MANILA, PHILIPPINES: The Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) may implement a new five-zone fare scheme as early as March 15 if it gets the approval of the Department of Transportation and Communications.
The minimum fare would cost P10 under the five-zone scheme, higher than the existing P9.50 rate, but it would cover the first two stations travelled by a passenger. Increments for the zoning scheme vary from P1 to P2.
From P10, the fare rises to P11 on the third and fourth station, P12 on the fifth to seventh, P14 on the eighth to tenth, and P15 on the last two stops.
For example, a passenger boarding the train at the North Avenue station in Quezon City would still pay P15 for travelling the whole stretch of the MRT3. However, if he gets off at the Ortigas station in Pasig City, the fifth station from North Avenue, he will shell out P12 instead of the current rate, which is P11.50.
MRT3 Spokesman Mariano Gui said the new scheme is "not a fare increase" since passengers may end up paying an amount lower than the existing train charges.
For instance, the trip from North Avenue to Boni station in Manadaluyong City would cost only P12 from the current P12.50.
Mr. Gui said the fare scheme should have little impact on the revenues of the MRT3.
However, its implementation would result in quicker movement of passengers by three to five seconds.
Since the MRT3 no longer has to issue loose change with the new rates, Mr. Gui said the train operator can start using its 26 ticket vending machines, which have been standing idly in MRT stations in the past five years.
The machines have not been utilized since they can not issue loose change such as 25-centavo coins currently in use.
Mr. Gui said the new scheme does not include a P13 rate to ensure that the full-length trip for the 13 stations would still cost P15.
The MRT3 carries about 400,000 passengers daily and books P120,000 in revenues a month.
Meanwhile, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday ordered government officials to look into the possibility of implementing round-the-clock operations for the Metro Rail Transit, and the Light Rail Transit to service call center employees.
During her visit of the Customer Contact Center, Inc. (C-Cubed Call Center) in Eastwood, Libis, Quezon City, the President directed Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Bayani F. Fernando to lead efforts in determining the feasibility of extending the operational hours of the train systems.
The President gave the directive after learning that public transportation is a major problem for call center agents who work on graveyard shifts. Call centers operate 24 hours to service their clients abroad.
The President said the MRT and LRT could "partially" adopt a 24-hour scheme, by fielding fewertrains at night compared during the regular operations to cater to the needs of the call center industry.
Malacañang said there are more than 50 "out-source" call centers now operating in the country at present, generating some 7,000 jobs. More than half of these call centers are in Metro Manila.
The MRT, which traverses EDSA, currently operates from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., while the both the LRT Line 1 from Kalookan City to Parañaque City, and Line 2 from Manila to Pasig are open from 5: 30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Close to 800,000 commuters ride the MRT, LRT, and LRT 2 everyday.
Sought for comment, MRT Spokesman Mariano Gui said they were open to extending their operational hours. "If that is the President's order, we would definitely follow," Mr. Gui told BusinessWorld.
In a separate interview, Mr. Gui admitted to the difficulty of operating the train system round the clock.
"It is possible, but not feasible. It would entail a lot of cost for power and we would be needing additional personnel. Also, based on our experience, the volume of passengers start decreasing from 9 p.m. until the last trip at 10:30 p.m.," Mr. Gui said.
HIGHER COSTS = HIGHER FARE
However, he warned that implementing a 24-hour schedule would require MRT to hire more personnel to run the system at night. This would mean additional costs that could lead to a fare hike. The fare for a complete trip at the MRT is currently at P15.
Mr. Gui said the fare hike could be averted if the government would subsidize the extended operations of the MRT.
The MRT carries an average of 430,000 passengers daily, and generates about P120 million in monthly revenues.
Meanwhile, Administrator Mel Robles of the LRT, whose train system runs from Taft Avenue in Pasay City to Monumento in Caloocan City, said it would study the proposal.
"We acknowledge that the call center industry is a growing sector. If it's viable, then why not," said Mr. Robles.
However, Mr. Gui said the national government is currently providing P60 million monthly to subsidize their operations since their revenues from the fares are P60 million short of what was needed to pay the monthly rental to Metro Railway Transit Corp. (MRTC).
MRTC is the private consortium that built the MRT, and leased the facility to the government before transferring its ownership after 25 years.
The President was at the C-Cubed Call Center yesterday to witness the formal signing of three agreements initiated by the call center firm.
The first agreement was for C-Cubed's Adopt an Athlete Program. Under this, the company has committed P3.2 billion to support the training of 19-year-old Olympian Jasmin Figueroa of the National Archery Team in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The second accord signed was between C-Cubed and the Batangas State University and Lyceum of the Philippines. It provides for training coordination for information and communications technology (ICT) students of the universities and giving them priority hiring opportunities in C-Cubed's call centers.
The third agreement was between C-Cubed and the Department of Education (DepEd). Under the accord, C-Cubed committed to provide computer sets to some public schools in support of the President's Education for All program, which seeks to provide public schools and their students access to computers.
C-Cubed is the first and only call center operator in the country with an integrated ISO 9001 and BS 7799 international certificate-2000. It provides end-to-end contact center solutions to leading international and local clients with its network extensively linked in multiple strategic locations in Metro Manila. It has over 1,200 employees.