Reflection on Danhai Light Rail System

環工所碩一 鍾宇敏Adrienne Chung

        First and foremost, my studies are not and have never been in Civil Engineering, or even more specifically, Transportation Engineering. During my experience visiting the Danhai Light Rail System, I learned how several different issues come into play to solve one problem: providing better access to the inner parts of the Tamsui region.

During this process, I asked a question about how the Danhai LRT currently makes money, or continues to have operation costs. It was indicated that the Danhai LRT does not make money from their current operations, though it is as expected, even from what we learned in class. The Danhai LRT is currently seldom used by residents in the area, perhaps due to lack of knowledge or cost. At this time, in my mind, I was really considering the few transportation or railway systems that currently make money. For example, Hong Kong and Singapore make money, which brought me back to the discussion we had in class about the mixed-use communities, and what I know about Hong Kong, which is that the Hong Kong MTR Corporation makes most of its money from the property it owns, especially since land and property cost is so valuable there. On the contrary, this is not the case in Taipei. This leads to more strain on government resources, as the government is the greatest financial investor in the general metro systems in Taiwan.

It is, however, interesting to note that there is an expectation that the accessibility provided by the Danhai LRT will lead to an increase in residency in the current areas serviced by the light rail. However, in class, we learned that this was not always the case. For example, in class, we spoke at length about the impracticality of the locations of several of the Taiwan High Speed Rail stations. However, as we traveled through the area on the light rail system, there are clearly visible signs of current development. I find that this is an important point because this is there have been cases where this method has succeeded, but also many examples of failure. I find that the difference tends to be where supply overtakes the demand. In this situation, I believe that the Danhai LRT system will have population move there, due to better accessibility, but mostly because of the proximity to Taipei, yet living in Tamsui is more affordable.

I think one of the most interesting facts from the technical tour was even right at the very beginning of the tour. I was quite surprised at the impact of a single set of stairs and its roof. Mainly, I was quite surprised that a simple set of stairs and a roof over these stairs could increase ridership of the entire light rail system. If had me thinking about whether or not there are certain areas around the city, where we may be able to encourage more people to take more green forms of transportation like the MRT or buses. Though these may increase building costs for simple additions such as stairs, the up-front costs of these small additions may bring in extensively more ridership and money, while simultaneously promoting these green modes of transportation.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the Danhai LRT technical tour, as it was a good experience to see things that we have been thinking about in our final project as well as throughout the class in action. Moreover, it gives a picture of planning, and the risks that may come with creating any type of plan (both traffic or environmental management planning) for current and future citizens.