Michael Bueza | Rappler.com | November 20, 2017

In the last few weeks, there's been an abundance of news about glitches, accidents, and all sorts of problems involving the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, which serves EDSA, Metro Manila's main artery.

Just on Thursday, November 16, a train coach was detached from the train body between the Ayala Avenue and Buendia stations.

Besides that decoupling incident, there have been reports of train failures, disruption of full operations, and a few incidents where trains stopped between stations, forcing passengers to gingerly and perilously walk along the MRT tracks.

How often do these irritating MRT incidents happen? Is there a pattern to the mishaps and glitches? We looked at the available data to find out.

More glitches this year

The year's not over but the data shows there are already more MRT glitches and problems thus far recorded compared to the entire year of 2016.

This is evident in data posted by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), which has jurisdiction over the MRT3. DOTr has posted service status notices on its website from November 2015 onwards.

We filtered notices related to MRT service interruptions, unloading of passengers, and provisional services. We excluded statuses referring to the resumption of normal services and a few other details that are either connected to a previous status or do not necessarily entail an interruption.

Provisional service refers to a temporary disruption of full operations, when trains are unable to run from end to end, and instead run shorter distances between stations.

From January 1 to November 17 this year, there have been 475 MRT3 problems already recorded – an average of 10.33 a week, or more than once a day on some days. Of this number, 413 are train offloading incidents, 35 are service interruptions, and 27 are provisional services.

There were only 392 incidents in the same period in 2016, or an average of around 8.5 a week. Even then, in the entire 2016, only 441 incidents were recorded in the MRT3 line.

MRT3 problems, per type

In 2017, MRT3 problems have become more frequent, taking place with higher frequency each month too. April has had the lowest number of incidents so far, with 29. But since then, there has been an upward trend per month, peaking in September with 61. The following month, October, had 7 less incidents.

Meanwhile, midway through November, MRT3 has recorded 43 glitches already.

Since 2016, the most number of MRT problems took place in April 2016, with 63, just a couple more than what was recorded in September this year.

MRT3 problems, per month

Danger hours

Looking at per-hour data in 2017, more incidents take place during the morning rush hour (peaking at 42 incidents so far from 8 am to 8:59 am). Glitches are also more common from 2 pm to 5:59 pm.

Taking all the data since 2016, incidents usually happen at 6 am and 8 am. Afternoons are generally also prone to problems.

MRT3 problems, per hour

The latter half of the week tends to see more MRT problems. Wednesdays are typically bad MRT days in 2017, with 90 incidents recorded so far, followed by Thursdays and Fridays, with 79 each.

MRT3 problems, per day of week

Below is a chart of MRT problems per day recorded since 2016. Notice the high frequency of incidents in April 2016, October 2016, and September 2017.

You'll see that the 2nd week of September 2017 was the worst week with a total of 29 incidents, more than any other full week. In fact, September 16, 2017 (seen below as the box with the darkest color) has, so far, the most glitches in a single day, with 8.

Per station

According to data from the DOTC-MRT3 website, most of the train unloading incidents in 2017 took place at the Cubao station, happening 53 times, commonly due to technical problems. The Magallanes station in the south is in second place, at 47 times.

Factoring in 2016 data, however, passengers were offloaded more frequently at the Santolan and Ortigas stations, at 91 and 90 times, respectively, so far. Cubao and Magallanes tie at third with 88.

MRT3 train unloading incidents, by station

Service interruptions between stations

As for 51 service interruptions between stations since 2016, most have been recorded as occurring between the North Avenue and Quezon Avenue stations. A total of 16 interruptions have taken place there: 7 in 2016, and 9 so far in 2017.

Stations that recorded 5 or more service interruptions between them are the following:

  • Ortigas - Santolan: 9
  • Ayala Avenue - Buendia: 5
  • Cubao - Santolan: 5

There have also been service interruptions listed by DOTr-MRT3 in specific stations, with 15 such incidents in 2016 and 11 in 2017. Many of these were reported to have occurred at the North Avenue station (with 8 in 2016 and 3 in 2017).

Since 2016, the number of service interruptions have increased, resulting in shortened trips instead of end-to-end operations. When will these woes end?