On the MRT: A Capacity Conundrum

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The Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT) has been operating at 142% capacity since 2004. New prototype trains have been scheduled to arrive in 2015, but the actual deployment will still be in the following year. How bad is the current train situation? Let’s find out through data!

TJ Palanca https://www.twitter.com/tjpalanca
05-16-2015

This article was also featured on Rappler and GMA News Online!

After more than 16 years in operation, it is clear that the MRT isn’t anymore what it once was. What used to be an enduring symbol of progress and technological innovation is now just an uncomfortable, accident-prone, and unfortunately, inevitable mode of transport. Operating at the level of about 500,000 passengers per day on a capacity of only 350,000, transport secretary Abaya says the trains continue to be worn down from the excessive burden.

Too close for comfort

MRT Ridership - Continuously operating at above capacity is sure to bring undue wear and tear to a system that hasn't seen any major overhaul since it was built.

Figure 1: MRT Ridership - Continuously operating at above capacity is sure to bring undue wear and tear to a system that hasn’t seen any major overhaul since it was built.

I’ve written before on the state of train lines in the capital, but new data from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has surfaced, allowing us a more detailed look at the inner workings of the historic MRT.

It’s best not to go with the flow

Ridership isn’t going to be evenly distributed throughout the operating day, so an adequately-planned facility requires a little slack capacity to handle the peak hour load. When this isn’t the case, passengers tend to build up inside the system, and congestion ensues.