Do fuel price hikes affect MRT ridership?

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

Posted at Mar 28 2014 04:03 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2014 05:19 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Long queues during rush hour have been a common occurrence at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), which serves more than half a million commuters daily.

Operating hours of the mass transit system have been extended, but MRT officials said lines of passengers were seen to have even grown longer since the extended operating hours were implemented.

What caused the rise in ridership?

A transport expert from India, Sudhir Gota, conducted a study on the increase of fuel prices and its impact on commuter behavior in the Philippines.

In his study, Gota said “in order to understand the travel behavior changes with fuel price, MRT ridership variation is considered as a proxy variable and compared with monthly fuel price.”

“Main hypothesis here is that MRT ridership reflects two growth scenarios, i.e. due to annual increase in ridership and due to shift of people from motorized modes to MRT due to fuel price increase,” he added.

Gota said a peak in gasoline prices was seen in 2008, but there was no clear indication if the vehicle owners shifted to the MRT during periods of high prices.

“By observing daily ridership per month variation with fuel price increase over 6 years, no clear trend could be established which could support theory of low growth in fuel consumption in road transport sector due to high degree of shift to MRT. The peak gasoline price was observed in 2008 where it crossed 60 pesos. Ridership did not reflect drastic increase due to shift of people from private modes to MRT during high gasoline prices,” Gota said.

“Clearly, fuel price increase does not appear to make any significant reductions in travel demand,” he concluded.

MRT general manager Al Vitangcol III, meanwhile, has said that the lack of foresight and lack of enough coaches are causing the long queues.

He said the MRT, which began operations in 1999, “was not designed for the future.”

“The management did not foresee the number of ridership," he said.

The MRT has been serving around 560,000 passengers per day, significantly exceeding its original designed capacity of 350,000 passengers.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has already ordered 48 new trains to address the problem, the first three of which are set to arrive early next year.

Transportation Sec. Jun Abaya said in February that a notice to proceed has been issued to the Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. of China to manufacture the new light rail vehicles (LRVs) “which will be delivered in tranches starting in the second half of 2015.”