If there is anything this administration has shown us, it is that with stubborn and oftentimes contentious political will, things get done and get done quickly

With the completion of the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project last week, commuters along EDSA now have a more reliable and timely mode of mass transportation. Rising fuel prices have surely made people reconsider car usage. So having a mass transportation option will surely be a welcome development.

According to the Department of Transportation, the MRT-3 now has 18 to 23 trains running, up from the 10 to 15 it used to deploy during its worst operational period six years ago. Because of the 26-month-long rehabilitation work done by Sumitomo Corporation, the trains can now travel up to 60 kilometers per hour, up from what used to be 30 km/h. And because of this improved speed, the waiting time between trains has also been reduced to 3.5 minutes, from the 8 to 10 before.

To celebrate this achievement, President Duterte and the DOTr announced it will let the public ride the MRT-3 for free until April 30th. And if the thousands who queued up to avail of this temporarily free mode of transportation is any indication, we need more trains to service the rest of the metropolis.

I remember when the MRT-3 first became operational in early 2000. My friends and I took a train end-to-end and back to experience what we dubbed as a “roller coaster ride” along EDSA. Back then, It was a novelty for sure as only buses, many with no air conditioning and only with wooden bench seats, were the only available mass transportation to get people from Quezon City to Pasay.

The MRT-3’s efficiency has proven itself many times as a preferred mass transport system in the last 22 years. Because of the worsening traffic in the last two decades, if one wanted to get from one point of EDSA to another, the MRT-3 would be the logical choice. Late for a concert at the Araneta Coliseum? Take the MRT-3. An important meeting in Makati and need to head back to QC in a jiffy? Take the MRT-3.

Which begs the question, “Why don’t we have more of them?”

Having a train system serving the capital region’s main thoroughfare was conceived as early as 1973. Although it was originally planned as a subway, later planning iterations led to the adoption of an on-ground light railway system instead in 1989. Construction began in 1996 during the Ramos administration with the system inaugurated in December 1999 during the term of President Joseph Estrada.

From 1973 to 1999, just pause for a bit to think about that. This was how long it took for the MRT-3 to benefit the commuting masses. Given that extraneous economic and political events hampered the progress of this project, like the global oil crisis, economic depression in the early 1980s and political upheaval in mid to late ‘80s, it still boggles the mind how many plans conceived some 40 years ago have only seen the light of day in recent times.

But there is a ray of hope just across the horizon. By the end of this year, the 22.8-kilometer MRT Line 7, which has a route stretching from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan to North Triangle in Quezon City should be operational. This ushers in a new era of commuting for northerners as there will be another, and even more efficient, option aside from taking a bus to get to Metro Manila from Bulacan.

Yes, the MRT-7 was initially proposed in 2001. And yes, it will be operational in 2022. Actual construction began in 2017 and operations are expected to begin this December. See the pattern here? Despite the urgency and need to address the lack of mass transportation of a growing metropolis, MRT-7 still suffered from the same delay that bureaucracy and right-of-way issues that other transportation and infrastructure projects have encountered.

If we consider actual construction time, we can enjoy light rail transportation in 3 to 5 years. But it is the long lead time in each and every infrastructure undertaking that is continuously making our lives miserable.

Why is it that despite the myriad of development plans, unsolicited proposals, and workable solutions submitted to the government, projects such as these mass transport systems take a whole generation to see fruition?

We understand that many studies have to be done to see the full picture of the impact such massive projects will have on their surroundings, the environment, their viability as an economic exercise, and the whole transportation system itself. Sure, we get that. But is there really no way to expedite these projects so that we can catch up with the growing demand of the capital region?

This is where foresight, planning, and proper on-time implementation can spell the difference between us languishing in the now and us reaping the benefits of convenience other countries have experienced decades ago.

And that is why choosing the right leader to move this country forward is important. A leader who espouses action should result in more things getting done, instead of ruminating and procrastinating about projects that have been studied and signed off already.

If there is anything this administration has shown us, it is that with stubborn and oftentimes contentious political will, things get done and get done quickly. Now it is again up to us, the electorate, to choose leaders who will put our convenience as their priority. To choose forward-thinking progressives instead of selfish crooks who will stonewall projects if only to find ways to get a cut from them at our expense.