Thursday, December 1, 2011

How I learned to stop worrying and love MRT expansion

The United Daily News had a couple articles on the upcoming wave of MRT expansion. The first is pretty good, explaining how the new lines will take shape. The second article features interviews with Taipei residents who complain about the extensions. Unfortunately the UDN doesn't refute these complaints, which are without exception ridiculous. Nor do they give the MRT construction bureau a chance to refute them (or maybe they tried and the construction bureau was just too incompetent).
Anyway, most of the complaints have to do being forced to transfer under the new system. For example:
-Elderly people from Zhonghe complain that transferring will make getting to NTU Hospital difficult.
-Elderly people in Xindian complain transferring will make getting to Shilin and Beitou difficult.
-A Yonghe resident complains that they will have to transfer at Guting as well as Taipei Main to get to eastern Taipei, and that the trip might take twice as long (!).

First of all, the new transfers will almost all be cross-platform, like those in Hong Kong- in other words you will not have to walk 300 feet through crowded passageways like in Taipei Main. Instead you will have to walk 30 feet, across a less-crowded platform, and hopefully, if the MRT company is smart, they will time trains to arrive at transfer stations around the same time so no one will have to wait more than a couple minutes for the next train. More annoying than a direct train, but only by a little.
And there are benefits, which the last complainer utterly failed to grasp. For example, even though the Zhonghe line will not pass through any major employment or commercial center like east Taipei or Taipei Main, getting to east Taipei will be much faster since the orange line will intersect with the blue line to the east of Main, and there will another, cross-platform transfer to the Xinyi line at Dongmen, making the 10 minute walk MRT users need to take to get to 101 unnecessary. Yes this comes at the cost of direct access to Main, but even that extra cost isn't so bad given that there will be an easy transfer.
To be fair there are some annoying things about the new layout, for example people going from the Xindian line to the eastern sections of the Songshan or Nangang lines, or from the Zhonghe line to Banqiao, will have a choice between a roundabout route with no transfers, or a more direct route with two transfers. But overall, these extensions will be good for most people.