Friday, August 1, 2008

First world transportation for Taiwan's second city (Taiwan Business Topics)

After two decades of planning, construction, cave-ins,and scandals over the use of foreign labor, Kaohsiung's mass rapid transit system (KMRT) carried its first paying passengers on April 7 this year.

During the 29-day free-travel period that preceded commercial operations, up to 400,000 people used the system each day. Inevitably there were glitches.A few passengers seemed not to understand the no-eating/no-drinking/no betel nut rule, and some first-timers using the ladies' restrooms sparked panic when they confused the emergency alarm button for the flush.

Since then things have been running smoothly. According to Vivian Wu, a public affairs assistant administrator at the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp. (KRTC), between April 7 and June 16 passenger numbers averaged 80,000 to 90,000 on weekdays, and 130,000 to 140,000 on Saturdays and Sundays.

Currently, there's just one line in operation. The 28.3-kilometer-long Red Line runs from Ciaotou Station (R23) in Kaohsiung County down through the northern part of Kaohsiung City to Kao- hsiung Main Station (R11). From there, it veers southeast to the Sanduo Shopping District (R8) and Kaohsiung International Airport (R4) before terminating in the sprawling blue-collar district of Siaogang (R3).

A second route, the 14.4-kilometer Orange Line, is scheduled to begin commercial operations before the end of October. Running east-west, it will link the harborside neighborhood of Yanchengpu (O2, also known by its old Japanese name, Hamasen) with the cultural center (O7, actually 15 minutes' walk from the auditorium complex) and Fongshan (O12), the most populous city in Kaohsiung County.

By international standards, the 20 years it took to make the KMRT a reality isn't embarrassingly long. Copenhagen needed just 10 years to get its metro going. However, construction of the Second Avenue line of New York's subway, which was conceived in 1929, began only last year.

A feeder-bus network links the Red Line with points throughout the city. A leaflet available from KMRT stations explains the various routes, all of which are prefixed by the Chinese character for "red." Unfortunately, this leaflet has very little English, and it doesn't list useful bus routes that predate the KMRT. City bus 50, for example, serves both the Love River and the cultural center, and stops very close to Central Park (R9). The leaflet's city map lacks a scale, so visitors who like walking can only guess whether their ultimate destination is 500 meters or three kilometers from the nearest KMRT stop.

The complete article is on AmCham's website. The photo here shows one of the entrances to the 05/R10 Formosa Boulevard Station.

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