The first passenger railway in Britain opened in 1825. The Metropolitan Railway, the initial part of the London Underground, was the world’s first underground passenger railway. On its first day of operation on Jan. 10, 1863, about 40,000 passengers took the ride.
By 1880, the railway was carrying about 40 million passengers per year. That year also saw the birth of the U-Bahn in Berlin, Germany.
In 1884, the inner circle, which became what today is the Circle line of the London Underground, was completed.
The top priorities when building the London Underground and the Berlin U-Bahn were to meet high transport demand and provide direct, straight transportation lines. The inner circle line of the London Underground was completed in 1884, 21 years after the first section opened, and the main purpose was to meet the high demand in the downtown area and to further expand the passenger base.
Another good example is the Paris Metro. After completing 13 lines of the Metro system — which was expanded to 14 by the end of last century — it was further connected to the circular light rail transit network in the city’s suburban areas.
The subway system in any city should be focused on the downtown area, meeting transportation demand and providing the fastest transportation possible.
The Hsinchu light rail system, with a budget of NT$30 billion (US$988 million), circles the riverbed of the Toucian River (頭前溪): It does not come close to the traffic congestion in the downtown area, but instead avoids running into a few migratory birds spending the winter in the area.
Hsinchu’s downtown area has mistakenly been given the same weight as Hsinchu County’s Jhubei City (竹北) and the Hsinchu Science Park. The light rail lacks a passenger base and the Hsinchu City Government mistakenly thinks that the area around Hsinchu Railway Station could serve as a downtown area.
The city government has deprived the city’s residents of a direct line home from the Liujia (六家) high-speed rail station.
The population of Kaohsiung is five times that of Hsinchu and it has two subway lines. During the free trial period for the Kaohsiung light rail — which was built at a cost of NT$16 billion — no more than a few hundred people took the opportunity to try it out.
Due to the size of the population and the scale of the roads and streets, building a light rail transportation system in Hsinchu — where salaries are higher than anywhere else in the nation — requires that the focus must be on the passenger base around the city’s downtown area.
The only way to construct a sustainable network is to build a light rail network directly around the downtown area of Hsinchu City and then add a direct line from there to the Liujia station.
Hsu Cheng-wang is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Architecture and Interior Design at Shu-Te University.
Translated by Eddy Chang and Perry Svensson
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