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Octopus and Rabbit

As an everyday MRT commuter, I was very excited to ride the LRT2 from Cubao (where our office is) to Katipunan Avenue one day for a meeting. It was going to be a respite from the sardine-level crowds and small trains lacking handrails of the MRT. The LRT-2 was the newest of the three light rail transit lines in Metro Manila, and yes it remains the newest after its launch a decade ago. It has with the biggest trains! (You can pole dance in those trains, that’s how spacious they are.) The most spacious stations! Automated ticketing machines! It’s called the Purple Line! I really was excited.

Upon entering

Cubao Station of LRT2, I saw that most of the passengers were lined up at the manual ticket booth manned by two persons. I immediately headed to the automated Ticket Vending Machines. I gots my coins ready, yo. My glee quickly turned to dismay when I saw that only ONE machine was actually working out of the NINE machines in the row.

I lined up at the much shorter line to the sole working machine. There was sign on white paper taped to the machine stating that 1-Peso coins issued on the year 2009 and onwards are not accepted by the machines. Say what? I checked all the P1 coins in my purse…. all were issued on the year 2011 and later. I wondered, who in this present age still carried P1 coins issued before 2009?

I spied a couple of 5-peso coins issued in 2005 and thought, I’ll try those. The machine spit them out right away. I let out a very loud sigh of exasperation, and I’m not even a sigher, and joined the long snaking line to the manual booth.

How I envy our neighbours Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia not only for their extensive MRT networks, but also for their “smart cards” that allow you to reload (or as they say in those countries, top-up) currency value into your cards in

actual working automated machines. Even Bangkok’s transit system utilizes reloadable smart cards with options for unlimited 1-day travel, ideal for tourists! Not only that, you can use your cards in the bus as well, or for parking fees, or as electronic wallets for purchasing food in McDonald’s or grocery in convenience stores like 7-11! We Filipinos are pretty electronics-savvy; smart cards should be a no-brainer for us.

A few days after, I read in the news that the national government through the DOTC is proceeding with the bid for an automatic ticketing system for the MRT and LRT. Amongst the prospective bidders are companies belonging to the biggest conglomerates in the country (those owned by the Sy’s, Ayala’s, MVP, etc.). And because these conglomerates have under their wings telecoms, retail and banking firms, I have high hopes that we will have our own version of Hong Kong’s Octopus card, Singapore’s EZlink card, and Bangkok’s Rabbit cards soon. I wonder what it will be called. #

By Reina Garcia.

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