The Strange Disappearance of the MRT Stored Value Ticket: A Conspiracy Theory

Where has the Stored Value Ticket gone?

Something fishy is going on with the MRT. For about two to three weeks now, passengers can’t get their hands on the stored value ticket. Apparently, it’s gone and no one knows where it is. If anyone in the MRT management knows where the card is, they’re not telling us. Like an abducted guerrilla without any trace of evidence, no drop of blood or sweat on the floor, the stored value ticket has magically disappeared, leaving nothing but a haunting air of mystery behind.

It Happened Before

I’ve been riding the MRT for years that I could say I know every nook and cranny of the sticky trains and the grisly platforms. In all my years of riding this rattling sardine can, I’ve never experienced a stored value ticket shortage on the scale of what’s happening now.

But interestingly, there was a precedent. A little digging on the MRT’s history reveals that stored-value ticket shortages similar to this scale happened a long time ago, back in 2005. Like what’s happening today, the MRT had no official announcement whatsoever about why they’re running short on single journey and stored value tickets. There were ridiculous cases when guards just signed pieces of paper to let passengers in and out of platforms.

Eventually though, it became apparent what’s the cause of all the unfunny comedy. The MRT management had resorted to withholding “old” tickets with Erap’s face on them from passengers. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn in the year before in June 2004, and someone must have ordered the MRTC to phase out Erap tickets to make way for the GMA tickets which aimed to conquer the MRT universe as soon as possible. Until all the old tickets were replaced, the management decided to literally cut out Erap’s face from the old tickets so passengers can use them. Passengers used dismembered old tickets that didn’t work, so they can get to work. The result of all this hullaballoo is that stored value tickets (fewer in numbers to begin with) were all used up in the morning, and huge crowds lined up for the few single-journey tickets available.

Where’s the Official Announcement?

MRT North Avenue Station

The present situation is not entirely different from 2005. Frustrated and annoyed passengers rushing to their work to make money for this country and our public officials are forced to line up every morning for single-journey tickets. A suffocating volume of people fills up every breathing space in platforms just to get their hands on single journey tickets that get used up instantly. Passengers who are used to suffering inside the congested and poorly maintained trains and stations are made to suffer even more day after day, night after night just because the stored value ticket had vanished.

The ugliest fact in this is that the only answers passengers get from the MRT management about the disappearance of the stored value ticket are the hastily scribbled notes on typewriting paper taped on ticket booths: “Stored Value Tickets Temporarily Not Available” or “Wala pa pong Stored Value — SV.”

To the MRTC and DOTC: We know they’re gone. The question is WHY?

The MRT is operated by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), a private company operating in partnership with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) under a Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) agreement. This means that the MRT is partly owned by the government, and in fact, the National Development Corporation should have acquired roughly 80% of MTRC last October 2009.

While the MRTC is in chage of designing, constructing, testing, commissioning, and maintaining the MRT, it’s the DOTC that’s responsible for all administrative functions, such as the regulation of fares and operations.

As citizens who pay for the money the government uses to acquire the MRT, aren’t we entitled to know what the hell is going on in here? Don’t we deserve a simple, concise but sound and informative announcement on WHY there have been no stored value tickets for about three weeks in all stations? Don’t we deserve an explanation as to why we have to line up sweating and swearing for single journey tickets as many of us get late for our work and lose our money?

Apparently, the MRT management hasn’t thought of any of this. To them, we’re just paying buffoons who would ride their rattling junk everyday — official announcement or not.

A Conspiracy Theory

Since I have been kept in the dark regarding the mysterious disappearance of the stored value ticket, and the MRT management doesn’t seem to have any plans to tell me what’s cooking, no one can blame me for fashioning my own theory — a conspiracy theory — on why such a thing happened.

All of us know that the stored value ticket is precious compared to the single journey ticket because of two things (1) it saves us a lot of time because we only have to line up for it about once a week if you’re a regular passenger, and (2) it saves us money because we often get free rides with the spare amount left on the card.

Now, I could only see three possibilities why the stored value ticket’s existence was erased so suddenly. The first possibility is that, like in 2005, the MRT management has decided to replace the old stored value tickets with new ones. The reason for this could be the design (like in the precedent where Erap’s face was deemed unholy by the government) or the function (the tickets were somehow deemed to be poorly functioning). Of course, both these reasons are implausible since if the reason is the former, then they could just use the stored value tickets with the old designs for now and wait until the news ones have arrived before they take them off the shelves. The second one is even more difficult to believe because based on my long experience of the card, 98% of the time, it worked. Either way, if this is true, then we have reason to believe that single-journey tickets will be the next ones to be replaced, and a single-journey ticket shortage is upon us.

The second possibility is that there was a network-wide collapse of the stored value ticketing system such as never happened before in the entire MRT history. Some unexplained technical error made it impossible for the ticketing machines to program the “stored value amount” into the cards. It follows that these rusty, dirty-white machines curiously resembling regular cash registers must be connected in some advanced intelligent way with each other — so that a bug in one causes the downfall of others, like that massively destructive Y2K bug.

And then there’s the third possibility. According to it, the MRT management has figures detailing how much passengers save and how much they lose through the stored value ticket system. Those free rides available through the stored value tickets would be worth thousands every day if you add them all up. Why do we know this? While we don’t have any figures on just how much a regular day’s haul for the MRT management is, back in June 2009, when the MRT was exploring the possibility of cashing in on nighttime riders, they earned P134,000 from just 5,346 passengers who rode the train in its nighttime extension. Recent estimates put the number of passengers every day at 485,066. That means that every day, the MRT can generate an astounding P12 million if my clunky arithmetic is right on the money.

Even a small percentage of P12 million would help someone get to somewhere a lot easier.

What if, the MRT management somehow needed extra cash, so they deliberately pulled out the stored value tickets from their grimy booths, thus forcing everyone to buy single-journey tickets. The extra cash generated from everyone losing their “free ride” privileges can then be used for another purpose.

What if that purpose is to fuel somebody or some party’s campaign for the 2010 national elections? A steady flow of thousands of dollars from the MRT that can be easily reported in writing as a technical necessity can push a campaign quite far. Imagine how many stickers and posters that money can print, how many white envelopes it can fill.

What if the stored value ticket was gagged, kidnapped, locked in a dingy room somewhere, then raped again and again — for someone’s national campaign?

Closing Remarks: The Wonder Train

The MRT is a Wonder Train because it’s a wonder how we can endure it. Like many of the Filipinos who tear each other’s flesh and shoes every day just to get inside the MRT, I loathe the whole thing but I can’t seem to do anything about it. It eludes me why the main train of the Filipino civilization, the one foreigners from around the world see every day, is as beautiful as a toilet full of dung. My brain cannot comprehend how the government can bear to show this dirt shack to the rest of the world like it’s a gem of an achievement. MRT stations are perhaps some of the dirtiest places in the Philippines, not wholly different from the sewers. Every corner of every MRT platform is chock-full of soot and bacteria that God save the child who regularly inhales the musty air inside it. Ventilation is poor and the bathrooms are stinkier than Philippine politics, which is quite an achievement. Platforms are secure too, since guards make it a point to make a nanosecond peek at your bag before you’re allowed to step inside them.

And the trains? There are so many of them people turn into Sauron’s Uruk-hai when their doors open. We kill each other for seats and spaces to stand on. A couple of them have ventilation on par with the trains the Germans used to transfer Jews to extermination camps. Hell, we look like these poor Jews, too, gasping for air in these trains that are regularly late and dysfunctional.

“Pakiusap lang po, ‘wag nating pigilian ang pintuan. ‘Pag nasira yan kayo din ang maaabala,” warned the driver. Well, we don’t have much choice, do we? The MRT has turned us into monsters, and as monsters we’ll tear these trains apart if we have to — just so we can go to work on time.


23 thoughts on “The Strange Disappearance of the MRT Stored Value Ticket: A Conspiracy Theory

  1. ang hindi ko maintindihan, bakit hindi nila maayos-ayos yang putanginang train na yan eh bilyon bilyon ang revenue niyan. Ang sinasabi pa nila, nalulugi sila, putanginang mga kurakot yan. mamatay na.

    1. Oo tangina pano sila malulugi e bawat train nga sobra-sobra na magsakay para sa safe capacity. Nagtataka nga ko wala pang namamatay don eh. Minsan literally anghirap talaga huminga. Mga gago yang mga yan, binubulsa lang mga pera ng tao.

  2. LOL. Puro mura yung comments. :)) Putangina!

    1. Oo bwakananginang MRT yan. Hahaha. 😀

  3. sssilencerseven March 8, 2010 — 4:24 am

    buti nabasa ko tong post mo. i’ve also been wondering what has been happening to the stored value tickets. talagang napaka walang kwenta ng management ng MRT.

    totoo rin na parang wala silang pakialam sa mga pasahero. kahit punong puno na ang stations, grabe pa rin ang bagal ng pagbenta ng tickets. maybe dapat tanggalin ung mga aircon ng ticket booths para naman maranasan ng mga nagbebenta ang hirap ng mga taong naka-pila at pinag hihintay nila ng sobrang tagal. and while we’re at it, siguro dapat rin sapilitan ipasakay ang mga namamahala ng MRT pag peak hours sa cubao or north ave station para malaman nila ang kagaguhan na tinitiis natin araw araw.

    1. Wala talaga silang pakialam sa’ting mga pasahero. Wala namang improvement over the years ang MRT eh. It’s getting worse, actually. Pano magi-improve eh hindi naman nagi-invest ang MRT sa pagpapaayos ng mga stations at mga tren. Nabubulok lang ng nabubulok yang mga yan hanggang ‘di na masakyan. Anlaki-laki ng kinikita nila pero wala silang nilalaan para sa regular na pagpapaganda at pagpapaayos ng mga pasilidad. Maintenance lang ang gusto nilang gawin. Maintain lang ng maintain, ‘wag na paginhawain mga pasaherong nagbabayad para yumaman yang mga nakaupo dyan. They’re treating us like pigs and retarded people.

      1. sssilencerseven March 9, 2010 — 4:14 am

        That’s a good point. Napaka tanga rin ng pinag gagastusan nila. If I noticed ang dami nilang biniling lcd tv/monitors na hindi naman ginagamit. Last time I counted mga 6-8 ata sa cubao station pa lang. Eh kung kesa yun ang binili nila, dapat mga electric fan na lang binili nila para medyo bigyan naman ng konting comfort ung mga naghihintay sa station.

        They are really poor at managing resources. Bili lang sila ng bili ng mga kabalbalan.

  4. I completely agree. In North Ave. station, they even built these little frames for ads and they placed them smack in the middle of the passageway leading to the stairs. Aside from acquiring dust and rust (since no company has decided to put any ad on them since they were built), these things have no effing use but block people’s way. I mean, just imagine what they could’ve done with that money. You’re right; they could have installed more electric fans or cleaned the goddamn station. They could’ve fixed the defective revolving gates, so tickets don’t get stuck in them. But instead they chose to build these useless ad carriers. They’re just showing off. They don’t really give passengers what they need.

  5. Christopher Quijano March 10, 2010 — 3:42 am

    Napansin nyo rin ba na ultimo yung GPass/MPass ay hindi narin nag-loload ng stored value, bagkus eh binibili pa nila yung mga passes nila? What is REALLY GOING ON?

    1. Hindi nila ine-encourage siguro mga tao mag GPass/MPass kasi siguro mas lugi sila dyan. They’re just phasing them out para lahat tayo ay magshift na sa single journey tickets at mas malaki kikitain nila. Mga garapal yang mga yan.

      1. Christopher Quijano March 10, 2010 — 4:25 am

        If that is the case — bakit may bagong installation of 2D barcode scanners sa Taft Ave station? Hmm… shifting to 1 stored value provider? We’ll never know.

        FYI: MRT3 3rd Party Stored value providers:
        – GPass (by Globe) – Launched but operations transferred to VMobile
        – MPass (by VMobile) – Launched already
        – OmniPass (first try) – Launched but failed to gain traction
        – RCBC OmniPass (second try) – Had a Media announcement/launch but not yet activated

  6. Really? Well, all the more fishy then. If they’re shifting to one stored value provider, they’re probably doing some underhanded trick again. Where there’s no competition involved, you know someone’s going to manipulate something. I just don’t trust these buffoons.

  7. I sent an email to the MRT side. Let’s see kung mag-reply. Grabe, sabi ng husband ko lahat ng station daw walang MRT ticket. E malapit ng mag-open yung Edsa Line. Tiyak nyan, ang North Ave sttn, magiging parang Kamuning na sa dami ng tao. Good luck na lang sa aming doon sumasakay. Mukhang wala ring idadagdag na trains to ferry the expected additional 100,000 passengers. Mas maigi pa yatang mag bus. Does anyone here know how early I should take the bus at North Edsa to be able to get to MOA at 8:30?

    1. Actually, last week nakabili na ko ng stored value ticket sa Shaw Boulevard Station. Hindi ko sure kung meron na sa North Ave. pero parang meron na. Hindi ko lang alam kasingdami yung tickets katulad dati. I think mas konti pa rin. I don’t understand why they can’t produce enough tickets when all they have to do is swipe the ticket in the machine to program the stored value amount.

      As for the bus ride, according to my girlfriend, the average travel time would be 1.5 hours, but it could take longer if there’s traffic congestion. But you don’t have to worry about that since you’ll be waking up early. I personally think you can make it under an hour if you ride one of these super-fast regular buses that don’t take their time waiting for passengers.

  8. We pretty much came up with the same theories. It’s either political or purely financial. We’ll find out sooner or later by checking whether or not we’ll have Arroyo’s mug on the issued tickets. While I hate that idea, I still think it’s better than facing a permanently reduced supply. Since Monday last week, I was only able to encounter available SVTs once – yesterday. In that case, we’ll probably have a secondary market of scalped SVTs.

    1. According to people who have asked MRT staff, their alibi is that the shortage is due to passengers who don’t return stored value tickets because they want to keep them as souvenirs. I think that’s bs because I still can’t understand why they can’t replace them with new ones when all they have to do is swipe the cards. I also doubt that’s the case when one week there’s enough stored value tickets for everybody then the following week, they were gone. We didn’t see them “running out.” They just disappeared instantly.

      I don’t think this is permanent, though, but it may last until the election is over.

  9. I think it’s more of the third theory.

    This vessel had turned even the most gorgeous, finesse lady into evil. Tulakan dito, tulakan dun! Minsan may nag-aaway pa sa loob. I even remember na nakatayo, may face is directly facing to an open armpit of another passenger. Pagkapreno ng train, smack!!! lol

    1. We should all think so, in my opinion. It’s just absurd, that many tickets disappearing over a weekend.

      That’s too bad. I really pity women who have to endure the consequences of MRTC and DOTC’s ineptitude (or corruption). Aside from the physical punishment of riding the train everyday, women’s privacy is virtually not safeguarded at all by these organizations we pay to stay alive. It seems they’re content with the age-old “segregation scheme” implemented in the trains. To hell with these idiots. We don’t need a more stringent segregation scheme. WE NEED MORE TRAINS!

  10. ano po latest schedule ng mrt at lrt po?
    wala ako makita dito sa net eh.
    ang alam ko lang gang 11pm ung monumento-baclaran pag LRT, eh pag mrt ay don’t know po. 10pm kc uwi ko.

    1. Hi Nikkie,

      Naghanap din ako sa Internet. ‘Di ko alam kung ito ang latest ha. Pero basahin mo rito:

      Thanks for visiting my blog. 🙂

  11. Hi —

    Used your photo of the MRT North Ave. station in my blog entry. Thanks. It can be accessed through this link.

    Keep up the good work, especially re: trains.

  12. Nakakapagtaka nga ito. Hanggang ngayon ganun sa LRT Line 1. But nagrelease naman sila ng statement.

    Anyway, I just want to share this article (regarding sa mga speculations regarding the unavailable stored value cards):

    Have a nice day bro!

  13. And it is happening again. Ang hirap sumakay araw-araw dahil ang haba ng pila sa may ticket booth tapos ang haba din ng pila pasakay ng tren. At tinangal din pansamantala ang discount sa mga estudyante. Hay nako.

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