20 more than a regular bus fare from Quezon City to Makati but paying P55 is still more affordable than most alternative options.
All P2P buses offer onboard WiFi but for some reason, there was no connection available in my bus that morning. But the CCTV cameras made me feel safe enough to bring out my iPad so I could listen to my own music. There are televisions inside the bus too.
Besides being saved from the stress of driving through EDSA during rush hour, the P2P bus rides are comfortable because of the guaranteed seat for each passenger (operators are not allowed to take in more than their seating capacity), cold aircon, footrests, and clean restroom. While the stairs to the second floor of the double decker bus is steep and narrow, the first floor is PWD-friendly with a retractable ramp for entry and is reserved for senior citizens.
The passengers I was with were all well groomed since most were on their way to work. I felt a little uneasy with the amount of people inside the bus but it helped that everyone stayed put in their seats and minded their own business.
The bus left at exactly 8 a.m. and it only took 70 minutes to get to Glorietta 5 from TriNoma. That’s 20 minutes less than a regular bus ride because the P2P buses don’t make stops along the way. We were still caught up in the EDSA rush hour traffic but by choosing to take the P2P bus, we reduced the travel time not just for ourselves, but for other vehicles as well since the target market of the P2P bus system are middle-class workers who are most likely driving their own cars.
Driving by Jonty Cruz
Definitely the most expensive way to get around the city. If the cost of the car doesn’t kill you then the gas prices and maintenance will. Some would argue that you get the most bang for your buck by having your own car but even if the economy has allowed easier ways to purchase one, every other alternative combined still saves you a whole lot more.
For this challenge, the only sources of entertainment were the radio and the matcha cookie I brought along with me. It was a pretty boring drive (the local radio scene seriously needs to up their game) and the only highlight was that first bite of gooey, green tea goodness.
With a place all to your self with an air conditioner that doesn’t conk out and without a few of the distractions and irritations that EDSA endlessly provides, the drive was as comfortable as it was long.
5 (if you count the matcha cookie).
The speed is totally dependent on whatever traffic situation you’re about to encounter behind the wheel. If the roads are as clear as day then cars will get you there just as fast as the MRT (and you don’t even have to line up for it), but when it’s rush hour in EDSA then it’s by far the slowest of the bunch.
UberPOOL by Marga Buenaventura
This option is marginally cheaper than driving your own car, if only because the carpool option distributes the cost among the passengers. And even if you don’t end up pooling with someone during the ride, you pay the same price. For this trip, I paid P298, regardless of the traffic.
The only entertainment available is the car radio, unless you end up with a driver willing to share his WiFi password. Otherwise, entertain yourself with a nap. Which I did.
Definitely comfortable, because you can pretty much catch up on your to-do list while someone stews in traffic for you. The most princessy of public transport.
No UberPOOL mates during this particular ride, but my driver was nice, i.e. was not a jerk.
I unfortunately ended up with a driver with a faulty connection to Waze so we ended up on C5, from EDSA. So out of everyone, I reached the finish line last.