Lines in MRT are always long, both in the ticket booths and in the turnstiles to enter the stations. But it is more frequent to see long lines in ticket booths than in the turnstiles. MRT stored value cards, and the Filipinos’ sachet economy play a part in these long queues. Apart of course from other factors such as lack of MRT capacity to service the commuting public, slow ticket booth vendors, fast (and unreliable) security frisks from the guards, the profile of the riding public varying in each MRT station, and the time of the day when you make the observation. But for this post, I will focus on the MRT stored value cards and the sachet economy for Filipinos.
MRT stored value (SV) cards cost P100 and are valid for the next 30 days upon first use. At an average of Php12 a ride (Cubao to Ayala v.v.), one can enjoy 9 rides (total northbound [NB] + southbound [SB]) with the stored value ticket, given that 8 rides will cost Php96 and the remaining Php4 is still good for one bonus ride up to any destination. Effectively, cost per ride using SV is just Php11.11 (P100/ 9 rides).
On the other hand, if a commuter just buys Php12 single journey (SJ) ticket every time he rides the MRT, his Php100 will just give him 8 rides back and forth, and will need to pay Php108 to get 9 train rides.
For a month (25 working days), 50 MRT rides will be needed. At Php12 per ride, below will be the monthly fare costs for SV vs SJ:
SV = 50 rides*Php11.11 = Php555.50
SJ = 50 rides*Php12 = Php600
So the SV saves you ~Php45 per month. You should count to that the effort and time saved with using SV over SJ. Less time and frequency to line-up, and less lines to fall into (saves you up to 8 times of lining up to the ticket booth for every SV ticket). More efficient as well in case stations are on stop entry southbound, you can already go inside the station northbound in case ticket selling is on hold as well.
But why are there still a lot of people lining up for single journey tickets? I will divide these people into 2 groups: “infrequent riders” and the “limited-capacity-riders”.
Infrequent riders: Those who only ride the MRT from time to time and find it more time and cost efficient to buy SJ tickets as and when, instead of spending Php100 for a SV ticket that they will seldom use. Also, buying SV tickets exposes them to the risk of expiry since 30 days may have already passed, and still they haven’t used up the whole Php100 value. Compared to the volume of limited-capacity-riders, I think the number of infrequent riders are much less though.
Limited-capacity-riders: Those who regularly ride the MRT (at least twice a day), but do not have the resources to pay Php100 upfront. Sad to say, there are a lot of people who live on a daily budget (say Php100 or less a day for fare, food, etc) and they just can’t spend the whole Php100 for a SV ticket for their use in the next 4-5 days. So they go through the daily grind of lining up at least 6 long times per day (compared to just short 4 times if you hold SV) because they’d rather not spend in bulk for a ticket. Because that money still has other important things to buy at that moment, they cannot afford to spend Php100 upfront and not have money for other more pressing needs.
This is a classic example of sachet economy at work in Filipinos. I’m not saying that the limited-capacity-riders choose to buy retail (tingi), maybe some of them do have a choice, but I bet that majority of them actually do not have a choice but to buy SJ. They have to go to work but their daily budget is just enough for the day. Given the chance, they would have bought SV tickets, knowing the advantages of it, it’s just that they do not have the resources for SV, only for SJ.
And that is why retail / tingi purchases are very pervasive in the Philippines. That most Filipinos live on a sachet economy. We lack the capacity to buy in bulk because buying in bulk means we have extra disposable income. That we earn more than enough in a day.
For those who buy stored-value tickets, be thankful. At least for your MRT fare, you can afford to buy in bulk.