Segregation in the MRT

There are steel serpents that criss-cross EDSA everyday. They start from somewhere near SM City and ends just before an older set of steel serpents. I ride those serpents everyday. I like to think of them as dragons or serpents but in reality they are more mundane agents of locomotion. Government officials and the people running the corporation running these trains call this particular line or service the Metrostar Express. People still call it by the acronym of its technical name Mass Rail Transit, the MRT.

At least the word MRT has not conjured up Franken words like MRTing or being MRTed.

It is not a perfect transit system and I would say that on the whole it is quite reliable. Except for the time when President Estrada (AKA Erap) declared free roads for everyone on his birthday. The train bogged down at the Santolan Station and everyone had to find a ride the rest of the way. And when someone certifiable decided that it was good target on the birthday of Rizal several years back. The MRT made things more bearable cost wise and stress-wise - imagine being able to go above traffic and street demonstrations.

Still riding the MRT environs can be as dynamic as any activity on the street. People rushing to and fro, still there are some trying to sell stuff, MRT Praetorian Guards trying to control the traffic of patrons, and sometimes you also see people praying in one corner of the station.

Like all form of mass transportation the MRT gets crowded, especially during rush hours. And there have been complaints. Men unwilling to give up their seats to the women, the elderly, the disabled and to those bearing children. There have also been complaints, although I have not seen one really happen, of women being molested or in Tagalog “na-chansing ngan” (a Taglish word meaning someone taking advantage of situation to grope or pinch somebody’s sensitive parts, from the word chance).

In due time the complaints reached the ears of those in power and solutions were demanded. Maybe one or a group or all of the bright boys under the payroll suggested a possible solution, segregation. It was announced that the first set of coaches would be reserved for the women, the disabled, the elderly, the children and those bearing children. The measure was announced and stands resembling guillotines were used to mark the point where no man can enter, except if he is elderly or accompanying a child (At least this was what first announced).

The great segregation scheme in the MRT was implemented. Habits had to change and one MRT Praetorian Guard was assigned to enforce this new rule. And so it came in terms of riding the MRT the men and the women were to be segregated.

A few weeks after did it succeed?

Yes and No.

The segregation as regards to the first two coaches was strictly observed. However, there were still women and children riding the non-special coaches. How could this be? And this has always intrigued me, being a daily patron of the MRT, why a number of people do not take advantage of this thing and opt to ride the more compact and non-segregated coaches.

A few reasons come to mind and revealed themselves while I was riding the MRT

(1) Perhaps the new measure was not effectively announced. The only signs available were hand written signs on dividers or some posts on the stands marking the women et al zone. The posts on the stand were not viewable most of the time because the rays of the sun were at its back.

(2) Maybe, most of the seats filled up fast. So some of the women opted to try their luck in the non-segregated coaches. This especially true at the terminal stations.

(3) The non-segregated coaches were the first coaches they chanced upon when entering the station.

(4) The women were with their boyfriends, spouse or friends and did not want to separate. The power of love and friendship. This practice is not a problem if one is staring from any terminal station or one is a round-tripper, a person who rides to the terminal station in order to get a seat going back. There are still a lot of roundtrippers. One cannot really blame and they do spend an extra time just to get a seat or space in the return ride.

(5) Maybe some of the elderly did not want to be identified as elderly. Could be possible.

So, although the measure had a measure of success. The Elderly can now seat comfortably, at least most of them anyway. However, it failed to convince a number of other commuters.  One noticeable change in the non-segregated coaches is that there were fewer people giving up their seats to the women.

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