Past and Cu­ri­ous

Where our tick­ets to ride came from

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Car Culture - RICHARD WIL­HELM b. RAGODON

Though col­lec­tors, for a long time, have con­tin­u­ally ac­quired and pre­served in­ter­est­ing or valu­able items for pos­ter­ity, ephemeral items are usu­ally for­got­ten. In many dic­tio­nar­ies, the word ‘ephe­mera’ is de­fined as printed or sin­gle-page doc­u­ments that are not meant to be re­tained or pre­served. With no more value af­ter us­age, ephe­mera—like bus tick­ets, posters, protest or cam­paign ma­te­ri­als, advertising sig­nage, trade cards, and used stamps—are des­tined to be thrown away.

This writer has been col­lect­ing and pre­serv­ing fare re­ceipts or tick­ets as foot­notes to the his­tory of lo­cal trans­porta­tion com­pa­nies. The hobby started ac­ci­den­tally, lit­er­ally speak­ing, af­ter yours truly was in­volved in a bus ac­ci­dent and kept the bus ticket as a con­stant re­minder of this sec­ond life. From tick­ets dis­cov­ered and ac­quired, a brief glimpse into the his­tory of lo­cal trans­porta­tion tick­ets, to­kens, and cards is now mod­estly shared.

La Com­pa­nia de Tran­vias de Filip­inas was likely the first trans­porta­tion com­pany to is­sue tick­ets, fol­lowed by the Manila-Dagu­pan Rail­way Com­pany in 1892. Es­tab­lished in 1882, it op­er­ated four horse-drawn and one-steam pow­ered (tran­via de va­por) tram routes from 1888 to 1902. The com­pany was sub­se­quently bought by Mer­alco (Manila Elec­tric and Rail Com­pany), which op­er­ated elec­tric-pow­ered trams and mo­tor­ized buses around Manila from 1905 to 1945. Com­muters were charged ac­cord­ing to the seat­ing sec­tion se­lected.

Garage or liv­ery sta­tion own­ers in­tro­duced calesa checks in the 1900s. The hourly rate cost P1.20, or dou­ble that be­yond city lim­its. Mean­while, pub­lic buses that ap­peared in 1908 only charged cer­tain rates to com­muters. There were no class rate dis­tinc­tions; con­duc­tors gave fare re­ceipts in the form of tick­ets. Based on rate and dis­tance ma­trixes, ticket fares were punched ac­cord­ingly. This pro­ce­dure has been fol­lowed by most op­er­a­tors un­til now.

Mer­alco hired lady con­duc­tresses in 1919. They were as­signed to han­dle the short MalateCus­tom route. Fur­ther hir­ing of bus and train con­duc­tresses peaked in the ’60s, then grad­u­ally di­min­ished by the ’80s.

Trans­porta­tion to­kens were in­tro­duced in the late ’30s. Iloilo Trans­porta­tion, Mer­alco, Clark Field Bus Line, and Cal­i­for­nia Bus Line came out with to­kens that slowly dis­ap­peared in the ’70s. The fare re­ceipt or ticket re­mained the proof of pay­ment ac­knowl­edged by bus in­spec­tors, who usu­ally board buses unan­nounced to do checks. Of late, some bus com­pa­nies is­sue tick­ets printed from a con­duc­tor’s wrist­band-type tick­et­ing ma­chines. Taxi op­er­a­tors are do­ing the same by is­su­ing re­ceipts us­ing sim­i­lar print­ing ma­chines.

The LRT rein­tro­duced fare to­kens in 1984. The MRT and the LRT-2 sys­tems came out with mag­netic cards. Ini­tial edi­tions of cards is­sued were even politi­cized with por­traits of then­in­cum­bent Philip­pine pres­i­dents.

The ar­rival of spe­cial­ized trans­porta­tion ser­vices (Uber and Grab) in the Philip­pines, which use smart­phones and ac­count num­bers for trans­ac­tions, have likely elim­i­nated the use of printed tick­ets and re­ceipts. While min­i­miz­ing pa­per us­age is re­ally good news to en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, it is sad news to ticket col­lec­tors and his­to­ri­ans. And it looks like there will def­i­nitely be less tick­ets to pre­serve in the com­ing years.

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