Friday, May 13, 2011

MRT expansion news: Circular Line

Some MRT-expansion related news: Taipei’s Dept. of Rapid Transit Systems has told the Taipei City Council that the southern section of the circular MRT line will be completed at 2021 at the very earliest, despite having begun planning in 1992. This line would extend the orbital line (which is already under construction and passes through Xinzhuang, Banqiao, Zhonghe and Xindian) from Dapinglin east through Muzha to NCCU, and will link up with the Wen-Hu line at the Taipei Zoo station. Its construction has not yet been approved because DoRTS doesn’t feel it will cover enough of its own costs, and wants to do more to develop the land around future stations.
I feel this is a reasonable strategy on the part of DoRTS. If a heavy rail line fails to attract enough ridership to pay for itself, it could probably be replaced by another, lower-capacity form of mass transit, such as BRT or light rail. A government’s resources will always be limited, no matter how high you raise taxes, so any service that requires subsidies will drain money from other services. In other words if an MRT line loses money, that’s less money available for education, health care, welfare, and so on. The problem in Taiwan is that the government expects the MRT to be profitable, as it should, but then subsidizes driving by providing free parking, by using general funds instead of a gas tax to build roads, and by not making drivers pay for the pollution and noise they create. If these subsidies were steadily removed as mass transit services were expanded, you would probably have enough demand to build comprehensive mass transit in all of Taiwan’s cities while at the same time reducing the government’s spending, decreasing pollution and making Taiwan an altogether more pleasant place to live.

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